Why Integrating Zapier with WordPress Will Save You Hours of Work

If you’re a busy WordPress developer, the last thing in the world you need is to waste time fiddling around with unnecessary applications, moving content around, or really doing anything besides, you know, developing.

Whether you’re freelancing your services or working for an agency, time is your most valuable asset. So how do you maximize your time while minimizing your effort?

One word: automation.

Automation

zapier

Creating a workflow is essential to managing your tasks, and automating that workflow is essential to making sure you have enough time to do the things you need to do without pulling out your own hair. That’s why many developers choose to use Zapier, a popular web automation app.

Zapier allows you to integrate different apps together to complete certain tasks – or, as Zapier calls them, “zaps”.

These zaps create automated processes that allow you to set certain rules and then leave them be. Whether it’s creating workflow notifications or having your content posted to the correct sites in a timely manner, there’s very little that can’t be managed by zaps.

Need help choosing zaps? Check out our Zapier + WordPress Quick Sheet for developers!

Which Tasks Should You Automate?

stressful-jobs-job-stress-work-time-clock-worker-18236949

Now, there are some tasks that really can’t (or shouldn’t) be automated and need your keen eye in order to complete, but for everything else, there’s a zap for that. So what falls in the category of “everything else?” Well, basically anything that needs to be done that you don’t want to waste time doing manually.

Social Media

Whether you’re marketing your own services or managing an account on behalf of a client or agency, social media requires a lot of attention, especially on sites like Twitter that need constant updates. If you’re not the type of person who enjoys spending time tweeting and retweeting, crafting media-friendly messages, or logging in and out of sites like Facebook on a daily basis, Zapier is your friend.

If your site involves written content of any kind – blog posts, Facebook posts, status updates, RSS feeds – consider pairing your site with apps like Buffer that automatically handle publishing and posting them to all the necessary channels. Alternatively, you can release posts on individual channels and have them automated, which works well if you only have one or two social accounts to manage.

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are another major hassle for anyone trying to sort through a massive amount of information. If part of your job revolves around building things that collect data, like forms or subscriptions, then you already know that data has to go somewhere, and it’s probably not somewhere you want to think about again.

By integrating your WP site with apps like Google Sheets, you can save time dealing with all of that excess information. Sync your WP forms with Google Sheets to capture user data, and then pair Google Sheets with another app, like MailChimp, to organize that data for delivery.

Data Capture

You’ve probably spent some time working on tasks that are designed to capture data and generate leads, whether it’s forms, emails, or web pages. While creating those things often requires the wisdom of your experience, like building a lead gen form, for example, there are many tasks that can just as easily be automated.

You can connect your WP site to things like SurveyMonkey to collect user data for A/B testing, link your forms with posts or pages to upsell a service or product, or trigger a Slack notification for updates you’ve already made on the site (or posts that have already been published) to let team members know you’re ready to move on.

Project Management

When it comes time to actually buckle down on a project, having a good workflow in place is essential to productivity. But if you’re sketching out your workflow in a notebook or sending emails back and forth to track your timelines, you’re wasting time. Zaps can connect different tools to help you manage projects faster with minimal effort.

Try combining apps like Slack and Trello together with your WP site to create a seamless workflow that allows your clients to stay connected to the process without sending them countless emails. This is particularly effective if you’re also in charge of loading up content for delivery on a regular basis. You can also manage your projects using something like Basecamp and integrate it with DropBox so clients can share files right to your project folders without having to chase anything down.

Time Tracking

If you’re the sort of developer who needs to keep track of how much time you’re spending working on a site, you can (and should) be using apps like Toggl to track your time. But did you know you can also pair Toggl with WP?

Pairing a time tracking app or a project management service like Basecamp will help to keep all of your information in one place so you know exactly what you’re doing and when you’re supposed to be doing it.

Notifications

Notifications are a big part of being a developer, whether it’s letting your team know about the status of a project, letting a client know when something is ready for review, or informing your audience that a post has been published.

Integrating apps like Slack can help your team stay organized while you’re all working on the same site. You can also use apps like OneSignal to create push notifications, which are especially handy for deadline driven jobs.

Events

Oftentimes companies will create both internal and external events that they want to market to their audience (or their team). These can be anything from a webinar, class, or even a fundraiser.

By using apps like Office 365 or Eventbrite, you can instantly create posts about upcoming events that can trigger notifications for team members to do certain tasks, or you can create Google Calendar events for clients to know when something is taking place.

Don’t Miss: Zapier + WordPress Quick Sheet

Final Thoughts

These are just a few ways you can integrate WordPress with other Zapier apps to save time. No matter your work style, saving time and energy will always benefit you in the long run by automating your workflow to simplify tasks and projects.

Consider automating tasks that are data heavy, like forms or spreadsheets, email campaigns, and social media posts. This way you can dedicate most of your time to actually doing the work you want to do.

You should also consider using Zapier to track hours and manage projects so you don’t have to watch the clock. The hours you save can be put to better use building your business and reputation.

And the faster and more efficiently you get things done, the better that reputation will be.

How to Build Efficient E-Commerce Checkout Forms

Forms come in many shapes and sizes, from the basic lead generation form that asks for a name and an email all the way to those pesky multi-step forms that will essentially require your entire life’s history to complete.

But somewhere in the middle is the e-commerce checkout form, which is a unique animal unto itself. But what makes it so special?

Don’t miss: 7 Examples of Truly Inspirational E-Commerce Forms

Checkout Forms vs. Standard Forms

Well, for starters, checkout forms carry a bit more weight than standard forms, mainly because they need to process payments and fees. A standard form, on the other hand, is typically there to gather information, usually in the form of a name and email and not much else.

This means that checkout forms come with their own set of challenges. Some of those challenges include:

Calculating Payments

Your checkout form will undoubtedly pull a price from somewhere, and usually it’s a shopping cart. Even if your form is a simple one for processing a single payment (like downloading an e-book or a single product), there’s still payment involved, which means that your form has some calculating to do above and beyond a traditional form.

Even after calculating the price of the shopping cart items, your form will also need to calculate shipping costs (which can fluctuate based on a variety of factors) as well as any applicable taxes associated with the products. And you’ll need to make sure that you’re processing all payments through a secure gateway, which is another thing that you never have to worry about with standard forms.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

One other big factor when it comes to checkout forms is follow-through. Because most people who subscribe using standard forms are only asked for basic information, the follow-through rate is usually pretty high. But this isn’t always the case for e-commerce checkout forms. In fact, the average shopping cart abandonment rate – or the rate at which people don’t finish their purchase – is at a staggering 68%. That means 1 in 4 people will not finish using your checkout form.

The reason why people aren’t finishing their purchases is surprising: it’s about transparency. Customers often complain that they have little to no information about the purchase during the checkout process, including shipping fees and estimated delivery dates. Also on the list? Usability.

032

Basically, if a form isn’t upfront about the costs associated with the purchase, or the form itself is confusing and hard to use, people won’t bother filling it out. It’s those extra things that make a checkout form that much more harrowing for a designer or storeowner than a standard form could ever be.

So what’s the best way to overcome these challenges and create an efficient checkout form that customers will actually follow through on using?

Checkout Form Best Practices

To make sure that your users actually fill out your checkout forms, you’ll need to follow some best practices when designing them. Here’s a general rundown of things to include to make sure your forms are as efficient as possible.

Be Transparent

Like we said before, the number one reason people won’t use your form is a lack of transparency when it comes to prices. People want to see what’s in their cart, what their total cost will be (including shipping and handling), and when they can expect their product to arrive. Even if they’re ordering a digital download, you should still be upfront about when they can expect their download to be available.

Take a page from SodaStream’s book and include as much information as possible on your form’s landing page, even if you have to use multiple steps to do it (be sure to show the summary at the final step).

sodastream-blog-full

Don’t Force Registration

One surprising reason why people may skip filling out your checkout form altogether is being forced to register for an account in order to purchase something. When it comes to usability, forced registration is actually a top complaint.

While accounts are a benefit to anyone ordering – they make tracking packages and reordering easier, for one – they can turn people off if they’re mandatory. The best way to handle accounts it is to give your customers the option to setup an account (or save the information they’ve already inputted) after the checkout process is complete.

Make Your Form Fields Clear

While it may seem like common sense that people would know what to input into any given field, you would be surprised how often the wrong information ends up in the wrong place. To improve usability, try to make your form fields as clear as possible by including microcopy – little pieces of text that give instruction – above or below your form fields to eliminate any doubt.

wff1-blog-full

Include Fewer Fields Where Possible

The age-old adage “less is more” holds true here. Because checkout forms already ask for so much sensitive information, it’s important that you only ask for the things you absolutely need. Of course, this information will be more than a standard form because you’ll need things like shipping and billing address, but make sure that you’re only asking for information that helps verify a purchase so that users can get through it quickly.

Use Visual Cues

Because checkout forms are typically longer than lead generating forms, they will probably come in multiple steps, which can be confusing for many users, especially if your customer base skews toward the older generation. The more visual cues you can give – big, bold, colorful buttons, arrows, bullet points, or even small images – will go a long way to helping customers get through the process with minimal effort.

Use Progress Indicators for Long Forms

Speaking of multiple steps, the best thing you can possibly do for your long checkout forms is to include a progress indicator showing exactly which step the user is at in any given moment. If you’re able, you should also include a “save” feature so that customers can come back at any point in the process. Not only is this great for usability, but being able to come back to a purchase without having to do extra work is a great incentive for fulfilling purchases (and counteracting that pesky abandoned cart).

Include Trust Symbols

Finally, one of the most important things you absolutely must include in your checkout form is a symbol (or symbols) of trust. Trust symbols show that the user’s information is safe from hackers and that they can rest easy knowing that you’re not spreading their credit card information to spammers. If you skip anything else on this list, don’t let it be this!

oriental

Final Thoughts

Checkout forms may be a bit more complicated than standard lead generation forms, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as user friendly.

When designing or including these forms on your site, make sure to focus on elements like transparency and usability to eliminate the chance of abandoned carts.

Be sure to include only what’s necessary, and use visual elements like progress indicators, arrows, or images to guide your users through long forms.

And whatever you do, include trust symbols that show the user that their financial safety is your first priority.

Need a little inspiration? Check out our 7 Examples of Truly Inspirational E-Commerce Forms

9 Client Communication Tools for Designers and Developers

Working as a designer or developer is great when it’s something you’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job.

One of the biggest challenges is dealing with clients, especially if you’re working as a freelancer. But even if you’re part of an agency or larger organization, you still have to communicate with clients often.

If you have a relatively painless client, that might mean once a week, but if you have a more challenging client, that could easily be once a day (or more, if they’re micromanagers).

It’s easy for designers/developers to become overwhelmed by the level of communication going back and forth. How do you manage to keep your clients in the loop while retaining the majority of your sanity?

Well, we’re looking at a few helpful tips – and more importantly, tools – that are readily available to help out with all of your communication needs. Let’s dive in…

Skip to the chase by checking out our guide: Which Communication Tool Works Best for My Needs?

Get Out of Your Inbox

getoutofinbox

One of the primary ways most creative types communicate with clients is email, which is an okay system if you hate being stuck in phone meetings. But the trouble with email is that sometimes wires get crossed: emails get stuck in spam folders or outboxes; people forget to hit “reply all” … The list of problems with email is unfortunately long, and it’s easy to miss something important in the chaos.

This is why one of the best things you can do is stop relying on your email inbox and use more collaborative software to help get your message across. This not only applies to simple things like asking a question or suggesting an idea, but using tools to share project proposals and previews of your work.

Here are a few great tools that can help you move outside of your email inbox:

ConceptShare

ConceptShare is a communication tool especially designed for creative types. It helps you streamline the review and approval process for any project, and it allows for online proofing with workflow automation, which means you can work with clients from one place without having to send a hundred emails back and forth.

InVision

InVision is web-based (and mobile) app that lets designers/developers turn their work into active prototypes with animations. Clients can provide feedback and comments directly on the site and track progress in real-time by looking at your to-do list.

Slack

Slack is a popular communication tool, and for good reason. It takes the best of email and live-chat features and combines them into one app that you can use on your desktop or mobile device. Aside from private messages you can also create collaborative boards around different projects or topics, which is helpful if you’re working with a larger team of people or on multiple projects with a single client at once.

Turn “Clients” into “Teammates”

turnclientsintoteammates

One of the most frustrating things about working with clients is dealing with someone who doesn’t understand exactly what it is you do. You might spend countless hours trying to explain to them why you can’t do what they want, or why it’s taking you so long to implement a certain solution.

While it’s easy to freak out about how much you need to communicate with your clients (time that could be better spent, you know, working on their projects), you can actually avoid much of that struggle by switching your mindset from communicating with a “client” to communicating with a “teammate.”

Clients are annoying bosses, but teammates are there to help and support you while you help and support them. If you’re feeling bogged down by a client’s level of interest in your methods, instead of pushing them away (or dropping them altogether), consider bringing them in as part of your “team” – even if it’s just for vanity’s sake.

Here are a few tools that can help you collaborate with clients:

Basecamp

Basecamp is a very popular web-based project management tool that helps multiple groups rally around a single project. Because the project is the focus, you can create a system where both you and the client are on the same page about various stages of the project.

Trello

Trello is another popular project management application system designed to break down projects into manageable “cards” that you can assign to different people. If you’re looking to create a collaborative team environment without worrying about being micromanaged (or needing to micromanage), Trello is the perfect solution. It also has the bonus of adding a visual element to otherwise technical projects.

Asana

Asana is a free project management tool designed to help teams track projects from start to finish. One of its best features is that it lets you see the overall progress of your project step by step, so your clients know exactly how long something will take without having to bug you about it.

Keep Track of Everything

keeptrackofeverything

The best case scenario for a developer or designer is to have a client that gives you a generous deadline and then trusts you to complete your project on time – meaning that they don’t hassle you at any point during the development project. But not all clients are easy.

If you’re working with a client that checks in with you constantly, whether about hours or project specs, it’s to your advantage to be one step ahead of them. The best way to keep micromanagers at bay is to make sure you’re already keeping track of everything before they ask about it. The more organized you are from the get-go, the better you’ll be able to squash any fears or concerns your clients have along the way.

Here are three tools that can help you stay organized:

Funnel

Funnel is a simple CRM tool that helps you keep track of all of your client information as well as project specs and more. You essentially create a pipeline that monitors all your activity with your client, which is especially helpful if you’ve been working with a client for a long time and want a detailed history of your projects. If clients are constantly asking about projects you worked on months or even years ago, Funnel can help.

Timely

Timely is a scheduling and time tracking app that helps you keep track of how much time you’re spending on a certain client or project. This is particularly handy if you have micromanaging clients, you bill by the hour, or you have someone on retainer for a certain amount of billable time each month.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a to-do list tool that helps you plan your individual tasks, set notifications and reminders, and collaborate with clients so they can see exactly what you’re up to and when you’re working. The best part is that it’s available on both desktop and mobile so you can update it on the go. If you have clients who want to see the project laid out in detail, this will help.

Still not sure which tool is right for the job? Download our free guide.

Final Thoughts

Working as a designer or developer isn’t easy, especially when it comes to communication. But you can lighten that load using tools specifically designed to help you communicate better.

Remember that email isn’t your only option when it comes to communication. In fact, you may be significantly better off staying out of your inbox altogether and creating a workflow that provides more visual and team-based communication for your clients, especially if they’re prone to avoiding your emails.

If you deal with needy clients, you don’t always have to push them away; sometimes the problem can be solved by bringing them closer to the project and making them feel like a part of the team.  Try using tools that let clients follow along with your project workload on their own so they don’t have to waste your time checking in.

Finally, stay on top of micromanagers by creating an organized system so you always know how to respond to pesky questions and requests. The more work you do on your end to keep everything running smoothly, the less likely they’ll be to light up your inbox or phone with messages.

How to Tell If Your Marketing Campaign Needs a Microsite

If you have something to promote, be it a product or campaign, chances are you’re already in the process of putting together a marketing strategy. There’s even a chance you’ve come across a very scary word during the course of your planning: microsite.

But what it is? What does it do? And more importantly, do you need one?

For those of you still doing research, microsites are small websites that concentrate on a certain topic and often feature content developed by a sponsoring brand (they can look and feel different from the sponsored brand’s site, however).

They’re great for a number of reasons. One, they have the flexibility to integrate content and design in such a way that creates a focused, yet often visually appealing alternative to simply adding another page to your already bloated main website. They’re also great for targeting certain audiences or creating buzz around a certain product or promotion.

But if they’re so great, why doesn’t everyone use them all the time? Well, because while microsites are great, they’re not necessarily the right choice for every campaign or product.

So how do you know if you need one? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.

OR take our quick and easy quiz! Does My Campaign Need a Microsite?

Advantages of a Microsite

Microsites can be a great choice for certain campaigns and products. If your product is new and needs a lot of explanation or audience testing, for example, a microsite is a great choice. There are many advantages to having a microsite as part of your marketing strategy.

Increased Interest

Microsites let you take something specific and put it out in front of your target market in a focused and detailed way to gauge interest levels. Not only are you saying, “Look at me!” but you’re also able to tell if your customers really want what you’re offering (hint: if they’re not coming to your microsite, they might not be interested). Campaigns or products that rely on market testing may be a great fit for a microsite.

Cisco-Microsite-Conversion-Marketing

Creative Branding

If what you’re promoting is something unique, you may want to consider branching out from your sponsored brand and taking creative measures to market it. That can be hard to do with a traditional site, especially if your current site is heavy in CSS that you don’t want to fiddle with. Microsites, on the other hand, come with their own rules, meaning that you can design it to fit any branding guidelines. You could make it dramatically different than your regular site to draw a new audience, or you could keep it simple and sleek to highlight the specific product or campaign as needed. Either way, the possibilities are endless.

microsites_td

Faster Development

If you have a product or campaign that’s seasonal or temporary, you might consider using a microsite, especially if you still want all the bells and whistles of a full site but don’t want to spend too many hours throwing one together. Microsites are fairly quick to build, they can be adjusted and tweaked with relative ease, and they can be taken down (or put back up) as needed.

Detail-Friendly

The great thing about microsites is that they allow you to include as much information as you need without weighing down your main site, which means that if your product or campaign is detail-rich, you’ll do well with having a small, compact site.

Cost Effective

If your product or campaign needs to be big but you’re not ready to shill out the money for expensive marketing tactics, a microsite is a temporary, cost-effective solution that can be reused when needed. They’re also particularly handy if you want something that looks professional but don’t mind a smaller, more focused approach.

spool-tuning

Disadvantages of a Microsite

Of course, you might not need or want all of those things. Maybe you’re required to stick within branding guidelines, or your product is fairly self-explanatory and having a whole site dedicated to it might overwhelm potential customers. There are plenty of reasons not to use microsites in certain circumstances.

Mixed Messages

One issue many marketers face with microsites is that they force users to leave a current site and jump onto a new one. While this can be advantageous in certain circumstances (as in, you really want your product to stand out), it can also be confusing for customers if not implemented properly. They may think your microsite is a pop-up advertisement or they don’t recognize it as a part of your site. A few ways around this would be to make sure that your branding is recognizable (even if your campaign is differently branded) and that they have access (links) to your main site.

Long-Term Costs

While microsites are fairly cheap to setup, they’re not always cheap to maintain. If your product or campaign is temporary, it’s not usually a big deal. But if you’re looking to keep up your microsite over the long term, it may actually backfire. As technology and SEO grows and adapts, your site – like any website – will need to be updated to keep pace with new tech. While you’re already spending time and money optimizing your main website, you’ll also need to spend resources maintaining all of your microsites too. Those expenses can add up if you’re not prepared.

Not Enough Information

Depending on how you setup your microsite, you may actually turn away customers if there’s not enough detail to include on your site. If you’re trying to market something where all the details can fit onto a regular landing page, creating a whole separate site to promote it may be a bad option. Because microsites lead customers away from your normal page, if you don’t have enough information there to keep people’s attention, you could be hurting your chances of them navigating back to your original page. If your details are sparse, stay away from microsites.

Don’t miss our quiz: Does My Campaign Need a Microsite?

Do You Need a Microsite?

Microsites can be really great if you have the right product or campaign to promote, but they’re certainly not for everyone. Consider the needs of your marketing campaign. If your marketing campaign is short term (or seasonal), or it offers something unique that can handle plenty of attention without distracting customers from your main website, then microsites are a great choice.

You should also consider the flexibility of your current site. If your main site feels overloaded or doesn’t have a lot of flexibility when it comes to adding more than a few pages, you might want to consider creating a microsite.

If your current site has plenty of room to grow, however, and your campaign will be a long-term fixture of your company, you may want to consider keeping it a part of your current site and scraping the microsite idea all together. If you think an extra site will confuse your customers, or you don’t really feel the need to create a whole new set of branding for a single promotion, you might also steer clear of microsites.

But ultimately the choice is yours. If you don’t mind taking a risk, microsites are a quick and easy option to test something out, and if you (or your customers) end up hating it, no one is really worse for the wear.