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A Comprehensive Review of WooCommerce

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A Review of WooCommerce

Ecommerce is something most of us do on a regular basis. Ecommerce is the term used to describe all of the commercial transactions conducted electronically or over the Internet, allowing us to buy everything from medicine and shoes to cars and antiques. It is a word familiar to most of us, even if we don’t often use it. Rather than saying you are doing a bit of ecommerce, you might say you shop online, and according to the statistics most of us do a lot of ecommerce!

Ecommerce Is the Way of Business Today and in the Future

After all, according to Statista, the amount of ecommerce sales worldwide in 2015 was $1,471 billion (http://www.statista.com/topics/871/online-shopping/). In the U.S. alone, there were more than 200 million digital shoppers. Clearly, ecommerce is a preferred way of getting the many things we want or need, but if you want to get in on the world of online shopping to sell products or services, it can feel overwhelming.

Why? The volume of online retailers has created an equal volume of resources for making online sales. Electronic storefronts, inventory managing software, dropshipping services, website designers…these are all issues that might get in the way of opening your own simple and profitable digital storefront. As one web sales expert warned:

If you’re considering launching an online store, you’ll be presented with many software options for building out your storefront. These choices, while initially feeling like a windfall, can quickly feel overwhelming due to the multitude of ecommerce options available.

(https://www.web-savvy-marketing.com/2016/04/what-is-woocommerce/)

Additionally, many of us hoping to enter the world of ecommerce as storeowners don’t have a lot of technical know-how, or massive budgets to get a store up and running. This leaves many in need of a low cost, or free, solution that can also address some very serious problems.

The Major Challenges to Basic and Easy Ecommerce

What sort of problems does the startup ecommerce business face? In terms of the actual storefront and website, you will discover it can begin to feel far outside of your capabilities.

For example, your ecommerce solution needs to provide a friendly user experience for your shoppers that makes them want to return. On the other hand, it is often far outside of most budgets to hire a “User Experience Designer”.

You need an affordable solution, but one that can be customized to indicate your brand, style, and overall message. The ability to customize a store, however, typically involves complex coding, or hiring a costly expert to tackle it for you.

Security is another issue, and no storeowner can ever afford any breaches, risks, or threats. Uptime is part of this issue, and you face the loss of return customers when you have to announce security breaches or they arrive at your site to see it is temporarily disabled. In fact, almost all online shoppers never return to a site if they receive an error message at the home page.

Lastly, you need to have access to analytical tools that document every possible statistic – including traffic and conversions as well as inventory and sales. However, many of us are unable to use even the free analysis tools, like those at Google, simply because we are not sure just what they tell us.

What to do about all of these needs and problems? That is actually easier to answer than many realize, and the solution can be found in a single, unusual word: WooCommerce.

What Is WooCommerce?

In a nutshell, WooCommerce is meant to enable anyone to quickly and easily begin to sell services or products through their WordPress powered site. Whether a blog or website, this plugin helps you to create your basic online store, allowing you to offer physical, digital, affiliate, renewable membership products, and more.

It is free, and uses open source code, meaning developers can, and do, introduce new features all of the time. It is one of the most user-friendly options because it has been designed to enable site owners to sell a range of goods, categorize products, design appealing pages easily, and even monitor customer activities. At the user-end, the WooCommerce plugin enables clients to look at their past orders, check on current orders, and make it easy and safe to shop.

Currently, it has been downloaded more than thirteen million times, and is behind roughly 37% of all of the online stores on the Internet. Using this “functional extension” along with your WordPress site and a WooCommerce friendly storefront (also known as a compatible WordPress theme), you can easily handle product management, a shopping cart function, and order processing. It also enables you to deal with taxes, it keeps all of your data in your hands, and comes with support for mobile device and offers easy scalability to grow with each of your business successes.

But just what is it? It was actually built specifically for WordPress. Currently, 51% of the top one million websites on the Internet are powered by WordPress, and this is why WooCommerce is such a smart choice. It integrates instantly with your WordPress pages and as one expert said:

WooCommerce users can build a fully functioning store within a professional website, alongside an integrated blog. All of these dimensions of a business’ online presence are harnessed in one place, and presented together seamlessly, and it’s all thanks to WooCommerce being a WordPress based platform.

(https://www.cmscritic.com/10-reasons-why-woocommerce-is-perfect-for-ecommerce-startups/#)

Is It Easy to Setup?

As you read above, you need your WordPress powered site or blog, the WooCommerce plugin, and a WooCommerce compatible WordPress theme. Because you may be unfamiliar with these things, let’s take just a moment to understand them, and see how easy it is to get an online store up and running thanks to WooCommerce.

WordPress can be installed in less than five minutes, but before this is possible, you need:

  • A website hosting company that gives you space for your site.
  • Your domain name or URL.

The top hosting companies can actually help you with the URL, and many have a one-click WordPress installation feature too. Once you get your account setup and purchased, you can use the host’s dashboard to do the instant WordPress install.

Once this is done, and you are looking at your WordPress dashboard, you can install WooCommerce. You can access it directly from WordPress, just like all of the WordPress plugins. And once the download is done, it then walks you through the setup, taking you through various points, like:

  • Page setup (where you load products)
  • Store locale
  • Shipping & tax
  • Payments

When you install the plugin, the first thing to do is follow the guide that walks you through the key settings. This allows you to enter all of the relevant details, but you will come back later to tackle things like products, payments and any other settings of importance. In fact, these may be ongoing tasks rather than setup only.

Before you can dig into setting up the store, you need to have a WooCommerce powered theme. This is actually the most important part because it is what all of your shoppers see and interact with, so take your time to choose one that is both WooCommerce compatible, but also a good fit to your products or service.

You can get themes directly from the WooCommerce themes page and in many other spots on the Internet. Keep in mind that the theme is not just for the sales pages but for your whole site, so it is key that you choose a design that really works for you and your products. WooCommerce makes selling online easier, but it cannot overcome a poorly designed or mismatched site.

Once you choose your theme, you just install it to your site and you can then go ahead and setup all of the features.

What are the Features of WooCommerce?

There are “core” and “extensions” features in WooCommerce. The core features include:

  • Mobile friendliness – WooCommerce is designed to enable your storefront to look and function as good on a mobile device as a computer. It is even possible to convert a store into a mobile app with some of their third-party tools.
  • Checkout controls – You can allow guest checkouts or disable this feature to gather data and ensure security. You can also block out buyers from specific locations and even determine the URLs handling different parts of the checkout process.
  • CRM – From the control of how customers register (including passwords and accounts), to refunds, product variables, and more, you will find almost everything you need to manage CRM.
  • Selling options – You can sell real products, but this plugin also facilitates your sales of digital downloads or subscriptions, content, and even services or time. As WooCommerce itself says, “simple product, grouped product, external/affiliate product, variable product and virtual/downloadable product” types are available.
  • Inventory management – Track levels, hold stock, hide stock that is out of stock, get notices about low inventory, and more.
  • Analytics – Reporting on sales and refunds, monitoring traffic, and orders, and exploring product performance are built into the plugin.
  • Pre-installed payment options – There are several pre-installed payment gateways that you can choose by simply dragging and dropping them as you arrange your site. They include direct bank transfers, check payments, credit cards via PayPal or Simplify Commerce, and even cash on delivery.
  • Scalability – As your business grows, it is amazingly easy to scale your WooCommerce features. You can sell one item this week and one thousand the next, and enjoy ease of use thanks to the design of the plugin.
  • Automated features – Geo location enables the plugin to auto-detect buyer’s addresses, ensuring accurate shipping and tax calculation. There is the default currency setting as well, and automated taxes that adjust to a buyer’s location are among the automated features.
  • Cart controls – Prevent reloading of pages each time something is added to the shopping cart, and choose whether to redirect to the cart page when something is added.
  • Security – We already considered how important this is, and WooCommerce is audited by the industry’s leading security firm, ensuring that coding standards are up to date and that there are no risks in the use of the tool.
  • Customer support – The WooCommerce help desk is available at all times, and has videos, ticketing for follow up, and full documentation available to cover all topics as well. Setup, Third-Party plugins, SSL and HTTPS, Cookies, and all of the other important topics are addressed in full documentation, and customer support is always there to help.
  • Shipping – One thing that WooCommerce is praised for is the way it makes shipping better and easier. You can use shipping calculations, offer flexible shipping destinations, and provide a range of options.
  • Marketing and SEO – Sadly, online selling is not like the famous “Field of Dreams”. You can build the store, but it doesn’t mean they will come. This is a reason that the marketing tools in WooCommerce are so helpful. It comes with features like SEO, product reviews, discount codes and other promotional features. Extensions can really boost this area, though, and should be used.

Although the core features are more than enough for anyone’s long-term needs and success, the Add-ons and Extensions really enhance the product.

What are the Add-ons and Extensions for WooCommerce?

In terms of WooCommerce Extensions, there are hundreds of free and fee-based options. They are available to enhance your store or grow your business. For example, some of the current “popular” and “staff favorites” include:

  • The free PayPal Powered by Braintree extension that enables you to accept credit and debit cards.
  • WooCommerce Bookings that is a fee-based extension enabling you to sell your time or create bookings. This is a solution for those who use appointments or offer services and/or rentals.
  • Product Add-Ons is a fee-based extension that allows buyers to customize products through the input boxes, dropdowns, checkboxes or other tools that you create.
  • WooSubscriptions is also fee-based, but allows you to create and manage any of your products that use a recurring payment option.

You can also use extensions like Amazon Payments to enable clients another payment option, a USPS API that gets shipping rates and handles parcels, and an Order/Customer CSV Export that enables you to export customer data and order information in a simple CSV file. The list goes on and on, and this has to be seen as one of the benefits and features of the plugin.

One of the most impressive extension elements is the ability to offer customize your product types. For example, if you have niche products, it is likely that there are extensions to accommodate you. The current list includes, add-ons, bookable products, bundled products, chained products, composite products, force sell, measurement based products, pre-order products and subscription products. You can also get dynamic pricing apps, create group extensions, name your price, and more.

Marketing and SEO with your extensions is a tremendous plus. The options include social media integration, follow up emails, wish lists, newsletters, rewards programs, cart notifications and more.

Analytics is also boosted via extensions, and you can use a lot of third-party service integrations as well as the extensions themselves to better understand all areas of your online business’ performance.

Enabling you to create a customized solution based on all of your needs, it is remarkably user-friendly with one-click functions and instant add-ons. The extensions give you applications that relate to all areas of business, including your payment gateways, marketing, accounting, reports, and so much more.

The core features and extensions available to those who use WooCommerce provide you with a comprehensive set of tools and solutions, and none of it is difficult to use. It takes only the time needed to create the WordPress site, choose the right theme, and integrate the WooCommerce plugin. After that, you can begin adding any extensions that facilitate your business needs.

What Are the Pros and Cons of WooCommerce?

To summarize the many benefits and pros of WooCommerce:

  • It is free and open source
  • It installs easily and seamlessly with your WordPress blog or website
  • There are abundant options for compatible WordPress themes
  • There are hundreds of extensions that make it easy for you to customize your software and make it remarkably functional and effective
  • It features the familiar WordPress dashboard. As one enthusiast said, ” past users of the platform will benefit from being able to recognize the user-friendly WordPress interface. That kind of familiarity when building an online store could easily save time and confusion, whilst bolstering creativity.” (https://www.cmscritic.com/10-reasons-why-woocommerce-is-perfect-for-ecommerce-startups/#)
  • It has far more positive feedback and reviews (evidenced by the fact that more than 35% of all ecommerce sites use it)
  • It is constantly updated or enhanced, and WooCommerce is very communicative about new features or additions
  • There are many developers ready to offer assistance, and the WooCommerce Help Desk is remarkably comprehensive

And what about the “cons”? We’ve looked at WooCommerce as a nearly flawless entity, but there are a few downsides that we should consider:

  • The extensions are abundant, and most stores need them. They are not all free, and some of the most popular are in the hundreds of dollars to purchase. They also need annual licensing to be renewed.
  • Setting up is easy, but it can take tremendous amounts of time to get the inventory loaded and displaying properly, to choose the settings for customers, orders, taxes, shipping, and more.
  • You may choose the wrong theme and it may not be as robust as you want or need. This is why you must dedicate a lot of time in the selection process and purchase you theme only from the top and most highly rated developers or from Woo itself.
  • Though the Help Desk is always available, it is known to have some lag times, and there can be lengthy periods when support tickets remain unanswered.

In Summary

What does this all tell us? The reality is that no ecommerce software solution is perfect. It is impossible to expect that, and looking at something like this review is helpful, but only if you already understand what you need.

The best approach to determining if WooCommerce is for you is to begin with a list of your unique requirements.

What sort of extensions might you need?

What sort of fees might this add on to your operating expenses?

How much time do you have available to tackle the setup of your WooCommerce site?

These are the only “cons” of choosing WooCommerce, but for some, they could be a reason to avoid the use of the plugin.

However, if you are eager to begin selling anything, anywhere in the world; ship anywhere without a lot of difficulty in calculating fees and printing appropriate labels; accepting many kinds of payments; having total control of the look and function of your online store; choosing your specific style and customizing it all; and being able to add extensions and grow the site easily, WooCommerce is the right choice for you.

As one reviewer claimed:

WooCommerce core includes all of the core features required to run an online store, with none of the bloat. From the simple action of adding and managing products, to advanced stock controls, tax rates calculations, and order management, WooCommerce handles all of this swiftly.

If, after all of this information, you still feel a bit confused, just take some time to visit the WooCommerce site and see what they have to say. Also take a look at the different galleries of themes, always narrowing down the options to those that are WooCommerce compatible.

It is likely that you will soon recognize that this plugin has a great deal going for it, and that you can start small and grow along with it. You don’t need to invest in lots of extensions or third-party services to begin with, and soon you will feel comfortable enough to get creative and enjoy customizing your ecommerce site powered by WordPress and WooCommerce.

 

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WordPress Articles

The Layers WordPress Theme: A Comprehensive Review

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With the current popularity that WordPress enjoys, it is inevitable that a lot of builder tools for the free website hosting platform have come out, and the number continues to grow by the day, and one of them is Layers. However, Layers claims to be different from the rest of its competitors. In what ways, you ask? The following review of the Layers WordPress Theme will attempt to answer that question. It will also help you decide if it is indeed the website builder you have long been waiting for.

What Is Layers?

An open source WordPress website builder developed from Obox Themes, Layers is among the many WordPress builder tools available today. It attempts to distinguish itself from the rest by being both:

  1. The easiest website builder to use (try looking around for an easier to use too), and
  2. Available at absolutely no cost; it’s free.

With Layers, you can create multiple custom page layouts that will help you come up with the kind of website you have in mind. The best part is you will be able to do it without having to edit codes. The builder tool is equipped with built-in layouts, as well as custom widgets that you can use to add more content to your webpages.

For some people, the word “free” is enough reason to use the product. However, what good will it bring if it does not provide what you need? A product may come with a price tag, but if it is more convenient to use and allows you to save a lot of time, and it comes with a lot of superior features to boot, then price tags wouldn’t, and shouldn’t matter.

It is an entirely different story, though, if a free product comes a long that can approximate the benefits you will get from a premium product. This Layers review intends to help you uncover and learn everything there is that you need to know about the product.

Product Features: What Layers Can Do for You

The intention of the creators of Layers is to provide a tool that can help users build their custom websites specifically for WordPress. To give you an idea on what the builder tool can accomplish for you, have a glimpse of a few layouts built using Layers. These layouts are called Coffee, Weather, and Bakery, respectively. There are many other layouts available which you can later explore should you decide that this is the perfect tool for your website building project.

One good thing about Layers is that the entire process of creation is done within the Theme Customizer in WordPress itself. This way, you can immediately have a blow by blow account on the progress of your custom design project. You can view your work in progress as you continue to work. Likewise, instant feedback will be available for any change you effect on the appearance settings.

Because the entire design process is done within the confines of the WordPress Theme customizer, it simply means that the result will be a lot more efficient, interactive and intuitive. All you have to do is point and click, and go right back to work.

While you need to refresh pages, switch browser tabs, continuously save your work in progress, and then open preview windows when working with other backend WordPress builder tools, these are not necessary when you are using Layers.

Building Your Pages with Content Blocks and Widgets

When using layers, your new website design’s foundation is created using horizontal rows. You can then populate each of the rows with a widget. The widgets act as your website’s content blocks and each one can accommodate practically any type of content.

The builder tool comes with a variety of content blocks or widgets. These include:

  • A content widget
  • A slider widget
  • A maps and contact details widget
  • A widget for a displaying list of posts

This does not mean, however, that Layers cannot work with widgets provided by third parties. Layers is, in fact, compatible with 3rd party widgets, including ones that you may have created yourself, as well as widgets that are built in to other WordPress plugins.

Thus, if you find the need to feature or include a widget for an ecommerce product, a content slider widget, or a social sharing widget in the custom website layout you are working on, you can heave a sigh of relief because Layers will allow you to do that. This ability to integrate with 3rd party widgets is another advantage of using Layers. This allows you absolute freedom on how to create the various pages of your website.

Options for Widget Configuration

You can configure all third party and core WordPress widgets as they are incorporated into your layouts, but these may not be as easy to configure as the widgets that are built into Layers. These widgets are a lot easier to configure, for obvious reasons.

A very good example of this ease of configuration would be the posts widget. You are allowed to set the number of posts to display using the settings. You can also set the category that the posts must come from, as well as the list style and column layout, among many other options.

Aside from the post display widget, Layers also allows you to select the particular post content that you want to be displayed on the page, including the post titles, featured images, author info, post excerpts, and many others.

Because of the superior level of control that it provides users, Layers can be considered as the ideal tool to use when you need to build a custom page with which to display your most recent blog posts. If you are a blogger like a great majority of WordPress website owners, this is an important feature.

Options for Content and Widget Customization

As you work on the various pages of your website, the WordPress site building tool provides you with access to the Layers design bar. Here, you can customize the appearance and design of all the widgets that you wish to include in the layout. Again, everything happens without you having to directly edit any existing code.

Although the available design settings are specifically tailored to the kind of widget you are currently working on or customizing, these may include fonts, colors, text formatting, columns, list style, image ratio, and layout, among many others.

Pre-Built Page Layouts

While Layers allows you to make your own page designs from the ground up, it thankfully throws in a small collection of page layout templates that include:

The pre-built layouts are easy to customize. You can remove or add the widgets that will comprise the layout in a convenient and straightforward manner. Customizing how they appear can likewise be done with the same convenience.

Layouts for Mobile Users

Your website will not only be mobile-friendly and completely responsive, it will also be easy for you to target and cater to your visitors who come to your website via their mobile gadgets.

By using the website customizer, you can designate a specific area in the sidebar exclusively for mobile users. You can then populate this particular area with content that tablet and smartphone users will find relevant.

Now, because of the steady growth of people who access the web through mobile devices, this feature can be considered as an essential feature to have, and not just a “nice to have feature.” It would not be surprising that in the near future, your website visitors will be comprised mostly of users from the mobile demographic.

WordPress Plugins versus Theme Builder Tools

There are WordPress builder tools that are delivered as a plugin like the Themify Builder. When in plugin form, the tool will typically allow you customize your current theme design. You can do this as you retain the ability to make custom page layouts. The standard WordPress post editor is not equipped with the same features.

Because Layers is delivered in theme form, it can take over the entire feel and look of your website. With the tool, you have the ability to customize and personalize each and every aspect of your website, and not merely the page layouts. Now, to settle the issue on which between a theme-based builder and a plugin is better, both options are good at what they do. Neither of the two can be considered as better than the other. They just offer different ways of doing things.

In the same manner, since Layers is a theme, it will not be easy to change your theme in the future. All your custom designs will be lost in the process. Likewise, all the content you have added to your site over time using the Layers widgets will be gone. This isn’t true for Layers alone, however, as this will most likely happen when using practically any other WordPress website builder tool as well.

A User’s Layers Experience

Because Layers is a relatively new WordPress theme, the developers mad sure that first-time users would be treated to a pleasant user experience by featuring a Getting Started Guide that is quite useful and handy. As soon as you activate the theme, the guide is immediately displayed on the screen. This review suggests that you take the opportunity to walk through the guide.

Each of the guide’s sections include brief text descriptions and a quick walkthrough video. Thus, you will find all the information presented quite easy to absorb. The screenshot below will give you an idea on how the Getting Started Guide looks like.

The guide is not only designed to help you understand everything you need to do to get started in using the tool. For one, it is not entirely passive as you can input your website’s name, your tagline, as well as upload the logo to use for your website as you walk through the steps provided in the guide.

The final step in the walkthrough will ask you to select one from among the pre-built layouts that come with the tool. However, if you prefer to begin with a blank page, you can do so as well. Regardless of your preferred option, the next display you will see on the screen will be the WordPress Theme Customizer’s upgraded version.

There are several groups that the main customization options fall under. More options will appear once you click on a particular group. The process will go on until you reach the actual settings level. The screenshot below provides an idea on what to expect while in the customization settings screen.

You can customize practically all the aspects of your website via the settings menu. These include:

  • The navigation menus to display, and where to display them
  • The sidebars to display, and where to display them
  • The layouts for the headers and footers
  • Whether or not your header is sticky
  • Widgets
  • Fonts
  • And many other options

All the changes made through the customizer are applied to your project in real time. There is a live preview that will allow you to see the effects of the options you selected for your page, as well as how they will appear. It is obvious that this is one important feature that you need to have access to. You will definitely have a lot of use for it.

When the time comes that you need to see your page from the point of view of your intended site visitors, sans the customizer options on the screen, you can just press the preview button. The page, as how your visitors will experience your site, will be opened in a new tab on your browser. Having said that, however, even just using the customizer view will already provide you with a more or less accurate display of your page, and thus, you need not resort to using the preview icon too often.

The process of creating a custom layout for your site involves adding a widget first into a page. You then customize the widget to suit your particular needs. To do this, just go to the customizer’s Edit Layout section, then choose the widget you want to use from among the active widgets on your site. These include that come built-in with Layers, the core WordPress Widgets, as well as other widgets that may have come from 3rd party plugins that may be active on your site.

After you have selected the widget to include in your website, you can now proceed to customizing it. The controls may vary, depending on which particular widget you have selected. In general, however, you will find a lot of detailed settings that you can take advantage of.

The entire Layers interface is well thought-out and designed in a functional way. Thus, it is quite easy to use and get used to. Whatever icon you select is guaranteed to work as intended. You will feel like, you already know what will happen once you click on a particular icon, and the tool usually does not disappoint.

If you need to add content to your page or set up a widget, you can count on the design bar to provide you with more control on how your widget will appear. You can alter the layout, change the formatting of the text, set up a background image, as well as include your own customized CSS, if necessary. However, these all depends on the particular widget you are using.

Once you are done adding content to your webpage, and you have sufficiently customized how it looks, your work is now ready to be published. If you are making a static website homepage, you may first want to take a look at the customizer settings to select which among your designs is to have the distinction of becoming your website’s front page.

The rest of the pages you have created using the Layers tool may then be included and designated to serve as the navigation menus for the site. You can do this through the core menu editor of WordPress itself. This way, your site visitors will be able to access the various pages on your site, just like how they would do it on a regular WordPress website.

Just like when working on any other project, you may need to review or go back to any of the other pages you created using Layers for some minor edits or modifications. You can do this easily. Just access the page manager screen of WordPress, then open the page that you want to review or edit.

Recommendations and Conclusion

This review finds the Layers WordPress website building tool to be among the most user-friendly and most intuitive interfaces around. A good idea that we strongly recommend is to use the WordPress Theme Customizer to help you build your site layouts.

Layers made the right decision in choosing the interface to offer. This is because it allowed Layers to assume the look and feel of being a part of your WordPress website’s admin area, instead of being just the added-on extra that it really is. If you have been using WordPress for some time now, or have gotten used to the platform, then it is highly recommended that you soon include Layers in your projects.

Meanwhile, if you are just a recent WordPress user, and is still in the process of familiarizing yourself with the website hosting platform, getting Layers now would also bring you a lot of benefits. For one, you can quickly get started on your website building project simply because you only have a single new interface to learn and work with.

The extra controls that come with layers provide to the core controls already included in the customizer tool. More importantly, these controls are very convenient to use such as the controls that allow you to modify the content and appearance of the widgets.

On the other hand, you can easily make sense of what the icons and other visual controls are for just with a single glance. The addition of the Getting Started Guide – complete with walkthrough videos and descriptive text – is a brilliant idea. It is very useful, especially for first time users of Layers.

Layers is not perfect, however. While it obviously has a lot of advantages, just like most other products on the market, it also comes with a few downsides. To allow you to decide whether Layers is really the right tool for your website building projects, you need to know the product’s downsides as well.

Compared to other builder tools in its class, Layers doesn’t have as many superior custom-built widgets and pre-built page templates. While there is no question that the page templates included in the tool are impressive enough, there simply is not enough of them to select from. Likewise, some of the templates do not have the “wow” factor that you see from other templates from time to time.

As for the widgets, the current lineup offered by Layers is no doubt impressive, but it definitely would not hurt if some more are added. This will no doubt make the tool’s feature list more competitive and more formidable.

Having said that, it is also worth mentioning that being a new entrant to the WordPress site builder tool niche, you can reasonably expect Layers to include a lot of improvements in the future.

Overall, Layers offers users an intuitive interface to use for creating custom website designs for WordPress. You do not need to be equipped with a good amount of design skills to make your website work, although it would be an advantage. However, with Layers, you can turn all the ideas in your head into actual pages – in a relatively easy manner. After all, that is what really matters.

So, is Layers the ideal WordPress website builder for you? After learning about all its features and weighing them against the few downsides, the answer should be quite obvious.

If you’d like to see a few more options for your website, we’ve got themes for all occasions.  Video portfolios, personal blogs, WooCommerce shops and magazine templates too.

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WordPress Articles

ReachWord SEO Techniques for WordPress

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Matisse Jon F. Grubb's most prized design.

This is some awesome stuff from a buddy of mine who started a company called Reach SEO.  They’re all about SEO for WordPress and I’ve asked him to give us a little rundown on what it takes to get rankings that are rock solid and reliable.  This is what he has to say.

If you want to reach the most folks who want to access the content you’ve created, there are a few things you can do to reach the most people possible.

So, I’ve been at this SEO game for some time now and trying to reach the most people possible with creative, effective SEO.  I’ve looked for the most effective, most consistent techniques you can utilize to drive traffic to your website.  For some niche markets, just having the right WordPress magazine theme is enough, but for some, it isn’t.  I’ve worked hard at this for a few years now and What I’ve found is this.

Content.

That’s it, that’s easily the most important thing on the internet.  Creating posts of high quality, posts that people will want to see, posts that people react well to and that give good value for your time clicking on them, that’s what drives traffic.

Sure, internal links are important too, links to similar content can also help you reach the most amount of people you can.  SEO is an ever changing game but making sure you keep your content fresh is simply put, the best thing you can do to ensure you get the rankings you want to get.

If you’re looking for some amazing themes to help you get the content you need to get, the content your site deserves, another thing you can do is select the right theme.  We’re in the business of finding amazing WordPress themes and reviewing them for quality.  SO whether you’re looking for a WordPress minimalist theme or a personal blog WordPress theme, we’ve got you covered.  These themes are the best of the best.

There are a lot of things you can do to make sure your site is ready for the bigtime.  Fast load times are critical.  A theme that makes visitors want to stay for an extended period of time is equally important.  If you’re selling products in your own online shop, a WordPress WooCommerce theme with the right set of features, a user-friendly design and great SEO optimization, that’s also important.

It’s also smart to check out sites like Ahrefs or SEOMoz to help make sure your site is optimized as well as it can be.  That kind of stuff is often overlooked, but it’s really, really important.

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WordPress 4.9 Released

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Well, the time has come to say hello to WordPress v4.9, so I thought I’d check in to see what you can expect to see with this new version.  I did some scouring of the internet to see what people are saying and the word is, it’s a big improvement over previous versions.

WordPress 4.9 is named Tipton, after jazz musician Billy Tipton.  All the major updates are named for jazz musicians and singers, if you didn’t already know that.  There are tons of features to help smooth work flow and make for a better user experience overall, particularly in terms of coding errors.

There are design drafts, scheduling, preview links and locking, the theme customizer workflow is greatly improved for collaboration between different bloggers or content creators.  Also, there’s code syntax highlighting and error checking.  That’s meant to make for a smooth site building experience.  Oh yeah, there’s also a slick looking gallery widget now too, which is very nice and it’s a great way to lay out your images.

Customizer Workflow Improvements

Draft and Schedule Site Design Customizations – Yes, you read that right. Just like you can draft and revise posts and schedule them to go live on the date and time you choose, you can now tinker with your site’s design and schedule those design changes to go live as you please.

Collaborate with Design Preview Links – Need to get some feedback on proposed site design changes? WordPress 4.9 gives you a preview link you can send to colleagues and customers so that you can collect and integrate feedback before you schedule the changes to go live. Can we say collaboration++?

Design Locking Guards Your Changes – Ever encounter a scenario where two designers walk into a project and designer A overrides designer B’s beautiful changes? WordPress 4.9’s design lock feature (similar to post locking) secures your draft design so that no one can make changes to it or erase all your hard work.

A Prompt to Protect Your Work – Were you lured away from your desk before you saved your new draft design? Fear not, when you return, WordPress 4.9 will politely ask whether or not you’d like to save your unsaved changes.

Coding Experience Enhancements

Syntax Highlighting and Error Checking? Yes, Please! – You’ve got a display problem but can’t quite figure out exactly what went wrong in the CSS you lovingly wrote. With syntax highlighting and error checking for CSS editing and the Custom HTML widget introduced in WordPress 4.8.1, you’ll pinpoint coding errors quickly. Practically guaranteed to help you scan code more easily, and suss out & fix code errors quickly.

Sandbox for Safety – The dreaded white screen. You’ll avoid it when working on themes and plugin code because WordPress 4.9 will warn you about saving an error. You’ll sleep better at night.

Warning: Potential Danger Ahead! – When you edit themes and plugins directly, WordPress 4.9 will politely warn you that this is a dangerous practice and will recommend that you draft and test changes before updating your file. Take the safe route: You’ll thank you. Your team and customers will thank you.

Tons of Widget Updates

The New Gallery Widget – An incremental improvement to the media changes hatched in WordPress 4.8, you can now add a gallery via this new widget. Yes!

Press a Button, Add Media – Want to add media to your text widget? Embed images, video, and audio directly into the widget along with your text, with our simple but useful Add Media button. Woo!

Enhance Your Site Building

More Reliable Theme Switching – When you switch themes, widgets sometimes think they can just move location. Improvements in WordPress 4.9 offer more persistent menu and widget placement when you decide it’s time for a new theme.

Find and Preview the Perfect Theme – Looking for a new theme for your site? Now, from within the Customizer, you can search, browse, and preview over 2600 themes before deploying changes to your site. What’s more, you can speed your search with filters for subject, features, and layout.

Better Menu Instructions = Less Confusion – Were you confused by the steps to create a new menu? Perhaps no longer! We’ve ironed out the UX for a smoother menu creation process. Newly updated copy will guide you.

Just for the Developers

Customizer JS API Improvements – We’ve made numerous improvements to the Customizer JS API in WordPress 4.9, eliminating many pain points. (Hello, default parameters for constructs! Goodbye repeated ID for constructs!) There are also new base control templates, a date/time control, and section/panel/global notifications to name a few. Check out the full list.

CodeMirror available for use in your themes and plugins – We’ve introduced a new code editing library, CodeMirror, for use within core. CodeMirror allows for syntax highlighting, error checking, and validation when creating code writing or editing experiences within your plugins, like CSS or JavaScript include fields.

MediaElement.js upgraded to 4.2.6 – WordPress 4.9 includes an upgraded version of MediaElement.js, which removes dependencies on jQuery, improves accessibility, modernizes the UI, and fixes many bugs.

Roles and Capabilities Improvements – New capabilities have been introduced that allow granular management of plugins and translation files. In addition, the site switching process in multisite has been fine-tuned to update the available roles and capabilities in a more reliable and coherent way.

And probably a ton more.  but that’s enough of a list for now.  What do you think, have you updated yet?  I have and love the experience so far.

If you’d like a great looking WordPress theme to install on your fresh update of WordPress 4.9, check out our WordPress video themes, WordPress personal blog themes or WordPress minimalist themes, which are three of our most popular posts.  Or, check out a free theme like Silverbow or Quartz.

 

 

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