Kolakube http://kolakube.com Thu, 17 Apr 2014 00:05:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Step into the Spotlight: 3 Ways to Create a Website That Gets You More Clients http://kolakube.com/get-more-clients/ http://kolakube.com/get-more-clients/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:31:03 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=58180 Getting people to visit your website is the easy part these days. The hard part is getting those people to use your website; to sell them on your services, and then get them to take action to get in touch

The post Step into the Spotlight:
3 Ways to Create a Website That Gets You More Clients
appeared first on Kolakube.

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Spotlight for WordPressGetting people to visit your website is the easy part these days. The hard part is getting those people to use your website; to sell them on your services, and then get them to take action to get in touch with you and hire you.

As a freelancer, having a stockpile of leads at your disposal is a comforting thought. Knowing you can pick up a new project and get paid for it at any time is what will keep you in business, and food on your table.

I’ve been freelancing on and off for 6 years, and have never struggled to get new clients when I needed a new project. Rather than trying to drive as much traffic as possible to my website, I’ve always focused on one thing to get more leads:

Build a website that made people come to me.

Like I said, getting people on your website isn’t the hard part. The hard part is retaining them and getting them to take the action you want them to (message you for work).

In other words, build a website that does all the work for you; that promotes your services and skills, shows your experience, and tells your story.

You see, all of these things spiral back to one thing: trust. The beautiful thing about having a website is that it’s a reflection of you. Your website is always talking to people even when you personally aren’t.

I believe a website that speaks for you and your services should follow these 3 principles:

  1. It should make your intentions known
  2. It should put an emphasis on your messages, beliefs, and you
  3. It should be easy to communicate with you

1. How to make your intentions known

You know what you want to accomplish with your website: get more clients. The easiest way to make a sale, or to get people to do what you want is to simply make your intentions known.

In other words, show your audience what to do next by funneling them to the most important parts of your website.

My favorite example of this is at The Sales Lion. The first thing you see when you visit the site are calls-to-action that funnel visitors to the services and products they have to offer.

Instead of relying on arbitrary menu links, The Sales Lion puts these pages right in front of visitors faces in an actionable way:

The Sales Lion Funnel

Note: How The Sales Lion funnels visitors to crucial pages on their website.

Always strive to make it known throughout your website that you have something to offer, and that you want your visitor to take action on it. Even if they don’t need your services now, you will at least make an impression that may end up connecting you later on.

Now, in the same way somebody may not need your services now, you may be in a position where you’re too booked to take on new work right now.

Believe me, if that’s the case—you’re doing something right.

But does that mean you should stop selling yourself? Stop trying to attract more clients? Absolutely not!

Again: you’re stating your intentions to your audience here. If you can’t take on projects now, make it known you will be accepting new projects later. Be transparent, and get your potential clients to work with your schedule.

I love how Bill Erickson does this on his contact page. Right above the form, he states when he’s accepting new projects again:

Work availability

Insight: Always state your work availability.

This encourages people to get in touch with him, but also sets the expectation that he doesn’t have work availability until the stated date.

Intentions and expectations are everything when it comes to making a sale. Once you’ve told the world what you have to offer, you need to further strengthen your message by showing them what you’ve already done.

2. Share Your Messages, Experiences, and You

The services and work you create on the web can’t be found anywhere else. You bring your own unique styles and experiences to the table, and that plays a huge factor in a person’s decision to hire you.

That’s why your website should be all about you.

Showcase your work on a dedicated portfolio page, and write about the experiences you’ve gained and the lessons you’ve learned.

Tell your reader’s how they can apply all of that knowledge to themselves. Then explain how your services can improve their life/business, and show them how you’ve done it with your work before.

Prove you know what you’re talking about, and publish blog posts that teach people how to solve problems for themselves. Even if they’re just small ones.

You never know, they may just want to hire you (pay you) to solve more of their problems at some point.

Now because your message is so important for that to happen, it’s crucial you have a website that clearly lays out your message with little to no distraction.

A huge reason why I like the designs of the SDavisMedia and Rafal Tomal’s blog’s is that there isn’t a sidebar or fluff content in sight. Each page focuses on a specific thing, with the intentions of getting you to take an action.

With less clutter, and more emphasis on your work, experiences, and stories—people who are interested in your services will have all they information they need to reach out to you.

3. …Just make sure it’s easy to contact you

Having a basic contact form on your website is an absolute must. There’s really no better way to start a conversation with somebody interested in your services than through an email.

In the same way you don’t like filling out a huge form to order Chinese food online, potential clients don’t want to fill out a long form just to get the ball rolling about their project.

Many freelancers want to get all the details possible up front about a project, but miss the human interaction side of landing a client. Instead of creating complex contact forms that grab as much information as possible, create a basic form that asks for the following:

  • Name (it’s always good to know somebody’s name!)
  • Email address (so you know which email address to reply back to)
  • Subject (give them an opportunity to make their email stand out in your inbox and pitch their project)
  • Message (a big text box that let’s them freely talk about their project)

This is how I’ve setup my own contact form, and have always enjoyed the simplicity of it.

I’ve found that instead of requiring information like deadline dates, budgets, timeframe, etc. in the initial email, you should allow people to freely initiate a conversation with you about their project.

You can usually learn a good amount from the first email a person sends you (they’ll generally introduce themselves with a few details about their project, and ask about your work availability), and should probably dive into the technical details after you’re more introduced with each other.

My new WordPress theme helps you get more clients

Spotlight for WordPressThe 3 principles I talked about in this post are the same principles I’ve built my websites on to get more clients in the past. Because of how well they worked for my business, I tried to apply them to a WordPress theme I’d make available to you.

And I think I came up with something pretty incredible.

My new WordPress theme, Spotlight, makes setting up a website that follows the 3 principles above easy, and makes more clients come to you.

Bundled with the new KolFolio and Funnel Lead addons (more info below), and other useful features, setting up a portfolio for your work and funneling user’s to important areas on your site is extremely simple and can be done out of the box with Spotlight.

Since Spotlight is a WordPress theme, it includes a gorgeous blog and page design. Landing and squeeze page templates have also been included so you can really create distraction free content.

Spotlight is fully compatible with the popular (and my favorite) contact form creator, Gravity Forms, and styles contact forms simply and beautifully.

To top it off, Spotlight has a responsive design that works and functions on any screen size. Let me tell you, this theme looks and feels great on my iPhone.

I’m making Spotlight available for download Tuesday, April 22nd. However, when you decide to preorder now, you can save 20% on your purchase. Pre-order buyers will receive their download link for Spotlight on Tuesday, April 22nd.

To learn more about how Spotlight can help you, and to preorder, click the button below:

Click here to learn more about Spotlight →

The post Step into the Spotlight:
3 Ways to Create a Website That Gets You More Clients
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Building Smarter WordPress Themes: Making Layout Decisions, Not Options http://kolakube.com/wordpress-layout-options/ http://kolakube.com/wordpress-layout-options/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 19:14:16 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=55135 In the convoluted world of WordPress themes that are built to stretch to infinity, and offer “all the options you’ll ever need”, its become easy to forget what delivering focused solutions to a client or customer’s problem entails. Problem solving:

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In the convoluted world of WordPress themes that are built to stretch to infinity, and offer “all the options you’ll ever need”, its become easy to forget what delivering focused solutions to a client or customer’s problem entails.

Problem solving: it’s the reason we build. It’s the reason we scratch our heads and yell obscenities when we can’t get our precious code to work. The urge to solve problems is ultimately what drives us as creators to keep on creating.

Me? I like to design. I like solving people’s design problems and I try to create solutions that not only make web content look beautiful, but are also easy to interact with.

You’ve probably heard that spiel before, because it sounds like something a WordPress theme designer would say. That’s how I mainly deliver my solutions to people—through themes.

From my years of experience of building focused themes for clients, releasing premium skins for a popular theme framework (and now my own standalone theme), and running multiple sites of my own, I’ve learned a lot about what people want when building a site with WordPress.

But most importantly, I’ve learned what people don’t want. That’s why I’m creating the SmartWP series here on Kolakube. I want to share my ideas and methods of creating solutions that work for the user, instead of making the user work.

And I’m starting with something I’ve been dying to talk about in themes: layout options.

The Typical Layout Options Panel

A feature built into a lot of themes is some kind of layout chooser. It gives the user the ability to pick a one, two, three, or however many columns they want their layout to support. Some even offer sorting options (content on left, sidebar on right, or: content on the right, two sidebars on the left etc.).

Here’s one I built into a theme I never released. It pretty much sums up what the industry standard says these things should look like:

WordPress Layout Options

The idea is simple: choose from different graphical representations of what your site layout could look like, save your selection, and your entire site layout will change.

For themes that act as site builders (namely, frameworks), this is a great way to deliver simple, powerful customization options to the user. It requires little work, and is fairly easy to understand.

But for simpler themes that want to offer layout customization at a more basic level, I’d argue that options like these can be a huge overkill.

For example, while I was building Chronicl, I wanted to add some flexibility when it came to adding/removing sidebars. I didn’t want to offer every layout combination under the sun, I just wanted a theme that could support upto two additional sidebars to the right of the content box.

Since I couldn’t justify creating a new options panel for a layout with those basic requirements, I needed to explore other methods. Having sidebars in Chronicl are optional, so any solution I came up with had to be based around those moving parts.

The Anatomy of a WordPress Sidebar

WordPress WidgetsLet’s talk about another industry standard: widgetized sidebars. Any premium theme worth its money will have this most basic of all features built into it.

The Widgets interface is best used for sidebars, as the hierarchy in both the backend and frontend are the same.

Dragging Widgets into a Widget area will create a descending hierarchy. Structurally, a Widget area in the backend perfectly mirrors what it will output on the frontend.

So when a Widget area is empty, how should that reflect on the frontend?

Most developers write code to detect when a Widget area is empty, and output a message telling user’s to go fill in the blank space by adding Widgets to the backend.

This is great, because it tells the user what to do next with that predefined space.

Even though the Widget area is empty, it still outputs something on the site, thus breaking that “mirror image” between the frontend and backend.

While adding an instructional message has its benefits, it can also be an unwanted replacement.

What if, when a Widget area is devoid of content, the entire section gets removed from the website? What if an entire site’s layout could readjust itself based on the user’s decisions to add (or remove) content from these sidebar areas?

Eliminate choices, and make decisions. Don’t make the user think about their layout, just give them places to put their content, and lead the way from there.

With these questions and thoughts running through my mind, I had my direction.

How to Build A Layout That Builds Itself

Diving into the WordPress Codex, I found the nifty is_active_sidebar() conditional.

As the Codex describes it:

This Conditional Tag checks if a given sidebar is active (in use). This is a boolean function, meaning it returns either TRUE or FALSE. Any sidebar that contains widgets will return TRUE, whereas any sidebar that does not contain any widgets will return FALSE.

You may have heard of or used this conditional before. Here’s an example of how I used it for the Chronicl sidebars (take note of this structure, we’ll be using it as reference for later):

<?php if ( is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ) || is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-2' ) ) : ?>
	<div class="sidebars">
		<?php if ( is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ) ) : ?>
			<div class="sidebar sidebar-1">
				<?php dynamic_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ); ?>
			</div>
		<?php endif; ?>
		<?php if ( is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-2' ) ) : ?>
			<div class="sidebar sidebar-1">
				<?php dynamic_sidebar( 'sidebar-2' ); ?>
			</div>
		<?php endif; ?>
	</div>
<?php endif; ?>

That says:

First, check to see if EITHER sidebar one or two are active. If either of them are, load the sidebars HTML. Then, run individual checks on sidebar one and two, and output its contents. If there are no widgets, don’t load that particular sidebar.

While this functionality is a step in the right direction, it’s not yet bulletproof. Say we remove all Widgets from sidebar two. Since it’s now empty, it won’t load. That leaves us with an empty gap, as we can see in this GIF:

Chronicl Layout

Problem: A visual of the code above, the entire HTML of the sidebar will disappear when the Widget area is empty, leaving an empty gap in the layout.

Obviously, this looks terrible. We need a fix, otherwise this whole idea is useless.

So far we’ve been able to figure out how to make our sidebars disappear when a Widget area is empty in the backend. But now we need to figure out how to make our layout change too.

Thinking Modularly

The main structural elements of the site were set up like so in my stylesheet:

.container { width: 1175px; /* 1075px is the actual width. I added an extra 100px to account for padding inside the container */ }

.content { width: 600px; }

.sidebars { width: 475px; }

.sidebar-1 { width: 300px; }

.sidebar-2 { width: 150px; }

Now that I understand exactly how my layout is going to change, I need to be able to change the widths of these sections as the layout changes.

Custom Body Classes

I decided that I’d break down these widths into body classes, so I could write specific CSS for specific layout combinations.

Luckily, there’s the handy body_class() filter I could use to add these classes to my body tag dynamically. Nice.

Using the is_active_sidebar() conditional, I could detect when to add/remove classes based on the state of a sidebar Widget area.

Here’s a basic version of the code I ended up with:

function kol_body_class( $classes ) {
	if ( is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ) && is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-2' ) )
		$classes[] = 'container-wide'; // for three column layout
	elseif ( is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ) || is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-2' ) )
		$classes[] = 'container-slim'; // for two column layout
	else
		$classes[] = 'container-small'; // for one column layout

	return $classes;
}
add_filter( 'body_class', 'kol_body_class' );

This conditional is very basic. It says:

If BOTH sidebar one AND two are active, change the body class to container-wide. If not, go check to see if EITHER sidebar one OR sidebar two is active, and apply container-slim to the body class if true. If neither of those conditions are true (i.e., both are empty), then apply container-small.

With a system in place that can detect changes to Widget areas, I can now alter my CSS to specifically target different layout combinations:

/* the width of my content never changes, so this class can remain generic */

.content { width: 600px; }

/* 3 column layout */

.container-wide .container { width: 1175px; }

.container-wide .sidebars { width: 475px; }

.container-wide .sidebar-1 { width: 300px; }

.container-wide .sidebar-2 { width: 150px; }


/* 2 column layout */

.container-slim .container { width: 1050px; }

.container-slim .sidebars { width: 350px; }

/* I don't need to overwrite single sidebar widths, since they were only applied to the three column layout above */


/* 1 column layout */

.container-small .container { width: 1000px; }

Of course, you’ll need to modify other properties like floats and spacing. But for the sake of simplicity here, I only showed you how widths change.

With these checks in place, let’s see what happens now when I remove all Widgets from sidebar two:

Chronicl Layout

Solution: Perfect! The layout can now change its width based on active Widget areas.

The more layouts you decide to support, the more complex your conditional logic can get. Chronicl also supports a one column layout, and will slim all the way down if both widget areas are empty.

When a one column layout is active, I also decided to center the content box and the header. This was another layout decision I made for the user, and it was all done with basic CSS and a few if/else statements:

Chronicl Layout

Unlimited customization: Since we’re adding classes to the body, we can target any element. I decided to center the content and menu links.

No Options, No Problem

Empty WidgetsSomething as simple as an empty widget area can redefine your entire layout. That’s power.

I think it’s amazing that an entire layout of a website can adjust to a simple change in Widget content.

Instead of creating a new interface for our layout options, we were able to build on top of an existing, already familiar interface in WordPress.

And the code to do it isn’t even anything special—it’s just a few native WordPress functions mixed with some modular CSS.

As theme developers, it’s so easy to want to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, we just have to look around and find ways to utilize the tools we already have before going out and getting new ones.

Could a method like this have its drawbacks and limitations? No doubt. But, I think if we strive to create more focused themes—themes that serve a specific, defined purpose—methods like this will always have a place in the forefront of any theme developer’s toolbox.

You’ve Got To Make The Decisions

It’s easy to feel self conscious about your theme when you compare it to others. You may not support “unlimited” layouts, have design options, or other “coveted features” that most super-themes these days do.

But you know what? That’s fine. I’m a believer that the best options are the ones user’s never notice, because everything should “just work”.

If you spend more time focusing on the intricate and smaller details of your themes, the quality of your work will only go up.

While you won’t make a living marketing these kinds of things (a lesson I learned the hard way with Chronicl), or even getting much appreciation for them—you’ll have created a product that is so much easier for your customer’s to love.

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How I Rebuilt Kolakube With These 21 Awesome WordPress Plugins http://kolakube.com/build-wordpress-plugins/ http://kolakube.com/build-wordpress-plugins/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 22:43:53 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=54384 If you’re a regular around Kolakube, you’ve probably noticed a lot of changes throughout the site lately. And I’m talking more than the release of my new WordPress theme. For the past month or so, I’ve been rebuilding the Kolakube

The post How I Rebuilt Kolakube With These 21 Awesome WordPress Plugins appeared first on Kolakube.

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If you’re a regular around Kolakube, you’ve probably noticed a lot of changes throughout the site lately. And I’m talking more than the release of my new WordPress theme.

For the past month or so, I’ve been rebuilding the Kolakube website. Every major part has been overhauled, and it all now runs 100% on WordPress, which is a HUGE deal since I had a few other pieces of software deeply integrated into the site. Running my business has never been simpler.

I’m really fortunate that a platform like WordPress exists, and has such an active ecosystem of *genius* developers creating software for it. You can truly use WordPress to build any kind of website you want.

So I want to show you the plugins I used to build a site like Kolakube, with hopes that you can find new tools that you can use to improve your own website.

What I Started With…

As I mentioned, Kolakube is now 100% on WordPress. Before I started the rebuild, I relied on two other pieces of software to run things. Naturally, things got messy, and certain parts of the site became a burden to maintain.

Here’s how I used to run Kolakube:

  • Main site (blog, user’s guides, product pages): WordPress
  • Support forums: Invision Power Board
  • Shopping system: IP.Nexus (IP.Board addon)
  • Affiliate program: Post Affiliate Pro

While I really like each software individually, it was a pain to maintain them all together. Since none of the software integrated with each other, everything always had to remain separate.

That means remembering different logins, learning how to use different interfaces, and other technical aspects that just were a pain in the ass to deal with.

In the grand scheme of things — it could’ve been much worse. But as somebody who strives for efficiency and convenience in everything I build on the web, maintaining a business like that was not ideal.

Plus, there’s no excuse to run a business like that when great tools like the ones below exist. Let’s get started.

The Essentials

You’ve probably seen the plugins listed below in other roundup posts like this. Before we get into the really good stuff, here are some plugins I use on Kolakube that I think every site can benefit from.

Akismet

Akismet is pretty much the best way to protect your website from spam, and it comes installed in WordPress. How else would you do it?

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms for WordPressWithout a doubt, Gravity Forms is the best way to create forms on your site. I used it to create the contact page here on Kolakube, and I love it. Building forms in the WordPress backend is a delight, as is working with the many developer features.

Gravity Forms is a plugin that can be extended by purchasing addons, and I use the AWeber addon that comes included with the Business package they sell. This way, whenever people fill out my contact form, they can click a checkbox to join my mailing list. It’s a pretty sweet package.

W3 Total Cache

I don’t yet use this plugin to its full potential, since I haven’t gotten around to configuring the mountains of options, but I can say that W3 Total Cache is the best caching plugin out there.

They say it all:

W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by increasing server performance, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEOAnother plugin I haven’t yet fully utilized (I’m not an SEO guy, so I’m not rushing) is Yoast’s WordPress SEO, and it’s just wonderful.

The interface is easy to use, and I trust a developer as smart as Joost de Valk is to handle all the SEO stuff I don’t want to ever think about.

The Business Side

Let’s dig into the fun stuff. I sell WordPress themes on Kolakube, so it was crucial to create the best shopping experience I could for my user’s.

Not only did I need a solid way to sell my products, but I needed a way to support them in an easy way for everyone — myself, my customers, and my support staff.

And to top it off, I needed to make sure that the software I used had great administrative tools like adding/removing purchases from accounts, income/sales reports, and detailed user history, amongst other things.

Picky, right? That’s how I felt, until I found the plugins below:

Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital DownloadsWhat can I say about good ol’ Easy Digital Downloads? It’s my absolute favorite plugin around, and one I’ve spent the most time working with throughout the rebuilding process. And it was really fun to build with.

I’ve used a long line of eCommerce solutions here on Kolakube, and I haven’t found one as solid as EDD. And that’s before I added any extensions, of which there are tons of. The people who develop this plugin really understand how an online store should be built.

To avoid feature bloat, a lot of functionality has been packaged separately into buyable extensions. And when I hit the EDD store to look for extensions, it reminded me of what it was like to run through Toys “R” Us as a kid: I wanted freakin’ everything.

To further increase the functionality of my store, here are the extensions I use:

  • Software Licensing: Generates license keys for user’s of my products to input into their site, which enables them to receive automatic updates when I release a new version of a product. I cannot live without this extension.
  • Stripe Payment Gateway: Allows me to accept credit card payments using the epic Stripe gateway. Fun fact: this is the first time in Kolakube history you can buy something with a credit card. Thanks, EDD!
  • Manual Purchases: This extension was very important to me, and allows me to manually add a product to any of my customer’s accounts. During my shopping system migration, I couldn’t restore users’ purchases, so they had to follow instructions to do it themselves, or contact me so I could manually do it. This convenient extension made my growing pains much less painful.
  • AWeber Checkout: After a customer completes a purchase, this extension will automatically subscribe them to one of my email lists in AWeber. This is crucial, so I can email customers about updates, offers, new products, etc.
  • Affiliates Pro Integration: I haven’t played with this much yet, but this extension adds a simple affiliate program to Kolakube.
bbPress

bbPressWith an epic shopping system in place, I had to make sure I could easily support customers who have bought my products. I’ve always loved forums, and have a long history using different forum software before I discovered WordPress.

So finding bbPress was like a match made in heaven. It’s a simple forum built as a plugin, and integrates right into WordPress. Finally, the forum software of my dreams!

Because of my background with forum software, I had a lot of expectations for what kinds of features I wanted. Some of which weren’t built in by default, but were easy to custom build thanks to the easy template system in bbPress.

The only additional plugin I’ve needed so far is one called bbPress Pencil Unread, which shows read/unread status of forums and topics in each respective listing. Of course, I tweaked it a bit to my liking.

User Switching

A quick maintenance tool, User Switching allows me to login into any account, which makes assisting customers with confusion about their accounts much easier.

Searching Kolakube

I’ll be honest, I’ve always taken search for granted. While I’ve always tried to make Kolakube as easy to navigate as possible, I never had any kind of search functionality.

And that was a big mistake I realized after relaunching, when user’s of my forums pointed out there was no way to search for older topics. I couldn’t believe how neglectful I’ve been of it, so I went out to solve it the best way I could.

And I think I came up with a pretty neat search engine. I’ll talk about it more in another post, but here’s the plugin I used to solve my searching woes:

SearchWP

SearchWPIt would’ve been easy to use the default search in WordPress and call it a day. But honestly, default WordPress search wouldn’t be very helpful on a site with as much information as Kolakube. So that idea was quickly dispersed.

I’ve heard nothing but great things about SearchWP from people I follow on Twitter, but never looked very far into it. It popped up again while I was searching around Google, and has quickly becoming one of my favorite plugins.

With SearchWP, I was able to fine tune the search results all around Kolakube. It was easy for me to create search forms that will only search a specific section/post type of Kolakube.

For example, if you fill out the search bar at the top of this post, you’ll only get results from the blog. You can then choose to search in other parts of Kolakube, or search the entire site.

This functionality is great, and is all native to WordPress… but the results are what set SearchWP apart. Simply put, SearchWP displays more relevant results than WordPress’ native search. I don’t even click around Kolakube anymore, I just search for everything and find it immediately.

SearchWP comes with a bunch of extensions too (notice a trend here?). Here’s what I use so far:

  • bbPress Integration: Allows SearchWP to search bbPress
  • Fuzzy Matches: Makes search queries a little more lenient, and accounts for spelling mistakes and a few other variables in a search
  • Term Highlight: Highlights keyword(s) in search results

Wrapping It Up…

Here are a few other smaller plugins I use that add little features to Kolakube:

  • BAW Login/Logout menu: Adds login/logout links into the WordPress Menu Editor. Allows you to choose where to reidrect a user after logging in/out.
  • Disable New User Notifications: WordPress sends you an email each time a new user registers, this plugins stops all those emails from being sent
  • Table of Contents Plus: This badass plugin automatically generates a table of contents based on headings in your posts. It’s great for long posts (like this post), or documentation articles

A lot of work went into the development of Kolakube, and I plan to write more about how I built the new site. Until then, I hope you can find a plugin from this list to use on your own site.

Have any plugins you just can’t live without? Go ahead and share some of your favorites by leaving a comment below!

The post How I Rebuilt Kolakube With These 21 Awesome WordPress Plugins appeared first on Kolakube.

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Chronicl 1.1 Goes Responsive, MD2.2.6 is Live + New Thesis Sites You Need to See http://kolakube.com/latest-kolakube-updates/ http://kolakube.com/latest-kolakube-updates/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2012 19:32:39 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=3479 There’s been a lot going on lately behind the scenes here at the ministry of Kolakube (heh). I wanted to take a little time to talk about some new skin updates (this is a big deal), show you some of

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There’s been a lot going on lately behind the scenes here at the ministry of Kolakube (heh).

I wanted to take a little time to talk about some new skin updates (this is a big deal), show you some of the client designs I’ve worked on, and talk about things like Beast Optimization and other plans for Kolakube.

Basically, there’s a ton of stuff that I want to talk about, and it’s all stuff you’ll just love.

Want to get started? :D

Chronicl 1.1

New features:

  • Fully-featured, badass responsive design
  • HTML5 enabled

Improvements:

  • Cleaner, and super light CSS
  • All new simplified file structure
  • Better logo/nav vertical alignment
  • Better dropdown menus
  • Cleaned up archives template

If you’re an existing Chronicl customer, you can download the update and instructions in your client area.

Don’t have Chronicl yet? Find out why Chronicl is the funnest Thesis skin to customize, ever.

Marketers Delight 2.2.6

Improvements:

  • Much more flexible responsive design
  • Better page-width framework support
  • Simplified, more condensed CSS
  • Improved pagination

Fixed:

  • Orb lead/table lead misalignment
  • Better logo/nav vertical alignment
  • Better language support
  • Fixed comment threading

If you’re an existing Marketers Delight customer, you can download the update and instructions in your client area.

Not a current Marketers Delight customer? If you want a Thesis skin that helps you create beautiful optin forms, feature boxes and landing pages— you may want to consider getting your hands on Marketers Delight now.

Have You Seen These New Thesis Sites?

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of working with great people to help redesign their sites, using the one and only Thesis theme.

Have you seen me raving about them on Twitter? If not, check them out!

The Sales Lion

I met Marcus Sherdian at BlogWorld NYC last month during his great presentation. After his presentation, I went up and introduced myself to him, in which he then recognize me from my posts on DIYthemes. One thing led to another, and we ended up redesigning The Sales Lion!

He even wrote a blog post about some of the changes we made, and how you too can use good design to turn your blog into a REAL business.

View The Sales Lion →

The Sales Lion redesign

Make Money on the Internet

Make Money on the Internet is a blog and podcast that needs no intro. It’s run by Chris Guthrie, who I became good friends with after I got interviewed on Quick Sprout.

Chris and I worked together to get a nicely customized version of Marketers Delight 2 that better matched his site’s theme.

View Make Money on the Internet →

Make Money on the Internet

Pitch Anything

I was approached by the team that works with author Oren Klaff (at a rather awkward moment in my life) to redesign their website and help better funnel their content.

Using Marketers Delight 2 and a little bit of elbow grease, the results came out pretty amazing. :D

View Pitch Anything →

Pitch Anything

Michael Fishman

This wasn’t a full redesign, as I was tasked to create a better, inspired version of his previous website. I had a lot to work with, and I think things came out very nicely.

View Michael Fishman →

Michael Fishman Consulting

As Seen at BlogWorld…

I thought this was sweet, when I watched my friend Lewis Howes speak at BlogWorld, he incorporated the feature box I designed for him months ago and talked about the results it brought in for him.

It was great seeing my work being appreciated like this to a room full of people. :)

Lewis Howes at BlogWorld

Sorry for the crappy quality. I design, I don’t take pictures.

The Perfect Blog Post

Recently, Derek Halpern released the “perfect blog post” formula on Social Triggers. It instantly went viral, and I think is an incredible resource that I had the honor of designing for him.

And as a traditional reaction to Derek Halpern’s content, everyone on the Internet will now become an expert on creating the “perfect blog post” and will now share these ideas as if they were their own.

View the Perfect Blog Post →

What’s Next For Kolakube

What's Next For KolakubeSo that’s just a glimpse at some of the things I’ve been working on. Can you tell I’ve been busy?

While I have plenty of other projects in line for others, I also have some killer stuff I’ve been working on to make Kolakube an even better resource.

Expect to see these things being deployed over the next few months:

  • A gigantic video library full of tutorials for my Thesis skins, and other videos related to design
  • I’m going to start writing more about designing for your business on Kolakube
  • A new skin hopefully coming out late July/early August. It’s a portfolio skin called Spotlight
  • I want to get in the habit of releasing more freebies here

Have You Signed Up For Beast Optimization?

How to create a faster website: Beast OptimizationIn a journey to help me get back into writing (and share some much-needed knowledge), I created a series called Beast Optimization.

This free series is all about helping you create a faster, better-performing website. Some of the topics covered are:

  • Do plugins really slow down your website?
  • What features on your website you should remove
  • How to supercharge your website with these killer cache + CDN tips
  • The HTTP outbreak: How HTTP requests suck the life out of your website
  • And much, much more…

To give you an idea of the quality of content you receive by joining this course, I released the article I wrote about image optimization for everyone to see. You should read it, it’s a great article if I do say so myself. :D

Want to learn more about creating a faster website? Join Beast Optimization right now:

Click here to join Beast Optimization →

So That’s Me… How About You?

You know, after writing down what I’ve been doing the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve accomplished more than I thought prior to writing this.

This motivates me to only keep going strong and hopefully being able to write more update posts like this to show off the work I’ve been doing.

I want you to get the same kind of feeling that I have right now. In the comments below, tell me some of the things you’ve been working on the past few weeks. I’d love to know what you’ve been upto.

The post Chronicl 1.1 Goes Responsive, MD2.2.6 is Live + New Thesis Sites You Need to See appeared first on Kolakube.

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Marketers Delight is Now Responsive (or not) http://kolakube.com/marketers-delight-responsive/ http://kolakube.com/marketers-delight-responsive/#comments Wed, 30 May 2012 16:37:15 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=3130 Continuing on what has been a crazy week around Kolakube, I have something that all you Marketers Delight users are going to love. Marketers Delight version 2.2.5 is out and it brings a responsive design to the table. Or in

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Continuing on what has been a crazy week around Kolakube, I have something that all you Marketers Delight users are going to love.

Marketers Delight version 2.2.5 is out and it brings a responsive design to the table. Or in other words, MD2.2.5 now looks incredible on any device (phone or tablet).

This is the 6th major update in the 4 months Marketers Delight has been available (talk about getting your money’s worth).

See it For Yourself

Marketers Delight is now responsive
click the image above to see for yourself!

Ever since releasing Aroxis and the responsive skin starter set, more and more people have been requesting that I make Marketers Delight responsive as well.

Because of the amazing amount of detail that went into creating Thesis, it was easy for me to figure out how to create the most flexible responsive skin I could. You can create as many columns as you want, adjust your layout widths, swap your column order, and more without touching any code.

And like my previous work with making responsive Thesis skins, Marketers Delight is no exception to any of that.

But what I think really makes this so great, and it may seem simple to you, is this option right here:

Responsive settings MD2

This is an option I created for those of you who do NOT want their site to be responsive. By nature, responsive design is not the most bulletproof way of serving content to your readers on smaller devices, and some aren’t a fan of it and would prefer other options— like a mobile site.

There was a huge conversation about it here, and you can learn a lot by reading some of the comments in there.

So if you don’t like the idea of responsive design and don’t want all the extra code to load on your site, you can turn it off very easily. I think many of you will appreciate that.

Upgrade Now

If you’re a current Marketers Delight customer and want this update, go ahead and login to your Kolakube account to download the upgrade and follow the instructions provided in the download.

If you don’t have Marketers Delight yet…

There’s Only 2 Days Left Before We Raise Our Prices

If you are planning on buying a skin from us, now’s the time to do it. This Friday, June 1st (2 days), Kolakube is nearly doubling the price of all skins in our gallery from $37 to $67. These next 2 days are your last chance to save on our skins while they’re cheap!

Check out our skins gallery now →

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We’re Raising Our Thesis Skin Prices + Offering Club Plans (Here’s How You Can Save Big) http://kolakube.com/raising-prices/ http://kolakube.com/raising-prices/#comments Mon, 28 May 2012 17:13:15 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=3067 Ever since relaunching in February, Kolakube has made huge strides. From new Thesis skins to better support, an affiliate program and some awesome freebies— we’re always keeping busy to keep you busy. With the future shining so brightly for us

The post We’re Raising Our Thesis Skin Prices + Offering Club Plans (Here’s How You Can Save Big) appeared first on Kolakube.

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Ever since relaunching in February, Kolakube has made huge strides. From new Thesis skins to better support, an affiliate program and some awesome freebies— we’re always keeping busy to keep you busy.

With the future shining so brightly for us and the Thesis community as a whole, I’ve decided to make a few changes on how Kolakube delivers new and awesome skins to you.

From $37 to $67 (Starting This Friday)

As it stands, the prices of the skins in the gallery are now at a modest $37. What is included in that price tag? Quite a bit:

  • 1 beautiful, highly functional Thesis skin
  • New features, bug fixes + updates for life (1-2 skin updates a month)
  • A growing documentation library with guides, how-to’s and tutorials
  • A support forum where Sean Davis and I live, often going above and beyond to help you out

That’s a lot of stuff, and it’s only getting better. With plans for even more Thesis skins, and our upcoming video library (full of tutorials, guides and how-to’s on our skins), the $37 you spent on one of our skins really goes a long way.

The truth is, we go the extra mile here to deliver not just the best Thesis skins on the market, but to deliver the best customer experience possible.

And we work our asses off. Kolakube is a two man show at the moment (me, Alex, developing skins + running Kolakube and Sean essentially taking over the support forums).

Let’s Be Real: Here’s the Reason Why

So why raise the prices? I’m not going to come up with any BS, here’s the truth:

Kolakube is a growing business. As a business grows, things change. While I will always be sure our skin pricing is reasonable and affordable for you, I need to be sure that myself and the people who work with me here can make a living.

The things we do here aren’t motivated by money, trust me. Ever since the relaunch in February, I set out to help you create a business based on good design. One way to do that, was through selling well-designed Thesis skins.

Hopefully, if you’ve used our skins for even just a day, you’ll agree with us that the service here is worth more than the $37 price tag we put on it.

If not, I welcome you to buy one of our skins and use it yourself. See how good our products are and how good our support is if you need it. And do so before Friday, when the prices of our skins go up from $37 to $67.

Want All Our Skins? Join a Club!

Also happening on Friday, is the release of our membership clubs. These clubs basically let you get all our skins (and future skins), and everything else that comes with it, for one low price.

There will be 2 options: yearly access and 6-month access.

Depending on which option you choose, you will get access to all skins released in that period of time until you need to renew. However, you will always have access to the support and documentation that comes with joining these clubs.

This is the Last Week to Grab Our Skins at $37

Once Friday comes around, all Kolakube skins will be sold at $67 a piece. This week is your last chance to get them at this lower price of $37.

Or if you’d prefer to get all our skins for one low club membership plan (for killer savings in the long run), you can wait for Friday to come around and grab our skins there.

Thanks for your continuous support of Kolakube. It’s been an uphill climb since last year, but this site is really coming together, and it’s all thanks to you who use our skins, leave blog comments and spread the word about us.

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Aroxis: A New Responsive, Ultra-Flexible Thesis Skin by Kolakube http://kolakube.com/aroxis-responsive-skin/ http://kolakube.com/aroxis-responsive-skin/#comments Mon, 14 May 2012 17:38:02 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=2815 Aroxis is a new Thesis skin from Kolakube, and it’s pretty damn cool. The main idea of Aroxis is to help serve your content to multiple devices, providing a more elegant experience for users on any device. Or, in shorter

The post Aroxis: A New Responsive, Ultra-Flexible Thesis Skin by Kolakube appeared first on Kolakube.

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Aroxis is a new Thesis skin from Kolakube, and it’s pretty damn cool.

The main idea of Aroxis is to help serve your content to multiple devices, providing a more elegant experience for users on any device.

Or, in shorter terms, Aroxis has a stunning responsive design. And it’s not like anything you’ve seen in the Thesis community yet.

Thesis Design OptionsSince Aroxis is built on Thesis, you know it sits on some pretty powerful layout options.

The best part of this responsive experience isn’t for your readers. It’s for you, the site creator.

You can set your own column widths, create one, two or three column layouts, and even reverse the order of your columns.

A problem with many responsive themes is that they remain static.

As in, you can’t change the widths of columns or set your own custom column order settings. Your stuck with what you get out of the box.

Aroxis solves that problem and integrates perfectly with Thesis’ layout options. And of course, it all remains responsive.

From Flexible Layout to Killer Design Options

Taking a page from Chronicl, Aroxis is a “design first, ask questions later” kind of skin.

Armed with killer design options, you can set your own background color, change textures throughout the skin and even create some beautiful logos:

Aroxis Logos

Note: Click for a full view

The logo settings in Aroxis are impressive:

  • Broken circle logo format (far left)
  • Rectangle box (left)
  • Plain text (right)
  • Your own custom logo (far right)

…and you can align your logo any way you want. Left, right, center— and the layout adapts.

That’s Just A Glance…

Aroxis is a pretty powerful skin, and has opened the doors for current and future Kolakube skins to become perfectly responsive within Thesis.

If you want to learn more about Aroxis, you can click the link below to get started:

Learn more about Aroxis →

PS: A huge “thank you” to Matt Gross (@mattonomics) for the help he gave me. Aroxis wouldn’t be as slick without his help!

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Why is Responsive Web Design Such A Big Deal? Seriously…You Tell Me http://kolakube.com/responsive-design-big-deal/ http://kolakube.com/responsive-design-big-deal/#comments Tue, 01 May 2012 15:34:10 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=2285 Take Note: I just need to add a little bit of text here to see what this caption looks like! Responsive web design is probably the hottest topic in the design community right now. And no, I’m not just realizing

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Take Note: I just need to add a little bit of text here to see what this caption looks like!

Responsive web design is probably the hottest topic in the design community right now. And no, I’m not just realizing this.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading all there is to read on the subject and been experimenting with a lot of different techniques.

Needless to say, I am ready to start converting my Thesis skins (and all future designs) to be responsive, just as I have on my new personal blog.

People who use my skins are always asking when I will make them responsive, and why it’s taking me so long to do it.

My answer? It’s simple:

Why is it such a big deal?

Believe me, I think responsive web design is a great thing. As a designer, it’s fun to create and as a consumer of content on multiple devices: it can make life easier (or all the more tougher).

But in all honesty… why do you want it so bad?

Believe me, I think responsive web design is a great thing. As a designer, it’s fun to create and as a consumer of content on multiple devices: it can make life easier (or all the more tougher).

Have you taken the time to truly understand what a responsive website design does? Do you really need to serve your “mobile” visitors a different layout based on your current content?

Or, have you been programmed by all the hype and what the ‘experts’ are doing and suddenly decide you need a responsive website over anything else?

I Need Your Opinions

I have become so fascinated by not just responsive website design, but how people react to it. I want to know why you want a responsive website, and why this new way of design is such a high priority for your website.

I want to gather as much information as possible, because let me tell you: I am working on a monster post about everything responsive web design soon, and I want your opinion to use towards that post.

So please, leave a comment expressing your honest opinion about responsive web design and why it’s so important to you.

(orig. 3/19/12)

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Start Making Money With Kolakube: The Reopening of the Affiliate Program http://kolakube.com/make-money-affiliate-program/ http://kolakube.com/make-money-affiliate-program/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2012 15:01:22 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=2533 I’m not going to lie and tell you my premium Thesis skins haven’t been selling like crazy. Because they have. And I also have to mention that I did decide to *proudly* ditch my affiliate program for a ton of

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I’m not going to lie and tell you my premium Thesis skins haven’t been selling like crazy. Because they have.

And I also have to mention that I did decide to *proudly* ditch my affiliate program for a ton of reasons a couple of months ago.

Despite an inbox full of requests and tweets telling me how giant of an opportunity I was missing out on— I kept a hard head and kept it closed.

But today, I’m reopening it. And doing it a hell of a lot better than last time.

Here’s What New With The Affiliate Program

A quick look at it, there’s a lot of awesome things about this program:

  • Earn a nice 30% cut of each sale (about $11 a skin. Just wait until the prices rise!)
  • Access to a growing list of 50 beautiful affiliate banners
  • Detailed click, sales, traffic, trends reports
  • Full support at the awesome Kolakube support forum

You can learn more about it (and signup) by clicking the link below.

Click here to learn more

Why I Brought it Back

I want to go back and take a minute to respond to my article about why I closed the affiliate program. If you read it, you’ll think I’m an absolute hypocrite for bringing back the affiliate program. I did bash it pretty badly.

In business, there is a difference between being hypocritical and learning. Opinions change in an instant and like most things the past few months, this has been a learning experience.

So, I specifically wanted to address these points I made:

  • The sales brought in through affiliates was not worth the time it took to maintain the program
  • Many people used “spam” methods to promote through the affiliate program, making me look bad
  • Affiliate programs lead to higher refund rates through that spam by creating unrealistic expectations

Note that I based everything in that article based on the old Kolakube of a few months ago.

I even came up with a detailed chart of the differences between the ‘old’ Kolakube and the ‘new’ Kolakube to give you an idea of the data I was working with at the time:

Kolakube Then and Now

1. Not Worth the Time

The first time I ran my affiliate program, it accounted for about 5% of the overall sales. Between taking the time to pay the few active affiliates, responding to emails and promoting the program, I started to feel like it wasn’t worth it.

Truth is, it wasn’t. How could it be when few people would really recommend my skins on account of the bad service?

Opposed to now, where customer support is the biggest priority here, I think a lot more people would gladly promote Kolakube. And in the end, it will be worth all the time it takes to manage it.

2. Spam Marketing Methods

Let’s understand this now:

No matter what, there will always be spam. I wanted to close the affiliate program because people use spam methods to promote my skins. But why let spam win?

When you get email spam, do you close your email account? When you get comment spam, do you kill off your commenting system indefinitely?

I bet not, because that’s all crazy. You just need to have better management over these things, and accept that you can’t beat spam, but you can control it.

3. Higher Refund Rates

Through these spam methods, people were often promoting my products unrealistically. Advertising things they could not do, promising things that would never happen… leading to high frustration when people found out it wasn’t true, and blaming me. Then getting a refund. Bummer.

I can only trust that people truthfully promote the products around here, and that I continue to keep pumping out great updates to always make them better.

Those are my new beliefs about the affiliate program here, and it is here to stay for sure. But this was the one major drawback of not having an affiliate program:

Missing Out on a Huge Opportunity (For You)

If you’re a customer here, you know one thing Kolakube is all about is listening to what you want. And you wanted an affiliate program to promote the Thesis skins you used and make some money. I’d want that too, money is awesome!

With such a high demand for Thesis skins in the market, promoting a skin only seems natural to be a huge hit in affiliate sales.

So I invite you, whether you’re a customer here or not, to try out the FREE affiliate program and see what you can make with it.

[alert]

Ready to get Started?

The Kolakube affiliate program is new, it’s great, and I think you can make a lot of money with it. Ready to start earning?

Create an account    Learn more
[/alert]

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You Have What it Takes to Create the Next Web Sensation http://kolakube.com/next-web-sensation/ http://kolakube.com/next-web-sensation/#comments Fri, 06 Apr 2012 15:02:13 +0000 http://kolakube.com/?p=2389 Hey, you! Yeah, the one who’s wasting hours upon hours scrolling through Tumblr for another mildly amusing cat gif. I know you have better things to do, and if you’re reading this blog then you probably have ambitions for your

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Hey, you! Yeah, the one who’s wasting hours upon hours scrolling through Tumblr for another mildly amusing cat gif.

I know you have better things to do, and if you’re reading this blog then you probably have ambitions for your web experience that extends beyond browsing image sharing sites.

For you happy few, I want to give a bit of a pep talk. To motivate you to commit to your dream of founding the next big thing on the web. We all daydream about stumbling into web-based stardom in one form or another, so why not pursue those dreams in earnest?

C’mon, let’s give it some serious thought.

Consider Pinterest

How Pinterest became a popular websiteI think the recent explosion of the relatively new social media service Pinterest is a great example of how ordinary people achieve huge success on the web.

Less than a year ago, Pinterest was a medium level website with a small following and little to no media coverage.

Then seemingly, overnight, the site exploded in popularity, going from a struggling site to one with over 11 million viewers a month within a very short period of time. The developers behind Pinterest run a small operation—less than fifty employees in all—and yet they’ve managed to cultivate massive success.

The most amazing thing about Pinterest is that it doesn’t really offer any groundbreaking features to its users. It’s simply a new platform through which people can share info with other users. Designed to look like a pin-up board, people on Pinterest can pin up text, photos, and videos that they find interesting, funny, or worth talking about.

It’s essentially a refinement of an experience on the web that’s already ubiquitous. And that’s key.

Evolutionary, not Revolutionary

Pinterest’s path is nothing new, but it does teach a valuable lesson to web entrepreneurs looking to stake their claim to fame:

You don’t need to reinvent a person’s fundamental browsing experience in order to create a successful enterprise. All you need to do is identify a pressing demand in the blogosphere, and think of an innovative (and feasible) way to meet that demand.

For example, say that you happen to notice that a number of graphic designers complain about the difficulty with a certain design software.

While it probably isn’t within your skill set to create a more user friendly software, perhaps you could find the resources to build a site for graphic designers to vent about their frustrations and brainstorm solutions to common problems in their profession.

There was a need, and you created a space to address it.

Maintaining Quality

If you ever want to have any success on the web, you have to hold yourself up to the highest standards in everything you do.

From the idea stage, to actual design, to execution and implementation— you can only hope to succeed if you remain dedicated at every stage.

A half-brained idea won’t have a chance when you try to design for it, nor will you be able to execute it in an appealing manner.

A great idea isn’t worth anything if you aren’t willing to get down and dirty with the design and coding problems involved in making a site worthwhile.

Stay strong throughout or don’t bother at all; remember, there are millions of hungry entrepreneurs who trying for the same success as you.

Whatever you do, you better make it count.

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