Best iPhone and Android Apps for Busy Developers

Mobile apps are everywhere, and for good reason.

As of last year, the total number of downloaded mobile apps was a little more than 100 billion, with that number projected to reach as high as 200 billion in 2017.

Statistics also show that up to 89% of mobile users spend their time on apps versus 11% who browse the web. That means that during any given day, the average user will spend over an hour fiddling around with apps. And web developers are no exception.

In fact, there are many helpful apps out there that can help developers do a better job finishing projects, communicating with clients, or sharpening skills.

But why would you use a mobile app if you have a laptop or desktop nearby?

3 Reasons to Use Mobile Apps

There are a number of reasons you might want to jump off of your desktop browser and open up the app store on your smartphone:

1. You Work On the Go

Whether you spend a lot of time traveling or you simply like to work from the comfort of your own couch, getting to work from wherever you want is a big convenience that mobile apps provide.

Why spend all the time lugging around your laptop or going into the office to work on your desktop when you can pull out your phone, do some quick HTML edits, and move on with your day?

Mobile apps allow you to update web pages, make quick sketches, code HTML, and upload and share projects from anywhere.

2. You’re Testing Your Mobile Site

More than 80% of all Internet users own a smartphone and use mobile devices to browse the web, so the need for mobile testing is high. But switching back and forth between testing sites on an actual mobile device and making updates to your code can be time consuming.

Why not test your site and then use an app to make live updates? You may not need the feature all of the time, but mobile editing apps can be the perfect solution for a quick fix or to test sites on the fly.

3. You Like to Multitask

No one really likes to work when they’re not in the office, but sometimes project needs come first. The good news is that you can use mobile apps alongside traditional desktop apps to help you in the office and out.

Check your site stats while you’re away to make sure everything’s running smoothly, reference code when you’re testing without opening another browser, or simply make a quick sketch while you’re out to coffee to try when you’re back at work.

Mobile apps have the flexibility to help you multitask to achieve objectives faster than ever, and while some apps are helpful for minor tasks, more robust apps may surprise you.

Best Dev Apps for iOS and Android

With all of that being said, here are the top apps that developers should try out to improve their overall performance and productivity.

JavaScript Reference

JSreference

There are plenty of reference apps on the market, but JavaScript Reference is derived from the W3CSchool’s documentation and includes a clean, easy-to-use interface that will make it effortless to look up the code you need.

Android Find it here.

Google Analytics

GoogleAnalytics

If you’re already working with Google Analytics for your website, you’ll want to download the GA app. It gives you access to many of the details from your GA account in real time, and can keep you up to date on your SEO.

iOS Find it here.

Android Find it here.

WordPress

WordPress

Having quick access to your self-hosted WordPress site can be handy, especially if things have a tendency to go wrong at the last minute. With this app you can manage your site, view stats, moderate comments, create and edit posts and pages, and upload media.

iOS Find it here.

Android Find it here.

WebMaster’s HTML Editor

webmasterhtml

This Android HTML editor makes the perfect addition to your toolbox. It supports HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. While you can save some money with their free version, those looking for some additional features and function like full previews and code support should spring for the full version.

Android Find it here.

DroidEdit Pro

droideditpro

Another Android app, DroidEdit is a text and source code editor that lets you highlight syntax for several languages, search and replace, open files from a file manager, and more.

Android Find it here.

Espresso HTML

EspressoHTML

For the iPhone user, Espresso HTML is a simple HTML and JavaScript editor to help you test scripts and web pages on the fly. You can save your documents in the app and access them later via iTunes if needed.

iOS Find it here.

AndFTP

andftp

AndFTP is a FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP client that comes with both a device and FTP file browser. It allows you to download, upload, synchronize and share features, as well as open local and remote files, rename, delete, update permissions, and more.

Android Find it here.

View Source

ViewSource

View Source is an iOS app that comes with a Safari extension to help you view the source code for any web page. You can enter a URL and immediately see the code, highlight syntax, and copy and paste into any other app or program.

iOS Find it here.

ByWord

Byword1

ByWord is a writing app with Markdown for the iPhone that allows you to sync text documents, add footnotes, tables and references, and export Markdown documents to PDF or HTML.

iOS Find it here.

Harvest

harvest

While not specifically targeted to developers, Harvest is a powerful tracking app that helps you track time, log expenses, and manage and send invoices from anywhere. For developers who spend more time recording things than actually working on projects, this app is a must.

iOS Find it here.

Android Find it here.

Dropbox

Dropbox

The Dropbox mobile app is the same as the desktop app, giving you a safe space to backup, access, and share any files you need at any time. You can also send large files to anyone, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.

iOS Find it here.

Android Find it here.

Adobe Cloud Apps

adobecloud

For designers and developers alike, Adobe has a suite of mobile apps to help productivity, including Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Sketch, Photoshop Fix, Photoshop Mix, Lightroom, Comp CC, Preview CC, and more.

iOS & Android Find them here.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to brush up on your coding skills, make a quick project sketch, or you need to make updates to your site on the go, mobile apps are the perfect solution.

Remember that most apps come with a free or cheap version so that you can try it out before you fully commit. So, don’t be afraid to use mobile and tablet apps to aid your process during any project.

How to Handle Design Feedback Like a Pro

Possibly the scariest part of any designer or developer’s job is turning in your design to a client.

The trouble is that you never really know if your client is going to love it or hate it. Depending on the client, submitting a preview can mean plenty of additional hours spent reworking things to get them to up to expectations—and that’s never fun.

No one likes being told that their design choices are wrong. It can be difficult not to react in frustration to negative feedback, but how you handle yourself can mean the difference between successfully completing a project or losing a client for good.

So, how exactly do you handle feedback well?

You want to ask good questions, use every resource available, and try to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive. Here’s how.

Asking Questions That Clarify

shutterstock-190923107-web

The reality is that no designer really loves feedback. Ideally you want your clients to love your project and understand your genius from the moment they lay eyes on it.

Unfortunately, feedback is an integral part of being a designer, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. Not only does it help the client clarify and refine their desired outcomes, it also helps you become a better designer by letting you stretch your genius outside of your normal limits.

But, the ultimate goal is to get feedback that’s helpful towards both those ends, and one of the best ways to do that is to take charge of the feedback before it even comes your way. You can do this by providing a series of questions that your clients can respond to.

Some example questions could include:

  • Does this reach your target market in the way you imagined?
  • Does this feel “on brand” or “on message” for you?
  • Were you able to find all the information you were looking for?
  • Do you find the information or design valuable for your users?
  • How does this compare to your expectations?
  • What are some noticeable weaknesses? Strengths?
  • When you see this for the first time, what thoughts come to mind?
  • Would you recommend this [design/site/etc.] to others?

Not only do these questions help clients provide feedback that you can actually implement, but they also minimize comments and dialogue that aren’t helpful or that you can do nothing about.

Instead of simply asking for general or vague feedback or saying, “Let me know what you think”, try starting a conversation that will be productive for both parties involved, while giving you a little more control.

Using Preview/Prototype Tools

Since feedback can often take up a lot of time depending on the complexity of the design (or client) involved, using resources and tools to help minimize that effort will go a long way.

Using preview or prototype tools will help you move the conversation along, make the changes you need in real time, and also make you look extremely professional and put together.

You can either use these tools before a project begins knowing that you’ll have to share them with clients or team members, or you can use these tools to help you after you’ve already built the project and need a way to share and collaborate with minimal effort.

Here are a couple of the top preview tools to consider:

Red Pen – This app allows you to upload your current project, add notes, and share your preview URL via email to clients. There’s no need to log in, as it remembers your link so you can retain all ownership of your uploads.

http-_2F_2Fmashable.com_2Fwp-content_2Fuploads_2F2013_2F08_2FRedPen

Bounce – Bounce lets you collaborate between project members using screenshots or by uploading images. You can also make notes, add names to specific elements, and share your feedback through a URL or social media link.

If you need to build or share a website that will have interactive elements, you might want to consider:

Avocode – Avocode makes it easy for frontend developers to code websites or apps by syncing with your PSD files. You can leave notes for other team members, export, upload and share sites, and give specific feedback while visually comparing design versions.

og-hp

Flinto for Mac – This app lets you create prototypes for mobile as well as web and desktop apps, so if your client really wants to see what a mobile app would look like, you can build an example fairly quickly.

Adobe Experience Design CC – Adobe UX Design also lets you create prototypes for websites and mobile apps, with a preview feature that allows for live changes, as well as a sharing feature for quick feedback.

Turning Negative Into Positive

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Let’s say that you’ve done everything on your end to help create a positive experience—you’ve asked the right questions, you’ve provided the right sharing platform—but at the end of the day the client still isn’t happy. Does that mean doom for your project?

Negative feedback doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you say and do a couple important things:

Don’t take it personally. Remember that you did your best with the knowledge that you had, and now that you have more, you can make changes that are more in line with the client’s wishes.

Restate intentions. Sometimes things get lost in translation, so rephrase or restate what you think you’re hearing the client say so that everyone is on the same page. It can also be helpful to ask more questions or for suggestions they might have that can be easily applied to the project.

Do your research. If the client is asking for something that can’t be done, know about it before hand so you don’t say yes and then have to backtrack later. If you’re not sure about something, let them know you’ll discuss it with your team or look into it and get back to them as soon as possible.

Make a list of actionable items. Sometimes what a client wants just isn’t going to be a reality—you know that, but they might not. Give them a list of things you can change and explain to them as thoroughly as possible why some solutions just won’t work.

Provide alternatives. For those things that really can’t (or shouldn’t) be changed based on the feedback provided, offer one or two alternatives. Don’t simply ask the client for things they’d like to see instead, but present them with options so that they don’t ask for something else you can’t follow through on.

Respond promptly. There’s nothing that screams “unprofessional” like taking too long to reply to an email or missing a scheduled phone call or meeting. Do your best to provide responses quickly and assure them that they’re your priority.

Final Thoughts

While receiving feedback isn’t always the best part of the job, it can be a helpful experience for both you and your client if you’re able to handle it professionally.

One of the best things you can do is ask questions and constantly clarify things throughout the project so that your client can rest easy that you know what you’re doing.

Being sure to use any tools or resources that helps clients be a part of the decision-making process can also help foster a sense of loyalty as well as move the project along faster.

And should negative feedback still come your way, don’t panic. Keep asking questions, keep clarifying, and keep responding and your clients will thank you.

Here’s Why Your Opt-Ins are Unsubscribing (And How to Fix It)

Email marketing is a hugely valuable tool.

In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing brings in around $40 for every $1 you spend, making it one of the highest ROIs for any time of marketing out there.

It can be reasonably assumed that the whole point in capturing emails and having subscribers is to convert those emails into loyal customers who either buy your product or service or tell their friends to buy your product or service (or both).

list-segmentation-results

Even if you’re just running a blog or a content site, those emails are everything. So what happens if all of a sudden you’re not getting as many subscribers as you once did?

Or worse yet, what happens when people that have already subscribed start to opt-out of receiving your emails?

Here are a few of the most common reasons people are opting-out of your email lists, plus what you can do to stop that from happening.

They’re Not In a List

The biggest problem when it comes to opt-ins is not having opt-ins (or opt-outs) because all of your emails go to all of your subscribers.

Not having any form of segmentation is a one-way ticket to unsubscribers, but if you’re running your email campaigns yourself, it can be tricky to manage all of those lists. That’s where third-party email marketing services can help.

Where to Send Your Form Submissions

If you’re using WordPress, you can use plugins like MailPoet or Newsletter to create real email system that allow you to create newsletters, automated emails, post notifications and more directly from WordPress while allowing you to segment your lists (to some degree, anyway).

If you really want to segment your lists, you can use a email service like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber (etc.) and integrate them with your CMS of choice using Zapier to create targeted emails to certain lists.

Whichever method you choose isn’t really as important as having some plan in place for your emails once they’ve been submitted on your site.
They’re In the Wrong List

Once you’ve warmed up to the idea of segmenting your lists, then comes the hard part. You have to figure out exactly which emails belong in which list.

The whole point of segmentation is to provide relevant content to the recipients, so if someone opted in to get your monthly newsletter but you send them promotional emails about events instead, your likelihood of unsubscribing is high.

So how do you segment your lists for better results?

How to Segment Your List

Welcome emails should, for example, go to your new subscribers or users. But you can also send a version of a welcome email – either a “we miss you” or “are you still there?” email – to those who haven’t been actively opening your emails.

Keeping track of those lists may be a little trickier, but if you’re using a third-party email marketing service like MailChimp (or similar), they often keep track of those lists for you.

But there are other ways to segment your lists that you may not have considered, including:

  • Demographics – Age, gender, company, position, etc.
  • Sending frequency – Some people want emails more frequently than others
  • Location – Knowing something as simple as a location can help you gauge send times and even personalize subject lines for better open-rates
  • Weather Patterns – Skymosity is a company that can track weather patterns and create automated email campaigns that are deployed by weather-based email triggers, which can be helpful for certain industries (fitness gear, outdoor living, etc.)
  • Email activity – Some people stop opening emails after a certain point, which can be helpful to know in order to send a “we miss you” email to reactivate their interest

brooks_weather_segmentation

Source: Skymosity

There are many different ways to segment a list, but the most important part of that segmentation is not just getting them into a list, but also getting them the right content for that list to keep them engaged.
They’re Getting the Wrong Content

The average email user sends and receives around 105 emails per day, with 81% of those emails containing valid content (as in, not spam). This means that while sending out emails is a great way to capture your audience’s attention, it’s also ground zero for competition.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to people unsubscribing from your lists is that they’re simply being overwhelmed with content that doesn’t relate to them. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to fix that by targeting your content more dynamically.

Types of Content to Send to Each List

Newsletters often go out to anyone in your email list, but some do a good job of separating their newsletter lists from their general email lists, so only the people who want the newsletter actually get it. But you can take this a step further by actually creating targeted newsletters based on niche topics and segmenting your list further.

One way to implement this strategy is to include separate opt-in messages in your welcome email, also known as an opt-in bribe.

WelcomeEmailOptIns

Each link in your welcome email could lead to a different list so your subscribers are essentially telling you exactly what they want from your emails. Here are a few different types of content you can send to varying lists:

  • Welcome Email
  • Expectation Email
  • Tools and Resources Email
  • How-To Email
  • Getting to Know You Email
  • Unexpected Freebie Email
  • Exclusive Content Email
  • Basic Content Email
  • Archive Email
  • Curated Email
  • Newsletter
  • Buzz-Building Email
  • Testimonial Emails
  • Favorite Things Email

The truly important thing to remember is that the type of content you send out should reflect the list it’s being sent to. You wouldn’t send a welcome email to someone who’s been a subscriber for years.

Likewise, you shouldn’t send a newsletter to someone who just wants to know about events (unless your newsletter is all about your events).

Sometimes targeting certain content to different groups is a matter of trial and error, so it’s important to keep track of open-rates and watch your demographics (and other factors) closely to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to improving your conversion rates, there’s really no better tool than email marketing. But what you do with your content and your segmented lists makes all the difference between effective and ineffective marketing.

First, if you’re not segmenting your lists, get on it ASAP.

Second, once your lists are segmented, make sure that every email is where it’s suppose to be and every one who has opted in to your lists wants to be there.

Finally, make sure that the content you send to each list is relevant to the interests of those lists. If you’re not sure if it’s engaging enough, try targeting your email opt-in links in your welcome emails (or any email) to narrow down the field.

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.

Which CRM Works Best for Generating Leads?

CRM software is a marketer’s best friend.

Sure, email marketing is a great tool to generate new leads to bring in potential customers, but a CRM goes above and beyond, thanks in part to the R in its acronym – Relationships.

CRMs are designed to help you build relationships with potential (and current) customers, and do so by connecting someone from your team to each customer. When someone receives an email from your company, they’re slowly building rapport.

But not every piece of CRM software works the same way, and while they’re all designed to help you in your ultimate goal to understand and relate to your customers, each one will approach that goal differently. Some use certain methods for lead generation, which may be more effective for your company, while others may not actually help you all that much.

So how do you know which CRM is right for you? Well, first you have to identify the lead generation methods that will be the most effective for your company and your consumer base.

Best Methods for Lead Generation

business-relationship

When you boil it down, lead generation is all about relationships, but relationships between customers and businesses don’t always happen naturally. Visitors need to be pointed to information (or team members) that can help turn them into customers.

But what exactly is the best way to do that? There are a few different approaches that may work, depending on your industry and customer base.

  1. Relationship building through regular emails. Email marketing is no doubt a highly effective tool, and many customers love (or at least tolerate) receiving emails from companies on a daily or weekly basis, whether it be links to articles and blogs or specific promotions or discounts.
  1. A hard sell via a member from a sales team. This can happen through emails, phone calls, chats, or really any method of communication, but the purpose is to connect each customer with a real live member of the team to answer their questions and help them move from visitor to customer.
  1. A tailored marketing experience through varied channels. This includes tracking the visitor or customer’s interactions while they’re on your site, gathering personal information about their interests and disinterests, and implementing marketing strategies to target their “wish list.” For example, Google Ads reads your browsers cookies, so they know what you’ve been searching for on sites like Amazon and Facebook and can target ads specifically to your searches.

So how do CRMs fit into this? Again, while each CRM will help you generate leads, each has a different function best designed for one or more of these approaches.

What to Look for in a CRM

Generally speaking, there are three types of CRMs: ones that work conversationally, ones that focus on leads and deals, and those that utilize contacts.

  1. A conversational CRM is centered on interactions between your customers and your business, and will group different interactions by categories so you can see exactly what your customers are doing, or where you need to follow up. It essentially helps you keep in contact with the customers that matter most to you.
  2. A leads and deals CRM – often the most common form – tracks potential customer leads and adds information as you work to convince those leads to become “deals.” These CRMS help you trace visitors from their first interactions until they become full-fledged customers. These CRMs are most utilized by sales teams.
  3. A contacts-based CRM is similar to a conversational CRM in that it helps you interact with customers, but this type focuses more on remembering important information about a customer – like birthdays, current company position, etc. – in order to help you send promotions that might relate to them. In some ways, it’s the best of the other types and can be used for both sales generation and building relationships. That is, as long as you have a process in place for targeted promotions.

The key to using a CRM is to make sure it’s genuinely productive for your team, and not a burden to those using it. When you’re looking to select a CRM, it’s best to know the method most likely to help visitors turn into customers, and also which CRM type fits best with that method.

CRM Top Picks for Leads

Once you’ve matched the method with the type, you’ll then need to choose a specific CRM software, which will be dependent on factors like overall cost and ease of use for your team. Let’s take a look at a couple of the top CRMs in each category. Keep in mind that some of these may cross categories, and that’s okay!

Conversational
salesforceiqcrm

SalesforceIQ – Salesforce has a unique user interface, making it stand out a little from the crowd. Rather than including customized database fields, it focuses almost entirely on conversations. Your team adds your email accounts, selects the conversations you’d like to hear about, and then works on them collaboratively to help accomplish tasks. It will also pull conversations from all of your contacts, so you’ll have an overview of the whole company’s relationships. It’s priced at $69 per user per month.

Streak – This CRM uses your email along with a few powerful Gmail features to help share conversations with your colleagues. It organizes your messages into a pipeline, adds notes to conversations, and is fully customizable. There’s also a notification tool to remind you to send emails to customers, too. It’s free for up to five users, with each additional user priced at $19 per user per month.

Lead Generation

hubspotcrm

HubSpot CRM – HubSpot CRM is known for being an automation tool, and you can either use it alongside other marketing tools or on its own. It allows you to add contact’s names and emails, and it will search out any relevant information to include based on those data fields. One of the biggest benefits is its flexibility, as it allows you to drag and drop fields and rearrange lists as needed. The best news? It’s free (though Premium features through HubSpot marketing suite may cost a little extra).

Zoho CRM – This CRM is fairly robust. You can capture leads from Facebook pages, automate workflows into a sales funnel, and integrate it with other marketing tools. It also allows you to merge mail documents from your contacts, start a video conference, and more. It’s free for up to three users, with each additional user priced at $12 per user per month.

Contacts

highrisecrm

Highrise – Similar to the project management app Basecamp, Highrise helps you gather as much information about your contacts as possible, allowing you to track deals in progress as well. The best part is that it’s relatively inexpensive, and dare we say free. You can include up to two users at no charge, and it only costs $4 for each additional user (after two) per month.

Insightly – This software uses a similar interface to Gmail, and also features excellent integration with Google apps. One of its primary features is to find your contact’s social network profiles and show it alongside additional information gathered from your team. There are also interfaces for task management and advanced reporting. It’s free for up to three users, with each additional user coming in at $9 per user per month.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a CRM is about helping you build the right type of relationships with your customers. If they’re the sort who love social media interaction and want to connect with real people on your team if they have questions, a conversational or lead generating CRM like SalesforceIQ or Zoho will do the trick.

If they really just want to be able to contact you and have you contact them (with important birthday discounts, of course) then a contact CRM like Highrise will work well enough.

Just be sure that the CRM fits your team’s working style, as some have different layouts and workflows. You may want to try out a few of the free ones before committing to get a better idea of which one works best for you.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Autoresponders

Businesses send emails to their users on a daily basis. It’s simply the way of life in the digital age. But most email marketers aren’t taking full advantage when it comes to using emails to generate leads.

Marketing expert Chris Hexton of Vero says, “About 75% of businesses are missing out on the email marketing sweet spot.” He notes that while newsletters have an open rate around 20%, transactional emails – or trigger-based welcome emails – have an open rate of around 50% and are over 100% more effective when it comes to open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.

So how do you take advantage of this sweet spot, exactly? You use autoresponders, of course.

What Are They and What Can They Do?

An autoresponder is a sequence of trigger-based emails sent to subscribers at different predetermined intervals. There are typically a few different creative ways to use an autoresponder to generate leads or promote your products or services. These can include (but are not limited to):

  1. Mini-Course or Welcome Course – This is a series of emails that teach your subscribers about a certain aspect of your industry or more about your specific product or service.
  2. Paid Course – Similar to the mini-course, this is a more in-depth series that informs subscribers about a technical aspect of your industry, product or service.
  3. Content Promotion – This is a series of emails that introduce subscribers to important content you’ve already produced or are currently producing on your blog or media channels.
  4. Affiliate Promotions – This is a way to promote affiliate products and promotions, and can be helpful for cross-promoting and upselling your own content, product, or services as well.
  5. Demos and Social Proof – This is a series of emails that help your current subscribers see the benefits of your product or service on an ongoing basis.
  6. Newsletters – This is another source of automated content that can inform or educate your subscribers in addition to a blog or mini-course.

What’s nice about autoresponders is that you can take your audience through a sequence of emails without doing any work, since you’ve already written the emails beforehand. As you can tell, there are plenty of creative uses for autoresponders, depending on your audience and needs.

But which type (or types) of autoresponders will work best for your business? Well, that will depend on the benefits you want to get out of them.

How to Choose the Right Autoresponder Type

The main goal of an autoresponder is to move users deeper into your sales funnel. But before you create a single email, you have to understand your end goal.

If you simply want to sell products or services, you’ll probably have a different approach to autoresponders than someone who wants to create brand loyalty or be seen as experts.

Do you want to sell a product or a service? A welcome course, an affiliate course, or a series of demos and social proof may be your best option to help newcomers understand the benefits of using your business.

Do you want to establish a long-term relationship? Consider creating a content series for blog posts or establishing a great mini-course that helps subscribers stay connected to your business.

Do you want to be seen as an industry authority? Consider doing a paid course including valuable industry information to show off your expert status.

If you want to do all three, you certainly can. There’s really no limit to the ways you can use autoresponders. The only thing stopping you is, you know, actually creating them.

So how do you quickly and easily create your autoresponder series without spending too much time and energy? Well, here’s what you need to know.

Quickly Create Effective Autoresponders

There are plenty of email marketing companies out there that will more than happily help you create your autoresponders, such as MailChimp, AWeber, Active Campaign, and more. But even if you have a marketing company doing the actual sending, you’ll still need to actually create the autoresponder content and design.

Here are a few tips and tricks to creating effective autoresponders in no time.

Start With a Strong Editorial Calendar

Having an outline of your course and/or a well thought-out editorial calendar is the key to success. Start by planning how many autoresponder emails you want in your series (three to six emails is a good guideline) and then create an outline of each email including subject lines and descriptions.

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AWeber provides several editorial calendar templates and outlines you can use to help you through the process, or if you really want most of the work done for you, check out Dusti Arab’s six-week autoresponder template.

Set a Balanced Schedule

You’ll want to set a schedule for your autoresponders that is both effective (as in, there’s enough emails being sent to actually get a high click-through rate) without being overwhelming for your subscribers.

Mini-courses and welcome courses are often sent on consecutive days over the course of a week, or sometimes once a week for a certain period of time (usually no more than six weeks).

Other types of autoresponders can be tailored to the needs of your audience, but generally speaking, once or twice per week or once per month is probably enough for most people. Just be sure to track your open rates and unsubscribe numbers to ensure that your audience isn’t overloaded.

Choose the Right Subject Lines

The subject lines of your emails are extremely important when it comes to open rates, so you’ll want to start by coming up with some good ones. The folks over at Creative Live have some tips, including:

  1. Make a Promise: “You’ll Double Your Blog Readership with These 10 Tips.”
  2. Highlight a Benefit: “Learn to Write a Headline Your Twitter Followers Actually Click.”
  3. Appeal to Your Reader’s Emotions: “Why I Gave Up Thousands of Blog Readers and Started Over.”
  4. Appeal to Your Reader’s Curiosity: “The Reason No One Comments on Your Blog Posts.”

Develop Great Content

If you already have blog content, half of your work is done for you. But if you’re starting from scratch – and you’re not a writer (or nobody in your business is a writer) – consider hiring a professional copywriter to produce materials for you. Nothing says, “We don’t know what we’re doing” like poorly written copy, so make sure the words you put out there reflect the high standards of your business.

But if you do plan on doing it yourself, Nathalie Lussier over at Ambitionally has a helpful content walkthrough for creating an effective series.

Include Social Proof and Credibility

Your audience wants to know that the information they receive from you is coming from experts and not amateurs. The key to an effective autoresponder is to include some type of social proof, like a testimony or personal story in every email to keep your audience connected to your business on a personal level.

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Optinmonster has some suggestions for choosing the most effective social proof.

Make Your Designs “Pop”

While your content is the star of the show, you don’t want to have people ignore your fabulous content because the email itself is ugly and hard to read. Jason Amunwa over at Digital Telepathy has some suggestions for developing beautifully designed HTML emails, including how to deal with certain types of images, text, and calls to action. Litmus also has some great tips, including utilizing a mobile-friendly layout and more.

Segment Your Email Lists

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re not sending your autoresponders to everyone on your subscribers list. Your goal should be to break up your email lists to target audiences that would most benefit from your content. Why? Well, according to Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.
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Having segmented email lists also means you can send out as many types of autoresponders as you want, essentially ensuring that your whole audience is moving down your sales funnel with minimal effort on your part. And if you’re looking to save as much time and energy as possible, minimal effort is a beautiful thing.

How to Deal with Clients That Aren’t Designers (But Think They Are)

Look, you’ve spent years honing your craft, learning the tricks of the trade, and working hard to set yourself apart from the competition and make a name for yourself as a real expert in your field.

That’s why it can be particularly frustrating to encounter a client that doesn’t see you that way – or, at the very least, thinks they can do what you can do without half the training or talent.

Sure, they appreciate your portfolio and they know what you have to offer is probably better than what they can do. Yet whenever you send your designs for approval, they always have something to tweak. There are always one or two things they want done differently.

That’s when you politely remind them that there’s a reason for everything you’ve done, and changing it would significantly impact the work as a whole.

But what happens if they insist that you make changes, even though you know those changes will ruin your work?

Well, there’s good news and bad news…

The Good News: You’re the Expert

There’s a reason they hired you, and it’s because you know what you’re doing. The trick is convincing them that you see a perspective they might have missed.

Be Prepared

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Source: BoredPanda

Make sure that every time you present your work, you’re fully prepared. Common issues that come up with design work in particular include logo sizes, choice of fonts (anything but Comic Sans, please), and content location.

The best thing you can do is to have a solid explanation for why you chose the size/font/placement that you did, and include those reasons when you submit your work. Sending a file without context is simply begging for unwanted commentary.

Don’t forget that designs get passed around too, and clients may not always include your explanation when they share your proposals with others. Be ready to rehash your reasoning as many times as possible, if necessary. Yes, it’s annoying, but it may save you from having a major headache later on in the process.

Choose Your Battles

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Source: Smashing Magazine

Remember, when it comes to their business, your clients are just as protective of their creative vision as you are of yours. Your clients are not the enemy. They’re coming to you because you know what you’re doing, so you want to make sure you present yourself as an expert without belittling their approach.

If changes they suggest aren’t absolutely vital to your design aesthetics or aren’t time consuming to make, you can let your clients win. If, however, you find yourself fighting the urge to vomit when you think about tweaking your design, stick to your guns.

Act Like An Expert (But Not A Jerk)

Sometimes “sticking to your guns” will mean telling the client that their ideas are terrible, which may or may not go over so well depending on the client. But there are a few ways you can frame the conversation so that you both walk away winners.

#1. Reframe their concerns to solve a problem. Every client has an underlying reason they want a project done a certain way; maybe they have a specific audience or goal in mind. Assure them you really are acting in the best interests. Let them know that you were really listening during their proposal, you’ve done some research of your own, and according to that research, your approach may actually improve their desired results. If you really want to go the extra mile, have some studies on hand that back it up.

#2. Make sure to include them in the process. You’re an expert in your field, but they’re also experts in their respective fields. If they have certain colors they want to use or content they want to include, do your best to incorporate what they want it in ways that work for you too. Again, if something they suggest is just too far out there and you simply can’t make it work with the current project, suggest another project or solution and help them understand why it won’t work with the current design.

#3. Use the right language for the right situation. Telling your clients that they’re terrible people is a lot different than suggesting that a design strategy may not work as well as they’d hoped. But it’s incredibly easy for frustration to turn an innocent suggestion into an actual insult. Remember that words can start wars as easily as they can solve problems, so choose your words carefully. (Mike Michalowicz over at Amex’s OPEN Forum wrote a great article about using the right language with difficult clients.)

The Bad News: The Client Is “Always Right”

Of course, at the end of the day, what really matters is what the client wants. As much as you’re an expert and a highly valuable member of the team, they’re the ones writing the checks, so what they say, goes.

But what happens if you just can’t come to a feasible solution that works for both you and the client? Well, you may either have to do a little conflict resolution, or you may have to straight up dump them as a client.

Handle Conflict Like a Pro

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Source: Millo

The absolute best thing you can do is to remain as professional as possible. No matter what, keep your cool.

Let’s say the worst has happened and you’ve done hours of work only to have the client reject everything and ask you to start over. Maybe you’re even willing to do so, but when you tell them how much a new design will cost, they freak out. The last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire by blaming others or being rude.

Listen to what they have to say, admit any faults from your end, offer any alternative solutions you see, use positive language, and if things get really heated, walk away.

Not only will keeping calm potentially save your relationship with the client (should you choose to continue working with them) but you’ll also save your reputation in the industry over the long haul.

Make Your “Dear John” Sweet But Swift

Of course, having a high level of professionalism on your end doesn’t mean that the client will respond with the same attitude.

Sometimes clients will come to you because you’re just another creative type who can get things done, and not because you specifically have skills they want. If you can’t do what they want, they might throw a fit or – worst case scenario, decide to withhold payment or otherwise make your working relationship a living nightmare.

If things just aren’t working out the way you’d like, you always have the option of walking away. Here’s what to keep in mind while doing so:

#1. Finish any work related to your written contract or verbal agreement. The last thing you want is to get sued by a vindictive client who paid you money to do a project you didn’t finish (at least finish from their perspective). Make sure that you’ve fulfilled any obligations that you signed up for, or that you have an escape clause in the contract that you signed before you start working with them (an ounce of prevention…).

#2. Set a firm “leave by” date and stick to it. Let your clients know that you’ll be moving on and that they can expect to receive any remaining files from you by a certain date.

#3. Try not to burn a bridge (if at all possible). If you can, include a few positive statements in your “Dear John” email about why you liked working with them and let them know that you’re available for other work in the future (if you’re open to that, obviously). Remember that referrals are a great source of business, so if you can salvage the relationship professionally, do so.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with clients can be tricky, especially when they feel like they can do your job as well as you can. But remember that you’re the expert and you know what you’re doing, and they’re coming to you for your design prowess.

If the time comes where you need to convince a client that your way is best, remember to backup any suggestions with resources, use positive language, offer alternative solutions, and try to incorporate their ideas as much as possible (without sacrificing your time and talent, of course).

If things just aren’t working out and you simply need to move on, be professional, be quick, and don’t burn a bridge unless absolutely necessary.

Why You Might Want to Ditch Your CMS If You Have THIS Client

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: “Can you build me a website?”

If you’re a web developer or designer, at some point in your career you’ve probably been asked to build someone a website, whether it’s a high-paying client or your mom’s neighbor from down the street. If you can build it, they will come.

The go-to solution to building said website is usually to choose whichever CMS you’re most comfortable with – WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. – and start building from there. After all, that’s what CMS is designed for: building websites with ease.

But, depending on whom you’re building the site for, a CMS may not actually be the best choice. In fact, depending on the client’s needs, you may want to consider building a static site instead.

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SSG vs. CMS

CMS platforms, like WordPress and Joomla, are popular for a reason: they’re multi-media friendly, SEO-friendly, and most importantly, contributor-friendly, at least for the non-technical folks out there.

But, static sites have many benefits that a CMS can’t offer, especially for devs and designers, like lower development costs, simpler hosting, greater security and markdown support.

The best part about static sites is that you can use a static site generator, such as Jekyll, to help you manage your site – which is similar to using a CMS but with more access to the code – but you can also build a static site on your own using a handful of HTML files, too. This, along with the other benefits, makes static sites a great alternative to using a CMS, especially for devs and designers.

Static sites may also be helpful for certain clients, too, depending on their needs…

Which Client for Which Method?

At the end of the day, building a website isn’t really about what you want, it’s about what the client wants. Unfortunately, clients don’t always know what they want, or sometimes what they want isn’t the best option. That’s why it’s important to know which clients might benefit most from a static site and which should probably stick to using CMS sites.

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Clients that Benefit from Static Sites

Here are the types of clients that should probably let you build a static site for them:

They’ve put you in charge. If they want nothing to do with the website and are more than happy to pass off the management to you, then you might want to consider creating a static site. If they’re not messing around with the code, you might as well have full control. Nothing lets you do what you want easier than a static site, because you can hand-write anything you need directly into the text editor quickly and easily.

They don’t plan on updating the site often. Maybe they’re just using their website as a virtual business card, or they don’t have content that frequently changes. If this is the case, using a full blown CMS to build a simple, unchanging is a waste of time and energy. A static site will give them everything they need with less hassle on your end, especially if you do decide to use a generator.

They’re bloggers who know what they’re doing. Static sites are great for bloggers, even if the CMS (cough – WordPress – cough) holds a fair share of the blogging market when it comes to advertising. Static sites have less security issues and generally load much faster than CMS blogs, which makes them great for traffic. The only caveat is that the blogger must know how to work in a SSG, or at the very least know how to pass things off to you to get posted.

They’re have a limited budget. If they don’t have the money to spend on developing a fully hosted, fully CMS powered site, then a static site is seriously the best bet for saving them money. That also means that more of their money is going to you and not the CMS.

If your clients fall into any of these categories, consider switching them from a CMS to a static site and save yourself some hassle.

Clients that Benefit from CMS Sites

Of course, not all of your clients will fall into those categories, which means that you might want to stick with a CMS – or at the very least use a static site generator instead of hand-coding – if your client is like this:

They’re bloggers who don’t know what they’re doing. While there’s a big case for using static sites over CMS for blogging purposes, most bloggers are not expert-level developers and designers like you. If they want you to build the site but they plan on managing it afterwards, a CMS may be a better option since it gives non-technical people the upper hand.

They need a large site or blog with frequent updates. If the blog or website is large – like enterprise level with many pages and complex site structures – then a CMS will save you more time than having to code a static site. Plus, if you have to be in it making changes every day, you don’t want to dig around code, because there are CMS plugins for that.

They have a need for dynamic applications. If they really, really want “cool” features on their website like Disqus for comments or specialty plugins for different functionality, there’s probably no way to get around using a CMS.

They have the money, but not the time frame. Building a website is always going to be expensive (for a good website, anyway), and if they want something good, they should be able to pay for it. If budget is of no concern but they need a quick turnaround on a big site, then a CMS is probably a better option.

If your client falls into these categories, your best solution is probably to stick with a CMS, since they tend to be easier on non-devs and designers.

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How to Suggest Static Sites to CMS Clients

So what happens if you’ve figured out that a static site will benefit your client more than a CMS, but your client absolutely insists on using something like WordPress, because it’s all they know? What’s the best way to suggest an alternate option?

Reassure the client that you’re after the same goal. They know their objectives better than you do, so make sure to listen and ask plenty of questions first before you start giving your opinion.

Speak like an expert. They’ve come to you for your expertise; don’t be afraid to speak with expert authority. Tell them that you’ve assessed their situation and their goals and you feel the best solution might be to use a static site. If they’re not sure what a static site is, explain it to them the best you can in non-technical terminology.

Present the benefits. People want solutions that help them move forward, so instead of arguing about why a static site is better than a CMS, tell them what makes static sites so great and how those solutions will help them achieve what they want. Especially tell them if using a static site will save them time and money.

Have a plan in place for building the site. People can be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true, so if you’re going to suggest a switch for their website, show them that you’ve really thought it through. Have a plan written down for timeframe, needs, requirements, and options for SSGs should they choose to use one. Show evidence of other static sites you’ve built with success, if possible.

Be professional. Above all, don’t start arguing with the client. Even if they know less than you about static sites, they’re still the ones in charge. If they decide to use a CMS, just work with it or point them to another dev or designer who can help.

12 Pre-Fill Tools You Can Use to Improve Form Conversions

If you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time, you’ve probably filled out a form.

It’s inevitable. Forms are everywhere – from online shopping, subscribing to blogs, and even logging in to your favorite sites. And if you’ve spent any amount of time filling out a form, you know that they are seriously tedious.

But that’s where you – the developer and/or designer extraordinaire – come in. Your job is not only to make those forms functional, but also to get users to actually want to fill them out.

One of the best ways to do that is by making forms as fast to finish as possible. Enter scene: pre-fill.

Also called autofill, this tool allows user information to be automatically populated on your form, so that users don’t have to waste time filling in standard details like name, email, or home address.

Pre-fill can also store more sensitive data like credit card information for quick checkout using e-commerce forms. While this can pose some inherent security risks, some users still prefer to have information at the ready for forms and other data-heavy processes.

Whether pre-fill is used simply for remembering names and emails or more complex personal data, it’s still a great way to help users have a little fun amidst the tedium.

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Pre-Fill and Conversions

Of course, more importantly than fun, pre-fill tools are also good for conversion rates.

Studies show that up to 86% of users will leave a page instantly when they’re required to fill out a form. Part of the reason for such a high number of abandonment is energy preservation; simply put, users don’t want to spent copious amounts of time filling out forms.

One study actually tested the effects of pre-fill on social media forms and found that conversions increased by 200% when businesses allowed forms to be autocompleted.

Basically, the less you ask users to do, the more inclined they’ll be to fill out your form.

Pros and Cons of Pre-Fill

However, as we mentioned earlier, all of that hassle-free, conversion-boosting fun doesn’t come without its own set of risks. Here are a few pros and cons of using pre-fill features in your forms.

Pro: Browsers can be programmed to store information for quickest time filling out forms, which can improve conversion rates.

Con: Some browsers can be buggy, and often put the wrong data in the wrong fields. When that happens, users have to perform an extra step to delete the wrong data in order to put in the correct data. If you thought an 86% abandonment rate was bad before, then you’ll definitely want to run multi-browser testing before implementing pre-fill.

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Pro: Pre-fill can save passwords for quick login, saving time having to fill in form data every time a frequent user returns to your site.

Con: Pre-fill saves passwords, making them less protected (unless users have tools like LastPass).

Pro: Address validation can be a big plus for forms with pre-fill enabled, like e-commerce sites (think Amazon). This is especially helpful for users who might not remember their postcodes, because the validation tools fill those fields in automatically. Other features like geolocation can be helpful both for e-commerce and other sites that require a location.

Con: Address validation might be buggy and input the wrong information (see above).

Pro: Search engines often use pre-fill to allow users to select the most popular searches, and shoppers who use internal search are six times more likely to convert.

Con: The quality of search results affects a searcher’s ability to find what they want, so unless the pre-fill does a great job of finding results, it most likely will have minimal effect on search.

There are many different ways to apply pre-fill to forms to achieve the desired effect, but the biggest concerns to watch out for include safety concerns for saved passwords and buggy browsers that input the wrong data. So if you’re going to use pre-fill, make sure you’ve tested on multiple browsers and that you have a protection system in place for keeping passwords secure.

Another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to pre-fill tools is that they aren’t naturally accessible for many users, especially those using mobile or older browsers that don’t have extensions to help autocomplete their forms.

Pre-Fill Tools

But let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why you’re actually here. If and when you do decide that there are more pros for your users than cons, here are a few ways you can incorporate pre-fill tools into your forms.

HTML Form Autocomplete

This pre-fill attribute can be incorporated into your form’s code to trigger a browser’s natural autocomplete function. Just make sure to do some extensive cross-browser testing to ensure your forms work across multiple platforms.

Form Filler

This is an extension for Chrome that lets you fill in forms with dummy data. While not useful to your users, it will help developers test form functions and pre-fill features without having to go live first.

Form Auto-Completion Tool

GitHub has another tool for inputting dummy data quickly for testing purposes. According to the website, you can run this simple JS code by using Scratchpad or in a console.

Google Developer’s Autofill

This site will help developers implement Google’s Autofill add on for Chrome. It has a set of autocomplete attributes to help control how the browser will populate data for your users. They also have an autofill feature for Firefox, too.

Other Chrome Pre-Fill Add-Ons

Besides Google’s Autofill extension, there are several other browser add-ons you can use that are designed specifically for Chrome:

Final Thoughts

Pre-fill tools can be a great feature to add to forms in order to help users actually fill them out. Some of the places they can be particularly helpful include e-commerce forms or those that require a user to constantly login, like social media or membership sites.

One of the primary concerns surrounding pre-fill is the need for security, so you’ll want to make sure any browser extensions are encrypted and that passwords are stored securely using appropriate password management software.

You’ll also want to test any pre-fill forms in multiple browsers to prevent bugs, but you can use tools like Form Filler to populate dummy information for easy testing.

But don’t forget that pre-fill has the potential to significantly increase conversions and help users follow through on registering for accounts, events, and more.

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).