The Blog

New images from Maui 2009

Images from Maui 2009 vacation – enjoy!

Why you should use WordPress for your blogging platform

I first started working with WordPress about 2 years ago, when a client project I was working on required me to transfer their existing WordPress blog to a new hosting account. Which, required me to learn how easy it was to transfer the background MySQL database to the new host, change a few settings, and then test to make sure everything was working properly.

When I first started playing with that blog while testing things, I realized how much more impactful this platform was over other platforms like Blogger or Tumblr – and it all came down to the following:

1. Branding: The last thing you want when someone is at your website, is for the viewer to leave. You want to keep them there, rather than make them feel that they’ve gone “someplace else”. Sure, you can modify your template in other platforms to include your logo – but, with WordPress, you can have your web designer “reskin” the WordPress blog to look as though the viewer was actually still within your site. For example, this blog for The Design Foundry that you’re looking at is a WordPress blog, yet the rest of this website is a normal, PHP-based website.  Not to mention the issue of trying to come up with a URL name for a non-WordPress blog that matches your current URL!

2. Mobile: With the advent of the iPhone, more and more web-content, especially blogs, are now being looked at over a mobile platform. There is no guarantee of readability of your blog over mobile platforms if you’re using something like Tumblr or Blogger. Yet, with WordPress, you can download and install a free plug-in such as WP-Touch (which, allows your WordPress blog to appear in an iPhone friendly manner – but only on iPhones) – or the WordPress Mobile Edition plug in which I’ve now started using, which supports not only the iPhone, but also Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry platforms.

3. Plug-ins: I touched on this a moment ago under Mobile – but there are huge advantages to being able to install a plug-in for a specific need. Whether it’s to improve mobile viewing, search engine optimization, or other more specific needs – WordPress has a flexibility that other platforms are lacking in.

4. Search: First, if your current website is using Google Analytics, you can download a plug-in called Google Analyticator, that allows you to put in your Analytics code and it will track your blog under your current reporting. Second, you can download the plug-in called All-In-One-SEO – which allows you to add content for that specific blog posting making it more searchable – including Title / Description / Meta Tags. And, if your WordPress blog is part of your overall site, it may help your Google page-rank.

5. CMS: Also known as a Content Management System, a CMS is a website that you can constantly update and maintain – which is excellent for keeping things like an online calender, news & events page, or….your blog – updated easily! The WordPress platform has two parts – “Posts” (which are your regular blog entries), and “Pages” (which are basically web-pages”. If your under a tight budget constraint, or need to set up a micro-website – WordPress is a great way of doing this. With plenty of free or inexpensive “skins” (a.k.a. “Themes”) available from places like Template Monster, for around $50 – you can now have a small, inexpensive website!

6. You’re In Good Company: Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of small blogs out there using WordPress. But, some larger companies you might have heard of also use WordPress. Companies like Digg, Ford, General Electronic, Sony, People Magazine, Samsung, Playstation, New York Times,CNN, Flickr, eBay, Yahoo, and Wall Street Journal also use WordPress.

Keep in mind there are two versions of WordPress. There is the version that is like other blogs such as Blogger – that’s not what you’re looking for. You want the one where you download a file, and install it via FTP to your hosting account. You’ll also need to set up a MySQL database for WordPress on your hosting account, so you’ll want to make sure your hosting uses Linux, not Windows, and that your hosting package includes MySQL databases available. And, unless your the technical sort, you might want to have a web design company or your hosting company do your install.

Now, if you’re new to blogging, and all of this seems a bit daunting – not a problem. One of the other nice things about WordPress is it’s ability to import your content, including tags that you’ve used, when you do your first install. So, if you’re not ready to move to WordPress yet – you can either start or continue with your current platform until you’re ready, and depending on your current platform, have a very easy transition when your ready without loosing the content that you’ve already put out there.  And, feel free to contact The Design Foundry if you want to know more!

Happy Blogging!

Resources:

www.wordpress.org
www.templatemonster.com
www.semperfiwebdesign.com (All-In-One-SEO Plugin)
plugins.spiralwebconsulting.com/analyticator.html (Google Analyticator Plug-In)
crowdfavorite.com/wordpress (WordPress Mobile Edition Plug-In)

Thoughts on things “after the election”

Now that the election is over, and we’re now inundated with the media’s “Obama-mania” – I have been thinking about what all of this really means.

I just read an article on CNN that Obama is planning on “rebranding” the United States. The full article appears at http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/11/19/obama.world.image/index.html, but the gist of the piece is that although he’s poised to re-brand the United States image in international markets, his actions will have to live up to his rhetoric.

I, for one, don’t think that this is going to go well for him. Simply because I don’t see how anybody, at this point, could do it. The damage we’ve suffered within the international community over the last 8 years has been huge. From a branding perspective, when your brand has taken a hit – even if your customers want your brand to recover, and want to believe in you, turning your brand image around quickly is extremely difficult.

Think of General Motors. Up until the early 70’s, General Motors could do no wrong. They built large, gas-guzzling vehicles that had gobs of power, but were horrible for the environment, and burned through fuel as if it was always going to be cheap and plentiful. Between tightening emissions and a gas crisis in the early 70’s, they tried to turn on a dime, building cars like the Chevy Vega – pieces of crap that rusted on the showroom floors, that broke down constantly, and depreciated to the point of being worthless about the time they drove off the dealer’s lot.

35 years later, GM has never truly recovered. And, they’ve done a wonderful job of repeating their mistakes of the late 60’s – early 70’s – and are now facing bankruptcy without a huge injection of taxpayer money (which is really what a bailout is) – to keep them afloat. Now, yes, I understand that much of their problems are also due to UAW demands driving up labor costs, keeping their cars from being price competitive to other competing brands. But in terms of overall quality – there is still the perception that GM vehicles are not as reliable as, say, a Honda. Even when the quality of their vehicles has improved to the point where they may very well never break down.

Does this mean that people want GM to fail? No. But they’ve had 30 years to turn around their brand perception, and they’ve had the help of some of the best marketers in the business. Obama – he has 4 years – or less – to turn around the United States brand position. And, he also has to focus on our wars in  Iraq & Afghanistan, an economy in crisis, all while fulfilling the expectations of every voter that believed his promises enough to vote for him.

As a country, I think it’s in our best interest to support our new President. But, it’s not just his responsibility to improve our country’s image overseas. It’s our job too. A 2002 National Geographic study indicated that nearly a third of young Americans could not locate the Pacific Ocean. So, go learn a language. Learn about another culture. Befriend someone that you might have just met from another country – and learn about their experiences growing up somewhere else. And, if you travel overseas – be humble – and appreciate the country your visiting – learn from  it, and bring the best of it back here. Our country was built by people that brought their culture here – let’s show the rest of the world that we can still learn from them, rather than impose ourselves on them.

It might just make Obama’s job a little easier.

Adobe Lightroom – what a great tool for photography!

I recently got a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – have to say that this program ROCKS! I’ve just finished up optimizing a group of photos I shot this past August while on Maui. In the past, I’d have to spend quite a bit of time in Photoshop to clean things up (things like cropping crap out that is distracting, or straighting the image against the horizon). Then, I’d upload the images into something like Flickr or Picasa – then, go through each of them to add descriptions and search keywords. One by one. For each photo site. Which sucked.

With Lightroom, not only is cleaning things up quite easy (kind of like using iPhoto, but more powerful), but I could add descriptions & keywords within the program – that allows uploads to things like Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, or Photobucket – without having to retype manually all the descriptions & photo info.

So – the most recent batch of Maui photos are up – and they’d be up sooner if I’d not had a hard drive die on my two weeks ago. Enjoy!

The Design Foundry – Maui 2007 Photos