Ebenezer Christian School

Ebenezer Christian School is a pre-K through 8th grade school in Lynden, Washington. This summer break the principal and I updated their website to better serve the school. At first we focused on updating the web design and changing the navigation to make information easier to find, then we focused on the content. Then came the fun part, adding photographs of incredibly cute kids: kids in their pajamas, kids overloading the playground equipment, and lots of hugging. Check out the site to see what I mean. It was rewarding to see the immediate impact the site had on all those cute kids’ parents and teachers. After I gave them WordPress training they were on their way to updating the site themselves, which is one of my greatest rewards. It’s a dynamic site for a very dynamic school.

Updating your WordPress theme

Salud Spanish is a Spanish-language school in Bellingham, WA. I built the school’s website several years ago, and it has served them well.

Unfortunately, the developer who built the site’s WordPress theme stopped maintaining it. Using an outdated theme is bad practice (see the earlier blog entry about keeping your WordPress installation up to date). It was time to change the theme. Changing themes is a pretty straightforward process, as the theme controls the look and functionality of the site, but the contents stay the same. I chose the Avada theme because it’s well supported and constantly being updated.

The image above shows the site with the old theme (left) and with the Avada theme (right). The design didn’t change much, although I made some adjustments to freshen things up a bit. The site’s content barely changed at all. It’s up to you how much you want to use the opportunity to change the site’s design or contents.

Contact me to find out if it’s time to update your site’s WordPress theme.

Dani Bates Weight Loss Coaching

Dani Bates is a weight loss coach based in Bellingham, WA. She and I just worked together to give her Dani Bates Coaching website design a fresh new look.

Dani works one-on-one with her clients to resolve the weight-loss issues they have faced for years. Rather than diets, Dani focuses on the underlying issues involved with managing ones weight. We defined her audience: accomplished, intelligent women, and refined her message: that she can help them make lifestyle changes that will help them lose weight, permanently.

I wanted to convey Dani’s sophistication and sense of style, so I kept the website design light and simple. Her blogs show her playful side, and keep the site fresh, always a plus for search-engine optimization. Take a peek at https://danibatescoaching.com.

Green Leaf Forest Products

One of my clients, Simon Petree of Green Leaf Forest Products, supplied the wood slabs for all the tables at The Wine Vault restaurant in Blaine, WA. Simon harvests wood, including old-growth fir, from local sources and mills it into live-edge slabs used to make counters, tabletops, seating, and furniture. If you’ve visited a local coffee shop, you’ve probably seen his work. Simon can tell you the story behind each piece of wood, including where it’s from and how it was harvested. Simon uses a WordPress catalog I set up on his website to display of all the wood slabs for sale, doing most of his work from his phone.

Diane Padys – Professional Photographer

Diane Padys makes me look good. When I design a website for a professional photographer, I stand back and let their photographs speak for themselves. Diane’s photographs not only grab the viewer’s attention, they convey her professionalism and show the wide range of subjects she works in. In the case of Diane’s website only her logo and the menu were on the page; I kept the rest as white space. Here’s where the dictum “good design doesn’t draw attention to itself; it draws attention to the subject” was particularly true. Visit www.dianepadysphotography.com to see her stunning work.

Why you should keep your WordPress website up-to-date

Once I publish a WordPress website, the work is not done. The website needs regular maintenance to keep it safe and running smoothly. There are five main reasons you need to update WordPress:

Security
Because WordPress is so big, it can be a target for security attacks. Hackers can break in to your website and insert malicious code, which can harm or break your site and cause it to lose position in search engine results. However, WordPress is open source, meaning developers from all over the world contribute to it, kind of like Wikipedia. Because there are so many developers, vulnerabilities are spotted and fixed quickly.

Performance
This army of techies is always working to improve your site’s performance, in particular the website’s speed.

Bug fixes
Because it’s open source, major WordPress releases tend to be very stable. However, software will always have bugs, and minor releases are regularly published to fix them.

Compatibility
WordPress plugins are add-on programs created by third-party developers. For example NextGen, one of the most popular plugins in the world, lets you make a photo gallery for your site. If you keep WordPress and your plugins up to date, they’ll play well together. The same goes for WordPress themes.

New features
New features generally make WordPress easier to use or add functionality.

Keeping your WordPress installation current is really, really important. Doing so will save you big headaches down the road. I offer annual retainer agreements to keep your WordPress website up-to-date and tuned. Contact me to learn more.

Skiyou Ranch

I was recently introduced to organic cattle farming by Tarie Benson, owner of Skiyou Ranch in Sedro-Woolley, WA. She and her husband Vonn raise organic grass-fed Black Angus beef. Their farm has been in the Benson family for four generations, since 1894. All of their animals are born and raised on the farm, and eat only grass that is grown on the farm. In the summer, they are moved to higher pastures to take advantage of the grazing there. The two of them do all the work on the farm themselves, which I think is amazing. In addition to cats and dogs they have a deer and a raccoon as pets. Visit www.skiyouranch.com to learn more.

WordPress User Guides

Most of my clients want to update their WordPress sites themselves. In addition to editing text or writing blog posts, they may want to edit their image galleries, add new pages, or edit their navigation menu.

Once I publish a website, I create a custom User Guide to walk my client step-by-step through the editing process. Each User Guide is unique, because each client’s needs are unique. I start from the beginning, showing them how to log in to WordPress. From there, I’ll write custom sections for each type of edit the client wants to make. Each instruction is accompanied by an annotated screen shot illustrating that step’s actions.

My background before I was a web designer was as a technical writer in the software industry, so writing these guides is a lot of fun for me.

Once I give a client a User Guide, I rarely hear back from them. I check the site from time to time and see that they have been keeping it current. To set them out on their own, like a bird out of their nest, is one of my greatest rewards.

Ponds Edge Studios

Judy Laub - Pond's Edge StudiosJudy Laub is a brilliant metalsmith here in Bellingham. I recently had the honor of creating a website for her studio, Ponds Edge Studios, www.pondsedgestudios.com. Working with someone whose work is so stunning makes my job easy.

Judy makes fine jewelry and other wearable works of art, as well as repousse handcrafted items for display. More on repousse in a bit.

Judy incorporates natural materials into her jewelry and metalwork, including shells, wood, fossils, and metal. Each piece is handcrafted, and truly a wearable work of art.

Her new medium, repousse, is a method that goes back for centuries. French for “push out”, repousse involves working with both sides of a piece of metal to create relief, and then finishing the outer side to create a final artistic expression. She can explain it better than I can. Better yet, look at the repousse page to see how it’s done.

Her photographs are magical (she takes them all herself). See them for yourself on her website. It was truly fun to work with her.

Floating Lantern Pet Memorial

Life Cycle Pet Cremation recently organized a Floating Lantern Pet Memorial ceremony. The ceremony gave pet owners a healing way to remember their special companions. Each pet owner decorated a lantern with personal memories of their pet, and then set their lantern out to float in the lake.

Taking place at dusk, the site of all the lanterns together was a moving reminder of the bonds between our beloved companions and ourselves.

Life Cycle Pet Cremation is a pet-only funeral home offering customized cremation services in Whatcom County, WA. In addition to actual cremations, Life Cycle offers a wide range of products and services designed to help pet owners honor the loss of their beloved pets. Life Cycle’s owner, Bobbie Ruth Langley, is one of the most compassionate people I know. Her compassion eases the process of letting go of one’s dearest friend.

Photo by Diane Padys.

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