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Inside Radiate Digital Services Tech and Software

Building an Event-Based Website Using BuddyPress and Events Manager Pro

BuddyPress is a very popular WordPress extension that allows you to turn any WordPress sit Building an Event-Based Website Using BuddyPress and Events Manager Pro

BuddyPress is a very popular WordPress extension that allows you to turn any WordPress site into a social media platform.  With features such as profile creation, friending, internal messaging, wall posting, and more, BuddyPress comes pre-built with all sorts of user-capabilities.

However, in the 7 years that BuddyPress has been around, it’s been expanded and customized to accommodate a number of other uses such as internal networks, fan sites, dating sites, and more.  Basically, any place where you want to better connect people while giving them the ability to manage and update a profile, BuddyPress can be a great solution.

Including event-based websites.

Why Would You Want to Connect BuddyPress with an Events Website?

Any good events plugin for WordPress will allow for user-profile creation.  This will generally allow them to long in to check current or past registrations, cancel registrations, and if you want, create events of their own.

But adding BuddyPress gives users considerable more control over their accounts, providing a more attractive profile page that’s easy to access and update.  In addition, let’s say they make new friends on an event they attend.

They can then return to the site, friend these people using BuddyPress’s default features, and stay connected through there.  They can even see which future events the other is attending and register accordingly.

If you’re allowing users to create events on your site, they could use the social features as a coordinating/communication tool as well.

Truthfully, there’s a lot of ways you can harness the social power of BuddyPress to make a better events site.  Here’s what we did:

The Project

A client wanted us to build them an event-based website for a niche-market that added a degree of social-media like interaction.  While the primary purpose for creating a profile was to register for events, social functionality would become increasingly important as the business and the community within it grew.

We decided that BuddyPress would perfect for this.  Though it doesn’t have any event functionality built in, there are a number of popular event platforms with BuddyPress integration capabilities.

We went with Events Manger Pro because we had good experience with it in the past and they offer BuddyPress support.

The intial setup is relatively simple.  Install BuddyPress and Events Manager from the plugin area of your site.  To add the Pro features of Events Manager, you’ll need to purchase and download it from their website, and then upload the zip file onto your own site.

With these in place, we set up the registration page for BuddyPress.  Users visited that to create their account.  This would then send them an activation email.  Once they activated their account, they could login and start registering for events on the event page powered by Events Manager.

In our case, users had to create a profile before they could register for events.  However, if you wish, you can enable guest registration as well.

For the initial stage of the website, profiles were mostly used to track and store additional user information.  BuddyPress makes adding additional user field’s very simple, letting use customize profile layouts as we saw fit.

In our client’s case, profiles actually represented two people (specifically a couple) instead of one.  BuddyPress gave us the ability to add fields for both.

Another feature we were able to utilize was internal messaging.  Though we had this disabled for standard users, admins on the site could message either specific users or mass message everyone through the website.

Messages were stored both on the user’s profile and sent to them via their primary email address.

Future Planned Updates

There are a number of updates currently planned for the second phase of the website including:

  • Paid memberships/membership tiers (using an additional plugin)
  • Friending capabilities and internal message for paid accounts
  • Special event prices for paid accounts
  • And more

Trouble We Encountered

While the combination of these two WordPress add-ons allowed us to implement a number of features, some of the above functionality had to be modified and tweaked within the actual code.

Also, though Events Manager is setup to work with BuddyPress, the integration isn’t quite as seamless as we would have liked.  For example, Events Manager allows you the option of exporting attendance rosters for events.  However, these exported lists don’t pull the extra profile data found in the BuddyPress profiles.

This was especially troublesome in our case since that extra data contained the info of the second person in the couple.

Also, if you’re looking at someone else’s profile, trying to see what events they’re attending, the default layout/organizing is a little confusing at first.

Lastly, we’ve had a slight issue with some users not receiving their activation email.

Ultimately, We Recommend BuddyPress and Events Manager Pro

Are they perfect?  No.  Do they have some limitations?  Yes.  Will you need a design and/or developer to help with some styling, coding, and site navigation?  Definitely.

But using these two plugins allowed us to provide a website that does quite a bit for a really affordable price.

Categories
Design Inside Radiate Digital Tech and Software

Customizing WordPress: Free Themes, Premium Themes, and Frameworks

At Radiate Digital, we use WordPress as the platform for over 90% of our websites.  WordPress is an incredibly popular and powerful platform that can do just about anything.

Yet it also manages to offer a relatively simple CMS for users to access and update content that appears on their website.

Though just about anyone can learn to create a page or add a blog post to a WordPress site, getting it to look and function how you want it to takes a little extra effort.  Default, WordPress looks a little…vanilla.

 we use WordPress as the platform for over  Customizing WordPress: Free Themes, Premium Themes, and Frameworks

Maybe you like vanilla.  That’s fine.  If we’re talking about scented candles, I’m a big fan of vanilla.  But when it comes to design, I like to think we can do a little better.

This is where the use of ‘themes’ comes into play.

Themes are what add the beautiful design to a WordPress site.  They can also add some additional functions such as shortcodes.  Technically, every WordPress site has a theme.  Even that picture above is a theme.

But not all themes are created equal.

 we use WordPress as the platform for over  Customizing WordPress: Free Themes, Premium Themes, and Frameworks

(it’s like a rejected scene from a Frozen ripoff)

The Freebies

There are a lot of free themes out there for WordPress.  You simple go to a themes website, download one, upload it onto your website, activate it, and there you go.  Your WordPress site now has a design.

However, free themes tend to come with a different kind of price.

Free themes typically offer very limited if any customization, meaning that any other site using that theme is going to look incredibly familiar.  They usually also feature the theme designer’s name at the bottom.

And frankly, a lot of free themes just don’t look that good.  Generally, these freebies are best left to a personal blogging site or that website you were forced to set up for your dad for free.

Premium Themes

As you might have guessed from the name, premium themes are ones that cost money.  The prices on these can range quite a bit depending on how robust they are.  They might offer an extensive amount of homepage options and arrangements or multiple looks for interior pages.

They might also involve things like Woocommerce for stores or some other sort of inventory system. Typically, they’ll provide you with some different color and font options, and let you tweak things so that the site looks a little more ‘you’.

That said, even premium templates often give off a certain “out of the box” feel.  Now depending on what you’re looking for, that might be fine.  It’s also important to remember that themes take support to make sure they stay up to date with the latest version of WordPress.  If the company that made the theme disappears or stops supporting it, you might run into some issues.

They can also sometimes have compatibility issues with different plugins.

Lastly, even though the tools and settings are all there for you, it can still be quite a bit of work for the average computer user to get a template setup correctly and looking like what it’s supposed to.  That’s why even people who use a theme often team with a professional WordPress user or developer to set up and manage their site for them.

WordPress Framework

Frameworks are where some people start to get a little confused.  A framework isn’t a theme, per-se.  It does go on top of the WordPress foundation like a theme does.  It’s installed in the same place as a theme is.  It often has settings very similar to what a theme has.

But it lacks an actual design.

Typically, a framework has something called a child-theme placed over top of it.  This uses the functions and capabilities of the framework, but puts a unique design to it.

Think of it like the human body a car.

WordPress is the engine.  The framework is the car frame and suspension.  The theme/design is the body and paint job.

Many (if not most) themes come with the framework and the design bundled together.

Here at Radiate, however, we don’t use pre-made themes.  We make custom WordPress designs so that our clients get exactly what they want out of their website.  But we do use our own Framework.

It’s Called the Radiate Framework

After designing and setting up quite a few WordPress sites, we decided to build our very own Framework.  Why?  Because we knew the kind of features and functionalities businesses wanted, and we wanted to be able to provide that on a stable platform for an affordable price.

Our framework provides the perfect groundwork for a fast and flexible website.  Behind the scenes, it comes preloaded with a number of useful features such as staff sections, portolio displays, a long list of useful shortcodes, custom headers on every page, and more.

Simply put, it comes with a lot of tools preloaded but can still be molded to meet the diverse needs of our clients.

What’s Best for Me?

Ultimately, it depends on what you want.  WordPress as a whole is a great website platform.  It’s our favorite platform.  If you’re creating a hobby blog for fun, a free theme will probably handle your needs.  If you want to take that a little more seriously, a premium theme is an easily affordable solution.

Just remember, with either of those options, you’ll still need hosting and a domain name.

That’s why we bundle all of that into our custom website designs.  If you want a website made your way with a stable framework, website updates, ongoing maintenance, hosting, and domain management, might we suggest having us craft something for you on our Radiate Framework?

You can checkout our Portfolio page for just a few examples of sites we’ve built on it.  Visit our sister-site LaunchRunner and you’ll find a few more.

Or if you’re really serious about it, visit our contact page.  We’d love to chat.

What is your experience with WordPress themes?  Do you have any questions?

Categories
Design

Is a Responsive Website Design Really that Important for SEO?

 is in fact the actual year of responsive design Is a Responsive Website Design Really that Important for SEO?Mashable dubbed 2013 as the year of responsive design.

We’d like to argue that 2015 is in fact the actual year of responsive design.

Why? Because Google.

Okay, for those of you not regularly interacting with Google on a tech level… Because, earlier this year, Google made a push for responsive designs by adding it as a factor in their ever-changing website ranking algorithm.

The Big Change by Google

It’s no secret that changes happen to Google’s algorithm on a regular basis.

See: Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, Hummingbird, etc.

So, it was no surprise that Google’s first major update this year, changed the way websites would rank in a big way; as the major updates usually do.

In March, Google announced (like they so very rarely do) they would be adding this new modification to the search algorithm beginning on April 21, 2015. They called this change the mobile-friendly update.

What Did the Update Include?

The update was created to filter sites that do not have a mobile-friendly version from Google’s mobile search results.

This means that Google gave a big old nod of approval to responsive designs. If you want further proof of this nod, just check out the developers section in Google’s webmaster tools. Google outlines tips for making your site mobile-friendly.

It also means that sites that are not responsive, or domains that do not have a mobile-specific site for phone searches will no longer be included within Google’s search rankings from iPhones, Androids, and tablets.

And, while missing out on mobile traffic might not seem like a big deal, mobile searches actually dominate the search market in the U.S.

Other Reasons for Responsive Design

If missing out on mobile search traffic isn’t enough of a reason to make the switch to a responsive design, we have a few more reasons why responsive design is important:

  •  is in fact the actual year of responsive design Is a Responsive Website Design Really that Important for SEO?Responsive designs are user friendly.

    Page elements such as menus, buttons, and even text are much easier for mobile users to interact with, and there’s no need for users to zoom into sections of the site in order to interacting.

  • Responsive designs have faster loading times.

    Because responsive designs are automatically optimized for all devices, they load faster for each individual device. Your website loading quickly doesn’t only benefit your users, but it also has positive benefits on your SEO, as load time is a factor Google takes into consideration when ranking websites.

  • Responsive designs save you money.

    Since responsive designs are optimized for all devices, there’s no need to create a separate mobile version of your website for Google’s mobile search. That math should be easy, as one website costs less than two! If that isn’t reason enough, development and ongoing maintenance costs for responsive designs are also lower, because responsive frameworks keep all content (for every device) within one easy-to-use dashboard!

Get Started

 is in fact the actual year of responsive design Is a Responsive Website Design Really that Important for SEO?

Ready to see the additional benefits a responsive design can bring to your business for yourself? Contact us today to learn more.

 is in fact the actual year of responsive design Is a Responsive Website Design Really that Important for SEO?

Categories
Tech and Software

Browser Review: A Day in the Life with Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer: Once the dominant internet browser, now a running joke.

Oh how the mighty can fall so very far.

 years is pretty much hated by the web world Browser Review: A Day in the Life with Microsoft Edge

In case you’re unaware, the browser that has come pre-loaded on Windows for over 15 years is pretty much hated by the web world.  From designers to developers to power users, Internet Explorer or IE serves as a constant headache.

(If you want to know more about that, check out this post)

Simply put, things that should work fine on a website like to not work on Internet Explorer.  Weird glitches show up.  Designs don’t properly render.  The list goes on.

While Microsoft has put for some serious effort in the past year or two to control the damage (see here and especially this one), it’s too little too late.  Even if IE worked perfectly (and it definitely does not), the name has been tarnished so much, there’s really no saving it.  So they did the only thing you can do in a situation like this:

Destroy and Rebuild

Over the past year, Microsoft has been beta testing a new browser originally titled Project Spartan (we’re pretty sure that’s yet another Halo reference).  With the release of Windows 10, that browser has been given a new name.  And that name is Edge.

 years is pretty much hated by the web world Browser Review: A Day in the Life with Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer is dead and buried.  Long live Microsoft Edge.

What is Edge?

Not to be confused with a well-known, beanie wearing, and somewhat polarizing guitar player, Microsoft Edge is the new pre-loaded Windows browser.  The logo is quite similar to IE’s.

Everything else…well, it’s pleasantly different.

Unlike the continued versions of IE, Edge is a new platform rebuilt from the ground up.  The hope is that with the new name and the clean build, Microsoft can ditch both the shortcomings and the bad reputation of their old browser.

But does Edge deliver?  I decided to put it to a test.

 years is pretty much hated by the web world Browser Review: A Day in the Life with Microsoft Edge

(Bono’s favorite browser)

 

A Day on the Edge

Thanks to my lovely new HP Spectre x360 (which I strongly endorse) and a fresh copy of the all-new Windows 10, I was able to test drive Edge throughout a work day.  The goal: use Edge as my browser for all my work needs.

The good news?  The world did not end.  And I’m pretty sure it’s better than IE.  However, there’s still some wrinkles that need a little ironing.  But let’s start with the positives…

The Good:

From the first opening, Edge looks lovely.  A super clean interface that definitely seemed optimized for high resolutions (the framing and menus looked noticeably sharper than Chrome’s).  Edge provides simple options to change between a light or dark theme based on your preference.

Bookmarks and favorites can easily be copied over from your other browsers and you can choose whether or not a bookmark bar shows at the top.

Otherwise, the browser simply displays back, forward, refresh, your open tabs, and a few easy access tools to the far right.

One of those tools is the reading mode button.  What does it do?  Let’s say you’re on a blog post or article and you want to just read the post without the sidebar adds and links and everything else.  Simply click the button and all things disappear except the article and pictures.  It looks very similar to a Kindle book, and it is lovely.

You can even adjust the display settings for it similar to a Kindle, from font size to background color.

(a quick note: I realize Safari has this feature, and it can be added to other browsers as well, but Edge’s is the cleanest, most accessible version I’ve seen)

The two other buttons, which are useful in theory, are the Quick note button and the Share button.  The quick note allows you to screen draw, highlight, crop, and send notes for whatever you’re viewing in your browser.  Similarly, the share button let’s share the page as is.

It’s not as great as it sounds though.  But we’ll get to that in a second.

Using it throughout the day, the browser ran very fast and generally smooth.  However, I did run into a few random hitches and slowdowns.

Lastly, and I’m not sure how good of thing this is, but Edge allows you to access IE still.  Let’s say you need to check something in Internet Explorer or a page won’t work for you on Edge, simply go to the menu and click “open in Internet Explorer”.

It’s actually pretty great because A: they hide IE like they should, and B: if you absolutely need it for something, it’s still there.

Now then…

The Bad:

Sadly, though my Edge experience overall was pleasant, the browser has some issues to fix first.  Starting from the top, it was nice that I could carry over my favorites from another browser, it would have been better if I could carry over password/login data like you can with browsers like Firefox.

More concerning though, drag and drop functionality didn’t work for me on any site or web app I visited.  Anytime I tried to drag a file from my desktop onto the browser, it wouldn’t go.  Similarly, I couldn’t drag photos off the browser and onto my computer.

There were a few other strange things.  For example, when editing a Google Doc, I couldn’t paste something into the doc.  I also couldn’t activate offline mode on Google Docs (though that could be Google’s fault, I suppose).

After a while, some of my tabs in my browser went blank.  The window was still there, but rather than displaying the site title and favicon, it just showed a blank box.

The browser is also a bit of a resource hog.  When opened for a while, it was consuming a lot of my computer’s memory.  At one point, the browser actually froze up on me.

The biggest thing holding it back from being a true contender right now, however, is the lack of extensions.  Both Chrome and Firefox can be expanded to do some fantastic things thanks to their deep libraries of extensions.

Microsoft has said that extension support is coming soon for the browser, but currently, you’re stuck with Edge as is.  Speaking of, the share and quick note features are pretty limited.  I was only able to save to OneNote (which I don’t use), Evernote (which I also really don’t use) or send directly in an email.  Simply being able to download the image with notes would have been nice.  Social sharing wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Lastly, Constant Contact doesn’t work with Edge (though it displayed a message letting me know that they’re working on it).  I’m sure they’re not the only site not working on Edge.  Netflix however, ran flawlessly.

Conclusion: The Edge of Glory

From my brief use, Edge seems to be a step in the right direction.  It’s fast, it looks nice, and it rendered websites properly.  Still, there’s some functionality issues to be worked out, and hopefully they can get down on the memory usage.

Ultimately, it’s just not a contender yet, and I don’t see any reason to switch from the browser you’re currently using…unless you’re using Internet Explorer.

Really, that’s the best part of Edge.  It signifies a long overdue end for a failing browser.  Hopefully it also marks the beginning of something much, much better.

Have you used Edge?  What do you think?  What’s your browser of choice?