5 Things to Do With a Brand New WordPress Site

So, you want to get started in blogging? Awesome. If your intended audience is over the age of 18 you are going to want to use WordPress. (Under 18? Use Tumblr.) Also, if you are just getting started I’d recommend spending the first 12 months of blogging on a blog. You’ll have way less flexibility but spend way more time actually writing than fiddling with your site settings. Don’t spend money until you know you like blogging.

It starts with a foundation: If you are going the self-hosted route, I am currently recommending Hostgator’s baby plan. I put all my non-commerce clients there and have never had a problem with uptime or customer service. 100% recommend them.

Now, assuming you have your site all set-up. Here are the first 5 things I do with a brand new site.

  1. Get rid of stuff. In the upper right hand corner you’ll see a tab called “Screen Options.” Play with that on the dashboard and the post page. That will get lots of distracting, confusing options out of the way. If my client is a total newbie, I also install a plugin which actually disables everything they’ll never need called Selfish Fresh Start.
  2. Buy a theme. Yeah, I could spend hours looking for a free theme that will work. But I’m kind of over that. These days I’m buying very nice themes at Themeforest. Pick a popular one, one with lots of sales, you won’t go wrong.
  3. Get your free Google juice. Google juice is a weird term which implies that if you do things right, Google will bring search traffic to you. Set your site up on Google Webmaster tools so you can tell Google your new site is there and how frequently you update posts. It’ll look intimidating when you go there, but all you really need to do are the basic settings. Next, set up Feedburner to handle your RSS feed. It’s takes a couple of minutes but will pay dividends down the road. (Don’t worry about the other search engines. Google is 90%+ of all of my sites search referrals.)
  4. Add some plugins. Here’s what I add to all of my sites. I actually have these in a folder on my computer and just upload them all in bulk when setting up a new site. Google XML Sitemaps, (You’ll need this for #3) Jetpack, Askimet, (Comes installed automatically) Login Logo, Password Protected, and Gravity Forms. (Premium – Contact Form 7 is a decent, free alternative)
  5. Set-up 2 basic pages. Every blog should have these 2 pages. A Contact page (see the 2 form plugins above) and an About page. Why? Because as people come to your blog they might want to know more about you and / or might want to contact you. I look at a lot of blogs and you’d be surprised how hard it is to figure out how to contact the blogger or even to find a full name or where a person lives. Why write if people can’t connect with you? I don’t get it.
Full disclosure: There are 3 affiliate links in this post. Hostgator, Themeforest, and Gravity Forms. All are products I use every day. If you buy something after clicking on my links I will make a couple bucks. Upside? I’m giving you free advice.

Six new iOS apps I actually use

I’m assuming you’re already using my 3 favorite apps, Evernote, WordPress & Dropbox.

Here are sixapps I’ve started using recently that I think you should try out. 

Wunderlist (iPhone, iPad, and Mac) – I’ve finally found a to-do list app that I love! It has a nice and simple interface, reminders, and syncs with all of my devices.

Skitch (Mac, iPad) – If you ever need to do a screen capture this is your app. Easily capture, make notes, draw on the screen, and share it with whomever you need to share it with. I love the iPad app… it’s really so easy to use that it’s fun! They just got bought by Evernote, so I expect to be able to sync it to my notebooks easier soon.

ESPN Passport – (iPhone) This is a fun little app for sports nuts. If you’re watching a game, whether in the stadium or watching on TV, its allows you to talk smack with other people watching the game. It links to your ESPN account so it pulls in your profile and all of that stuff. (You can win badges and stuff like that, too) You can also share your smack talk via Facebook/Twitter. But I just like to take pictures of me and my kids at games.

Square – (iPhone, iPad) As a small business owner I sometimes have the need to swipe a credit card and charge someone on the spot. Square is drop dead easy and the credit card rates aren’t that bad if you figure in that a merchant account isn’t needed, no monthly contracts, etc. You sign-up for free, they send you a little Square reader, and you’re good to go.

Redfin – (iPhone, iPad) I’m not really in the market to buy a house but I do like to know what property in my area is going for. This app is sexy. It shows you all the houses available based on your parameters. And then it has a very simple, elegant layout to show you the properties. (And all the really important info, like taxes, schools, comps, etc.)

Editions – (iPad) An AOL app that doesn’t suck? It surprised me too! This little app is gorgeous. You tell it your news preferences and each day it goes out and aggregates all the news you want. Then it lays it out like a magazine designed just for you. It’s beautiful, too.

Bonus#1: Mustache Me (iPhone) I blame Brian Berry for this one. Instant fun. Add a mustache to any picture, share, beauty.

Bonus #2: car2go PRO (iPhone) Car2Go is a car sharing service that is taking off here in San Diego. Basically, they are these little electric cars you can rent for $.35/minute to get around town cheap. The app helps you find and reserve them… which is super easy and fun!

Web/Tech Weblogs

Reminder: Back-up your blog

This morning I woke up and my blog was down. With more than 6 years of content here that is scary.

It was a healthy reminder to me that it was time to back-up my blog. (After fixing some corrupt tables)

This is your reminder: If you haven’t backed-up your self-hosted WordPress blog lately, you need to do it.

Don’t know how?

No problem! I wrote a tutorial for you over on the McLane Creative blog.

McLane Creative

Common things I say as a creative

I love naiveté. Not being sarcastic– for reals. For a lot of ministry folks I am the first creative person they’ve tried to hire.

Here are things you may hear me say when I talk to a prospective McLane Creative client:

Yes, I will help you if I have time. No, the best stuff in life is actually not free. Yes, I will charge you even if you are in ministry. No, I don’t discount because you are in ministry… so am I. Yes, there is a difference between being available and free. No, my job isn’t to do everything for you, it’s to give you ideas. No, I will not do a proposal since you called me. Yes, I will give you an estimate for free. No, you won’t get anything from me until you pay 50% down. No, I do not believe the concept that  there are no new ideas under the sun… otherwise you wouldn’t have called me. No, I don’t understand why you think it’s OK to ask me for ideas for free. If you are going to get paid for my ideas, shouldn’t I be able to get paid to? Yes, you can call me back after you think about it.

That said– McLane Creative is growing! I now have  Adam 2.0 on my team. (aka Dave Luke Design) If you are looking for a WordPress solution for your own blog or your organization, average projects are $750 – $2000, contact me.

Here’s our latest work: The Marin Foundation (Two more sites about to launch)

social media Web/Tech

Two quick updates from McLane Creative

A fun outlet for me is building WordPress sites, consulting, and social media campaigns at McLane Creative. Since it’s a creative outlet I tend to be pretty picky with who I work with. Here are three quick slogans I use to describe my work there:

  • Guaranteed to be on budget and past deadline.
  • I tend to chose you more than you chose me.
  • I pick projects that matter to me, regardless of budget.

Interestingly, this tiny business has continued to grow through 2009-2010. And with marketing slogans like that… how could it not?

I’ve fallen into a pace where 7-8 projects per years is just about right. Any more or less and it’s just not worth it.

Two quick structural updates:

  1. I’ve moved all of my hosting from Bluehost to 6sync. More importantly, I’ve moved from a shared hosting environment which lead to some unexplained downtime and nasty malware, to a VPS environment where I’m much more in control. More on this move.
  2. I installed a client collaboration tool. The way MC works is that I build a custom team of freelancers for each project. This is an ultra efficient model of web development for the client… but the pitfall is that it requires that I manage a bunch of people working together for the first time over and over again. The new client area (powered by Collabtive) centralizes the teams communication with the client. More on this move.