Last Updated April 20th, 2015

How Well Does Your Website Cope With Mobile Devices?

How Well Does Your Website Cope With Mobile Devices?

If you pay much attention to your website stats at all these days, you know that mobile is huge. For this website, just under half my traffic comes from desktop computers – the rest is all tablets and cell phones. It’s not something you should ignore, especially with Google now penalizing websites on mobile search if they aren’t mobile friendly.

You can start checking this out with a simple tool from Google to see whether or not they consider your website mobile friendly.  This won’t show you how your website looks to visitors, but knowing whether or not Google considers your website to be mobile friendly is a good place to start.

But Don’t Most Smartphones Display Websites Just Fine Anyhow?

It’s true that most smartphones do a pretty good job of displaying websites. Screen sizes have increased through the years, and quality in general has gone up. But not everything works right on every mobile device if you haven’t planned for it.

Your font sizes may be too small, for example, for a smaller screen. You might have links set too close together to be easily used on a smaller screen. Your layout may come out really weird or just be too wide for the phone’s screen. When in doubt, it’s best to check things out so you know how your website works on different screens.

There are tools, such as Browserstack, Sauce Labs, and ScreenFly.  Some are free and others require you to pay. It’s absolutely worth it to know what your website looks like, and even how it works on a wide variety of browsers, devices and screen sizes, even beyond the simple question of “is my website mobile friendly?”

It may sound like a lot of work to get your website ready. Messing around with the way your website works can be time consuming or expensive, depending on whether you do it yourself or hire somebody. Fortunately, there are a variety of options.

WordPress Plugins

If you run your website using WordPress, getting mobile ready may be as simple as using a plugin. The plugin detects whether a visitor is on a mobile device or a computer, and shows the correct version of the site. Here are a few options:

WPtouch

This is what I used first when going for a more mobile friendly website. It’s very easy to use. The options are pretty basic – you can customize colors and other aspects of your website’s mobile appearance. There’s also an option for visitors to switch over to the regular version of your website, which can be useful. You can get more features if you buy the pro version.

WordPress Jetpack

Jetpack is a plugin that comes from the developers of WordPress, and it does a lot more than offer a mobile theme. It also gives you access on your self hosted WordPress blog to features offered on WordPress.com, such as stats, site management, subscriptions, comment forms, image carousels and more.

WordPress Mobile App

WordPress Mobile App makes your website look and feel more like an app when someone views it on a mobile device. You can customize the appearance, and all content is synced to your blog. There is also a premium version with more features.

WP Mobile Edition

Yet another plugin to quickly make your WordPress site mobile. Visitors can choose the mobile or regular version of your site and the theme is designed to be lightweight and fast.

Go Responsive

A plugin isn’t your only option for managing your content for mobile users. You can make your website responsive; that is, it can change based on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. This is the solution I chose, as not all of this website is based on WordPress, and I wanted a consistent look and feel across the entire site, no matter the device.

Some people really don’t like responsive websites. I like them, especially for a site like this one, where the focus is on information rather than interactivity. If you need more interactivity on your website, it’s entirely possible that a specialized mobile version of your site, beyond what even the above mentioned WordPress plugins can do, would be a good idea. If you’re more about information, perhaps not so much.

What I’ve done on this site isn’t as complex as some responsive sites have, and I’m not 100% satisfied with some of my results. I’m mostly pleased with it, however. I did a lot of research on how to make a responsive website, and how to manage all the likely screen resolutions. It’s the navigation menus that mostly give me fits – it’s really difficult to make that display nicely across screen sizes.

But I learned how to tell my pages what content to display and what to hide on different screen sizes, how to change the layout based on screen size, and so forth. It took a lot of time, but I enjoyed figuring it out for myself. If you aren’t inclined toward doing your own HTML and CSS, don’t try this on your own – have a professional help. If you’re already managing your own designs, you can probably do this.

If you use WordPress, there are also quite a few themes out there that are responsive right out of the box. I like this idea better than the plugins I mentioned at the start because, once again, I like having more consistency across devices.

There are a ton of free responsive WordPress themes out there. Check out the sites linked or just do a search for them – they’re out there. WordPress even comes with Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Fifteen, both responsive layouts for your blog.

Free may not be your best choice, however. Many free themes are very limited in how you can customize them and in their support. Companies such as Themeisle offer a range of very impressive responsive themes for reasonable prices.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 22nd, 2013

What Makes You a Professional Blogger?

“Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. There are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of what really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create a kind of a popularity but they are not the experts. We have to understand that.” ~ Martha Stewart

The above quote by Martha Stewart stirred up a lot of comment from bloggers this past week. Unsurprisingly, she deeply offended a lot of wonderful bloggers. While I have to admit that not all bloggers are all that professional, others do fantastic jobs, and specialized education or training aren’t necessary for all blogs. There are, however, some things you can do to be more professional as a blogger.

Now, I know not all blogging is about being a professional. It’s about sharing what you love, especially if you blog in the lifestyle categories. Still, there are some things you should consider, even if your blog is a labor of love.

Disclosure

Appropriate disclosure is an important part of blogging these days, to keep in line with FTC rules. It doesn’t have to be fancy; just a clear notation when you’ve been compensated for a post, given an item for review, get paid affiliate commissions, and so forth. Top of the post is better than bottom, but inside the post works as well. I have a basic statement on all pages, and get into more detail on certain posts.

An Appropriate Persona

You can absolutely be yourself online when you blog – for many blogs that’s one of their greatest strengths. I don’t tend to get very personal myself – I’m a private person in real life for the most part, so chattering online about myself or my family doesn’t often come naturally. It does for others, and they make it work.

Still, as you blog your readers will come to expect certain things from you, and won’t be happy if you change things up too suddenly. Occasional surprises can be a good thing, but a complete change of style can chase away readers. Including an excessive number of sponsored posts or product reviews can be a problem, especially if they’re done with little regard for what your readers expect on your site.

You don’t have to be what many people would consider to be professional in other fields, if that’s not the persona you want to show. Some bloggers do quite well with behavior that others would consider outrageous. Let your personality show and have fun with your blogging.

Knowledge About Your Subject

Having a lot of knowledge about what you’re blogging about is a huge help in looking professional. This doesn’t have to include professional training, no matter how some people want it to. For most personal blogs, personal experience is plenty.

Sharing recipes, for example, is best done if you’ve actually made and eaten the recipe. Similarly, experience in any subject you’re blogging about is better than posting your best guess, even if you’ve read up on the subject.

Appropriate Visual Components

Many blogs are much improved with pictures. They should be related to the post and attractive. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer for most things, although there are times when that may be appropriate. You will want to pay attention to lighting and how the picture looks overall when you use photos in your posts.

Photos aren’t the only way to make your blog posts visually appealing, however. You can create images on your computer, make charts or graphs when appropriate, use pull quotes in larger text to reemphasize appropriate parts of your posts and so forth.

Perhaps the most important visual component is to simply pay attention to readability. You don’t want to present readers with a huge wall of text. Break it up into appropriate paragraphs, bullet points and with visual aids.

Respect For Copyright

Even professional publications get this one wrong sometimes, but it’s a major problem with anyone who doesn’t understand that things published on the internet are not necessarily free for anyone’s use. If you don’t know if something is copyrighted, assume it is, and don’t use it without written permission. You’ll be better off.

Link To Relevant Resources

When you refer to things others have said, link to it in your post. When there’s a resource that gives more information to interested readers, link to it. Not only are you giving your readers access to more information on the subject, you look better for it and it may help you build a relationship with those resources. So long as you provide good resources, it’s good for your reputation to link out.

This is a big part of why paid links are discouraged. Too often they’re irrelevant and low quality. If you’re careful about how you link out, they’ll be good for your site.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure that you’re good enough to be a professional blogger. Give yourself time. Keep working at it, keep trying to do better, and believe that you can be a professional. Not every blogger is going to make a fantastic living off their blog, or even an adequate one, but if you give up too easily, you’ll never know what’s possible for you. Learning what works for you and gaining popularity take time.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 31st, 2012

Top 10 Posts for 2012, Plus a Couple Favorites

hwtk top posts 2012

I’m looking through my statistics for the year to see what my top posts this year were, in terms of traffic. It’s always interesting to see what really did well. I’m not counting posts from previous years that are still generating traffic in this roundup, although perhaps I should. I’ll also add on a couple personal favorites at the end that for whatever reason didn’t take off very well, whether due to time or some other factor. After all, newer posts are at a big disadvantage.

This also has to do only with the blog, not other pages on this site. It is perhaps not surprising that my work at home jobs page has the most visitors on this site.

Top 10 Posts

1. So You Can’t Work From Home Stuffing Envelopes. What Can You Do?
I’m not at all surprised that this one did well. There are plenty of people who still think envelope stuffing is a possible option. Fortunately, there are many other options out there.

2. 30+ Ideas For Working at Home
I just said there were more options, didn’t I? Here some are! Funny how these things work out.

3. Work at Home Jobs for Military Spouses
Working at home is a wonderful option for many military wives and husbands. The flexibility of work that can be done almost no matter where you live is a huge deal when you might have to move frequently.

4. 11 Ways to Prepare to Work at Home Over the Summer
Working at home while the kids are out of school isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. Kids need you more in summer, and that can make it really hard to be productive.

5. What Kind of Work From Home Training Do You Need?
In so many ways, work at home jobs are like any other. Often enough you need some amount of training to so much as qualify for them. Just make sure you don’t fall for scams when you’re looking for job training.

6. Where Do You Get Work From Home Business Ideas?
Aw heck. Not everyone wants an employer. Some want to own their own business. Now all you need is an idea. Got tips for you right here.

7. 6 Ways to Speed Up Your Work at Home Job Hunt
Ugh! Looking for work anywhere is usually a slow process, but it can be even worse when you want something home based. Using online resources correctly really speeds things up.

8. Making Time For Fitness While Working at Home
One of the risks with being home all the time is that it’s way too easy to sit all day. Here’s some encouragement to get up and get moving.

9. 10 Open Source Tools to Help You Work at Home
Open source tools can really help you save money on software. They aren’t appropriate for all uses, especially if a job requires a particular software be used, but the rest of the time, they’re great.

10. Choosing Apps for Your Home Business
Apps. Of course we all love apps these days. They can do so much for us when we’re on the go.

And now a few personal favorites….

Silent Kids
Just my own little version of Silent Night, but for moms with children who are just being a little too quiet for her peace of mind. As we all know, there’s usually a good reason for that.

Does Work From Home Really Have Flexible Hours?
People usually assume working at home means you can work really flexible hours. That’s just not always true.

Caine’s Arcade, or Why You Shouldn’t Give Up When Business Is Slow
This kid was just so cute and determined.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 17th, 2011

Are You Following All the Rules When Writing Content for Your Websites?

You can read all kinds of rules about what makes for great website content. There are plenty of opinions out there on how long an article or blog post should be, the use of bullet points or lists, paragraph length and so forth. If that’s not your writing style, it can be hard to write in a way that others say is the best way to go. Is it really necessary to follow such rules when you’re writing for your site?

I don’t believe you need to do that. I follow one main rule when I write, which is to keep it interesting and informative. I suppose that could be phrased as two rules, but you get the idea. I don’t stress about article length, paragraph length, bullet points, etc. I’d rather be concerned with presenting the information clearly, in a way I can enjoy writing it, and that will hopefully attract readers.

Let’s take a look at some of these rules.

Rule 1: Write short articles and/or blog posts.

The idea here is that people have short attention spans online, and so you need to be able to make your point quickly, or you lose them. I firmly disagree with this one.

Write your articles and posts as long as they need to be for the topic. If 200 words is enough, they’re enough. Don’t overdo it. If 2000 words is what it takes, write those 2000 words. You may be able to break up such a long article into shorter articles, but sometimes you’ll feel better leaving it as one big article. Just relax. I know some people swear by the benefits of longer articles, as this allows for the use of more related keywords.

I believe that your ability to keep people interested is far more important than whether or not you write a long article. If it’s information they want and it’s well written, people will read long posts, even online.

Rule 2: Use bullet points or lists.

Yes, this post is written as a sort of list, but it works well for this topic. It doesn’t always work that way.

I’ll admit to a fondness for lists because they allow me to give visual separation to subtopics within a post, which is supposed to make them more readable. That’s certainly a good thing. Just don’t drive yourself up the wall trying to find a way to make a post into a list or bullet points if it doesn’t work out that way.

Rule 3: Write short paragraphs.

This rule comes from the idea that shorter paragraphs are easier to read online. It’s probably true enough, but that doesn’t mean a short paragraph should be a firm rule.

Look instead at what is a logical length for the paragraph. Is it expressing your complete thought? You shouldn’t be chopping up a paragraph into two or three paragraphs just because you read that shorter paragraphs are better. You should be writing paragraphs that make sense as a whole.

Rule 4: Go for the controversy.

Some people are big on going for controversy as a way to bring traffic to their websites. It can work. Having an opinion online is a good thing. Just be sure you express it well.

You certainly don’t want to introduce a controversial topic and then not state your own opinion. Discussing and even sympathizing with both sides is good, but have an opinion of your own. You don’t have to agree with everyone. Just back up your opinion with facts or reasons why you believe it.

Having an opinion doesn’t mean you have to be offensive about it, although if that’s your persona, go for it and be ready for battle. Some people enjoy that, and others don’t. It’s not my style, but that just means I don’t go for the controversy very often.

Not every topic is really conducive to controversy. People get all heated up on various parenting topics, for example, and you can maybe even get some venom going on Mac vs. PC debate, but it’s going to be a bit more difficult if you’re writing about the best lawn mower for a small yard. If your topic doesn’t have a lot of controversy, you can look awfully silly trying to make some. Then again, if you thought your topic wasn’t controversial but it turns out to be, make the best of it.

Rule 5: Stick with what’s popular in your niche.

It’s kind of a funny thing. It’s often recommended that you pick a tight niche to cut down on the competition, but you’re also supposed to stick with what’s popular within your niche.

The problem with sticking with the popular topics is that you don’t stand out enough. Write about the popular stuff, absolutely, but make sure you delve into corners that others pay less attention to, especially the facets you prefer. Have content that stands out from what the rest are doing.

Remember that a big part of your success comes from your own interest in your niche. It shows when you’re truly interested in the information you’re sharing and it shows when you just put up something because you felt you had to.

Certainly the popular topics have a lot of benefits. They’re areas which can generate a lot of search engine traffic and blog comments. If you get into less popular topics or go into better detail than others do on the popular topics, you’re giving your readers something more to look forward to. That’s a very good thing, especially if you want people coming back to your site.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 15th, 2011

Have You Considered Buying Headway Theme For Your WordPress Blog?

The right theme for your WordPress blog does more than make it look good. It can make your blog still more search engine friendly. That’s why many people buy WordPress themes such as Headway. They make a lot of sense.

I’m not currently using Headway on this blog. Chalk it up to a lack of time or laziness, your pick. This blog will take more time to change over if I want it to continue to match the rest of the site. That said, I am using Headway theme on some of my other sites, and I really like it. I’ll make it work here eventually; all I need is some of that really scarce available time.

Flexibility

Headway is a very flexible theme. It comes pretty plain out of the box, but it doesn’t take long to improve on that, especially if you have your header graphic ready or will use a simple text header. The first thing Headway has you do when you go into the Visual Editor is the basic setup for your blog, such as placing the header, choosing initial colors (easily changed later), and deciding how many sidebars to have and where they will be placed.

You tell Headway where you want the sidebars used. If you don’t want a sidebar on pages, but you want them on posts, or you want different sidebars for those areas, you can arrange that. Widget compatible sidebars are available, and you can tell Headway when you want a sidebar to use the same widgets as another sidebar, making it easy to change them across the site.

The Visual Editor lets you see the changes as you go, and post them to your site when you’re ready. It’s much nicer than having to make a change in your site, then reload your blog to see the changes, hoping you haven’t made some simple mistake that completely ruins the layout until you find it.

Headway also has Leafs. These are a variety of ways to add content to your blog, once again, deciding where each goes. You can use a Leaf to add HTML or PHP to a page, add an image rotator and more.

Search Engine Optimization

WordPress sites in general are pretty search engine friendly, but Headway gives you more options. It has a panel to control various SEO options and every post allows you to write your own meta description or choose to noindex a page. There are checkboxes to have common areas marked “noindex.” It even cleans up your post slugs if you choose to have it do so.

Easy To Use

I found Headway confusing for a very short time, mostly due to the differences in how I’m used to editing themes, but I quickly got the hang of it. Most times you won’t be doing much at all with HTML or PHP, short of adding in analytics code or ad code. Mostly it will be drag and drop, choosing colors and considering your SEO options.

Is It Time to Buy Headway Theme?

If Headway is a theme you’ve been thinking about buying, now is absolutely the time to do so. They’re working on version 3.0, and when that is released, the pricing will go through a major change. You won’t be able to buy Headway with a one time payment anymore. They’re moving to a subscription model when they release the new version. Once that launch comes, current Headway owners will be grandfathered in, and still get their updates and support, but new owners will have to maintain a subscription. I don’t know what prices will be, but over time paying once makes far more sense.

Am I an affiliate? Of course. I use the product too.

Headway — The Drag & Drop Theme For WordPress

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.