Goodbye Google+

Online communities come and go.

Recently Google retired Google+, their fourth attempt at social media networking.

Like I’ve posted before, websites still have a place alongside a social media presence.

The best practice is to have a website where (as long as you keep the domain and hosting) you own the location and can direct traffic from your social media presence to your content. While Google does allow you to “Take Out” and download your content and contacts, you now need to find an alternative location for your interaction with that audience.

The users of Google+ have been moving away for a while, where did your Google+ audience move to?

Moving your website, don’t forget to redirect

It is a new year and so perhaps you have created a new website to promote your business or organization online. [If you haven’t and you should or have made a new year’s resolution to improve your online presence, please contact Vista Interactive for help.]

When you are replacing existing content, then it is a good idea to redirect website traffic from that old content to the new location. Links stay around for ages – in people’s contact lists, in their old emails, social media posts, forums and on websites.

We recently had a former client create a new version of their website on a URL. As standard practice, we redirected all traffic from their old website’s URL using a 301 (permanent) redirect. for the whole site. This would ensure that any old links would take website visitors at least to the new site to the right content if the new site had the same structure.

A Google search for the former customer’s main keywords gave their new site in the top two results and their old site in the next two, so the top four results were going to their new site. Of course, the Google results for the old site still had the old descriptions and old links but these were redirecting to the new site. This should be acceptable but the former customer wanted to remove the old descriptions and asked us to remove the old site completely from Google’s index and park the old domain. We did this and so now a search for their main keywords lists only the new site, but they have lost a couple of top search engine results and potential traffic from people who still have the old links.

Keeping your old domains might be a useful strategy. We changed our name and branding in 2004 from BilgiLink to Vista Interactive, but we still use the old domain for some internal stuff as well as redirecting visitors from this old domain to our current Vista Interactive site.

Welcome to the Gutenberg Editor

So WordPress has a new editor: Gutenberg! This is the default new post with some tweaks from our playing with it. 

Customizing the text, like above, now gives more options with sizes, drop caps and colors for text in WordPress.  

First time Gutenberg user.

Of Mountains & Printing Presses

The goal of this new editor is to make adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. This whole post is composed of pieces of content—somewhat similar to LEGO bricks—that you can move around and interact with. Move your cursor around and you’ll notice the different blocks light up with outlines and arrows. Press the arrows to reposition blocks quickly, without fearing about losing things in the process of copying and pasting.

What you are reading now is a text block the most basic block of all. The text block has its own controls to be moved freely around the post…

… like this one, which is right aligned.

Headings are separate blocks as well, which helps with the outline and organization of your content.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Handling images and media with the utmost care is a primary focus of the new editor. Hopefully, you’ll find aspects of adding captions or going full-width with your pictures much easier and robust than before.

Beautiful landscape
If your theme supports it, you’ll see the “wide” button on the image toolbar. Give it a try.

Try selecting and removing or editing the caption, now you don’t have to be careful about selecting the image or other text by mistake and ruining the presentation.

The Inserter Tool

Imagine everything that WordPress can do is available to you quickly and in the same place on the interface. No need to figure out HTML tags, classes, or remember complicated shortcode syntax. That’s the spirit behind the inserter—the (+) button you’ll see around the editor—which allows you to browse all available content blocks and add them into your post. Plugins and themes are able to register their own, opening up all sort of possibilities for rich editing and publishing.

Go give it a try, you may discover things WordPress can already add in to your posts that you didn’t know about. Here’s a short list of what you can currently find there:

  • Text & Headings
  • Images & Videos
  • Galleries
  • Embeds, like YouTube, Tweets, or other WordPress posts.
  • Layout blocks, like Buttons, Hero Images, Separators, etc.
  • And Lists like this one of course 🙂

Visual Editing

A huge benefit of blocks is that you can edit them in place and manipulate your content directly. Instead of having fields for editing things like the source of a quote, or the text of a button, you can directly change the content. Try editing the following quote:

The editor will endeavor to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

Matt Mullenweg, 2017

The information corresponding to the source of the quote is a separate text field, similar to captions under images, so the structure of the quote is protected even if you select, modify, or remove the source. It’s always easy to add it back.

Blocks can be anything you need. For instance, you may want to add a subdued quote as part of the composition of your text, or you may prefer to display a giant stylized one. All of these options are available in the inserter.

You can change the amount of columns in your galleries by dragging a slider in the block inspector in the sidebar.

Media Rich

If you combine the new wide and full-wide alignments with galleries, you can create a very media rich layout, very quickly:

Accessibility is important — don’t forget image alt attribute

Sure, the full-wide image can be pretty big. But sometimes the image is worth it.

The above is a gallery with just two images. It’s an easier way to create visually appealing layouts, without having to deal with floats. You can also easily convert the gallery back to individual images again, by using the block switcher.

Any block can opt into these alignments. The embed block has them also, and is responsive out of the box:

You can build any block you like, static or dynamic, decorative or plain. Here’s a pullquote block:

Code is Poetry

The WordPress community

If you want to learn more about how to build additional blocks, or if you are interested in helping with the project, head over to the GitHub repository.

Thanks for testing Gutenberg!


Adding a self-signed SSL Certificate to localhost

In my localhost development environment, I sometimes need SSL configured for a site so I can test things as close as possible to how the production site will operate.

In my environment, Apache is configured in /usr/local/etc/httpd and the self-signed SSL certificates are stored in /usr/local/etc/httpd/ssl/<local_domain>/.

Here is the recipe to add a self-signed SSL certificate so Chrome and other browsers will allow access to the secure locally hosted site:

Add the following inside the <VirtualHost *:443> </VirtualHost> configuration for the local_domain in /usr/local/etc/httpd/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

SSLEngine on
SSLCertificateFile /usr/local/etc/httpd/ssl/<local_domain>/domain.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /usr/local/etc/httpd/ssl/<local_domain>/domain.key

Create domain.conf with the following content:

distinguished_name = req_distinguished_name
req_extensions = v3_req


basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = nonRepudiation, digitalSignature, keyEncipherment
subjectAltName = @alt_names

DNS.1 = <local_domain>

Generate the key:

sudo openssl genrsa -out domain.key 2048

sudo openssl rsa -in domain.key -out domain.key.rsa

sudo openssl req -new -key domain.key.rsa -subj /CN=<local_domain> -out domain.csr -config domain.conf

sudo openssl x509 -req -extensions v3_req -days 3650 -in domain.csr -signkey domain.key.rsa -out domain.crt -extfile domain.conf

Add the key to the keychain in OSX:

sudo security add-trusted-cert -d -r trustRoot -k /Library/Keychains/System.keychain domain.crt

Restart Apache

sudo apachectl -k restart

Why do I need a website? I’m on Social Media

You are busy. You have an active community on a social media network like Facebook and your time is limited. It is easy to Tweet or to post a photo to your Facebook page, but your website has not been updated for so long that you have forgotten how to edit it.

Is it even worth having a website now, when your audience is always on social media? Are websites still relevant?

Some key points to think about before abandoning your website for a social media site:

Durability: Will the social media site stick around?

Remember MySpace? Friendster? Did you ever use Xanga? or Digg? Some of these sites are still around, others are long gone.

See R.I.P. – Top 10 Failed Social Media Sites or the Wikipedia List of defunct social networking websites for lists of dead social media sites.

Reachability: Will your audience see your message?

With social media sites, there is a “firehose” of constant messages and so it is easy for your content to get lost in the rapid stream of updates. Even if you are posting at opportune times, you won’t reach everybody you hope to.

Feedback and analytics (available for most social media sites) can give you a good idea of how well your content is doing.

Findability: How easy is it to find your online presence?

Try a Google search for your brand’s online presence. How many of the results point to your content on social media?

Next, try to find your content using the search feature of a social media channel.

A previous post from this blog appears on the first page of Google results for a search of the title of the post (“what does it cost to make a website and get online”).

Search results for the title of a blog post that was shared on social media

This article has been shared on our Facebook page several times (most recently 2 October via Buffer).

And yet, it does not appear in Facebook’s search results:

Search results for the blog article shared on Facebook

Usability: How easy is it to update your website?

Perhaps the reason your website is out of date is that you don’t have an easy method to keep it up to date. We recommend using a Content Management System like WordPress or TYPO3 that is customised for your situation. Talk to us about how we can help simplify your content