Women in WP Podcast featuring yours truly

Women in WP Podcast Appearance

So many women are doing great things with WordPress — building businesses, creating jobs, and discovering a love of tech. The Women in WP podcast focuses on just that. Women in WP is a bi-monthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and market in the WordPress community. Angela Bowmen, one of the podcast hosts, traveled to WordCamp US and interviewed several women including myself. I spoke about how I came to use WordPress over 15 years ago and became involved in the community. It was a humid and rainy day in San Diego but a great time to be at the conference and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Watch the episode below or listen here: Women in WordPress 087: Angela Goes to WordCamp US 2022

My segment starts around the 25min mark
WordCamp US in San Diego, CA 2022

WordCamp US 2022 Recap

I recently attended WordCamp US (aka WCUS), the annual conference for WordPress, back from its hiatus during the pandemic.

This was my first time attending WordCamp US and although it was much smaller than its typical incarnation – it was capped at around 600 attendees, down from thousands – it was huge to me in several ways. Read on for my experience and takeaways.

What: WordCamp US, annual WordPress conference
Where: San Diego, CA
When: September 9-11, 2022
How to Watch: Livestreams on YouTube
Schedule & Sessions: WordCamp US 2022 Website

What is WCUS?

WCUS differs from local annual WordCamps because it is larger and draws attendees nationwide, hence the name, so as an attendee you get to meet people from outside your home city. WCUS typically features big sponsors, and an appearance from the co-founder of WordPress (more on that below).

WCUS is also a chance to celebrate the WordPress community, and after the sessions are over for each day, the celebration really begins with several parties put on by sponsors. The party by Godaddy Pro at the San Diego Air & Space Museum did not disappoint! Ethan and I got to enjoy some good tacos, two flight simulators, and seeing the sights around the museum.

Breaking the Chain

My intention for attending WCUS was to “break the chain” of zoom-only interactions with colleagues. It was a challenge to get back out there and expend so much social energy — but so worth it!

I also went out of my comfort zone and was interviewed for the Women in WP Podcast. I got to talk about my WordPress story and what brought me to WCUS. The Women in WordPress podcast as a whole, and this episode in particular, is a close look at women doing great things with WordPress – starting businesses, gaining independence, and creating jobs. Listen to the episode here.

Session Themes & Takeaways

Put People First: Accessibility and User-first site editing

On Friday, I attended the Website Accessibility Testing Workshop with Amber Hinds and Alex Stine. Alex demonstrated how he navigates a website with the screen reader on his PC. It was my first time experiencing someone using a screen reader in action and drove home just how important it is to prioritize accessibility and follow best practices.

Several accessibility items added to my list after these talks:

  • Always set the alt text of the logo to “Go to homepage” or have a Home link in the main menu.
  • Required form fields should use the word “required” (Gravity Forms makes this easy), use clear focus rings, and descriptive placeholder text, ie ‘[email protected]’, not ‘Email’.
  • Underlines should be used for links only, not for emphasis.
  • Avoid text in all caps, which can be misinterpreted as acronyms in screen readers and difficult to read when used for headlines or longer strings of text.
  • Many more great takeaways available in their slides: Website Accessibility Testing Workshop

There were several more sessions on the topic of a11y, including one from Sara Cannon called Designing for Accessibility. Sara’s session along with the others all worked nicely together to recommend best practices for designing, building, and writing in a way that all people regardless of physical and cognitive abilities, can access. Sara included this great quote in her slides:

Good accessibility is about compliance, great accessibility is about empathy.

Sheri Byrne-Haber

Another session focusing on users was Content Creators are Users, Too with Phil Crumm and Helen Hou-Sandí. Helen worked on the current whitehouse.gov website, which is an amazing example of beautiful and accessible web design. Their talk focused on creating a backend experience that mirrors the frontend in order to create a seamless editing experience. Higher expectations from website users are pushing us as website creators to build better experiences and make content editing a more intuitive, seamless process. Although this poses a challenge for us, it’s one we should embrace as a sign of technology working for people and not against.

Widen your Audience

I caught two interesting sessions about growing your audience by using video platforms.

Ebonie Butler’s talk How Live Streaming Can Level Up Your Career is an inspiring story of how she used Twitch to become a better developer, land a job, and build a community.

Joey Daoud’s session Blog to Video: Tapping into YouTube and Video SEO with Your Existing Content explained how to get started with YouTube and is a great primer for anyone interested in the basics of what you need (gear, script writing, thumbnail design, and more). This is something I’ve always been interested in and it was nice to see it laid out in one talk. The effort put in by YouTubers always amazes me.

Get Uncomfortable

One of the most powerful talks of the weekend was from Cami Kaos, DEIB: Uncomfortable Truths of Belonging. Cami spoke from her personal experience and as the DEIB Lead at Automattic. When people in positions of privilege do nothing to include marginalized communities, nothing changes, and we all lose. She challenged us to get uncomfortable in order to be inclusive by reaching out of our various places of privilege to create true belonging for people in marginalized communities.

Block Themes and the Future of WordPress

Many sessions on both days focused specifically on Blocks and Block Themes. My favorite talk of the entire weekend was Michelle Schulp’s session The Future Of Themes: Designing for the Block Editor and Beyond, which not only discussed the role of a theme designer in this new era of WordPress, but also gave a succinct “how we got here” — an overview of the past couple years of the evolving block editor (aka Gutenberg).

Michelle presents on stage to an audience of masked attendees at WordCamp with a projection screen showing slides about the role of a theme designer.

We’re now designing the content creation experience, not just the front-end design. We are creating comprehensive design system, not single pixel-perfect solutions.

Michelle Schulp

Nick Diego’s session Build a Block in 15 Minutes was a quick dive into block development and how it can be done without learning React/JS and Rich Tabor’s session A New Era of WordPress Themes is Here: Block Themes was a look at how the theme landscape is changing and the role of the themes themselves is more user-focused.

I personally have mixed feelings toward the block editor, because it’s still a heavy lift to build an entire site with custom blocks vs using a page builder like Elementor. However, with ready-made block themes becoming more common, the experience for users and designer/developers continues to improve.

Block themes are the catalyst to providing a consistent theme-independent content experience.

Rich Tabor

This idea of theme-independence was echoed in Matt Mullenweg’s Q&A session, which you can watch on YouTube. Matt speculated that at some point there could be a universal block theme with the ability for such fine style control that is eliminates the need to switch themes for a new style, similar to what CSS did for HTML back in the days of the CSS Zen Garden.

The Q&A provided a look at where WordPress is headed and focused on responding to a variety of interesting questions and challenges from the attendees. This deepened my appreciation for WordPress as open source software and how it is reliant on its contributing community. This session’s very existence at a tech conference sets WordPress and its community apart from other software and their conferences, which are often gatekept by prohibitively high costs.

Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, stands at a table with a projection screen to the left that reads What's new in 6.1. In the foreground is a packed audience.
Matt Mullenweg talks about what’s next for WordPress at WCUS 2022 in San Diego

The People You Meet

I met so many folks from around the country (and even Canada and Mexico) at WCUS. (I wish I had taken more pictures!) I not only got to reconnect with folks I knew from previous WordCamps, but I finally met a couple of very special Automatticians.

Cami Kaos was our community organizer contact at Automattic when my fellow organizers and I took on WordCamp Asheville, but due to scheduling conflicts and the vast distance between Portland and Asheville, we had never met in person. We finally got to share a much overdue in-person chat and hug after her wonderful talk. Thanks for all you do, Cami.

Lydia with Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress
No big deal, met the co-founder of WordPress!

And, more than eight years after I first became involved in WordCamps, I finally met Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress. Following his Q&A session several of us attendees got to speak with him and take photos. As I spoke, I got a bit choked up while trying to express just how much WordPress and WordCamps have meant to me personally and to my career. He was very gracious and said he hoped I would continue for decades to come.

It was a fitting end to an even experience I will reflect on for years to come. Like with every WordCamp I’ve attended, the friendly team spirit of the WordPress community shone through. From the carefully prepared sessions to the well organized event itself, this was an experience I will fondly remember.

Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Email Marketing

Apple Mail Privacy Protection and Email Marketing

Apple recently launched Apple Mail Privacy Protection for iOS 15. This option allows Apple Mail users to opt out of tracking data being captured by email marketing services, which will affect your email marketing data and reports.

How email tracking pixels work

Any email sent from an email marketing service — such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, etc — contains a tiny invisible image called a tracking pixel. When the email is opened, the pixel loads, thereby letting the email service know that the email was opened. This process can also capture information like location and and IP address. (For more technical details, check out Litmus’ article.)

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

The new protection allows users of Apple Mail to bypass email tracking pixels.

When someone turns the option on to block tracking data, their location and IP address won’t be recorded, and whether they open the email or not, it will be recorded as an open.

In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

Source: Apple

What the Apple Mail Privacy Protection prompt looks like in Apple Mail on mobile

How does this affect me?

If you send email to a list of subscribers through any email marketing service (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, and so forth) then your open rates will likely skew high from here on out. Apple Mail will record opens for every subscriber using Apple Mail Privacy Protection, no matter if they opened the email or not. So, your email marketing reports and data may show increased open rates.

What should I do?

Find out what percentage of your audience/list uses Apple Mail
Take a look at how many of your subscribers actually use Apple Mail to get an idea of how many users could opt in to this service. It’s fair to say that most Apple Mail users will opt to block tracking data, so you should assume that your Apple Mail subscribers’ data will be inaccurate from here on out when it comes to open rates and location data, and understand this when looking at your reports.

If you use Mailchimp, here’s how to look at what email apps your subscribers use: View and Target Subscriber Email Clients | Mailchimp

Screenshot of an example Mailchimp account showing the top email clients used by subscribers
An example of Top Email Clients data in a Mailchimp Audience (list)

Measure success based on clicks or purchases
Measure your success with email sends based around clicks instead of open rate. Since open rates are going to be skewed high, you can either do the math each time to remove Apple Mail users from the reports or simple start measuring your success through other metrics like clicks.

If you have an online shop connected to Mailchimp, you could also measure success on sales emails based on purchases.

Update A/B Tests
Likewise, depending on what percentage of your audience uses Apple Mail, A/B Tests should no longer be measured by open rates. Instead, measure for things like clicks.

Don’t rely on location data
Don’t rely on location tracking to send to subscribers based on location, since Apple Mail users will likely have their location blocked and this will account for a significant part of your list.

Collect data willingly
Collect location and email preference data from subscribers willingly through their email preference area. Collect things like their State or region and what kinds of email they are interested in receiving.

Don’t rely on location tracking to deliver relevant content any more, as a large part of your subscribers might be blocking this. In Mailchimp you can collect information by setting up preference groups or extra fields.

Be careful with Segments and cleaning your lists
If you have any segments in Mailchimp based on opens, you may want to change this.

In addition, when looking to clean up your lists and remove uninterested subscribers, don’t remove them based on lack of email opens. Instead use other measurements or a combination or measurements.

Change is Good…mostly

This is certainly a change to the data we’re used to seeing in our email marketing reports. But it puts more control and protection in user’s hands, and in my book that’s a good thing.

While we may not be able to rely on as much information on the tracking side, what we can do is ask for relevant email preferences from our subscribers so that we have accurate tally of who wants to hear from us, and what they want to be emailed about.

If you’re interested in learning more about interest groups and email fields in Mailchimp, please leave a comment or contact me.

Oops. 3-minute fixes for common domain problems

3-Minute fixes for Common Domain Mistakes

We all make mistakes from time to time with our domain services, like forgetting how to log in and manage it to allowing our credit cards expire. These innocent mistakes can lead to big problems like losing a crucial domain name!

Here are the most common mistakes I’ve seen. The good news? Each one takes only a few minutes to fix.

Quick links:

  1. Forgetting to renew your domain name
  2. Expired credit card
  3. Paying for domains and services you don’t need
  4. Linking to the insecure version of your domain
  5. Using domain email as your login email address
  6. Not using a password manager

1. Forgetting to Renew your Domain Name

I’ve seen more than a few people temporarily lose their domain over the years, just because auto-renew was turned off inside their account. It can take up to two days to get your domain registered again and reconnected, and this means website downtime and lost business in the meantime. In an absolute worst case scenario, the domain could be lost due to someone else snatching it up.

3-minute fix:

  1. Log in to your registrar (such as Godaddy or Namecheap) – the place where your domain name is registered.
  2. Look for an area called My Subscriptions or My Products to see your domains listed.
  3. Turn ON Auto-Renew and Save your settings.
Screenshot of Subscriptions area in Godaddy
Example of the Subscriptions page in Godaddy showing auto renewal for domain names

2. Expired Credit Card

Another way to accidentally lose your domain is through an expired credit card. An auto-renewal will fail, because your card cannot be charged.

3-minute fix:

  1. Log in to your registrar (such as Godaddy or Namecheap) – the place where your domain name is registered.
  2. Locate the Billing or Payment Methods area.
  3. Update your credit card on file to a valid card and Save your settings.
Screenshot of credit card management area in Godaddy
Example of a payment methods screen from Godaddy

3. Paying for Domains and Services you don’t need

Online services often come as discounted packages that renew for a higher price in subsequent years. You may find yourself paying renewal fees on services like email, web hosting, or extra domain names that you never use.

Common services you may not need:

  • SSL certificates. These typically come free with hosting, so there’s no need to purchase a standalone certificate except in specific cases.
  • Extra hosting/email. I have found some people paying for entire web hosting accounts that they no longer even use! These fees really add up.
  • Old domain names. Many of us hold on to old domain names for business or creative ideas that we end up shelving. Review your list of domains each year and see if there are any you can let go.

3-minute fix:

  1. Log in to your domain registrar and/or web hosting account.
  2. Look for areas called My Products, Services, or Subscriptions.
  3. Review the list of services you currently pay for and their renewal dates.
  4. Turn OFF auto-renew on services you don’t use.

I recently saved a client over $150 by auditing her Godaddy account for services she didn’t need! Contact me for help reviewing your services.

4. Linking to the Insecure Version of your Domain

Don’t use the insecure version of your web address link. Your web address link should always begin with https:// (with the ‘s‘ in https)

The ‘s’ signifies your domain is secure and that you have an SSL Certificate for your domain.

Not sure if you have SSL or what this means? Read more about SSL in my post here.

3-minute fix:

  1. Check your social media accounts, email signature, and other places where you link to your website.
  2. Correct any instances of the insecure address. Write your domain links like this: https://yourdomain.com (include the ‘s’ in ‘https’)
Use the secure https version of your domain link
Always use the secure version of your web address. Make it so.

5. Using Domain Email as your login email address

Don’t tie your domain email to vital services like domain registration or web hosting. Instead, use a personal email like a gmail or outlook address.

Why? If your hosting or domain name service were to go down (like from forgetting to renew your domain), you may lose access to your domain email. This would lock you out from resetting passwords or receiving important email updates from tech support. Using a personal email address is another safeguard against losing access to your core web services!

3-minute fix:

  1. Log in to your domain registrar and/or web hosting account.
  2. Look for an area called My Account or My Profile.
  3. Update your contact and login email address to a non-domain email address you check regularly, such as a personal gmail address.
Screenshot of a Login and Profile settings screen showing a personal email address as the username
Use a personal email address for your domain name account logins.

6. Not using a Password Manager

I’ve harped on this for years, but using secure passwords and keeping track of them is one of the best things you can to safeguard and streamline your digital life.

1-minute fix:

  1. Use a password manager like LastPass; read more about that in my post here. You can sign up in a few seconds and start using it right away for free!
A screenshot of the password vault by LastPass
The Vault!

Need help making sense of your domains and web services?

I provide website and account audits to help you figure out what services you need and what you don’t. Contact me here for help.

WordPress Spring Cleaning

Free Plugins to Manage, Organize, and Clean Up your WordPress Site

If you’re in the mood for some spring cleaning of your WordPress site, here are some tools that will help you organize, manage, and clean up your WordPress admin area. There are thousands of free WordPress plugins available, but in this post I highlight six that are game-changers. Some will save your sanity like FileBird while others may require some training or practice like Redirection. Most of these are quick install-and-done plugins, so take a look and see what works for you.

All of the plugins below are free, though some offer pro upgrades.

1. FileBird Lite

Filebird screenshot
Screenshot courtesy of FileBird Lite

FileBird is amazing plugin transforms your media library with folders (and subfolders), much like your computer. My favorite feature is that it does not affect the urls to your media files, meaning you can safely activate and de-activate this plugin without affecting your existing media library.

How to use:

Install it, start creating folders in your Media Library, and then drag items into the folders to organize them. This will help you keep your media library clean and easy to use, especially if you collaborate with a team.

Useful when…

  • Your media library has gotten out of control!
  • You want an easy way to visually organize your files

2. Enable Media Replace

Screenshot of Enable Media Replace
Screenshot courtesy of Enable Media Replace

Enable Media Replace does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to easily swap out an image, pdf, or anything in your media library. Instead of removing an image, uploading a new one, and manually re-inserting the image, you can simply swap out the file and the link to the file will stay the same. Yes!!

Useful when…

  • Replacing often-updated pdfs like a menu or downloadable form
  • Replacing outdated photos of people or staff
  • Replacing anything in your media library without the normal hassle

3. Featured Image Admin Thumb

Screenshot of Featured Image Admin Thumb
Screenshot courtesy of Featured Image Admin Thumb

A quick and easy plugin, Featured Image Admin Thumb will put your featured images into the Posts and Pages view in your WordPress admin area.

Easily see what posts/pages are missing featured images and update it straight from here instead of editing each page one by one.

Useful for:

  • A site that consistently uses Featured Images and wants to see and edit them at a glance
  • An online store – easily swap out main featured image for each product
  • An Events Calendar
  • A site using custom post types like for a Staff directory or Portfolio

Bonus: try Admin Columns instead

Want to see even more attributes in your WordPress admin columns? Try Admin Columns, which lets you add dozens of different columns and rearrange them. This plugin is much more robust but takes a bit of setup, which is why Featured Image Admin Thumb is a quicker solution if you’re only looking to add the Featured Image.

4. Redirection

Screenshot of Redirection
Screenshot courtesy of Redirection

Redirection may be too advanced for some users, but it will come in handy one day when you decide to delete a page or post. I install it on nearly every website I build because redirects are an important part of your site’s health and SEO.

Use this plugin to redirect – or in other words, point – old or deleted pages/posts to a relevant new page/post. This tells Google and other search engines where to find the new page. It also improves your website for your visitors – instead of someone seeing an ERROR page, they will blissfully glide to the right page, without even realizing they were redirected.

You can also use this for marketing. Create a redirect from a short link, like “mycoolsite.com/free” to a longer more descriptive url on your site, like “mycoolsite.com/free-wordpress-tools-2021”. Then use the short link on social media or a business card so it’s easier to remember and looks nicer.

Useful for:

  • Retiring (deleting) old pages/posts while pointing people to a more relevant page
  • Improving SEO
  • Pointing a short link to a specific page/post on your site

5. Disable Comments

Screenshot of Disable Comments
Screenshot courtesy of Disable Comments

Some sites do not use the built-in blogging feature of WordPress at all, or may blog very infrequently. For these sites I always install Disable Comments, which completely eliminates the Comments area of WordPress and shuts the site down to receiving comments on blog posts or pages. If you do not need or want to invite discussion on your site, this plugin is for you.

Useful for:

  • Sites that don’t need or want to deal with comments, ever!

6. Simple Custom Post Order

Screenshot of Simple Custom Post Order
Screenshot courtesy of Simple Custom Post Order

If you want fine control over the order of your blog posts or other post types, this is the plugin for you. Simple Custom Post Order lets you click and drag posts into any order you choose.

On this yoga retreat website, we wanted to blog about upcoming events, but need to order the posts by the event date – not the published post date. This plugin lets us manually re-order the events so that the upcoming events are in order by the most upcoming date.

Useful for:

  • Taking control over the exact order of your posts (or custom posts like Events, Portfolio items, Staff, etc)

I hope this list of plugins gives you some ideas on how you can improve the editing and organization of your website for you or your team. Let me know what your favorite plugins are by contacting me – I’m always on the lookout for a great tool!

2020 in Review: Staying Connected

A global pandemic, hundreds of miles between me and my clients, family and friends… What could possibly go right in this scenario?

There were huge challenges that came with a year spent far removed from the world, but let’s celebrate some wins, shall we? Here are some highlights from the year at Lydia Roberts Design.

The Work

These websites were very welcome work in a time of such uncertainty. Click each one to read more about the process.

  • In addition to new websites, I completed several Mailchimp packages, built new features and new landing pages into existing websites, and launched exciting online courses using WooCommerce and LearnDash.
  • Two sites I built this year have custom directories that are fun to explore. See Just Economics’ Living Wage Certified Employer Directory and de Vos Devine Law’s Library.
  • I continue to offer Maintenance Care Plans to new and existing clients as well as hosting on Flywheel and now also on Kinsta.
  • I also updated several sites stuck on outdated WordPress versions that had become in peril of breaking or security risks. I call these “site rescues”!

My contractors, Laura and Megan, deserve a round of applause for their work with me this year which included everything from migrating websites and content, research, and keeping sites up to date through many WordPress changes.

Virtual Connecting & Belonging

As a small business (and someone who works from home) I rely on relationships with clients, colleagues and friends to keep me busy with work. And this year despite the extreme physical distance, I was in some ways more connected than ever. I was able to make new connections over Zoom and enjoy long phone conversations with many clients about life in their neck of their woods.

I took advantage of the influx of virtual learning to attend WordCamp Asheville online, my local Las Vegas WordPress meetup group, and a slew of webinars and even an online wellness seminar. In December, I gave my first meetup presentation in a very long time, about free tools anyone can use to help their brand’s web design (see the presentation here).

My cat Buster made frequent appearances on Zoom this year.

Unrelenting Change

This was a year of unrelenting change in so many ways. WordPress released several major updates to its block editor (aka Gutenberg) which kept me on my own toes and also forced to me to expand my knowledge of themes and plugins and re-dedicate myself to building future-friendly sites, or websites that will work well with the coming changes.

I also enjoyed watching the annual State of the Word Address and learning about the long-term roadmap of WordPress. Here’s an impressive statistic from the address:

WordPress is now used to build 39% of all websites.

Six Years in Business

I’m deeply grateful to my network of colleagues, clients, and friends for coming back year after year to work with me and sending me referrals.

To celebrate six years in business and re-dedicate myself, I updated my branding and created some swag like these stickers.

Thank you for making my year.

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year. See you in 2021!

Web Design talk: Free tools and rules of thumb

The Las Vegas WordPress Meetup Group has been an amazing resource for me after moving out west. When I got volunteered to talk about how to differentiate a website design from its competitors, I took up the challenge. I ended up turning the talk into more of a general look at design rules of thumb and free tools like Canva, Coolors, Unsplash, and more. I learned a lot during the resulting discussion about tools I use everyday.

View the replay of our virtual meeting below, and/or check out the slides.

View the Slides

Thanks to John Hawkins for recording all the meetups and putting them on the meetup website. You can explore past discussions at wpvegas.com

Working from Home - a cat sits patiently in front of a printer

Working from Home Tips (from the cats)

The self-isolation necessary to curb the coronavirus has forced many into working from home, so it’s never been a better time to reflect a bit on the ins and outs of telecommuting.

Here to help demonstrate some tips of at-home work success are my live-in assistants and feline companions, Buster and Elwood (guest appearance from my brother’s teddy bear dog, Mr. Latte.)

Two cute cats lay curled together on a couch. One is orange named Buster. The other is black named Elwood.
My office assistants are ready to assist, as long as it involves napping.

Structure your Work & Create Accountability

The top half of an orange cat peeks out from behind an open laptop and stares at the camera.

It’s all too easy for tasks to go undone when there’s no longer a structure in place dictating our day. When someone isn’t looking over your shoulder, it can be hard to stay on task with what really matters.

Set up some self check-ins throughout the day to make sure the big important tasks aren’t getting drowned out by the sometimes frantic “little stuff.” It’s hard to police yourself, so create accountability. This could be a deadline, a reward (if I get this done, I can take off early), or a friend or colleague you ask to check in with you and ask how the task is coming along. Or, a pet with an intense stare will suffice.

Create a Designated Work Space

An orange cat drapes himself over the back of an office chair.
I like office

You might not have the luxury of a home office, but try to find an area with a door you can shut to create some focused time to work. If possible with your partner and/or kids, create blocks of work hours where you’re not to be disturbed. This will help you get into “work mode” and get things done before you re-enter the shared family living space.

Make Virtual Meetings count

Two orange cats look at each other through a sliding glass porch door.

The beauty of remote work is the easy access to virtual meeting tools like Skype, Zoom, Daily, FaceTime, and the like. Instead of getting straight down to business, take a few minutes to connect with people on a personal level during a virtual meeting. And use the benefits of virtual meetings like a chat window for brainstorming. See more tips on Virtual Meetings from my friend Chad over at We and Me, Inc: 3 Ideas on How to Have Better Virtual Meetings

Dress for success…or comfort

A cute white curly haired dog is wrapped in a blanket getting out of the shower looking disheveled.
We all have good days and bad days

Some folks who work from home like to get showered and dressed for work as soon as they are up, just as they might on a normal “go to the office” workday. Others take a more… relaxed approach. Do what’s comfortable for you (…and acceptable if you have a video call) and enjoy the freedom and comfort of home!

Be Patient & Connect with People

A black cat and orange cat engage in battle. The black cat has one paw extended and pushes down on the orange cat's head.
Get a hold of yourself man, we’re going to get through this.

Working from home is a difficult transition, even for those who are naturally introverted. Remember that your coworkers and friends are struggling too. Reaching out and venting about problems, stresses, or the absurdity of the situation can alleviate a lot of tension. Be patient with yourself and others, and don’t expect to become a remote-work master overnight.

Take Eye Breaks

A black cat sits with eyes closed next to an open laptop computer
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Staring for hours at a computer screen can cause eye strain, headaches, and a whole bunch of other dry eye problems that I have discovered over the years. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. “For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, a person should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.”

I use an app called BreakTime that will fade and lock my screen, forcing me to look away and stretch my legs for at least 2 minutes.

Celebrate Milestones

A cat being held wears a party hat and looks a bit miserable

Don’t let someone’s birthday, a company achievement, or other special occasions pass by unrecognized just because an in-person party can’t take place. Get together for a virtual celebration, send an appreciative email or text, and plan a future hangout. Don’t forget the party hat.

Enjoy the Sunshine

An orange cat lays directly in a sunbeam on the floor

We all know sunlight is good for us. Vitamin D helps boost our mood and can mentally energize us. Get out for a walk if it’s a nice day and enjoy! Or as Buster demonstrates above, sprawling out in sunbeam can really hit the spot.

Make Sleep a Priority

An orange cat is curled up asleep on a bed
I was born for this.

A well rested body has a stronger immune system and is better able handle stress. Working from home can throw off your normal routine and it’s easy to let your sleep cycle get out of whack quickly. Try to stick to a normal routine and make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you. If we take Elwood and Buster as models, about 20 hours per day outta do it.

Make time for Play

Eventually, everyone will get a case of the stir crazies, even those long accustomed to remote work. Some my favorite silly breaks: turn up your favorite song and belt it out, get up and dance, or laugh along with a favorite standup comedy routine.

Or, follow Buster’s example – grab a loose hair tie and just go nuts.

I hope these actionable cats – er, tips – will come in handy.
Got a favorite work-from-home tip? Leave a comment below!

SSL Certificate

Why SSL is crucial for your website

You’ve definitely seen it: a small lock icon next to the web address of your favorite website. Like this:

An SSL enabled website shown in three different web browser address bars
SSL is enabled on wordpress.org, as seen in the address bar

That lock icon symbolizes something important: an SSL Certificate.

What the heck is SSL?

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a secure connection. An SSL certificate encrypts all the data that passes between your visitors’ web browser and your website’s server where your website lives. This secures your website and makes it much harder for malicious parties to read the information coming to and from your site.

Websites using SSL can easily be identified by their web address:


Note the “s” in the address – it stands for Secure and signals an SSL certificate is used.

Why do I need SSL?

Trust, Ranking, Security

An SSL certificate is key for providing a visual “ok” signal to visitors. That lock icon basically tells visitors to your site:
“This website is secure, and you can trust it.”

SSL is required for any website selling a product or containing forms such as a contact form or email signup. But over the years, Google also started using SSL as a ranking factor, meaning they get ranked higher. For this reason, around 2017 it became important for ALL websites to use SSL, no matter what.

But even in 2020, three years after SSL became a ranking factor with Google, many websites still don’t have SSL enabled or properly configured.

This is what it looks like if there is no SSL present:

A Not Secure message shows in the web address bar on an insecure site
An example of a website without an SSL certificate shows various Not Secure messages.

Making the Switch

Contact your trusted web developer or your web hosting company. Ask if there is a yearly fee and how you can properly set up SSL on your site.

After switching to SSL, your web address will change.

no SSL: http://www.myawesomewebsite.com
with SSL: https://www.myawesomesite.com

Update all listings of your website

Update your website listings — social media accounts, Google business page, email signature — to match this new address starting with https. This helps Google find your site at the new https address faster.

Watch for mixed content and Not Secure warnings

“Mixed content” happens when parts of your website such as images still originate form their old http address instead of https. This causes a warning of Not Secure to show up in the address bar, even though you have SSL!

If you see a Not Secure warning, you can identify the culprit by using the built in browser inspector tools in Firefox or Chrome. However, it’s usually best at this point to contact a web professional such as yours truly to root out and fix the issue. It often only takes a few minutes.

Keep SSL active and watch for renewals

Sometimes SSL certificates need to get renewed each year, especially if it’s a paid service. Mark your calendar for when it will renew and make sure you have an active card on file at your web host company. Your website can go down temporarily if it can’t find the certificate.

That’s it!

Once you have SSL, visitors will have increase trust and confidence in your website, and so will search engines like Google.

5 Year Anniversary

Five Years Stronger

In October 2014, I took the freelance leap. I was working as a web developer for a local business, and I missed having full control over my work. I knew it was time to get out there and work for myself.

As an extremely risk-averse person, this was a decision I measured, worried over, and spoke to countless friends and colleagues about. Failure was definitely a possibility. I had no idea what would happen when I no longer relied on an employer to bring me work. I didn’t really belong in the business sphere, did I? (It turns out this feeling has a name — imposter syndrome.) I was just a person with strong web skills who wanted to make my living working with good people.

I left my previous job knowing that I could do the work, but not sure about the whole “business thing.”

Slow & Steady

Over time, I learned to trust that the work would come, and it has. More often than not, there’s way too much on my to-do list. I’ve narrowed my focus and now only take on work that I’m excited about. Years later (slow and steady, remember?) I’ve transitioned from working with businesses in any and all industries to mostly the wellness and coaching fields. Basically, I see myself as helping the helpers.

I made mistakes along the way, and still do. I haven’t always anticipated problems I should have seen coming, or realized a task would take much longer than I thought. I’ve been frustrated by having to “know it all”, and realized it’s ok to assemble a team of experts in other fields like SEO, marketing, and social media.

This print from Ugmonk sits in my office and pretty much describes my business approach

The community

I’ve made friends with some extraordinary designers, developers, and other creatives. The folks at Craftpeak taught me several workflows and told me about tools I still use today, as well as provided an awesome co-working space for a couple years. These friends and others inspire me and support me, and their work makes mine better, too.

I got involved in the WordPress community and was the lead organizer for WordCamp Asheville in its inception in 2014 and 2015, and then got to enjoy transitioning my duties to the other organizers for the next few years 🙂 As an introvert who tends to shy away from leadership, I found a community. I even got up in front of a ton of people and talked without disastrous consequences!

WordCamp Asheville organizers from 2014
Throwback: the organizing team from our first WordCamp Asheville in 2014

The Mindset

In 2018 I was extremely lucky to be part of a beautiful studio space created by Mountain Laurel Digital. Being around these strong female businesswomen changed the way I thought about business. My slow and steady approach was a success, but my under-the-radar “business is scary” mindset was holding me back. The time in this space taught me to push aside those imposter syndrome feelings and embrace being a business owner.

And in 2019, when my husband and I moved to Las Vegas, it was only the community of supportive clients and friends that bolstered me and allowed me to do this. They, and my years of experience, gave me the confidence I needed to provide the same services, despite the physical distance.

The ladies of 372 Depot St, a beautiful working space created by Casey Nifong (far left) of Mountain Laurel Digital

5 years stronger

These days, I’m still the person that wants to do high quality work for good people. In moments of overwhelm, I am encouraged by seeing my clients flourish, watching how they work through the hard times and how they capitalize on and plan for the good times. Just check out my portfolio and you’ll see a group of dedicated and talented business owners doing their best work.

I know I’m not the absolute strongest I can be, but I am five years stronger. And I’m excited to see where we go next together.

Valley of Fire hiking
Hiking through the Valley of Fire