August Meeting Notes

Wow, I can’t believe the last posted notes are from May. We skipped a month and met for the first time at my new home too. Today’s gathering was an extended check-in with no announced topic. We discussed some client challenges, answered questions about various tools and bemoaned the trend to “headless” WP (something to do with JavaScript)!

Here are a few links to resources mentioned:

  • I’m learning about a content tool called Scoop-It for my new client. I will have more info next time.
  • Teri talked about MailGun, an email checker that she raves about.
  • I mentioned an email tester that’s free and tells you if your emails will be blocked as spam and why.
  • Barb’s Air BnB guest from France designed the font named Bely.
  • We also talked about topics for WordCamp and encouraged everyone to submit to speak.

DesigningTogether.CoverBarb also talked about a book Designing Together by Dan Brown. We agreed to all look into reading it and Barb will lead us in a discuss for our November meeting. We figured in September we’d have another extended check-in for all those who’ve been gone over the summer and in October anyone who wants to practice their WordCamp talk can do so. Please chime in if I forgot to mention anything.

-Sheila

PS:

Dan Brown has a podcast: http://abetteruserexperience.com/2012/03/better-user-experience-podcast-32-interview-with-dan-brown-from-eightshapes-on-communicating-better-in-design-meetings/

And speaker deck from UX conference: https://speakerdeck.com/brownorama/surviving-design-projects-the-session

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May Meeting Notes

After being sorta-kinda off last month, we did another round of Lean Coffee and bade farewell to the Braeburn. It served us well.

Mark mentioned ReferrerSpamBlocker.com for blocking analytics referral spam. It still requires some setup and maintenance but seems to be the best solution for this bedeviling problem.

Lean Coffee

Staging

Teri asked what other people are doing for staging:

  • Some hosts offer it, but usually only for more expensive plans. People like Flywheel, SiteGround, and WP Engine for that.
  • Some plugins like WP Migrate DB PRO, BackupBuddy, Infinite WordPress, Updraft, etc. are good for moving sites but the workflow and ease varies.
  • People use subdomains, local servers, and WP Stagecoach to host their staging sites.

How long do your sites last?

  • Answers varied between 2-5 years.
  • Expectations will vary by client. Reasonable expectations will vary by industry and site too.
  • Rise of responsive made some sites outdated pretty quickly. When will that happen again?
  • We can at least try to build so that redoing the site next time will be easier!
  • Staff turnover can speed up client desire to redo sites.
  • Most of these issues aren’t really on us (without getting paid!)

Privacy Policies

  • Some people have them. Some don’t.
  • Technically required for Google Analytics. Doubly so if you use the demographics reports.
    • Maybe link to the opt-out browser plugin?
  • Even if you just have a webform, it’s nice to tell people what you do with the data.
  • Once you write one, you have to stick with it. (Hence clauses about changing it at any time for any reason.)
    • One person’s privacy lawyer client explicitly doesn’t have one for this reason.
  • Details will vary by state and country.
  • Automattic open-sourced theirs: https://github.com/Automattic/legalmattic

Image Hosting

  • Photon by Jetpack is easiest but buggy.
  • CDN’s like Cloudflare work.
  • Photography sites have special needs (trying to protect full res)
  • Plugin to move media library to AWS: https://wordpress.org/plugins/amazon-s3-and-cloudfront/
  • One person really likes VideoPress for videos

Common Server Problems

  • Check permissions
  • Servers that make it hard to update are asking for trouble
  • If using IIS servers, don’t use IIS servers

BruteForce

  • Some still using Bulletproof Security or Login Security Solution
  • BruteProtect in Jetpack is pretty good. (No settings)

Next Time: Homework!

We’re all going to read (or reread) two articles and then talk about content strategy and content development (and annoying clients that do neither!)

To read:

 

March Lean Coffee

Lots of resources from this meeting!

Latest security handling, client passwords

Design trends

  • scroll events
  • scroll is the new click
  • more app-like features in web design
  • visual storytelling
  • serif fonts in body copy
  • hamburger (mobile) menu on desktop
  • drop-down, tertiary menus – how to handle on mobile
  • design for one eyeball
  • transitions, animations, hover effects
  • sticky headers
  • video
  • New York Times – whatever they are doing, that’s the trend

Recent plugin discoveries

Project Management Tools/Methods

How to respond when someone asks “what makes you an expert?”

  • It sounds like there is a question about my experience. What specifically do you have questions about?
  • Call them on it in a good way. “Why would you say that?” (in a nice way) Address their pre-conceived notions.
  • “That’s a surprising comment. What makes you ask that?” Diffuse. Cut to heart of what it is. Know the personalities you’re working with.
  • “Here are some things that happen when you do/don’t do this” – doesn’t dismiss them and still proves you are right.
  • Use a persona. Will this user understand this?
  • What information will help us decide?

Better networking (Where?)

Making time to write

  • capture ideas
  • Workflowy list for ideas
  • WP apps on phone, tablet
  • draft posts
  • write crap on purpose
  • put it on the calendar
  • go to a coffee shop and out of your environment
  • get an accountability partner
  • We are our own worst clients!
  • allow yourself to write about what you are interested in
  • like choosing how to stay fit
  • personal take on stories, audience doesn’t read what you read
  • useful but doesn’t get clients
  • Do it for yourself. If people like it, great!

Next meeting is April 26th. Location TBD, but somewhere on Capitol Hill. We’ll be doing Lean Coffee again to come up with ideas for future in-depth topics.

February 2016 – Lean Coffee Notes

Today was a Lean Coffee meeting – facilitated by Mark Root-Wiley.  A great list of topics was generated and then prioritized based on how many votes each topic received (we each voted on the three we would most like to discuss). The remaining topics will be discussed in March (Mark has the list of what the remaining ones are).

IMG_20160223_103025909

Following are notes on the topics discussed today.

Keeping Firm Boundaries w/Clients

Lisette brought up this topic – mentioning that when money/clients are more scarce, it can feel harder to maintain strong client boundaries – for example taking clients for less pay than normal or without a contract, or allow clients to miss content deadlines.

  • Hard to draw hard firm lines, move into the next phase and end continual revisions/additions.
  • Teri has found it helpful to have a change order form, as it brings home the point that there needs to be a limit to those “little changes” – makes the client think through the importance of what they are asking for.  Check out Teri’s change order form.
  • Mark has found it helpful to have a solid, communicative relationship with at least one person when working with a team/organization. Helps to keeps things moving.
  • Merrill suggested that even if it’s a small project, can be helpful to have clients pay SOMETHING up front.
  • Teri requires half down up front, quarter due a month after that, final quarter due when done with work, NOT when website launches.
  • Lisette’s contract is similar – there’s a deadline for when client content is due based on when they want to launch the site. If they don’t provide content by the deadline, the remainder of the fee (second half) is immediately due.  If they do provide the content on time, then remainder of fee is due when website is completed (before launch).
  • Barb pointed out that many times clients need help to produce content – need strategy, marketing resource.
  • Sheila lately has been collaborating with a marketing/strategy person who is bringing her clients and it’s been a great collaboration because she doesn’t have to deal with strategizing and can focus on design.  Would love to get more of this kind of work.

Building Client Base/Marketing

If it’s been a while since you’ve had to do some marketing to find clients – where would be a good starting point?

  • Get clear on the type of client you want to have.
  • Tap into previous clients – contact them individually, or create a regular email newsletter that goes out to clients.
  • Providing referrals for others can lead to work for yourself – what goes around, comes around.
  • Go to where the clients are that you want – meet ups, business meetings (goes back to knowing which clients you want to have)
  • Developing a specific niche can also be helpful.
  • Don’t get discouraged when receive poor referrals, stay in it – the good ones will come.

Clients Trying to Dictate UX

How to deal with with clients think they know better about website structure and organization. At what point do you put your foot down?

  • Can be helpful to bring up data about user testing and navigation.  Using a phrase like “studies show……”   can help to provide authoritative voice that perhaps a client will listen to.
  • Ask them where they are coming from – what are they really trying to accomplish (not just how they want it done).  Maybe there’s a way to merge both your viewpoint and the needs of the client.  (For example the client who wants minimal navigation but there are important things that should be top level in the nav bar)
  • Mark suggested a book called “Getting to Yes.”  Discusses negotiation and positions – and how to get at what the real issues are and come to a resolution/agreement.
  • Mark often will write up a design brief (frequently a list of bulleted points) and then can go back to that as a referral point when dealing with design disagreements.

Useful Client Newsletters

Sending out an email newsletter can be a helpful marketing strategy – Sheila brought this up as a topic to be discussed.

  • Sheila has a client newsletter that she sends out every 4-6 weeks (8 weeks max). Includes something that she has done, plus some topic that she thinks would benefit them – then she closes with asks for  referrals.  She has seen it really work for her business –  she wouldn’t only rely on this but it’s helpful. Here’s an archive list of Sheila’s past client newsletters – as examples.  She also has post she wrote some time ago discussing printed newsletters vs online newsletters.
  • There is value in having an email newsletter as it will definitely end up in their email inbox – perhaps more efficient than blog posts in reaching clients?
    Mark does use blogging as a way to put himself out there and it does seem also to be effective.
    Barb has stopped doing a newsletter and mostly blogs now – but would return to newsletters if it seems that it would again be helpful.
  • Lisette’s husband (photographer) also has used client newsletters as a strategy as he heard from his colleagues that it really kept them on their clients’ radar.

Post Launch Client Training

Teri has been trying Google Hangout “On Air” to record employee training sessions and is thinking it might be helpful to use for client training.  She also brought up the topic as she is curious how others in the group are approaching training with their clients.

  • One approach is to have clients do their own WP training use WP101 videos, then provide theme specific/custom training only.
  • Barb tries not to give clients more than what they need.  She also notices that many of her clients don’t ever go back and use the training/update their site themselves.
  • Sheila (as well as many others in the group) installs the WP Help Plugin  on client sites so she can easily include information about the site, including a few short (5 minute) tutorial videos she creates using Jing.  She also usually includes a link to WP101 for general WP information (she has a subscription and shares her link with clients).
  • Mark always starts from the beginning regardless of their WP knowledge – “because I want them to use WP the way I do.”
  • He also uses a plugin he created to remove certain buttons/functionality so clients can’t inadvertently mess up the site: MRW Web Design Simple TinyMCE.
  • Mark also does pre-launch training as opposed to post-launch because his clients usually enter a quarter to half of their content themselves.
  • Lisette also uses a plugin to restrict what each role sees on the dashboard – the pro version of Admin Menu Editor.  This helps with clients only seeing what they need to see and not creating unnecessary havoc.  The pro version seemed worth it to her.
  • Another approach Lisette shared is that she  often waits to train clients until they have changes to make to the website – so not necessarily at launch.  They then can make the changes themselves during the training which helps the information “stick”.

Daily Schedules & Routines

Teri brought up the topic of managing daily schedules and routine to maximize productivity/efficiency.

  • Of course everyone has their own style and preference – for example some prefer working in the morning, others in the evening.
  • Everyone agrees they enjoy the flexibility of freelancing – can match one’s schedule to partners/spouses/children/other life activities
  • Mark shared the tip of not waiting to stop working at a “natural stopping point” – as it can sometimes be harder to get going again.  If you are mid stream when you stop – there is a inclination to want to dive back in and keep working towards the goal.
  • Managing distractions of life, other clients, other jobs, children, etc can be challenging, always a moving target.

Chrome Troubleshooting

Barb installed a theme on her own server – personal blog.  Elegant theme, very visual and simple – lots of thumbnails.  Made some changes – only css changes were to typography, not margins, or layout changes.  Looks great on all browsers except Chrome.  Has tried everything (disabling plugins, new OS on computer, flushing caches, etc).  Not happening on other computers, just hers.  None of the support at Elegant themes has been helpful.  Known issue with the theme but they haven’t fixed it.  She will send a link to the group so that we can take a look – including support threads.

Additional News/Info

  • We will continue the lean coffee next month – still many great topics to discuss!
  • March will be the last time that we will be meeting at the Braeburn – Sheila is moving next month but has access to the Braeburn meeting room until the end of March.
  • Not sure if her new place will be ready for us to meet in in April.  If not, we could meet at a nearby coffee shop.
  • Big WP Meetup is being resurrected – will be happening the 3rd Tuesday in March (March 15) in the evening.

IMG_20160223_115442156

A few more topics that were suggested afterwards:

  • Easy ways to increase affiliate link usage
  • Better networking (where to do it?)
  • “What makes you an expert?” How to respond

November 2015 Notes

Topic was the Designer-Developer relationship and workflows

Facilitator Barb (for Gabe) Please add in your thoughts, I wasn’t taking notes

Intro:

Because we all practice different skills in the designer-developer wheelhouse, there is no hard and fast workflow to follow—or partnerships to forge. The overall summary was: follow best practices and inform your partners early in the process if possible.

Designer perspective:

Barb’s process is before any web implementation is planned, a brand identity foundation is established. This isn’t always possible, but recommended. The following is a brief summary of the contents. This sets the most basic of marketing strategies and helps make design and development decisions when a marketing plan is not available.

  • Brand personality
  • Goals (1 year, measurable)
  • Competitive analysis (light, includes at least 3)
  • Audience personas for each segment
  • Tone of textual and visual content
  • Style guide for language, logo
  • Color palette

Other designers weighed in that a brand identity foundation, or discovery, would not be marketable to their client audience, and that to address these things more informally is their approach to keep costs down.

Developer perspective:

Make sure the designer has web experience and understands responsive, and can call out actions, states and interactivity.

Write code for mobile first.

A seamless browser-based design tool that exports clean and ordered code for WordPress may not be a realistic workflow right now.

Other thoughts:

Planning is the most important first step, and that includes the discovery phase. It can eliminate very expensive redesign and development.

Mark has a blog post on how to start planning: https://mrwweb.com/dont-start-with-the-solution/

And a guest post: http://www.nten.org/article/horse-before-cart-dont-start-with-the-solution/ that is equally important for any business, not only nonprofits.

Depending on whether you’re customizing an existing theme or starting from scratch, it is important to include the planning process with both designer and developer, depending on who is leading client management.

To say “I don’t know, let me check with my developer/designer” is a good way to handle things that come up mid-stream.

An interest in knowing what WP packaged themes were the most developer friendly [please list here]

 

September 2015 Notes

Upcoming Events

  • GiveCamp, October 2-4 – Nonprofit tech hackathon
  • InfoCamp, October 17 – Unconference about information architecture, UX, content strategy, etc.
  • WordCamp, October 24-25 – You know.

Resources / Sites That Came Up

Website priority venn diagram

Accessibility Presentation & Resources

Other Resources

  • Find the errors on my bad accessibility test page! http://mrwweb.com/files/devsigner-a11y.html
  • http://a11yweekly.com – New newsletter about accessibility from an Automattician. Could be a good way to help you keep thinking about accessibility!
  • Alt Text Decision Tree: http://dev.w3.org/html5/alt-techniques/developer.html#tree

Plugins

Testing Tools

Future Topics

Suggestion to discuss pricing when you’re coordinating other designers and developers.

We forgot our accountability check-in! Good news though: I moved my site before last month’s meeting we didn’t even have! I just so happened to move to Siteground too, so I’m happy to talk about it. They support wp-cli which I’ve had fun playing with.

Meeting Recap: July 2015

Check-ins:

  • Take vacations! (And getting people to cover for you)
  • Merging businesses!
  • Expanding your business
  • Marketing your business

WordCamp!

If you want to help organize, get involved soon! Email Morgan.

Upcoming Events

Vancouver WordCamp: August 15
GiveCamp: October 2?/3-4
InfoCamp: October 17-18
WordCamp (Seattle & Portland) October: 24-25

Weekly biz + WordPress meetup on the East side: Tech it Easy with WordPress

Discussion

Should we add more members? What’s most important in new members? Some connection to WordPress. CONSISTENCY (at least the intention!). Having your own [established] businesses.

Future topics ideas (plenty of overlap with Future Topics):

  • Designer-developer collaboration
  • Core model (content development method, described on A List Apart)
  • Client relationships (various communication style assessments)
  • Usability (Sara leads or someone else)
  • Accessibility (Mark can lead discussions but would want to know what people want to know, Mark might treat good wordcamp talk)
  • Introduce some accountability group-style activities during checkins.
    • We will start doing this experimentally with check-ins next meeting.
    • First up: Mark will move his site hosting by the September meeting! You are allowed to bother him about that then.
  • Special WordPress tech topics with subset of group
  • “Lean coffee” (when we don’t have another topic)
  • One thing going well, three things not, one nonwork related thing
  • More demos/showcases/etc. with projector
  • Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools / Search Console

Future Meetings

There will be no full August meeting. Mark will email the tech people to see if they’re interested in meeting to discuss preprocessors/tech workflows.

Mark is tentatively presenting on accessibility in September (which will hopefully be a preview of his planned WordCamp talk)