As promised, here is Part 2 of my review of OceanWP, a feature-rich and affordable WordPress theme. In Part 1, I told you about the free version, which was already packed with design options. Now, I present the paid upgrades. The Core Extensions Bundle costs $79.00 for a 1-year license, and includes add-ons that can be purchased separately. The bundle is easily a better deal because it can be used on unlimited websites, whereas the individual add-ons can only be used on up to 20 sites and will cost over $500.00 when bought separately.
The Core Extensions, as well as the free extensions (which are plentiful enough), give the website creator a vast toolbox to create websites without needing to write code. I want to advise you that you shouldn’t use these tools just because you have them; we all hear complaints about “Bells and Whistles.” Having many features doesn’t always make a site more sophisticated. Your mindset in using these design options is to make your site unique, reflecting your personal brand and yours alone. It’s easy with cheaper themes, or heaven forbid, Wix, to make a site based on a template that’s the same for everyone who uses it. A professional website should be like a tailored suit- made to fit you specifically.
Below I list the 9 paid add-ons in the Core Extensions Bundle. Nick the developer hints at future extensions, and you’ll automatically access them if you purchase the bundle today. I want to note that some add-ons use OceanWP’s “My Library” in the Theme Panel. Here you can create custom templates with your chosen page builder plugin (preferrably Elementor, but I think others are enabled.) The templates are saved and can be used in the site where indicated in the theme’s Customizer settings.
Elementor Widgets: These are add-ons to the 3rd party drag and drop page builder plugin, Elementor. What Nick means by widgets are elements or modules in American vernacular; a collection of objects and/or displays that can be used in the Elementor work environment. Some of these display links to your blog posts in either grids, carousels, or newsletter styles. There is an AJAX search module that you can place anywhere in the page, alert messages, navigation and logo areas that can be designed with Elementor and placed in the theme’s header, “logged in/out” indicators if your site can be used by visitors, and pricing tables and “skill bars” to market your business services.
Ocean Hooks: Hooks were introduced in GeneratePress and expanded upon by OceanWP, Astra, and a growing number of other themes. They are universal areas in the theme where one can insert programming or codes, and thus display custom made sections or widgets uniformly throughout your site. Suppose you run an online store, and you want the same special promotion to appear at the very top of every page. You can design that banner in Elementor or Beaver Builder, copy the “shortcode” create by either of those builders, and paste the shortcode into the top bar hook area.
Another use for hooks displaying ads provided by Google AdSense or another advertising network. This is helpful if you want to earn money from your blog. As of this writing, I use GeneratePress for natehoustman.net, and I’ve pasted my unique AdSense code into a few hook areas of the theme. That’s why you see ads in my header, footer, and in certain points of my articles. You can do the same thing with OceanWP.
Six of the premium add-ons are utilized through WordPress’s Customizer area. Every theme has its own unique settings in the Customizer where the user can set the appearance of the site throughout every page.
Side Panel: This is an area that can be opened and closed on the side of your pages, which contains WordPress widgets. Think of it as an additional widget area that normally wouldn’t fit in a standard page, in which you can show categories of information. In the Customizer area, you can set the background and text colors, as well as the padding and spacing of the content blocks. You can design your own custom side panel layouts in a page builder, save it in the My Library section of the theme, and bring it up in the “Select Template” area of the Side Panel Customizer controls.
Sticky Header/Footer: These are 2 separate add-ons, but they work similarly so I’ll group them together. When either of them are activated, the site’s header and/or footer areas will stay on the screen while the visitor scrolls up or down.
Footer Callout: This is an additional banner that appears directly over the footer. In the Customizer, you can write out any text or call-to-action, and add a button with a hyperlink. The button can be designed in the Customizer, and can lead to any page where you want your visitor to take action, like the “Contact Us” page, product page, etc. Like with the Side Panel, you can design a custom Callout in your page builder plugin, save it in “My Library,” and bring it up in the Customizer.
Portfolio: This add-on is very involved. It creates a content category called “Portfolio,” which you can access in the Dashboard. You add individual portfolio items you’ve created, like artwork, photographs, or websites, and then display them in a gallery with links so each item can be examined separately. In the Customizer, you assign the Portfolio to one of your site’s pages.
This add-on has a sub-menu in the Customizer with items that let you set the appearance of the portfolio gallery and items. You choose how they appear on mobile devices, whether to set a color overlay/tint to the featured images of your items, and the colors and fonts of the supporting text. You can add tags and meta data to each item, then enable the items to be searchable within your site through the Query feature.
Woo Popup: The Woo Popup is a quick popup that appears whenever a visitor adds an item to the cart of your WooCommerce powered online store. Again, you can design a popup with your page builder and include it in “My Library,” or set its appearance in the Customizer. This lets a customer know how many items they’ve selected, and can thank them for their choice before they check out.
White Label: This is useful mainly to contract freelancers or agencies who make websites for clients. It hides all the OceanWP branding from the WordPress Dashboard, and replaces it with the contractor’s own business name and information. I’m not sure I would use it myself, because I like to talk to clients about what I use and why. However, it could be helpful if you’re building a site that many members of a business would log into and use, and you don’t want to clutter up the dashboard for them.
You can download OceanWP and purchase the Core Extensions by following the link below. It’s one of the fastest-growing themes available in the WordPress ecosystem. However, I’ve heard very little talk about it compared to other popular alternatives. I’ve wanted to examine it more ever since my article about the best themes and builders for multiple websites, and give it its due. This is a creative professional’s theme, with endless applications because of its blank canvas nature. If you’re a business owner wanting a DIY site, or a professional designer making sites for clients, you’ll be well served either way.
OceanWP is a no-cost WordPress theme with a huge range of design options, plus paid upgrades available for even more power. Using it, one can make a beautiful custom website without programming or coding. It’s one of a new breed of “blank canvas” themes intended to work with “page builder” plug-ins. In this article, I will review the free version, and examine the premium add-ons in Part 2.
OceanWP’s Place in WordPress History
Here’s a quick history of WordPress and its themes and plug-ins: For those new to it, WordPress is a website creation tool that started as a blogging platform in the early 2000’s. Because it’s open-source, WordPress opened up a 3rd party market of templates/skins called “themes” and software applications called “plug-ins.” Developers around the world create these themes and plug-ins, allowing professional web designers and amateurs alike to make anything from corporate websites, to restaurant websites, to online stores, to personal blogs, to mobile apps, and just about anything else that lives on the web.
Themes were originally pre-designed skins that allowed only the swapping of text and images. As the WordPress marketplace grew, developers added extra features and design choices, and charged money for them. The “freemium” business model thrives on WordPress, in which basic free versions of themes and plug-ins are available, with the chance to buy premium upgrades. Premium marketplaces like ThemeForest do healthy business selling themes that are paid at the beginning, but have strong development teams who make it their job to develop and support them.
The drawback to most paid ThemeForest and freemium themes is the paid versions are good for only one website. If you wish to use the paid themes on multiple sites, you would need to purchase a separate license for each one. Professional web designers can pass on the cost of a premium theme to their clients in their invoices, but do-it-yourself entrepreneurs or hobbyists are taking a risk with something they may not like down the road.
In early 2016, a freemium theme called GeneratePress changed the game with a brand new value proposition: offering a free theme, and a bundle of exclusive paid plug-ins for $39.95 that can be used on unlimited sites for 1 year. What’s more, GeneratePress is dependable, efficiently coded, and supported wonderfully by a lone developer named Tom Usborne. OceanWP is the second theme I’ve come across that follows the same business model, and it’s necessary to compare it with GeneratePress. I foresee OceanWP, GeneratePress, and another new theme named Astra leading the next wave of quality WordPress themes.
OceanWP was developed in France by an independent creator named Nicolas Lecocq. His own website for the theme, oceanwp.org, features a cartoon shark mascot and a wealth of helpful information. The site is a great example of online entrepreneurship. One of the most valuable resources on it is a “sandbox” allowing visitors to try out the theme in a WordPress simulator. Click the “Test OceanWP” link in the top menu and provide your email address, and you’ll be sent a link to the simulator. It includes both the free and premium features. Not only is this a great opportunity to test run the whole package before you buy it, but it’s a no-cost resource for people to try out the WordPress dashboard if they’re new to it.
Nicolas has tested and recommended separate plug-ins that are compatible with OceanWP. The “Recommended Plugins” page lists them and briefly describes how they’d be helpful to your own business website. He includes affiliate links to the paid plugins, so if you follow them to make a purchase, he earns a commission of the sales.
The “Support” page leads to links where you can get assistance in using the theme. Buyers of the premium package have access to direct support, while users of the free version have access to the theme’s documentation. Several of the documentation articles have YouTube videos demonstrating how to use the built-in tools.
To download OceanWP, head to oceanwp.org. There are a couple links on the homepage to download the theme to your computer. From there, you can log into your hosted installation of WordPress, hover over the “Appearance” link in the left-hand menu, and click “Themes.” In the upper level of the next page, click “Upload”, and a box will appear allowing you to select the theme from your downloads folder. You should unzip the theme before uploading.
After uploading OceanWP and activating it, there will be promotional links in the top of your dashboard page recommending the free plug-in Ocean Extra. This extension enables more widget areas (sections on a page to display 3rd party plug-ins, social media links, blog categories, etc.), extra options in the Customizer mode (more on that later), an import/export area for bringing in demo templates (similar to old style themes- OceanWP is like multiple themes in one), and a panel for activating premium extensions.
When OceanWP is the active theme of your website, there’s a link in the dashboard menu titled, “Theme Panel.” On the Theme Panel page, you can activate the Ocean Extra Customizer sections. These will open extra design options for the header, footer, blog, and sidebar areas, as well as increased typography choices, meaning more text fonts. Below the Customizer sections are links to the Customizer itself. These are somewhat redundant, because the Customizer is standard with every WordPress theme and found in the Dashboard menu under “Appearance.”
The other major link in the “Theme Panel” section is “Install Demos.” These are free layouts that can be imported from oceanwp.org, and they’re built with the free 3rd party page builder plug-in Elementor. Suffice it to say, you would need to upload Elementor in order to use the demos, but it’s a simple matter of visiting the Plugins link in the dashboard and searching for it in the catalog. The demos are designed with various business and personal type sites in mind. Demos are a common inclusion in premium themes, and they are meant to be easily changeable, swapping images and text. The fact that OceanWP and its demos are free signals a significant value, meaning its premium add-ons are even more advanced than the average premium theme.
One of the first steps in building a WordPress site is creating the pages. Every theme has its own page settings, so let’s look at the OceanWP page editor. In this example, Elementor has been uploaded to the site, and the user can launch Elementor to create custom designs or tweak the demo content. Other page builders such as Beaver Builder or Divi can be used instead of Elementor, with their own templates and sample content. If no builder is installed the launch area will take the shape of a word-processor-like typing area where you can write text and insert pictures.
Below that section are the OceanWP Settings. “Main” lets you choose which sidebars to include on the page, if any. Or you could choose “100% Full Width” to open up the whole horizontal space of the screen. This is convenient for page builders. The “Shortcodes” section allows plug-in or widget displays to be inserted above or below different page areas like the header or page title. These plug-ins use “shortcodes,” which are lines of code that can be copied and pasted wherever they’re allowed on the page. The other Settings options including “Header,” “Title,” “Breadcrumbs,” and “Footer,” let the user disable those sections of the page. By removing them, the site owner or designer can create completely blank canvases, which is desirable for landing pages.
The Customizer area of WordPress includes global settings for your theme, meaning you can choose styles and appearances that will be consistent throughout your site. The free version of Ocean WP has abundant settings for the site header, which is important. You can control its height, navigation font sizes, background appearance, where the logo and navigation menu are located, and whether the header is transparent. Transparent headers are very stylish, and few themes enable that option easily.
In “General Options” in the Customizer, you can set the primary colors of text and links, the style of forms, which are built with plug-ins, margin sizes, and the appearance of button links. The “Blog” menu of the Customizer allows you to control the appearance of blog posts, which is very rare. Most themes consider blog design an afterthought and confine the user to their limited design choices. The Beaver Themer tool, which is a paid add-on for Beaver Builder, allows complete customization of blog posts, but costs $147.00. OceanWP’s blog options aren’t as robust as Beaver Themer’s, but they crush the rest of the competition. GeneratePress has generous blog settings, but they’re included in the paid version.
OceanWP is compatible with a variety of page builder plugins, the recommended ones being Elementor, Beaver Builder, Visual Composer, and King Composer. I’ve never used Visual Composer or King Composer, so I can’t comment on them, but I’m an avid fan of Beaver Builder and I’ve tested Elementor while hearing glowing reviews of it. OceanWP is to GeneratePress as Elementor is to Beaver Builder. All of them are wonderful tools and leaders in their fields. I love GeneratePress, but OceanWP has more options in its free version that you would need to pay for in GeneratePress. Beaver Builder is the top ranked page builder around, but it costs $99 per year, while Elementor offers many equivalent modules for free. For a more thorough comparison of these themes and builders, you can read my piece here. I would prefer to support all of these tools because the competition would drive their developers to continually maintain and improve them, and make them available for years to come.
The free version of OceanWP has a larger toolbox than I can cover in a single blog post. Next time, I’ll preview the premium extensions. I urge you to visit oceanwp.org, try the simulator, and follow Nicolas’ YouTube channel. Hopefully, I gave you a mental framework to understanding it and WordPress in general. If you spend enough time in the WordPress world, you should see why this theme is so significant.
As an entrepreneur, why do you need multiple websites? Because you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in one basket. There’s a movement in the economy towards diversifying your income streams. It’s wise to have multiple gigs in case one or more of your ventures don’t pan out. You should have a website to market each of them.
Additionally, professional web designers with multiple clients have their favorite development tools. They choose these kits for their affordability and versatility, and rely on them for most of their projects. If you outsource the creation of your websites to a contractor, that contractor will likely use a popular platform and hand off the creation to you. It pays to know what they work with. Having your multiple sites run on the same theme/platform will simplify the work of managing all of them.
The beauty of WordPress is its open source environment, allowing for a worldwide marketplace of themes and apps to build your website with. There’s an abundance of themes and templates with their own looks and styling options, as well as their own price points. In this blog I’ll list the most popular themes and page building plugins that enable you or your web designer to create multiple sites affordably.
The Old Way of Pricing Themes
When you install WordPress onto your website you’ll have access to the WordPress Repository. There are themes created by developers from around the world, and every one in the Repository is free to download. The catch, however, is that they’re very limited in functionality and likely have branding that you would want to remove, to better reflect your own business. Most of these free themes have premium versions that you can upgrade to for a fee. Most commonly, when you pay for the upgrade license, it’s only good for one site, so you would need to pay between $40 to $80 for each time you want to use that theme.
There are also WordPress themes available outside the Repository that are premium right from the start. Themeforest.net is a well-known marketplace for these themes. They usually have more customization options built in than even the upgraded themes from the Repository. However, for most of them, you still need to pay a license for each site you want to install the theme on.
Why pay for a theme at all? So that the theme developers can make a living supporting them. WordPress themes and plugins need to be updated continuously with security patches and to keep up with the latest tech. Even so, workflow practices have likely improved so that the developers don’t need to charge for every site. The following themes and page builders are already immensely popular in the WordPress community because they can be used on unlimited sites. That popularity drives sales, so the developers have great revenue. I’ll include affiliate links to most of the themes and plugins I’ll discuss, so you can check them out yourself. These developers have either proven their reliability, or they have a great new service that deserves support.
GeneratePress is available for free in the WordPress Repository, but its premium version works differently than most themes. You can check out the theme’s own website and purchase a bundle of plugins exclusive to the theme for under $39.95. The license for this bundle can be used on unlimited sites. You simply create an account with GeneratePress, get a license key (a string of random letters and numbers unique to you), and copy and paste it into every WordPress site you wish to use it on.
The GeneratePress theme was built to work with popular page builder plugins like Beaver Builder and Elementor, which I’ll go over a little later. These builders allow you to create layouts in the content area of a WordPress page, drag-and-drop style. This leaves the theme to control design of the header, footer, and sidebar areas. Within the theme and each individual page, you can choose whether a page will have a right sidebar, left sidebar, one on each side, or none at all. There are blocks for content called Widget areas that can be added to the header and footer sections. GeneratePress allows for transparent headers, which blends with the top section image of a page and is a neat look. The premium package allows for an unlimited range of colors and fonts, as well.
OceanWP isn’t as well known as GeneratePress, but it’s quietly building buzz among WordPress mavens because its business model is similar. You can download the free version from the Repository, purchase the plugin pack for under $45.00, and use it on unlimited sites. OceanWP has a different range of features than GeneratePress, and they’re presented differently within the theme. I think it’s even more customizable, though, and time will tell whether its developer can support it as consistently. The OceanWP website has a really cool, free demo environment where you can try it out. It even enables you try out Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the Divi Builder. That’s good marketing. The developer has built the theme to be compatible with some popular WordPress plugins, and cares enough to tell you which ones.
StudioPress and the Genesis Framework
I confess I don’t use this theme package enough to give a fair assessment, but I can pass along what I’ve heard. The development company StudioPress has created a super advanced theme called the Genesis Framework. It’s like a base theme that other “child themes” can be placed over. StudioPress, as well as a secondary market of developers, have created a range of child themes that are like skins that change the appearance of Genesis. The framework is immensely popular with coders because of its efficient and reliable software. However, it’s not as easily customizable unless you’re highly knowledgeable in HTML, CSS, and PHP.
What makes Genesis worth mentioning in this article is a certain child theme called Dynamik. It’s highly versatile and popular with fans of the Beaver Builder plugin. There’s an active YouTube channel titled DynamikBeaver dedicated entirely to this combination. The channel host offers tips and techniques in designing websites in this way, and I recommend you check him out. The Beaver Builder community loves Dynamik, GeneratePress, and is starting to notice OceanWP.
So let’s talk about Beaver Builder. It’s not the first WordPress page builder plugin, but it’s the one that made builders popular. These plugins work by dividing page content areas into horizontal rows. These rows can be divided into columns, creating sections where you can insert content of many types. It’s standard for a builder to have a menu of “modules” or “elements”, depending on the plugin’s vernacular. These modules are blocks of text, images, graphs, blog post carousels, etc, that you can drag and drop anywhere onto the page. Page builders don’t initially let you design the header and footer sections- those controls are unique to the theme.
Beaver Builder was the first widely successful “front end” page builder. “Back end” builders operate in the WordPress dashboard and only display abstract symbols representing what the designer has made. One can’t see the results of the design work until they update the page and switch to the website view in the menu. With a front end builder, you open the page editor in the Dashboard, then click a link that takes you to a drag-and-drop working environment. There you can see the changes to the page as you make them. In Beaver Builder’s environment, there is a menu on the right side of the screen with a list of modules. In the free version of the plugin, there are only half a dozen module types, but if you purchase the premium version for $99, you’ll have access to a wider selection. The $99 license is good for unlimited sites, and if you combine it with GeneratePress or OceanWP, you can make as many sites as you want for the cost of two individual ThemeForest themes. Beaver Builder also sells their own theme with the same name in a package costing $199. It’s still an unlimited license, but it’s probably not worth it unless you’re a web professional making sites for multiple clients.
As a sign of Beaver Builder’s popularity, a secondary market has opened with independent, but licensed, developers creating “addon” packs for Beaver. Ultimate Addons and PowerPack Beaver Addons are both priced lower than Beaver Builder’s premium version and contain their own collections of modules. You could install Beaver Builder’s free version and upload either of these packs if you’re on a budget, or combine them with the official premium modules for a bigger toolbox. These packs are good for unlimited sites as well. You may decide it’s still worth purchasing the official $99 Beaver Builder for access to its support technicians and forums. The team behind Beaver is renowned for helping users who have problems, resolving tickets quickly and being nice about it. The next page builder on my list has an astounding, but very different value proposition, so keep Beaver Builder’s awesome support in mind when making a decision.
Like Genesis, I have little personal experience with Elementor since I haven’t gotten around to it, but it’s too huge not to talk about. It exploded in the WordPress market last year as the most feature-rich free page builder. Comparing the selection of modules between the free version of Elementor and the paid version of Beaver Builder is almost comical. I suspect the Elementor developers had some generous investor capital before they rolled out the Pro version in November last year.
Elementor is also a front end builder and it’s similar in working style to Beaver Builder, except its module menu is on the left side of the screen. Elementor refers to its modules as “elements”, and they’re the same principle as the tools in Beaver Builder. WordPress enthusiasts swear by Elementor’s ease of use and reliability, so why wouldn’t you choose it over Beaver Builder? It depends how much you care about support and updates. They aren’t as easily available in Elementor’s free version, and the pricing options of the Pro edition aren’t as attractive as Beaver’s. The first tier is worth $49 and it’s good for one site. $99 will let you use Pro on three sites, and the $199 package will work on unlimited sites. This blogger wouldn’t blame you in the least if you stuck with the free version, as there’s already an enthusiastic community of users who could help you in lieu of paid support.
Elegant Themes and Divi
Now we come to the most popular premium theme and page builder package of all, as well as the most polarizing. Elegant Themes is one of the oldest premium developers in the WordPress market, and they’re still going strong. Although they have dozens of themes in their wheelhouse, the one that gets all the attention is Divi. Divi pioneered page builders in the early days of WordPress, as its builder was built into the theme. It was a back end tool like those I described earlier, but Divi Version 3.0 was released to much fanfare in September 2016 and included the new Divi Builder, a front end experience.
The Divi Builder was undoubtedly an answer to Beaver Builder’s and Elementor’s runaway successes. Elegant Themes decided to set themselves apart with a much different user interface in the front end builder. Whereas Beaver Builder and Elementor contain their modules on the side of the screen and the user drags them to areas of the page they choose, in Divi the user hovers their mouse over a section of the page, clicks a button in the middle of that section, and opens a menu of the modules in the middle of the screen. Using the Divi Builder feels odd if you’re accustomed to the other plugins, but I got used to it after a while. It’s actually just as easy as Beaver Builder, just not the same.
A membership to Elegant Themes costs $89 for one year or $249 for life. Either choice will open up all their themes and plugins for unlimited websites during the membership period. Considering a ThemeForest theme costs about $60 for one year on each website you want to build with it, Elegant Themes is a bargain. Although Divi is the flagship theme, it wouldn’t hurt to examine their other themes since each has its own header and footer styles. The $89 price is a nice middle ground between Beaver Builder and Elementor, and since you would likely purchase a theme separately for those two builders, it makes membership all the more attractive.
How to Choose
Beaver Builder, Elementor, and the Divi Builder have risen to the top as the big three page builders, and GeneratePress and Genesis are the favorite themes of Beaver Builder and Elementor fans. I’m intrigued by OceanWP because of its similarities to GeneratePress.
Earlier I mentioned that Divi is polarizing, because there exists an army of haters. There’s a common complaint that if you ever decide to switch your WordPress site from Divi to another theme, your content will change into a “shortcode mess.” The text and images will be unreadable and you’ll need to rebuild your site from scratch. You’re locked into Divi once you choose it.
I used to be one of those Divi trash talkers, until I had a few projects redesigning clients’ sites. None of them involved Divi, but they were challenging just the same. I realized switching themes and updating sites is hard work no matter what themes you use. Every theme and page builder has its own quirks that don’t carry over to others, so the shortcode flak against Divi is unfair. I suspect the critics are simply envious of Elegant Themes’ success and we can chalk it up to a fanboy mindset.
Better measures of a theme and/or page builder are the dependability of its developers, its community of users, and the goals of your businesses. Genesis and Beaver Builder are well respected by programmers and developers. Their coding is efficient and utilitarian, meant to be compatible with the maximum range of plugins on the market. It’s worth pointing out since WordPress plugins are created by independent teams around the world, not all of them will mesh together. If you want to run business operations through your website, you’ll likely need one or more functions not included in the page builder modules. Beaver Builder, combined with Genesis or GeneratePress is a safe choice for that.
If you’re a solo freelancer and you want to present your portfolio, blog, or promote your book, Elementor matched with GeneratePress or OceanWP may be for you. Elementor is the best free page builder, which is always in the budget, and it’s actively partnered with GeneratePress and OceanWP to work with those themes.
Elegant Themes and Divi are an online marketer’s dream. Membership gives access to the plugins Bloom Email Opt-Ins and Monarch Social Media Sharing. These apps are intended to work with any of the Elegant Themes and will help build an email list and reach a wider social media audience. Divi has a unique feature built in enabling A/B split testing. This means you can design different versions of your website, sitting at the same URL, and see which gets better traffic. All this is good you have a small business, agency, or online store and you want to maximize your sales or target your ideal customers. The only theme that I think matches Divi’s marketing prowess is X. It’s available on ThemeForest, but is a single site license theme, which takes it out of consideration for this blog topic.
Let’s Wrap it Up
I’ll include affiliate marketing links to most of these themes and plugins. If you choose to buy them, I’ll make a commission. This helps my bottom line, and it’s a money-making strategy you can try as well, with any number of products. WordPress powers between a quarter to a third of all the websites in the world, and supposedly half the sites in the United States. It’s search engine friendly, versatile, and is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Most importantly, there’s a massive worldwide community of enthusiasts supporting it and are only too happy to help each other master it. I personally believe technology means nothing without the human beings who create and use it. I’m getting serious about this blog. I intend to write extensively about OceanWP. The other products in this article have been by other reviewers, but OceanWP is just recently starting to poke through. If you need help with your WordPress site, email me. I can consult or work on it for you. The nature of working for a living is changing and it’s a new era for entrepreneurship. We’re all in this together.
Buy GeneratePress: generatepress.com
Buy OceanWP: oceanwp.org
Join StudioPress: studiopress.com
Join Elegant Themes: elegantthemes.com
Buy Beaver Builder: wpbeaverbuilder.com
Download Elementor: elementor.com
WP E Signature, by ApproveMe, is a high-end, paid WordPress plug-in that allows users to create personalized, legally binding contracts that can be signed electronically with a computer mouse or touch screen. It’s the first application of its kind that I’m aware of, and can be either an excellent time-saver, or a costly burden. The app isn’t for everyone. There’s an immense learning curve to using it, and the price can be prohibitive. But when properly installed, it’s powerful, and can save a business money over time.
I discovered WP E Signature while searching for a solution for a client who needed an electronic version of their standard contract. They have hundreds of customers per week, and were buried under paper forms. Electronic signature apps for the iPad or Android tablets commonly require a monthly fee. Within their budget, I was able to set up a WordPress page on cheap hosting and install the plug-in.
The plug-in is available on the developer’s website, www.approveme.me. You can purchase the license for either the Pro or Business package. These offers are very different from what I first saw only a few weeks ago, so ApproveMe may still be adapting their business model. The Pro License costs $97, can be installed on 3 websites, and includes the Basic add-on list. The Business License costs $250, although sales and special offers are available. It can be used on an unlimited number of sites and utilizes the Basic and Advanced add-on collections. The Business License may be suitable for a WordPress web designer who makes many websites and can install the plug-in for businesses as part of their projects.
There are tutorials on YouTube narrated by Kevin, ApproveMe’s soft-spoken lead programmer. They also have a speedy support team. If you own the license, you can log into ApproveMe’s website and send them a question. In my experience, they respond on the same business day with an email. This is important because of the previously mentioned learning curve and complexity of the plug-in.
That complexity may be a consequence of needing to be legally binding and compliant with government regulations. Other plug-ins that feature signature add-ons don’t really focus on signatures- they’re bundles based on contact forms, invoices, or something else. WP E Signature’s selling point is that its signatures will hold up in a court of law.
When the plug-in is installed onto your WordPress site, there will be options in the backend Dashboard to create New Documents. Similar to a WordPress Post or Page editor, you can type up your contract and save it on WordPress’s database. It can be emailed to your potential client or viewed on a designated page of your site.
The Pro License includes the Basic Add-ons, which number 3: Custom Signer Fields, Document Activity Notifications, and Save As PDF. Custom Signer Fields are items like check boxes and date calendars that can be inserted anywhere on a contract. Document Activity Notifications will alert you when your client views the contract on their device. Save As PDF lets you download a signed contract from your website’s backend onto your computer for personal storage.
There are 13 Add-Ons in the Advanced Package, available with the Business License. The ones I think are most important are Stand Alone Documents, Document Templates and Unlimited Sender Roles. Stand Alone Documents are those that are automated and can be used repeatedly. If a business has many clients who need to sign a standard contract, this is useful. Document Templates are similar, but it seems they are emailed to customers while Stand Alone Documents reside on a WordPress page. I utilized the Stand Alone Documents for my client. Unlimited Sender Roles is key if there are multiple administrators of your WordPress site. They would likely be the web designer and the business owner, and anyone on the business’s staff the owner assigns. Other Advanced Add-Ons include the ability to add your logo and branding to a document, syncing with Dropbox, and signing reminders, in case your client is dragging their feet.
You would need to do pretty brisk business to justify WP E Signature’s price tag. On top of that, if you aren’t comfortable with web design, you would need to pay a designer or staff member to install the plug-in. Luckily for me, my clients were well established and my hourly rate was acceptable to them. Considering how much paper and ink they go through, this plug-in will pay for itself. Early stage companies and start-ups wouldn’t get much use if they’re still building their customer base. Starting out, they may be better off with paper contracts or iOS signature apps.
Hopefully, ApproveMe will streamline this plug-in to make it easier to use and more affordable. I think what they offer is crucial, and I’m surprised more developers haven’t joined in the effort. Competition would be great for this category. Early adopters are needed to support ApproveMe’s work while they perfect the product. There are growing entrepreneurial and freelancing movements. The future of the economy depends on them being protected in their business dealings. WP E Signature is rough around the edges, but promising.
I’ve listed the features and qualities a professional website should have in 2016. Here, I wrap it up.
Contact Option: There needs to be contact information on your site- this isn’t optional. The whole point of the Internet is communication, and if your site does what you want it to, your customers will want to reach you. It’s standard to have post your address, phone number, email address, and social media links. An email address can be substituted with a contact form; forms are linked directly to your email client.
It’s common to have a separate “Contact” page, but there’s a trend to post the info on homepages or in footer areas. Contact can be part of your Call To Action, so experiment with ways to grab visitors’ attention.
Footer: Footers are the areas at the bottom of web pages. It’s easy for a designer to forget them, but they are very important in securing an audience and/or market. When visitors are interested in a website, they naturally scroll down to read more. The footer area is where the page concludes, and it’s like the climax of a story. You can insert your call to action and contact information here. Since footers are uniform to the whole site, it pays to include content you want to repeat. Repetition is a useful strategy in marketing.
Security: It’s frightening how many hackers and cyber-criminals exist in the world, and how persistent they are. However, some basic preventive measures can secure your website from malevolent forces. The following tips are for WordPress sites.
Regular Automatic Backups– A decent web hosting service should offer this as a matter of course. In case your site is hacked, you can scrap it, then easily rebuild it from the most recent backup.
Update Themes and Plugins/Delete Unused Themes and Plugins– Hackers can get into old versions of WordPress software and insert malware. Update your apps regularly to beat them to the punch. Also, delete any software you don’t use anymore.
Clean and Optimize Your Database– WordPress manages databases behind the scenes so you don’t have to. You can download a plugin to handle this work.
Security Plugins– There are great WordPress security plugins. My source for these security tips recommends iThemes Security, CloudFlare, and Sucuri.
WP Apprentice, 5 WordPress Maintenance & Security Tips
WebTegrity, 8 Must Haves for Your Home Page
Continuing my checklist of recommended website features.
Search Engine Optimized: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is almost an industry all its own. A professional web design service may concentrate on building sites and refer clients to a dedicated SEO expert. It takes constant work to manage a site so it has the right code, tags, content, and links so it shows up at the top of search rankings. It also takes several months for the work to get results, so you have to take the long view. There are dozens of tools, both free and premium, that an SEO professional can take advantage of. If you’re a WordPress aficionado, like me, the first and last name in SEO is Yoast. It’s a plugin app that coaches you in writing good content and tags, and does the work of submitting your pages to the search engines for consideration. Its developers are always studying the cutting edge, ins-and-outs, and strategies of Google.
Analytics Tools: A web analytics tool is software that tracks the traffic on your site. Usually, it’s a line of programming that you can copy and paste into your site’s code. Analytics packages will tell you where your visitors are coming from, which of your pages they visit most often and for how long, how many of your visitors follow your Call To Action, and so on. Here’s a list of Top Web Analytics Tools. Google Analytics is the leader for its price tag (free), its ease of use, toolbox, and network of support. But there are plenty of worthy contenders for the top spot; it’s good to have alternatives to keep the top dog honest or that have niche features that no one else offers.
Social Media Links: Not only should you have your own site, you should have pages/profiles on your favorite social networks. It’s standard to have a Facebook business page. A Twitter profile lets you reach a large audience of fans. LinkedIn is good for Business 2 Business interaction. If you sell products, you can post them on Pinterest.
Social media lets your site reach a wider audience. I like to think of your website as a hub that branches out into other networks. It should be obvious these days for your site to have links to your social profiles. If you update your site with a new promotion or blog post, you can announce it in your networks.
You shouldn’t depend on just one network. Facebook is the most widely used, but it can control which of your posts are seen by your friends. Facebook makes their money by selling advertising, and their strategy is to target niche audiences. This can be either good or bad depending on your viewpoint. It makes your marketing budget cheap and efficient, but it can also prevent reaching new customers you hadn’t considered before. You can reach separate audiences on the other networks like Twitter. The competing platforms have different business models, so their newsfeeds and bulletin boards work differently. A smart marketing strategist is open to a variety of channels and not afraid to experiment.
Social Proof: Social Proof is outside recommendation of your business. Traditionally, testimonials from existing customers are common, and they’re effective on the web, too. You can have them in a separate section on your homepage or “About” page, or you can place testimonials throughout the site strategically. If your clients have their own websites or social media profiles, it’s a good idea to link to them, with their permission. This way, visitors know you’re not just making things up.
Customers can also rate your business on social media or Yelp. You can share the favorable posts on your site. Some sites have a Facebook or Twitter newsfeed displayed on their pages, directly bringing comments from their profiles.
Stay tuned for Part 3
Sources: WebTegrity, 8 Must Haves for Your Home Page
WP Apprentice, 5 WordPress Maintenance & Security Tips