Get Ready for Gutenberg, WordPress 5.0

Get Ready for Gutenberg, WordPress 5.0

Printing Letters

WordPress is about to receive its biggest upgrade for years to version 5.0 . The initial release date of 19th November has now slipped, with the new release date now scheduled for November 27th.*

The most major change is to the editor which will now be based on blocks with the intention of making WordPress more visually attractive and user-friendly. This is probably one of the most significant changes to the editing interface that WordPress has ever seen, and moves the editor more into the direction of a page builder, albeit a limited one.

To find out more this change, you can read an overview by popular SEO plugin people Yoast  – What is Gutenberg?

Or watch this short video:

So should I upgrade when WordPress 5.0 is released?

It’s really hard to know how you will be affected and it will vary from site to site. The changes to the editor and other more background changes are likely to have some impact on your site when you upgrade to 5.0 – for example, your plugins and theme may not be compatible, or require an update. Any sites with custom coding or highly customised themesmay may also be affected and no longer work or work well with the new editor. In the worst case, your site could look fairly broken or your layouts and styling could look very ‘off’. On the other hand, everything may be fine, particularly if your site has uses a regularly updated and maintained theme together with a Page Builder such as Visual Composer/WP Bakery or Site Origin Page Builder. However, there is no real way of knowing until you test the water and make the full switch.

There’s No Need to Upgrade Immediately

In the short term, and for quite a while in all probability, you can choose to not upgrade to WordPress 5.0 until you’re ready. It won’t be an auto update, and if there are subsequent 5.0.x security releases, these fixes will be backported to 4.9 for a good while yet. Therefore you can stick with 4.9 until WordPress announce it will no longer receive security updates. Given the change that Gutenberg presents, it’s likely WordPress 4.9 will be supported for some time. 

Backup before Upgrading

Longer term, you will need to move to Gutenburg at some point, and I would not put this off for too long. When the time comes, bear in mind that the upgrade to WordPress 5.0 is an irreversible process unless you take a back up first so make sure you do so before doing anything. I recommend using  UpdraftPlus

Check Compatibility of Plugins and Themes

Aside from your own editing experience, Gutenberg will also bring important changes to your plugins and themes. For example, a lot of plugins interact with the WordPress editor directly, whether that’s to add new functionality or include shortcodes. Those plugins will need to become Gutenberg compatible, and the good news is that most leading plugins and themes are ensuring that they are. Before you upgrade, check that all the plugins you need are compatible, replace those that are not and make sure all are up to date. The same applies to themes.

Don’t be too scared either though – the chances are that if your plugins and themes are broadly compatible and up to date, and there is little custom coding on your site, you may find the upgrade is quite smooth, just don’t take that for granted.  

Try it out

Gutenburg is a big change so the WordPress community has responded with a few useful plugins that can help you test it out.

Firstly, you can test drive Gutenberg now with the Gutenberg plugin. Or you can try it out directly at Frontenberg.

Want to try Gutenberg but not activate site wide?

And then if you upgrade to WordPress 5.0 but change your mind? There are options – you can use the Gutenberg Ramp or Disable Gutenberg plugin to remove all instances of Gutenberg EXCEPT on a page or post you specify. And if you upgrade and have problems, you can also revert to using the traditional editor via the Classic Editor plugin.

Gutenberg Ramp

Basically when you install it – by default it will turn Gutenberg OFF and you will be left with the classic editor to work with. But then you can amend things and have Gutenberg activated on specific post types, though it helps if you know a bit of coding if you want to be specific.

Gutenberg Ramp

Disable Gutenberg

You can completely disable Gutenberg by checking the box as well as remove the nagging notice you will get to Try Gutenberg. If you select the disable Gutenberg everywhere option – no other options will appear.

If you you do want to use Gutenberg in some areas – then uncheck the disable Gutenberg everywhere option. Then you will see options for who you can disable Gutenberg for as well as what post types or specific posts you can remove it from.

Disable Gutenberg

Revert to the Classic Editor

Just install the Classic Editor plugin and choose the replace Gutenberg option in their settings. Now you will only have the classic editor.

Classic Editor

Clone your site to try out Gutenberg

If you are worried about the impact on your site, the best thing would be to clone the site and try out the upgrade away from your live site. You can then test it and make any necessary changes in your own time.

Sites with WP Bakery Page Builder (Visual composer)

If you have WPBakery Page Builder version 5.5 or later installed, you will notice two options related to the Gutenberg editor:

  • A content element ‘Gutenberg’ available in your Add Element menu that allows you to insert Gutenberg layout/blocks directly into the layout of WPBakery Page Builder 
  • An option to disable Gutenberg editor on your WordPress site via WPBakery Page Builder Settings (in your WordPress Admin Dashboard).

Sites with SiteOrigin Page Builder

SiteOrigin is making all their Page Builder widgets Gutenberg compatible. So you can add their buttons, tabbed layout, maps, etc. to your Gutenberg pages. The SiteOrigin Layout block will also be available as a Gutenberg block so you’ll be able to create fully nested, columnized, widgetized content, with advanced row, column and widget styling right inside Gutenberg.

Do I still need a Page Builder?

Gutenberg moves WordPress more into the direction of a Page Builder but Gutenberg is taking a more conservative approach to page building, which means there are designs and layouts that you just won’t be able to achieve. 

However, there are already some great plugins out there extending the number of core blocks that Gutenberg will offer. In particular I like the look of Atomic Blocks and Stackable, both of which add a great collection of content blocks to those that come as standard. These include for example  Call to Actions, Testimonials, Video pop Ups, Accordions, Headers and Buttons, plus some neat features like being able to add tints to background images in relevant blocks. For simple sites, this may well be all you need and although the simplicity of the current editor may be missed by some, I think this shows that the use of blocks has a lot of potential.

Way Forward?

The best way forward will vary from site to site, and it is still quite early to make definite suggestions, except to tread carefully! There’ll be a period of learning ahead but in general, I think this is the right way for WordPress to go.

*A Note on the Timeline for WordPress 5.0

November 19, 2018 was the original proposed release schedule for WordPress 5.0. This has now slipped to the 27th November. If more time is required, Gutenberg will get pushed back to 2019 with a release date of January 22, 2019.

My Google Map No Longer Displays Properly

My Google Map No Longer Displays Properly

Since June 16, 2018, all businesses which have Google Maps on their websites need an API key and to enable credit card billing on their Google account. Keyless usage, meaning any request that doesn’t include an API key ended on June 16 2018. What this means is that any site without an API key and billing enabled will no longer be supported, and any Maps requests will now show only low-resolution maps watermarked with “for development purposes only”. This is applicable to all users – even those with a simple map embedded on their website’s contact page.

The new system, known as the ‘Google Maps Platform is ‘pay-as-you-go’ and operates under the wider Google Cloud Platform. For most sites, the service is still effectively free – there is $200 free monthly credit which is enough to cover small business websites displaying a contact page map – up to 28,000 free loads of Dynamic Maps – but nevertheless all businesses need to enable billing.

To get API key:

  • go to https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform/#get-started
  • choose Maps
  • Name your project e.g something like My website map and click on Next
  • you will be asked to create a billing account (if you do not already have one)
  • agree to terms and fill in your contact and credit card details
  • once filled in, you will be redirected to a page and your API Key will be shown on a popup like this screenshot

Google Maps API

You will then need to copy and insert the API code into your website. This will depend on how you have embedded the map. If your site is a WordPress one, many WordPress plugins and themes have a place where you can input this.

Restricting Access to your Key

Google Maps Platform will prompt you to restrict access to your API. This is to prevent unauthorised usage and quota theft, which this new pricing model encourages, you are also advised to restrict usage of the key to your website.

To add web browser restrictions to an existing, generic API key, do the following:

  • Go to the Credentials page of the Google Cloud Platform Console.
  • Select the project that contains the API key you want to edit.
  • On the Credentials page, from the list of API keys, select the name of the API key to edit the details of the key.
  • In the Key restriction section of the page, select HTTP referrers (web sites), follow the on-screen instructions to set referrers, then click Save.

More Information:

More information on billing at: https://cloud.google.com/billing/docs/how-to/manage-billing-account

To avoid a large bill, you can set a daily cap on usage: https://developers.google.com/maps/faq#usage_cap

Transition Period for Existing APIs

For existing API projects without a billing account, there is a “Google Maps Platform Transition Account”, created to help Google’s customers transition to the new pay-as-you-go pricing plan. This transition account enabled Google to provide these customers with a one-time credit, so that they could continue using Google Maps Platform up to the limit of the $200 free tier. Once this limit is exceeded, the billing account will shut down and you will lose access to the service. To avoid service interruptions, you should set your own billing account, and you will then benefit the $200 monthly free tier.

Do I really need an API? Can I just embed a map on my site instead? 

Yes, instead of going through all the above and giving Google your credit card details, when you really don’t necessarily need to, you can embed a map on your site. Just do a Google Maps search for the required address, go to Share, Embed a Map, then copy and paste the code into your website. If you’d like a little more customization or are using something like a store locator plugin, then you may need a API and go through the above process, but if not, keep it simple and just embed the map into your site. 

Websites require SSL certificate to avoid a “Not Secure” warning

Websites now require SSL certificate to avoid a “Not Secure” warning

padlocks on bridge

 

All websites without an SSL certificate will get a ‘Not Secure’ warning in the browser from Chrome 68, currently rolling out as from July 24th 2018. This is on all pages, not just those requiring text or data entry as was previously the case. 

Websites with any kind of text input have since Chrome 62 rolled out in Autumn 2017 required an SSL certificate to avoid a “Not Secure” warning when visitors enter data.  An SSL certificate encrypts messages and information sent to your website. If one is installed on your site, Chrome will show the secure green padlock in the browser bar (other browsers show equivalent secure icons) and your site will have a https web address rather than a http one.

In practice this means visitors completing checkout forms, filling in contact forms or even search forms,  or logging in to their account on sites without an SSL certificate currently see a Not Secure notice.  All http sites in incognito mode now also show as insecure. 

chrome not secure diagram

From Chrome 68, this will extend to every page on a site, whether in Incognito mode or not.

“Eventually, we plan to label all HTTP pages as non-secure, and change the HTTP security indicator to the red triangle that we use for broken HTTPS,” – Emily Schecter from Chrome Security Team.

chrome non secure warning

Of course, when a visitor to your site sees this, it is highly unlikely that they will proceed. You are therefore highly recommended to get an SSL certificate as soon as possible. Furthermore, Google favours sites with an SSL certificate in search results – your site will be at an SEO disadvantage without one.

Many hosts offer a free SSL certificate via Let’s Encrypt or you may have one included in your hosting package. If not you may have to purchase one from your host. Please note that your site may need reconfiguring after the certificate is installed – for WordPress sites I highly recommend the Really Simple SSL plugin to help you with this.

This is an update of the original post from October 2017.

 

 

 

 

Time for an SSL Certificate?

What is an SSL Certificate?

padlock

An SSL certificate is used to encrypt information; without encryption, the information transmitted between a browser and server displayed in plain text, which is much easier for hackers to access. Until recently, it was only really essential to have one if you took direct payments on your website, but Google has indicated it will rank higher websites that have this security layer. In addition, internet browsers like Chrome and Firefox are beginning to show warnings on sites which do not have SSL certificates and where data or text is input (e.g. in a contact, login or checkoout form).

Having an SSL certificate on your hosting is therefore becoming much more important.  A site with an SSL certificate will display the green lock in the browser next to the web address, and your website address will change from http to https. It provides your visitors with a sense of increased trust and safety. 

However, it can add a cost to your annual website hosting. SSL certificates need technical set up, depending on your server and hosting provider. Be aware when moving from non-SSL to SSL that there may also be SEO considerations.  On the positive side, many hosts now offer a free SSL certificate via their own certificate provider or via Let’s Encrypt, a free certificate authority. 

Let’s Encrypt is free and offers a basic SSL certificate – anyone can add if they have access to your website’s control panel. The certificate is a domain validation (DV) one and can only ensure a secure connection to the website. it’s ideal for websites that need encryption without the absolute guarantee of ownership.

However, if your website is a business that’s processing credit cards directly on your site (i.e. not via Paypal) or transmitting sensitive information, it’s recommended that you consider purchasing a certificate so your user’s can rest assure the connection is valid and secure. Such certificates will usually be Organizational Validation (OV) certificates which require additional organizational information about who is purchasing the certificate such as their Name, City, State, Country. (OV) certificates also require the user to respond to an email with a verification code and may also offer warranty protection against losses (check with your host).

Whichever, you choose, if your site is a WordPress one, the Really Simple SSL plugin is highly recommended in helping you make the move.

Who offers the best web hosting?

So Many Web Hosts, which one to choose?

So you want a website but don’t know where to get it hosted? Here are a few recommendations to help you decide.

Tsohost – great value hosting

If you are on the budget and you want to get very good value UK based reliable hosting, then go for Cloud Hosting by Tsohost. The lite package, suitable for most small businesses, is just £14.99 per year, or go for Standard at £34.99 a year for larger or busier sites.  Note one way they keep costs down is to limit their support to 7am- midnight.

Siteground – best all round hosting

If you have a bit more to spend, then go for Siteground with good all round performance and support. Website performance is generally a notch better/faster than Tsohost, and Siteground are recommended by the makers of WordPress themselves. Prices from £6.95 per month, inc free domain.

Fastnet  – Local Hosting in Brighton

If you want local (to Brighton) web hosting, then try Fastnet from £3.99 per month. 

Reviews

See The Best UK WordPress Hosting Reviewed and UK’s Best web Hosting Companies for more information, including reviews of Siteground, Tsohost and other hosting companies.

Anyone to avoid?

From limited experience, I’d definitely avoid Easyspace and  Fasthosts, and probably 123-reg.

 

 

 

 

Best Premium WordPress Themes

Best Premium WordPress Themes

The last few years have seen the development of a number of very good versatile premium WordPress themes with an excellent array of design and layout options and features.  The healthy competition between these themes ensures that they continue to evolve and improve over time. The only downside is that with so many features packed into the themes, some can be a bit overwhelming to start with.

A few things to consider when looking at themes:

  • check out the demos for each theme to see if they meet your requirements – many will have a number of demos showcasing what the theme can do
  • design and layout options, including header, logo and font options.
  • types of gallery/portfolio/blog layouts available
  • menu options – side, top, transparent, mega etc
  • type of page builder included e.g Visual Composer
  • special effects or features such as animation effects or video backgrounds 
  • inclusion of sliders and other plugins – Revolution slider is probably the best slideshow plugin in my opinion but other sliders such as Layer Slider are very good too.
  • support for other plugins if important – buddypress, gravity forms, WPML (multiple languages) etc
  • documentation & support – read reviews
  • all themes listed are currently compatible with WooCommerce  & are currently being updated regularly

Avada is the top selling theme on Theme Forest but I’m not never quite liked it somehow. It’s not included below but in recent updates it has included some nice contemporary features so you may want to check it out.

At the time of writing, these themes will typically set you back about $59-69. So here’s a quick round up.

Theme Forest ratings and sales statistics are as at 1st October 2016


Salient

Salient WordPress Theme

This is a great intuitive theme, and integrates well with the included Visual Composer, for excellent aesthetics. I’ve used it on several sites and like it very much.

  • Theme Forest Rating: 4.81 after more than 4000 ratings and over 50,000 sales (created March 2013)

 


Divi

Divi WordPress Theme

The flagship theme from Elegant Themes, Divi continues to improve and is becoming a really excellent theme, incorporating the Divi page builder, and an excellent choice of design and layout settings.

Available from Elegant Themes – not available on Theme Forest – and for continued access to updates, you’ll need to pay an annual subscription (created Dec 2013).

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Best Rated Free WordPress Themes

Best Rated Free WordPress Themes

This list is a brief introduction to some of the best rated WordPress themes currently available on wordpress.org. To qualify for this list, themes must have over ninety five-star ratings with at least 75% of their overall ratings at 5 stars. The list only includes themes that are being actively kept up-to-date  –  that is with an update within the last 4 months as at 30 Sept 2016.

These themes have gained a good track record over time so the only downside to this list is that they may not be the most contemporary themes out there. I’ll do a round up newer free themes sometime soon. 

Free versus Pro

Many of the themes listed provide a free  or lite version and a pro/premium version with all the themes below offering decent free versions. However, often the free version will have more limited colour, typography and page layout options, no slider or limited slides, less widgets or widget areas, less compatibility with plugins such as WPML (and sometimes WooCommerce), limited support and the footer will have a theme credit that cannot be removed (at least without amending the coding). Most of these limitations can be overcome with some coding (if you know what you are doing) or suitable plugins but that might not suit you.

Compare free and pro versions to see what the difference is. Most theme providers are transparent and will have a comparison on their theme home page. Follow the link from WordPress.

The Themes

1. ColorMag

ColorMag wordpress theme

Extremely well-reviewed theme by ThemeGrill – ‘a perfect responsive magazine style WordPress theme. Suitable for news, newspaper, magazine, publishing, business and any kind of sites’.

  • 209 Five-Star Reviews/223 reviews (89%) with 60,000+ active installs

2. Virtue

Virtue wordpress theme

Virtue by Kadence Themes has been around for quite some time and is extremely versatile with tons of options, easy to customize and loaded with great features. It’s fully ecommerce (Woocommerce) ready with all the tools you need to design an awesome online store. The clean versatile design is perfect for any kind of business, online store, portfolio or personal site. Virtue has a powerful options panel where you can set things like your home layout, sliders, custom fonts, and completely customize your look without writing any CSS. The free version has a very impressive range of customisable of options but the even more all singing premium version.

  • 185 Five-Star Reviews/194 (95%) with 70,000+ active installs

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