Posts made in August, 2014


“Ask Penny” is the place to come with all of your tech-related questions. Want to know how to tweak your web site without hiring professional help, or when is the right time to get that type of help? Bring your questions right here to the comments! Once a month Penny will be back to answer a few more.

Ask Penny

Penny Shima Glanz is a computer scientist with a passion for information management and how we interact with technology. She started PennyWise Consulting, LLC to help solo and small businesses figure out how to make the most of their technology needs and budgets. When not wrangling technology she can be found knitting, snuggling with her cats and reading, or out on a muddy trail run at sunrise.          

Today’s Question: I don’t like my blog and want to redesign it but don’t have funds. What are some simple things I can do on my own?

Penny’s Answer:

I understand, sometimes you need a change but the budget says no.

There are a few differences to keep in mind if you are on a free site (such as wordpress.com or blogger.com) as opposed to hosting your own, but there are some steps I take when I first start scratching that itch of “I want to change my site” and which apply no matter what your budget.

While it’s easy to quickly change a theme in either WordPress or Blogger, and there are many free themes to choose from, I don’t suggest starting with such a radical change. In my experience that isn’t what’s driving the desire for a redesign.

I visit the site and pretend it’s my first time. What’s the first thing that catches my eye? Is that what I want visitors to see?
Then I go page by page and take a survey of several posts (often the ones that have the most traffic) to see what I notice.
Then I do the same on my mobile devices.
Then I print it out. Yes, I know, but this method works best for me and I recycle!

There are three questions I look to answer based on this review:

  • Question one: Is it easy for a first-time visitor to do what I want them to do if they land on the main portion of the site, or come to an internal link (such as a blog page)? What changes do I need to make in order to make this easier for them?
  • Question two: What if it’s not their first time? Am I addressing their needs?
  • Question three: What am I doing to entice people to come back again?

By focusing on these questions I find that I sometimes just need to adjust placement (and visibility) of widgets on my sidebar, timing of a newsletter subscription form, or adjust items in a navigation menu. (The following examples are WordPress specific.)

For many, one of the big questions might be as their blog grows into a business or their business grows a blog if it makes sense for an index of blog posts to be the main page or if a static page makes more sense, or (more likely) a blend of the two. Please see this WordPress article Creating a Static Front Page for more detail. Depending on the theme you are using, you might be able to make these changes without any additional code (Don’t forget to back up first!).

Another area I find that often needs changes over time are the items in the navigation menu; sometimes just changing the order is all that’s needed, at other times I need to add or remove items. WordPress’s Menu User Guide offers basics.

By printing key pages of my site, I often catch typos that snuck through various levels of editing. I also read the pages out loud.

Last, but not least, many themes allow you to change some aspects such as colour through the customize appearance option. You may even want to add a background texture, I like the textures at Subtle Patterns.

Thank you, Penny, for your fabulous WordPress Wisdom! If YOU have a question for Penny, ask it in the comments below! She’ll be back again next month, and it might just be YOUR question that she answers!

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Welcome to #ThinkCreateReflect, where we take a moment at the end of every week to do something a little bit outside of the box. We’ll consider a creative or journal prompt and use it to grow ourselves and our businesses. Won’t you join us?

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This week, let’s get creative with our writing! Pull out your journal (or open up your blog) and answer the following prompt:

Write a letter to your business or personal hero. What would you say? How can you use that person as inspiration for the next goal you set for yourself in life or in business?

Write your answer in your journal or blog, or share it with us on social media using the tag #ThinkCreateReflect!

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Happy Wednesday, Makers! We’re so happy to have you here with us on the day we celebrate the Maker in all of us.

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This week, I’ve got a mystery project going on! This is a mystery knit-along by knitting designer Josh Ryks. The pattern is called “Urban Survival,” and instead of getting the whole pattern at one time, Josh is releasing it as a series of clues (one per week for a period of 5-6 weeks, I believe). I had a bit of a problem with my first color selection because the grey I had chosen didn’t show up on the background color well enough. So I went back to the dye pots, and I’m much happier with my project now! This is the first clue, near the beginning (the overall shape doesn’t change within this clue, it just gets more of this stripe sequence):

I’m excited to see where the next clue will lead – stay tuned, because I’ll share the next one on another edition of #MakersWednesday!

Now, it’s your turn – what have you been making this week? Share with us in the comments below, or tag your creations on Instagram and Twitter with #MakersWednesday. We’ll see you there!

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Today I’m taking a minute to rant about one of my pet peeves as a frequent buyer of handmade items: labels!

I can’t tell you how many times I have bought an item from a handmade seller that I intended to use as a gift for someone else, OR the number of times I have received a gift from someone that was originally purchased from a handmade seller, and that handmade gift item came without any label at all.

Do you see the missed opportunity here?

Maybe these sellers just don’t understand how to label handmade creations. Maybe they just figure if a customer buys an item then they’ll always remember where they got it. I’m stumped, I tell you!

Let me play out a few scenarios for you, both of which happened recently.

Scenario 1: My sister sent me a bracelet for my birthday; she had purchased it from an Etsy seller. The bracelet was awesome and jingly and it had a ton of charms on it, all related to Doctor Who. It was like a sparkly Nerd Badge and I was excited to wear it with pride. In fact, I was SO excited that I really wanted to tell my friends about the bracelet, and sing its geeky praises on social media so that other nerds would be able to get their hands on such an accessory.

Except, I couldn’t.

Well, I could have, but it wouldn’t have made a single sale for that Etsy seller. And can you guess why? It’s because – whoever they were – that Etsy seller didn’t include a label on the bracelet. So when my sister gave it to me, it was wrapped up in a cute little gift box, but it had no identifying marks on it to tell me where it came from. Therefore, I wasn’t able to tell other people to go and throw their cash at that Etsy shop’s door, because I didn’t know who had made the bracelet.

Scenario 2: I went shopping on Etsy for my sister’s birthday that same year. My sister hosts a lot of dinner parties, so I wanted to get her some handmade napkin rings. I found a set that was made from birch wood, which I thought would be perfect because my sister and I grew up in a house with a birch tree on the front yard, and I remember she was always fond of the photography of Ansel Adams; particularly his images of birch trees. I added the napkin rings to my cart and waited for them to arrive.

And arrive they did! Except that they were just put into a box, properly wrapped in terms of protecting them from damage during shipping, but without any kind of label or business card included in the package. So I gave my sister the gift, but she has no idea where I bought them. I can imagine she might have thought, Hey, these are great! I wish I had a double set – except there’s no tag, so I don’t know where to get more! Or maybe a dinner guest at her house might ask her about them, and all she’d be able to say is that her kid sister got them for her, but she had no idea from where.

In both of these scenarios, the maker in question missed an opportunity for marketing. Do my sister and I write blogs with millions of followers, or host TV shows about the handmade marketplace, or have an “in” with the hottest craft shows in the land? Nope. But we could … or, a person like that could be YOUR next customer. And in either case, just one tweet from me or a Facebook comment from my sister could have meant a sale or two for these sellers that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Let this be a lesson to you, makers! Put labels on your products, and include an extra business card in every package! Your buyer may not always tell you that the item is going to be a gift for someone else, so package your item with the assumption that it will be – and that the recipient of that gift is going to become your next Biggest Fan.

How to Label Handmade Creations

Here are some tips how to label handmade creations, so you don’t make the same mistake that so many of your fellow creators have made:

  • If you sell jewelry, housewares (such as – ahem – napkin rings), or other small objects: use hang tags. They come in all shapes and sizes, and you can hand-write your brand information on them, have them custom printed for you, or print your own stickers and attach them to the tags.
  • If you sell items made from fabric, use your own fabric labels. You can print a label onto printable fabric and sew it into an item, have fabric labels printed for you, or even use iron-on transfers or fabric pens to write your logo onto a product.
  • If you sell art, cards, art prints, or other paper products – print your shop name and web site address onto the back of every item you print and sell.
  • If you sell a digital product, such as printables or ebooks, make sure you use a footer that includes your name and web site on every document.

Do you label your handmade creations? What’s your preferred labeling style? Tell us about it in the comments below! And if you have a product and you’re not sure how to label it, leave us a question in the comments and we’ll help you come up with something!

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Welcome to #ThinkCreateReflect, where we take a moment at the end of every week to do something a little bit outside of the box. We’ll consider a creative or journal prompt and use it to grow ourselves and our businesses. Won’t you join us?

TCR button

This week, we’ve got a quote to inspire you …

apple tree

photo credit: Bert Kaufmann via photopin cc

What would you do today, even if you knew it wouldn’t matter tomorrow? What’s one important thing you wish you would’ve done, but you haven’t yet? 

Write your answer in your journal or blog, or share it with us on social media using the tag #ThinkCreateReflect!

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