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:

https://wordpress.org

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
A depiction of a login form for a website

Password Management: We’re doing it wrong

Raise a hand for each of the following that you’ve done:

  1. Kept track of passwords on scrap paper or notebook
  2. Kept track of passwords in a spreadsheet
  3. Forgot to update your notebook or spreadsheet when a password changed
  4. Used the same password, or variation of the same password, for multiple logins
  5. Used a weak password, like real words with some numbers in it. h0wAb0utTh1s! (yes, this is a weak password!)

Did you run out of hands to raise?

You are not alone! Many of us, myself included, have done all of the above.

Most people are bad are managing passwords because we’re not computers. Or at least, not computers in the way that allow us to randomly generate and remember long strings of random characters!

And here’s a fun fact

Enter Password Management Tools

We all know that passwords are a giant hassle. They can be impossible to remember and difficult to organize. And because it’s so difficult, we often end up using weak passwords that are easy to hack. We’re doing it wrong.

Thankfully, many years ago I discovered free password managers like LastPass*, and I went frolicking through the hills like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Actress Julie Andrews with arms outstretched in the film The Sound of Music with the caption Me discovering password management
Me (a name, I call myself)… upon discovering the existence of password managers like LastPass circa 2012-ish

Ok, How does it work?

LastPass, 1Password, and other password managers remember your passwords in an online vault. I’m most familiar with LastPass, so here’s how it works:

As you go about your day and log in to your favorite websites, LastPass remembers each password for you and collects them into an online vault which you can access by clicking a button. When you need to make a new login on a website, LastPass can automatically generate a strong password for you and then store it, so you never have to record it yourself. It can also remember information like addresses and even credit cards (only if you choose) to save you time when making online orders.

All you have to do is remember your one master password to access your vault. That’s it. One password to rule them all!

Oh, and it also makes it super easy to securely share your password with others. And…it works on all devices. And it’s free. Pretty awesome, right?!

A screenshot of the password vault by LastPass
The Vault! Screenshot by LastPass

Is it Secure?

I’ve told countless people about password managers because it’s made my online life easier, and I’m often asked if the service is secure. “What if the password management service is hacked?” you ask. It’s an important concern.

A password management company has a huge investment into security, because their entire business model relies on it. Which is more secure: their system, or my “system” of using weak passwords? Probably their system. Ok, definitely their system. To read more of a technical explanation of how LastPass stores your passwords securely, check out this page: How It Works.

For me, the daily benefits and time-saving sanity of LastPass — which I’ve used for upwards of 7 years — vastly outweighs the possibility of my vault being comprised (in which case I could still control access by resetting my master password).

What about letting Chrome/Safari/Firefox remember all my passwords?

There’s nothing wrong with using this method, except that it can encourage the weak password habits we talked about above.

If you need help generating strong passwords, check out this generator you can use for free: https://www.lastpass.com/password-generator

(I’ve also found that most people don’t know how to view their saved passwords – Here’s how to sync and retrieve your passwords in Google Chrome.)

“81% of hacking-related breaches leveraged either stolen and/or weak passwords.”

– Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 2017

Follow these Two Rules for Password Success

It doesn’t matter what tool or method you use to manage your passwords, as long as you follow these two rules:

  1. Use a unique password for every. single. login.
    Let me repeat that.
    Use a 100% unique password (not a variation) for every single website.
  2. Use a strong password – that means random letters and numbers, or a random string of words, of 12-16 characters.
    Example: 9Bm!Te@MEti5

If you can do that with a notebook or a web browser, more power to you. For the rest of us humans, there are password managers.

PS – If you liked this, check out my post on Online Tools to Save Time and Stay Organized which I recently updated.


*This post uses an affiliate link to LastPass, but I am not paid. I think I get a free trial of their premium service? Let’s find out, sign up already! 😀

I'm Moving to Nevada

I’m Moving!

After months of planning, I am moving this summer to Las Vegas, Nevada. I’ve gathered up the basics of the big move here, and what it means for business going forward.

Why now?
Moving out west has been a dream for many, many years. After nearly 15 in Asheville, my husband’s job began to allow for 100% remote work. He is a programmer, so this change gives us both a unique opportunity to work from anywhere.

Why Vegas?!
Despite the *very* hot weather, Las Vegas is an ideal location for exploring the canyons, mountains, and deserts of the southwest. I know many of you have been to this area and fallen in love with it, too. We’re excited to use Vegas as a home base for working, hiking, and sight seeing. And with clear weather and tons of flights, it’s a good city to be able to fly quickly back to NC for a visit, too!

On the road to Great Basin National Park in 2017. Route 50 is the “loneliest road” in America.

What about Lydia Roberts Design?
Never fear, Lydia Roberts Design is here to stay. Although I’ll be on Pacific Time (3 hours behind the east coast), it will be business as usual. I will fully support all my Asheville clients from afar. I’m available to hop on video calls so we can still see each other. The Asheville community is near and dear to my heart, and I will make visits and keep up with happenings in the 828.

Will you still work with Asheville clients?
Yes! I would very much like to keep working with Asheville-based businesses both new and old.

Will you move back?
Right now the plan is to move back to NC in a couple years. As with anything in life, nothing is certain. But, since most of our friends and family are in NC, I imagine we’ll make our way back!

Lydia sits behind her laptop and smiles
I’ll be where you can find me – behind my computer screen!

My deepest thanks to all of you who have supported me all these years. I look forward to many more years of building fun things on the web together!

PS- If you’re a photo or travel junkie, feel free to follow along with my western adventures on Instagram @leaflyd and @lydiarobertsdesign


Frequently Asked Quetions

Why your website needs a FAQ page

The purpose of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is to allow easy access to all the vital information about your business. It allows potential customers to start trusting you, buying from you, or contacting you. I recommend every site have one, and here’s why:

A FAQ page saves you time

Customers are happy to find the answer they need quickly, and you won’t waste valuable time responding to an email or phone call about a very basic question.

  • “Do you deliver?”
  • “Are tours held when it’s raining?”
  • “What are your hours?”
  • “How do I register for the workshop?”

Basic logistical questions like these should be answered clearly on your FAQ page. Save time by answering these frequently asked questions on your website, so you can connect with your customers and answer the more detailed questions that lead to sales, inquiries, and relationships.

Here’s an example of what your FAQ page can look like with an expand-able area for each question:

An example of an expandable FAQ section

A FAQ page is a marketing tool

Just because a FAQ page might reduce the number of basic requests, you can choose how much information to share in order to get more focused requests.

For example, if you prefer to discuss rates or pricing with clients after you make contact with them, consider putting a question related to pricing, but answer it with something like this:

“Our prices start at $X. For a custom quote, please contact us” (insert link to your contact page, or include your phone number and email here).

You can also use the FAQ page to reduce requests from people who aren’t a good fit as a customer.

If your retreat venue is ideal for group yoga retreats, and you don’t want it used a wedding venue, add some questions related to weddings & events and make it clear you do not book weddings or receptions.

A FAQ page is great for search engines

Anything that helps with the user experience — the way people interact with and use your website — is a good thing! A FAQ page is great for user experience because it helps people find valuable information quickly and reduces frustration. Google and other search engines see this as a positive sign, and since your FAQ page contains lots of information about your business, it can be a great place for Google to find keywords about what you do.

Tips for FAQ pages:

Make a note when you receive customer questions

As you receive questions from customers, write them down or ask staff to make a note. This will make it easier to write your FAQ page and keep it updated. For the detail oriented, you might even list questions in a spreadsheet and mark down how many times each question was asked in a month. This will tell you what the burning, need-to-know questions are vs. the less important one-off questions.

Revisit your FAQ page every 3-6 months and update it

Your business changes over time. Perhaps you add a new service, product, procedure, or even change location. Make sure your FAQ are up to date and reflect the questions and issues that matter now.

Place your FAQ page in your main menu

You might be tempted to put the link to your FAQ page in the footer or link to it from a subpage of your site. But, the best way for people to find the page is by putting a link front and center in your main menu, at the top of your site. This also helps mobile users find it quickly.

Put a call to action on your FAQ page

Use your FAQ page as an opportunity to capture people right when they get all their questions answered and are ready to engage with you.

After each relevant question, or at the bottom of the page, put a call to action. A call to action could be “Have a question we didn’t answer? Contact us now” or “Workshops are offered weekly but fill up quickly! Register Now”

An example of a call to action from Eating Asheville, a food tour company. It says Hungry for a taste of asheville with a button to book a tour.
Example of a call to action block at the end of a FAQ page

My favorite FAQ plugin

I often use the Genesis theme framework, and the Genesis Simple FAQ plugin is one of my favorite plugins. It displays your questions and answers in a nice show/hide format that looks professional and clean. It allows you categorize your FAQs. You can then insert the categories onto your FAQ page, and insert specific categories across your other pages. Here’s a nice tutorial from Studiopress.

For example, on the Eating Asheville website, one category is for questions related to Gift Certificates. I also included these questions on the Gift Certificates page, so it’s easy for people to get all the information in one place.

Gift certifcate frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions for the Gift Certificates category can appear on multiple pages

Because the plugin has a central area for updating the FAQ, you only need update it once, and any page where the question appears will be automatically updated. Another great time saver!

I hope these tips help you as your write your new website, or maintain your existing one!

Gutenberg Revisited

Gutenberg — the new block editor from WordPress — was released in late 2018. I’ve now had the opportunity use it on several sites, and these are my initial thoughts about it. Please note this post is more designer/developer focused. For more of a general overview about the block editor, please read my previous post, Here Comes Gutenberg.

What I Like about Blocks…

Columns
Layouts that previously would have required a custom template can now be created in minutes. The primary example is the columns block. I especially love being able to use columns at will without resorting to customizing a child theme or creating a special page template.

con: The columns appear very narrow in the editor and it can be hard to drag blocks in and out of the column areas. If you use a bullet list inside columns, it starts to look pretty bad in the editor because there is not enough width to show the text without wrapping. All the content is smushed together.

Galleries
The gallery block is really nice. I like that it can be adjusted just like the old WordPress gallery to be multi- or single-column, link to the images or not. It’s a nicer visual representation of what the gallery actually looks like, whereas in the classic editor, it could often look nothing like the real gallery depending on the theme.

con: You need to install a plugin like WP Featherlight to make the images pop up in a lightbox when clicked, as far as I can tell. It would be nice if this was just built in to the gallery block as an option to turn on or off.

HTML block
As a developer it’s amazing to have a block just to insert custom code, if I need to add a very specific area to a page that needs to look “just so”, or maybe I need to insert a widget from a third party in javascript. Previously, this was a big problem because custom code could be hidden or easily edited/overwritten in the visual editor. This way it’s more protected and separate.

con: I’ve noticed several times that if invalid HTML is detected, the block shows a warning and allows you to expand a window showing the errors. The interface for fixing the html is super confusing and reminds me of the draft history interface, where nothing seems to be editable. I might be missing something here, but so far this has thrown me for a loop.

Classes
Possibly my favorite feature is the ability to add css classes on any block, in the Advanced area. Like the HTML block, this allows me as a designer to add specific styles to headings, paragraphs, or really any other area, without it being in danger of getting lost when the text is edited.

Re-usable Blocks
I haven’t used this nearly as much as I thought I would, but I still love that it is an option.

Pet Peeves

The way inline images work is just plain confusing, and I’m not sure I “get it” enough to even write much about it here. This was one of the most useful features of the old editor, so to see it degrade here is really unfortunate. Inline doesn’t gel very well with blocks, and it seems like once an image is inserted inline, it can’t be edited, only removed. What am I missing here?

A lot of the UI (user interface) elements don’t show up until you hover or click inside of a block. This is kind of cool, because it makes the whole view cleaner as you’re working. But it also makes it really hard to delete a block – you have to click in the block, click again on a three dots for “more” and then “Remove Block”. It can make deleting something simple like a button take way longer than I feel it should.

The whole editing window is much narrower than the classic editor. I think this is because some themes allow for full width images/content areas, so it helps show the difference between the normal width (narrow) and full width (wide). But many themes don’t have this ability and it’s annoying that the editor can’t be adjusted to be wider. See my above comment about how columns appear smushed together because they are so narrow.

Thumbs up for now

Overall, I think Gutenberg is a big step in the right direction, and it was needed. The ability to use columns alone, without a plugin, is huge.

There is definitely great room for improvement, but I’m already looking forward to updating existing sites to use more of Gutenberg and less of custom fields or plugins that are becoming obsolete. It’s already changed the way I think of laying out pages, and is making building a site easier and more flexible.

How to Remove Spam Comments

Ever wonder how to get rid of spam comments all in one go? Here are a couple of methods you can use to clean up your WordPress comments.

Reminder: it’s always a good idea to take a backup of your site before doing anything major like deleting comments, just in case you change your mind or accidentally delete real comments and not just spammy ones.

Use a Plugin

If you’ve let dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of comments (yes, it can happen) accumulate on your site, a quick way to get rid of them is by installing a plugin like Delete All Comments.

Here’s what to do:

Go to Plugins in your WordPress dashboard and click “Add New.”

Search for “Delete All Comments.” Install the plugin and Activate it.

Then, go to Tools > Delete Comments. Check the radio button for “Delete all comments which mark as Spam” and click Delete Now.

Delete all comments plugin settings screenshot

Voila! Your site is all fresh and clean. Make sure you adjust your Discussion settings to prevent future spam comments – skip to instructions.

Advanced: Delete with Database Command

Feeling techy? It’s easy to delete unapproved comments directly through phpMyAdmin. If you don’t know what that is, do not attempt this method! This is for advanced users only.

Here’s what to do:

The way to delete spam comments through phpMyAdmin is to delete the comments that have not yet been approved. If you have spam comments that have already been approved, you will need to use another method. Before doing this method, make sure you approve any non-spam comments.

Log in to phpMyAdmin.

Make a backup of your database just in case.

Look for the phpMyAdmin icon (under databases) and click on it. You should see a page like that when you are in the phpMyAdmin page

Select your WordPress database by clicking on it on the left. You will see a list of tables within that database.

Next, locate the tabs on the right side, and find “SQL”. Click on that.

Run the Following SQL command on your database:

DELETE FROM wp_comments WHERE comment_approved = '0'
Screenshot of phpMyAdmin running an SQL command
Advanced users can use this method to remove unapproved comments directly in the database through phpMyAdmin

Click ok on the “do you really want to… DELETE FROM…” message popup

You should see a status message saying something like “153 rows affected”. The number of rows will vary with how many comments were removed.

Log back in to your WordPress admin panel, and you will find all the pending comments gone! Hurray!

Adjust Settings to Prevent Spam Comments

Now that your website is squeaky clean and rid of spam, let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again!

Option 1: Turn off comments
If you aren’t interested in receiving any comments, turn them off in the Discussion settings like this:

Discussion settings for turning off comments in WordPress
Click the image to view it larger. Use these settings if you want to disable future comments on your website.

Option 2: Use Akismet Anti-Spam plugin
If you want to encourage comments — but not spammy ones — install and activate Akismet Anti-Spam plugin. You will also need to choose a plan (free and paid versions available).


2018 in Review: A Big Year

2018 was a wild ride. Here are some of the highlights:

Celebrating Four Years in Business

Flashback to October 2014: I left my full time developer job to go solo. It was the right time to spread my wings and take on the new challenge of creating a business. I had freelanced for years on the side, ever since I graduated college, and it felt like a natural next step to work on my own.

But, as the years passed, I still thought of myself as “just” a freelancer. My inner voice told me I was “trying it out” — even after four years.

In 2018, my mindset changed completely. I fully embraced Lydia Roberts Design as a business and a brand. This new mindset emerged from a few pivotal moments:

New Shared Office and finding Inspiration

In June, I joined a shared office on Depot Street in the River Arts District. This is the biggest shift for me and my business in four years. Having my own desk in this beautifully designed space alongside four talented and creative women, is a dream come true – a dream I didn’t know I had.

I am forever grateful to Casey Nifong for inviting me to join this space. Getting to know her and the other women has been a joy this year. But beyond that, seeing their businesses thrive and grow is a huge motivator for my own business. I’m inspired by their work, their business practices, and their success.

Going Fast…in Vegas

Driving a sports car around a track at 125mph? This was an an experience I never anticipated.

Lydia standing next to an orange McLaren 570s sports car

No big deal, just me and the McLaren

For my husband’s 40th birthday we splurged on a big trip to California with friends. Our finale was a day in Nevada at Exotics Racing Las Vegas. Driving fast cars was at the top of his list — not mine. I was nervous and felt unprepared. I even thought about backing out. But in the end I let go, listened to the instructor…and had an absolute blast.

At the end of the day, I clocked the fastest lap time of our group. I tried something scary and unknown, and loved it. For a risk-averse introvert, this was huge.

I started to think: if I can do this, I can do so much more.

New Work + Services

It was a busy year for website and email work, too.

Sourwood Inn

Custom site for Sourwood Inn

I created a completely custom site for the Sourwood Inn. The Piano Emporium got a custom design to focus on mobile sales. I created a brand new site for River Island Apothecary and guided owner Katie Vie through launching her first online courses on the Pathwright platform. Pamela Millis, LPCS got a completely updated look when we replaced the previous nature stock photos with new professional photography of her and her office. Earlier in the year, I created a new site for Broo using the Divi theme to allow their team to customize their own design. I got to attend an awesome launch party for Hempé. I created the Hempé site in 2017, but this year we updated the site and they began selling through Amazon. Later in the year, I created a new custom homepage for CooperRiis Healing Community, and continue to work with them to improve many areas of the site.

In addition, I worked on countless content updates, Mailchimp templates and consulting, and completed major upgrades to WordPress 5.0 and PHP 7.2.

Flywheel Agency Partner badge

Hosting with Flywheel

This year I also added hosting and maintenance plans as a service. It was a big leap to pay for a large hosting plan, but it’s allowed me to stay in closer touch with clients and be more involved in an on-going way with their online life. I host with Flywheel, an awesome managed WordPress hosting company. Ask me about hosting 🙂

Getting Social

Yep, I finally put my business on Facebook and Instagram. I used to pride myself on flying under the social radar, only to realize I was missing out on a powerful and fun way to express my business. I’m excited to finally join the conversation.

Screenshot of Lydia Roberts Design's instagram grid

I joined the Instagram bandwagon

It was a thrill attending and organizing WordCamp Asheville for the fifth year in a row. My involvement in planning took a backseat this year due to travel and other responsibilities. But, meeting with the organizing team is still one of my favorite yearly pastimes and one I plan to continue.

Group of WordCamp organizers stand smiling in front of 2018 banner

The 2018 Organizing Team

I also had the great opportunity to meet so many colleagues this year as well — through gatherings like The Creative League, and as a side effect of the new office. I am incredibly fortunate to live in such a creative town with such kind people.

Plans for 2019

I have set some big goals for 2019. I aim to expand on my service offerings, while getting more focused on my specific packages. And, I’m finally putting a long-mulled-over idea into action this year, though I’m not quite ready to share what that is 🙂 Stay tuned by signing up for my newsletter and thank you for reading!

I send out helpful web tips, case studies, and things I’m working on.

The New Gutenberg editor from WordPress

Here Comes Gutenberg!

As soon as November 19th, 2018, WordPress will release a major update: version 5.0. With this update will come Gutenberg – a new editing experience for WordPress.

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is a very exciting development in the WordPress world. For years, the page and blog post editor within WordPress has remained virtually unchanged.

Now, with Gutenberg, the editing interface is cleaner and allows for more custom page layouts and styling using blocks.

Screenshot of the new editor in action

Here you can see a paragraph Block is highlighted while I write my post

Blocks allow you to insert and style individual sections of the page such as headings, paragraphs, buttons, images, and more. It tales all of these normal page elements and separates each one into its own block, which makes it easier to do things like customize the color or spacing, or reorder them on the page (without messing up other sections). There is limited support for inserting columns as well, which can make for more interesting pages without having to resort to a custom coded page.

WordPress is looking ahead to stay competitive with other website platforms. And, they envision a time may come when the entire website will work using blocks, so that it can be viewed on any kind of device imaginable – not just the phones, tablets, and laptops that we have today. It is a forward-thinking vision and one that I’m truly excited about.

 

How will Gutenberg affect my WordPress website?

So far, Gutenberg seems to have very good compatibility with the websites I have tested it on. I have not seen any visual issues on sites that I have built. However, I will continue to test, and in the meantime am using the Classic Editor plugin to suppress Gutenberg until my tests are complete.

If your site uses the Divi theme, you may continue to use the Visual Builder to view and create pages. Gutenberg will be available as an option, but you’ll likely continue to use the Visual Builder, since it’s still a much more robust editing experience than Gutenberg.

The general consensus is that Gutenberg will not replace editors like Divi. However, over time there may be many more blocks and custom blocks available from WordPress and independent developers. This means the way we build WordPress sites will continue to evolve, and we have more tools at our disposal to create sites in a way that work best for each individual client — and I love that!

 

Where can I learn more?

There are lots of resources available that show examples of Gutenberg in action.

Check it out and tell me: are you excited about Gutenberg? Nervous, perhaps?

What do you look forward to doing with Gutenberg editor that you couldn’t do before?