Looking For A Step By Step Guide to Building an HTML Form?

Check out this blog recently published by Abhishek Jakhar. This detailed blog is full of information about how to get your HTML form up and running!

There are detailed code examples covering a broad range of form topics.

You can read the blog directly by clicking here.

And, don’t forget, once you’ve built your form, you’ll need to connect it to a backend to begin collecting data. If you don’t want to host your own server or tap into your Node, Python, Ruby or PHP skills, you can easily connect any HTML form to a cloud backend using FormKeep. What’s more, once your form is connected to FormKeep, it’s easy to store, secure and connect your data with 1000s of other systems via Zapier.

All you need to do is update the action attribute. Your form tag should look like this paying careful attention to update the underlined area of the highlighted URL with the token provided to you within FormKeep (Trial or Paid account):

<form accept-charset="UTF-8" action="https://formkeep.com/f/exampletoken" method="POST">

If you would like any help hooking up your form to FormKeep, please contact support@formkeep.com.

Guide to Styling HTML Forms

One of the most appealing things about using form backend solutions like FormKeep is that, as a web designer or web developer, you can focus your energy on user experience and functionality. You can avoid the burden of building and maintaining your own backend infrastructure.

A large number of our customers choose FormKeep over other solutions because we’ve decoupled the backend from the front end. These customers can style their form exactly the way they want to, using any tool they wish. Complete freedom of expression; no more wrestling with a front end form-builder to get the results you require.

This, of course, begs several questions:

1. What are the foundational rules and principles for styling HTML forms?

2. Where can I find examples of well-styled forms?

In this blog, we provide some pointers to some great resources we have found on these topics.

Rules and Principles of HTML Form Styling

To a certain degree, smart HTML form design and styling is context sensitive so there are no cardinal rules. That being said, we have frequently referred to some nice and comprehensive resources on the web that can help you hone your skills. Here are some of our favorites:

Mozilla: Styling HTML Forms

Mozilla: Advanced Styling for HTML Forms

3 Best Form Design Practices for Your Design Process

Samples of Well-Styled Forms

There are many examples of good and bad forms all around the web. You may have some favorite examples or examples you don’t like. Here are a few places you can find some good looking form examples including sample code:

10 CSS HTML Form Designs

Top 36 Free HTML5 & CSS3 Contact Form Templates 2018

Two CodePen Examples (HTML Forms and Ultra-Clean UI ‘Contact Us’ Form)

Connecting Your Form with a Backend

Of course, once you have a nicely designed form, you need a place to send the data where it will be secure, manageable and can connect with other systems like Google, Salesforce, Hubspot, ZenDesk, Slack and others.

With FormKeep, to make this form active on your website, simply copy the provided html and CSS and customize it as much as you want. Then, all you need to do is update the action attribute. Your form tag should look like this paying careful attention to update the underlined area of the highlighted URL with the token provided to you within FormKeep (Trial or Paid account):

<form accept-charset="UTF-8" action="https://formkeep.com/f/exampletoken" method="POST">

See how with our sample CodePen by clicking here:

See the Pen Sample “Contact Us” Form Template You Can Customize by FormKeep (@formkeep-samples) on CodePen.

How You Can Do More With Weebly Forms

Introduction

Weebly is a wonderful website and ecommerce service that hosts millions of businesses online. Weebly tools make it easy to build a professional, mobile-optimized site and grow your business with integrated marketing and advanced analytics.

In this blog, we will cover some basics about how to add a basic form to a Weebly site and, also, how to expand Weebly’s native form capabilities with FormKeep.

Basic Forms In Weebly

Though most users build static web pages on Weebly; the service does offer a simple form way to add a form to a web page. To add a simple Newsletter Sign-Up Form or Contact Form all you have to do is drag the corresponding icon from Build menu (i.e., Build/Basic/Contact Form or Build/Basic/Newsletter Form) as shown below:

html form, weebly
Weebly Form Actions

In this example, we have added a simple Contact Form to one of Weebly’s standard templates (highlighted in red). This form includes name, email and contact fields.

html form, weebly form, contact form
Simple Weebly Contact Form

Once the form is in place, there are a number of configurable options. Click on the form element within the Weebly designer and then click “Form Options” to reveal the Form Options panel. Here you will have options for configuring the email that will receive data from the form, Google Captcha spam protection, opt-in and some other settings as you can see below:

html form, weebly form, contact form
Weebly Form Options

Once your form set up and you’ve pushed your website into production, your form can begin receiving data. When users submit information via the form you created you will receive an email that notifies you and contains the form data. You can also log into Weebly and access the data by clicking on the form element in the page designer and selecting “View Entries”. Here’s what the data looks like when you access it via the Weebly console.

html forms, weebly forms, form data, contact form
Weebly Form Data

Weebly’s built-in form builder is very powerful and simple to use. It makes form building easy for many users. However, some users are looking for opportunities to do even more with the Weebly forms. We will explore some of these opportunities in the next two sections.

Controlling The Look And Feel Of Your Forms In Weebly

As powerful as the Weebly form builder is for most users, some users want to exert fine grain control over the look and feel of their form. For example, the default form in the example above is a bit hard to see against the background used in the selected template. How can a designer make this form pop out against the background?

html form, weebly form, form design
Form Enhancement Opportunities

Weebly does not offer fine grain control of these elements in the standard form options area. However, Weebly does offer a relatively simple way for developers and web designers to control the look and feel of their form element. Rather than using the included form builder, designers who would like more control can use the Embed Code functionality within Weebly. Rather than dragging the Contact Form or Newsletter Form icons onto your web page, simply drag the Embed Code icon as shown.

html form, weebly form, custom form
Embed Code and Custom HTML Form


With this embedded control in place, the designer or developer can now custom-craft an HTML form to fit their needs and design preferences. In this example, we used the following HTML to design an enhanced form for this template:

See the Pen Weebly HTML Form Example by FormKeep (@formkeep-samples) on CodePen.

The result, when this code is placed in the Edit Custom HTML widget within Weebly is a form with different styling than the native form tool would normally allow. In this case, the form is formatted with a background that allows the form to become more visible against the template background. See the comparison below.

html form, weebly form, styled form, form comparison
Weebly Form Comparison

Obviously, when using the Custom HTML capability within Weebly, the design possibilities are bounded only by your imagination and design sense.

One thing to keep in mind if you use the Custom HTML capability is that you will have to designate a place for your form data to POST information for storage and processing. Weebly normally handles this for you. However, FormKeep makes this easy. You can learn more about how to do this at the bottom of this article. Read more below or click here to skip directly to the appropriate section.

Enhancing Form Data Management and Integration in Weebly

As we discussed earlier, Weebly handles your form data by default in two ways: 1) an email is sent to a designated email address each time a form is completed with the data from that form and 2) the data is accessible via Weebly’s interface when an administrator selects “View Entries” in the form widget.

For many applications, this is adequate. However, if any of the following apply to you then you may be looking for some more advanced data handling capabilities:

  • Lots of Data:
    If you are receiving a lot of data in each form or many form submissions, it may not be convenient and manageable to receive all of the information in an email.
  • Data Routing:
    If you want to route the data to more than one person, it may not be convenient or secure to share the log in credentials to Weebly or route the data through a single email address.
  • Integration with Other Applications:
    If you would like to pass your data on to another system you will need a point of integration that is not available in a standard Weebly form.
  • Excess Spam:
    Google Captcha will reduce but not eliminate spam. Or, you may decide not to use Google Captcha. If you don’t want to flood your email inbox with spam submissions, you may want a data management rather than email solution for handling forms.
  • Field Validation:
    If you would like to use custom field validation logic, you can do that with a custom HTML form.
  • Many Forms On Separate Pages:
    If you have a long form or multiple forms broken across several pages, you may wish to view all the data in one place.

In each of these cases (and many others) you may benefit from using a form backend like FormKeep alongside your Weebly site. With FormKeep, instead of routing your form data to Weebly or to email, your data will be stored, secured and accessible in the cloud. From there, you will have a variety of tools to help you manage your form data and route it in a variety of different ways.

One popular way that designers and developers use FormKeep is using WebHooks or integration via Zapier to feed data to other applications like Hubspot, Constant Contact, Google Gmail, Salesforce, Slack or Mail Chimp (and thousands of others). You can search for over a thousand different integration points between FormKeep and other applications on the Zapier web site (pictured below):

html forms, formkeep integrations, zapier, zapier integrations
FormKeep Integrations – Zapier

In order to take advantage of advanced data routing capabilities available in FormKeep you will have to place your own custom form into your Weebly page and then point that form to FormKeep.

You can read more about how to create a Custom HTML form within Weebly at the top of this page (Click Here)

Enhancing Weebly Forms with FormKeep

One thing to keep in mind if you use the Custom HTML capability within Weebly is that you will have to designate a place for your form data to POST information for storage and processing. Normally, Weebly handles this for you with their standard form tools. However, fear not! This is where FormKeep makes life easy.

Let’s review an excerpt from the form code from the CodePen example above. At the beginning of the form you will notice this syntax (Click Here to View Above):

<form accept-charset="UTF-8" action="https://formkeep.com/f/exampletoken" method="POST" target="_blank" id="weeblyform">

All you need to do is update the action attribute in your form. Your form tag should look like the example above paying careful attention to exampletoken to the token provided to you within FormKeep (Trial or Paid account). You can create one of these tokens for free by signing up for a free trial account at FormKeep Free Trial.

Once you’ve created your HTML form and configured the action attribute, the data will be posted directly to your FormKeep account. From there, you have the option to configure many settings such as spam suppression, thank you pages and re-directs as well as integrate your form with thousands of other applications via Zapier.

You can experiment with this in the FormKeep demo environment in CodePen by clicking here.

If you would like help getting FormKeep setup with Weebly, feel free to reach out to our friendly team at support@formkeep.com.

 

Sample “Contact Us” Form Template You Can Customize

At FormKeep, we make it easy to use your own form HTML and use our backend to capture, store and process your data.

In this example, we have developed a simple Contact Us template that includes the following elements: First Name, Last Name, Email, Subject and Newsletter Subscription Checkbox.

Below the Submit button you can see plenty of other attributes implemented that you can copy and paste to fit your needs. In this example, you’ll see radio buttons, drop down list, email fields, phone number, check boxes, color selectors and many more.

You can edit the html on the left of the CodePen and see the resulting form on the right.

See the Pen Sample Contact Form (With Extra Controls) Styled by FormKeep (@formkeep-samples) on CodePen.

To make this form active on your website, simply copy the provided html and CSS and customize it as much as you want. Then, all you need to do is update the action attribute. Your form tag should look like this paying careful attention to update the underlined area of the highlighted URL with the token provided to you within FormKeep (Trial or Paid account):

<form accept-charset="UTF-8" action="https://formkeep.com/f/exampletoken" method="POST">

You can also update this token in the CodePen example directly and, then, when you press submit on the sample form, the data will be posted directly to your FormKeep account. From there, you have the option to configure many settings such as spam suppression, thank you pages and re-directs as well as integrate your form with thousands of other applications via Zapier.

If you have any suggestions for this form template, please send them to support@formkeep.com.

Thank you!

The FormKeep Team

Build a Website and Add a Form

Are you looking to launch a new website?

Not sure where to start?

Or looking for some creative inspiration before you dig in?

Check out this article about 15 Addicting Web Design Guides To Get You Hooked.

Sooner or later, after you dig in, you’ll likely reach a point that you want to collect data on your static website. Maybe it’s a lead collection form or a registration form or even an order form. When you reach this point, you’ll learn that creating a form is relatively easy. You can learn most of what you need to know from w3schools.

However, things get a little more difficult when you start working on how to collect data from the form. Do you want the form submission to trigger an email, store data in the could or push data to another system? There are all kinds things you might want to do with a completed webform.

Luckily, FormKeep makes it easy to connect the webforms you create with a hosted database in the cloud to store your data (a form backend) and, even, connect that data to thousands of applications via Zapier.

All you need to do is update the action attribute. Your form tag should look like this:

<form accept-charset="UTF-8" action="https://formkeep.com/f/your-token-here" method="POST">

Dive right in on your projects and if you have any questions about how to store data from your webforms, contact us at https://www.formkeep.com

Your Form Design, Our Backend

One of the reasons that FormKeep is so popular with web developers and designers is that it’s easy to style your form exactly the way you want. Unlike alternatives that require you to use their form templates and layouts, FormKeep makes it easy to layout and style your form exactly the way you want without worrying about building a backend to receive your form data.

Material Design Screenshot
Learn About Clean Form Layout

Modern web design and form layout principles are always changing and, of course, design preferences vary depending on the developer, designer or target user. Material Design’s website https://material.io offers a great overview of how to style an impactful HTML form. Check out their HTML design overview by clicking here.

To learn more about how to capture your form data on the backend in a database or connect it with another application or receive your form data in email, check out formkeep.com. Once you set up a FormKeep free trial account, it’s easy to connect your form with FormKeep.

All you need to do is update the action attribute. Your form tag should look like this:

<form accept-charset="UTF-8" action="https://formkeep.com/f/your-token-here" method="POST">

What Your Tech Stack Should Look Like If You’re Building Static Sites

We’ve previously mentioned the many benefits of building static sites over using a traditional CMS like WordPress. But if you’re new to building static sites, it may feel intimidating to create something “from scratch” using a static site generator.

One of the biggest differences in building a static site is the technology involved, which scares many first-timers.

WordPress and other CMS’s may seem like a better choice because they claim to do much of the work for you, but many developers find the flexibility rather limited after a certain point.

And the good news is that building a static site doesn’t mean you’re left without help. In fact, there’s plenty of technology out there that can assist you in equal (or sometimes better) ways.

Here’s what you need to know about having a good tech stack when building static sites.

Languages

This is going back to the basics, but the first thing you need to consider before you determine your tech stack is what languages you will be using.

Preprocessor languages are programming languages compiled into three types: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Examples include CoffeeScript, LESS, HAML, and Dart.

Each offers different syntaxes, features, as well as other benefits, and each static site generator (SSG) will allow for different preprocessor languages. It’s important to determine what language you’re most familiar with before you decide on a SSG.

While you don’t necessarily need to know anything beyond HTML to build a static site, you may want to consider brushing up on a preprocessor language to gain some advantages. Chris Loos over at Urban Insight has 10 reasons for using CSS preprocessors.

Site Generators

Unlike CMS, building a static sites requires generating HTML files that are served “as is” with no other database involved. For many developers, that means using editors like Dreamweaver or Notepad to code everything and then hosting those files to create the finished project.

Thankfully, technology has evolved enough to give us SSGs, tools that allow the creation of static sites in any number of languages.

Some popular SSGs include Jekyll, MetalSmith, Grunt, and Pelican. These SSGs can be used either with markup files as a source or even using a hosted content API such as Contentful, Medium, or yes, even WordPress.

jekyll-1024x516

SSGs help developers perform important tasks such as combining multiple files into one, compiling preprocessor languages, or even packaging code into a mobile application without having to do everything “from scratch.”

So which do you choose?

Well, some SSGs are built for a specific purpose, while others can be used for almost any site. It’s essential to find something that fits your workflow, is actively maintained, and has an active user community for when you have questions. If you need help deciding, we’ve ranked a few of the top options here.

Templates

Of course, if you did want to take a more “from scratch” approach without needing to spend countless hours coding your site, you could always use a static HTML template.

HTML templates come with pre-made features that allow you to fill in the blanks, so if you’re used to plugging components into templates with a CMS but you still want the benefits of static sites, you can find a template to meet your needs.

You can find a variety of pre-made HTML templates on sites like Template.net, Template Monster, and ThemeForest.

Package Managers

Another important aspect of building a static site is packaging your files together. But keeping track of all those packages and making sure they stay updated can be difficult, which is why many developers choose CMS over SSG.

However, there are package managers designed to help you manage things like your libraries, languages, fonts, and even images. A couple of popular package managers include Bower, which allows you to install open source or shared library code, declare dependencies for your projects, and more.

bowerio

APIs

One of the noted downsides to using static sites is the lack of APIs, meaning that there’s little interactivity, which, of course, is the point of doing something “static.” But if you still wanted the functionality of a dynamic site while building a static site, there are a few workarounds you could consider.

Raymond Camden has a tutorial for adding the “read” aspect of an API to your static site using any SSG.

Brandon Brown has another post on how to develop JSON APIs using Surge.

Static Web Hosts

Finally, and perhaps most importantly next to choosing a SSG, you will need a place to host your project once you’re ready to launch.

amazon-web-services-logo-cc90d03c8e148873b8b6cc1a7fdbdf1a

There are many options for static web hosting including traditional shared hosts, online storage with hosting, and a few services even have dedicated static web hosting.

So how do you choose a good host? Here are a few things to look for:

  • What is the cost you’re willing to pay for hosting?
  • Does the host support HTTPs? Do you need HTTPs support?
  • What is the upload method to host files? (GitHub, manual upload, etc.)
  • Does the host offer a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
  • Do they support form handling?
  • Do they support build automation?
  • How easy is the deploy process?
  • Are there other developer-friendly features like rollback?

A few of the top hosting services for static sites include GitHub Pages and Amazon S3. You want to find a service that will give you the flexibility and support you need for every project. And, while many hosting services are cheap or free, be careful that you’re not undercutting your value.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, choosing a tech stack comes down to finding technology that works well for you and your team and will help you stay productive.

If in doubt, you can always ask around (or check on the links we’ve offered). But, remember that what works well for one developer or site may not work well for yours, so it may require some testing to get things just right.

Remember, one of the benefits of building static is that you also have more flexibility to build your ideal stack, one that fits your needs and helps you do the work faster and keeps things maintained and updated with as little stress as possible.

How to Create a Higher Converting Form Landing Page

Landing pages are kind of like snowflakes – no two are exactly the same.

Though there are plenty of similarities between landing pages, and for good reason. There are certain strategies that simply do better for conversions, and so almost every page you see has some version of the following: a headline, explanatory text, and a call to action.

Why? Well, because these elements work.

But the exact application of each of these elements varies, with factors including things like audience, purpose, intent, angle, focus, industry, niche, and overall value.

In other words, one size doesn’t fit all. In fact, the way you blend these elements and factors together can make or break the effectiveness of your page.

Here’s what you need to know to create the most effective form landing page possible.

Dos and Don’ts for High Conversions

The average landing page conversion rate is around 2-3%, but the top 25% are converting at 5% or higher, with some reaching 10-11% or more. Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow if you want to see your numbers cross above the 5% threshold.

DO Include a Powerful Headline

It may feel cliché to include a catchy headline, but think of it as your first CTA. The headline is where everything begins – where your audience decides if they’re going to stick around or not, whether you’re interesting or boring.

But it’s not just there to grab attention, it’s there to inform. It should be short (preferably 10 words or less) and to the point, and your audience should think, “Oh wow, tell me more!” by the time they have finished reading it.

headline

(Neil Patel over at Quicksprout has some suggestions for writing powerful headlines here.)

DO Include a Persuasive Subheadline

If the headline is your “oh wow”, your subheadline is your “let me hear more”. Your audience should be able to say, “This is why this page exists” by the time they finish reading it.

You should position your subheadline underneath the header (obviously), and it should be more persuasive than your headline copy. You can also give a little more depth and detail, as it can be longer than your headline.

DO Include Explanatory Text

It doesn’t have to be paragraphs upon paragraphs, but even something like a little extra wording to clarify the header/subhead can go a long way, especially if you get creative with the latter.

explanation

You also want to make sure that if you do include longer text, it explains the benefits that the user will receive if they fill out your form or otherwise engage with the CTA. They should be able to answer the question, “This is what I get out of the deal.”

DON’T Spend Too Much Time Explaining

That being said, you don’t have to give your audience the entire history of your company or really any more information than they absolutely need. Too much text can be visually overwhelming and make people think that your offering is more complex than it is.

badlandingpage

No. Don’t do this.

DO Include Large, Relevant Images

Did you know that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text? Now you do.

The images you use are just as important as your text, if not more so. They should be large, high quality, and relevant to your product or service. Like a headline, the primary goal of your image is to grab attention and help your audience relate to your product or service.

DO Include Visual Cues

Having a picture of a smiling person may do a good job of commutating how your customers will feel when they fill out your form and receive their product or service (or free eBook, etc.). But if you want to be more effective, use other visual cues to help users out.

Arrows are one of the most effective tools since they can easily guide an eye line to the right place (e.g. your CTA). You can make them noticeable:

arrows01

Or keep them subtle:

arrows02

DON’T Forget Smaller Visual Cues

If you’re a fan of the subtle route, there are plenty of ways to incorporate tiny visual cues that can be high converting without needing to draw a big red circle around your CTA.

Velaro, for example, uses a small PDF symbol on their image (above their form) to signal to the user that something can be downloaded and in what format it will arrive.

velaro-landing-page-example-1

Instead of using an image of a person or scenery, Single Grain uses the elements in the background to point toward the form itself. The average user wouldn’t even give it a second thought. (They also include a small animation that makes the CTA button wiggle).

singlegrain-homepage-form

DO Include a Demo or Test Drive

Some forms are dedicated to letting users sign up for a demo of their product, but some regular forms include a demo video or a “see how it works” link on their landing pages to help users decide if they want to sign up before they absolutely need to commit.

“Try before you buy” can be helpful for new companies that don’t have significant reputation in their chosen industry.

DON’T Forget Your Value Proposition

Finally, your value proposition is the most important part of your landing page. Another word for it would be your CTA, but unlike the “submit” CTA on your form, this one comes with more of an invitation.

Your value proposition can be spread among any of the above elements. In fact, it should be in all of the elements – in your explanatory text, in your buttons, in your images, and in your headline.

By the time they scroll to the very bottom of your landing page, your audience should know exactly why they’re there, what they’re going to get, and how they can get it.

Final Thoughts

Creating a killer form is one thing, but creating a landing page that truly converts (to put that form on) is another animal entirely.

If you want to see higher conversion rates, be sure to include elements that bring the focus on the action you want the user to perform.

Use a good headline to draw them in, choose relevant images that highlight and point to your CTA, use text that explains the benefits of the form, and don’t forget to mention any additional goodies that they may get out of the deal.

3 Major Speed Hacks for Busy Developers

Web developers sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to building websites.

They’re not quite as lauded as the designer (unless they’re also doing the design), but without them you wouldn’t have much in the way of functionality.

Truly, developers are the heart and soul of a website, and they understand one simple principle: Even the simplest website has a lot of code.

Which means that if you’re working as a developer, you’re going to be busy.

Now, there are a lot of ways you can build a website quickly, like using a CMS or a static site-generator. But sometimes you have to handle code the old fashioned way, and you just need a little help.

The good news is that there are a few things you can do to make building a website faster and more efficient than ever. Let’s take a look.

#1. Use Browser Tools

It should go without saying that if you’re building a website, you’re going to spend a lot of time on the web. So, as long as you’re there, why not put your browser to work for you? Here are a few popular options for browser add-ons that can save you time.

FireBug and Chrome DevTools

Sometimes you’ll run into problems with your code not displaying properly on the front-end. Instead of searching through lines of code, you can quickly find the problem by using a browser extension like FireBug (for Firefox) or Chrome DevTools (for Chrome).

chromedevtools

Each allows you to inspect, edit, and monitor your code in any web page to see where things are working (as well as where they’re not working).

Web Developer Toolbar

Available for Firefox, the Web Developer Toolbar gives you a few options for editing style sheets in real time. You can also perform a variety of other helpful tasks straight from your browser’s toolbar, including disabling problematic JavaScript and CSS, quickly validating HTML links, and more.

ColorZilla

Have a designer or client that’s super picky about the color of a font or element? Well, don’t sweat it. Available for both Chrome and Firefox, ColorZilla lets you select the exact color of an image or element and gives you the right color code. It can also be used to add and edit gradients in addition to some other helpful features.

colorzilla

Instant Wireframe

Instant Wireframe is a Chrome extension that lets you view web pages with a wireframe overlay, with options for both live and local viewing.

InstantWireframe

There are plenty of other browser tools that can help speed up your coding process. CreativeBloq has a list of 30 tools for handling various tasks directly from your browser of choice.

#2. Use Off-The-Shelf-Code

A lot can be said for a CMS that gives you pre-made templates to work with, but that’s not always an option if you’re coding a site from scratch.

That being said, coding a site takes a lot of work even with a template, so if you’re looking to save time and you’re not cornered into a particular template or design already, consider using a pre-made CSS library, boilerplate, or framework to help you out.

Bootstrap

Bootstrap is a powerful and popular front-end framework that gives you clean typography, form elements, and almost everything you really need to create a modern and mobile-ready website.

bootstrap

Grunt

Grunt is a boilerplate – a template for code – that gives you hundreds of plugins to automate just about any task. Many developers shy away from boilerplates because they either don’t know how to use them or they don’t know about them. But boilerplates like Grunt can help take care of recurring issues, hand off projects to other developers, and improve your process overall.

Grunt

Skeleton

Skeleton is another boilerplate framework that makes it simple to create a grid-based site. Their grid includes up to twelve columns and shrinks with the browser/device at smaller sizes. The syntax is also fairly straightforward, making coding response times faster.

skeleton

#3. Use Project Planning Tools

One of the biggest time wasters when it comes to coding is having to go back and repeat a task because it fell through the cracks the first time around. That’s why having a great plan in place from start to finish can save huge amounts of time for developers.

If you’re really looking to save time, you can use project planning tools and checklists to make sure that you’re covering all your basis so everything stays running smoothly.

Writemaps

Writemaps is a tool that helps you quickly create a sitemap and gather content before starting your project. It also gives you the ability to preview your sitemap with clients so they can approve everything before you start, saving you plenty of energy in the long run.

writemaps-slide1

Trello

Trello is a helpful project management tool that lets you create cards for each of your templates and elements so you can keep track of everything in one place. It’s also helpful if you’re working with a team of developers and designers, as you can assign different people to different cards, set due dates, and create notifications for tasks yet to be completed.

Trello

Web Developer Checklist

While technically this could fit into the browser tools category, Web Developer Checklist is an extremely helpful plugin for planning out your project, so we’ll include it here. This extension allows you to check to make sure your pages are following best practices when it comes to SEO, usability, accessibility, and performances, making it great for catching anything you’ve missed before your clients notice.

webdevchecklist

Final Thoughts

Keeping track of everything you need to do to build a website can be tough, but with the right tools, you can save massive amounts of time and energy.

If you’re constantly jumping from your back-end code to your front-end site to see if things are looking the way you want them to, try using tools that make your job a little easier. FireBug can help you detect major issues, while the Web Developer Toolbar can help you fix things up in real time.

If you’re tasked with building a site from the ground up and you’re not sure where to start, try using an off-the-shelf boilerplate or pre-made framework to save you time fiddling around with little stuff.

Finally, make sure you’re not falling victim to the biggest time waster of them all – poor planning. Use tools that help you track tasks, projects, and even team members if necessary, whether it’s through a browser extension like the Web Developer checklist or an external app like Trello.

The Quickest Ways to Modify and Optimize Your WordPress Themes

Do you remember the good old days when creating a website meant spending countless hours coding everything from scratch? Of course not, because you’re a WordPress developer, which means you have access to themes.

The great thing about themes is that they come pre-packaged with thousands of lines of code someone else spent time developing, which is truly life saving when it comes to time management. The downside to themes, however, is that someone else created them, so if the theme doesn’t match up with all of your needs, you’re going to have to put in a little extra work.

But the great thing about WP is that you don’t have to sacrifice your precious time to customize and optimize those themes. In fact, depending on your needs, there are several quick ways to make sure your theme has everything you need.

Pre-Optimization Cleanup

Before you really get into the nitty-gritty of optimizing your WP site, you can save quite a bit of time by going through your out-of-the-box theme and cleaning it up. (Actually, you can do this at any time of the process, but it’s arguably more helpful before you start working on a new theme).

Clean Up Messy Code

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Developers and programmers have a reputation of using messy code. But, to be fair, they often have a lot to do in a short period of time, and going back through hundreds of lines of code isn’t always on the agenda. It’s a “code first, ask questions later” sort of approach, which saves time but isn’t always the most productive in the long run.

Messy code in your theme can make it harder once it’s time to modify major sections of the site. Messy code can be anything from mixed coding styles, spaghetti code that can only be understood by the original creator, or unextendable code that just doesn’t play well with others.

Some things to look for when it comes to cleaning up code – even in a fairly clean, freshly downloaded theme – include hiding unnecessary or unused shortcodes (the good news is there’s a plugin for that), unwanted media (another plugin), and underused tags (did we mention there’s a plugin?). You can find more easy ways to cleanup areas of your theme at wpmudev, too.

You should also continue cleaning up your code as you go along, especially if you’re one to leave yourself comments or pieces of code that you plan to come back to later (but eventually forget about). At some point you should revisit your style.css file in your Theme folder and do some stylesheet housekeeping.

Ongoing Optimizations

Of course, once you start getting into heavier modifications to the site, you will inevitably wind up with more stuff than you really need on your site’s backend. All of the clutter can really bog down your overall speed, so the best way to optimize your theme is to get rid of all the extra stuff that came with it (or that you added).

Hide and Remove

A few immediate things you’ll want to remove include unused plugins. While you’re bound to keep a few around for functionality (and to clean up your code, don’t forget), there are just some plugins that you will have test driven with unsuccessful results. Ditch them as soon as possible.

Like we mentioned above, you’ll also want to remove any code (shortcodes, tags, etc.) that doesn’t add value to your site. You can use plugins to take care of them quickly. But you should also consider removing things like certain elements from your headers and even old themes that you’re keeping around “just because.”

In terms of usability, you can also hide parts of the dashboard or the visual text editor to give yourself a more seamless coding experience. Basically, if you don’t really need it, find a way to get rid of it. For things that build up over time like new code or plugins, like your mom used to say – if you’re done using it, put it away.

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Source: WP-Optimize

Optimize Images

Images are a major part of your site, and not to beat a dead horse, but they’re important to your usability. But WP doesn’t always optimize images as well as it should.

For example, WP often adds layers of compression to their images. So, if you’re using the internal image editor to crop or edit a picture, the resulting image will be saved multiple times. Those images will also include their own attachment pages that quickly eat up space on the server if your site is image heavy.

One way to optimize is to pre-compress and crop images (using free tools) before you upload them. You’ll be saving yourself time later on when you’re trying to figure out why your site isn’t running as quickly as it should.

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Source: TinyPNG

Matteo Spinelli’s Cubiq.org blog also has some suggestions for practically handling images and removing attachment pages, among other things. And don’t forget that there are plugins that can help with a variety of optimization needs to save time.

Backup and Upgrade

Of course, one of the most absolutely essential components to optimization is backing up all of your data as you go, and then cleaning it up periodically as extra data piles up.

Again, there are plugins that can help you backup your database with little to no effort on your end.

Your database will also accumulate unnecessary data over time from things like revisions, spam comments, or even data from plugins that you’ve removed. All of this data can really bog down your site, so after you’ve made a backup, consider using plugins like WP-Sweep or WP-Optimize to remove the excess.

And you should always make sure that your site is running the latest versions of your theme as well as your plugins. You can easily update each from your dashboard, so that’s a no brainer.

Ongoing Modifications

Finally, at some point you will probably need to make some larger tweaks to your site. If you’re working with a child theme in particular, you’ll probably end up creating additional styles and hooks. While all of that will still take time and energy, there are ways you can optimize to keep your expenditure at a minimal level.

Customization

There are generally two types of developers: one that likes to code everything by hand and one that likes to use editors and plugins to help. If you’re of the latter persuasion, you can always use WP’s built-in customizer API to give you a visual representation of the changes you’re making.

Before you go saying, “Well, duh!” you should know that there’s also a tool available that will help you take advantage of the customizer’s advanced features. Last year Redux and Kirki combined forces to create a framework that works fully in the customizer, giving you much more bang for your buck.

And if you still want to hand code, you can always use plugins like Simple Customize or Simple CSS to aide in your endeavor.

Switching Themes

Of course, there may come a time when your site is ready to move to an entirely new theme, which is a hefty task, but it doesn’t have to take as much time as you think.

Using plugins like All-in-One Migration or Duplicate, you can fully export/import your database, media files, plugins, and theme options. If you don’t mind paid options, you can also go with something like WordPress Theme Switcher.

But whatever method you choose, just make sure to follow all of the above tips by backing up your site, making sure there’s nothing miscellaneous in your code, keeping your images optimized, and using the right plugins to assist the job (and getting rid of the ones that don’t).