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Welcome to our regular Friday Lunchtime Live Q&A! Gary & Andrew are live on Facebook every Friday to answer your WordPress questions, so don’t forget to Like our Facebook Page so you can watch and ask questions yourself.

Gary Weis: [00:00:00] Hi. Welcome Facebook fans, and welcome to the second of our Friday lunchtime live Q&A sessions here on the couch. You’ve got Gary and Andrew here from WP Butler. How are you mate?

Andrew Marks: [00:00:14] I’m doing well. How are you?

Gary Weis: [00:00:14] Doing well, yeah. Another day in paradise as they say.

Gary Weis: [00:00:18] So I thought we’d kick off this morning with a little bit about who’s been talking to you on the couch over the last two weeks. Where did WP Butler come from and what’s it all about? WP Butler was a concept that arose out of a need that I saw where clients often didn’t have a web development company or didn’t have an agency that was looking after them. And that was sort of a little bit out on their own. So a parent company we have, SBIM, was getting a lot of phone calls from these businesses and they’re not necessarily small businesses either. They’re not, they’re not micro businesses. They’re not even, you know, they’re not of any particular size. In fact we have quite a large range of businesses that use us here at WP Butler. So size doesn’t really matter but quite often they just simply need some sort of technical help. It may be a marketing manager that is fantastic at what they do in terms of their marketing but may not necessarily be the world’s greatest person dealing with CSS or HTML or using some javascript or tidying up a web page or may want some specific formatting the theme doesn’t look after. So WP Butler fit in the market in terms of ad hoc WordPress support. Then we noticed that business owners not only, or people, webmasters weren’t only just looking for ad hoc support. There were then just looking for also the month to month support that they might have needed in terms of managing their websites. Everything from security, backup, maintenance, speed, performance, all those types of things all rolled into one. And that’s when we developed our WordPress performance packages to look after all those things for those clients. So WP Butler sort of morphed from just being an ad hoc support desk now to also a full service WordPress support, I suppose, House – Australia’s home of WordPress – which also includes hosting with our magnificent hosting partner, WP Engine. So really it’s grown out of a need and just gets bigger and bigger every month as people experience the WP Butler difference and our experience. Which probably is a good segue into throwing over you there Andrew as to our Head Technical what your background and what your experiences with WordPress.

Andrew Marks: [00:02:50] Well yeah, I tell people I’ve been working online since almost before there was an online. I’ve been, I think my first paid gig building websites was in the mid 90s, mid to late 90s so it was a while ago.

Gary Weis: [00:03:04] Puts some age on you.

Andrew Marks: [00:03:06] Yes it sure does. However, back then there were no content management systems. It was all hand-coded HTML. It got to the point where I actually where when we were introducing languages like PHP dynamic software into websites, it allowed me to build simple tools that would let people update their own website. So back, then if you had a website and you wanted to make a change you had the privilege of having to pay your web developer to do that for you because there was nothing like WordPress around. So that never sat well with me and I actually developed my own content management systems at the time to allow people to make those changes, partly because I’m a nice guy, partly because I didn’t want to make those changes for people, that’s boring and, you know, tedious. So-

Gary Weis: [00:03:56] It takes time, takes time.

Andrew Marks: [00:03:58] It does. That’s right. So then it got to the point where, you know, that my little software was okay but this WordPress thing came out. I started to investigate that and it was super powerful. More than 10 years… I was trying to work it out, I think about 11 or 12 years I’ve been building almost exclusively in WordPress. I’ve potentially built less than five websites in the last ten years not using WordPress and that was simply because, at the time, I was like I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to do this inside of the WordPress framework. Now looking back I would have gone ahh I know how to do it now. So yeah look, it is the solution for everyone. Ninety nine percent of businesses, I would say, WordPress will achieve what you’re looking to achieve. So, yeah that’s why I’ve drilled down into WordPress and committed to that, because it does the job I wanted to do, and most customers that I’ve come across are very very happy with it.

Gary Weis: [00:05:04] Just on a point there. We discovered the other day, and I don’t know whether we mentioned it, but 85 percent of websites here in Australia, in fact, are built on WordPress. So it’s not a small market. So here at WP Butler we deal with a large range of businesses. And as I said the market is just getting bigger and bigger, and 85 percent market coverage at the moment is pretty huge.

Andrew Marks: [00:05:26] That’s a lot of people.

Gary Weis: [00:05:27] Only getting bigger to, by the way. Andrew thank you for that. We might jump in to some questions.

Andrew Marks: [00:05:33] Sure.

Gary Weis: [00:05:33] I got them tucked over here. Don’t have the iPad today. Shaniqua asks “What’s the difference between PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.

Andrew Marks: [00:05:43] Shaniqua. I hope that’s your real name, that’s very cool. 5.6 and 7. PHP is built on… WordPress is built on PHP. It’s the programming language that sits behind the scenes. What happens is when you request a web page from a WordPress website, some page code runs on the server, creates a HTML page and then sends it to your browser. That’s what PHP is. Now, just like any software PHP has evolved over time. A lot of websites until recently were using PHP 5. PHP skipped over version 6 and went straight to version 7, and version 7 is now… well, version 7.1, 7.2 or 7.3 is now essentially what gets used. PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.0 both reached what they call “end of life” last year and what that means is, it is now… Whilst it still works, it’s now no longer supported. So if there are any vulnerabilities, any problems found inside of those programming languages, they’re now no longer being fixed. They’re now no longer being supported. So essentially, if you have a website or a hosting account there’s still uses PHP 5.6, anything lower than five… I actually set up an account on Amazon last week and they gave me PHP 5.3 which was nice of them. Thank you Amazon. Yeah. So even 7.0 no longer cuts it. So if you’re not sure how to check that, let us know we can help you with that. The problem is, with your WordPress website, when it comes time to update or upgrade your hosting account – it shouldn’t cost you anything extra, it should just be a switch inside of the control panel – your website may not run correctly on version 7.1 for example. There are some checks that can be done. However, probably the easiest thing to do if you have a cPanel installation, you can just flip the switch, swap over to version 7, check with your website still works. If it doesn’t, switch you back and then, as I said, let us know, that’s what we’ve been doing a whole lot of because, at the end of the day, PHP 5 – we have to draw a line under, it’s gone, and we’re now focusing purely on version 7.

Gary Weis: [00:08:13] And that’s technology folks. You know, we’ve got to move forward, we’ve got a plan for the future we can’t keep looking back. So these legacy versions have to become… well, have to get to end of life at some point. So it’s just progress. All right. Next question. Brendan wants to know should he be using a WordPress Child theme?

Andrew Marks: [00:08:33] Yes. We should elaborate on that. Okay. What a child theme is is essentially an empty theme that relies on its parent. So one of the reasons we love WordPress is it’s very easy to make a website that looks like what you want. There’s a million themes out there that you can use. They all come with various colours and fun and layouts. Great. Choose one that you like and we can set that up. Now the problem is if you get to the point where you go “This theme is great but I really wish it did… something.” You know, I really wish it would allow me to add an extra column or new navigation, whatever it is. If you then make the change to that parent theme we call that, the theme itself. At a later date when that theme gets updated, what can happen is it will overwrite your custom code. And then it’s gone and you’d have to write it again. So what a child thing does is it allows you to create an empty theme, that’s the active theme that says look you know you’re looking for a header file. Well I don’t have one. I’ll just point you over to my parent. You know you’re looking for a navigation, a footer, whatever it is. If it’s not set up in the child, it just points you back to the parent. So a child theme of the parent theme allows you to then customise one of those elements of your parent theme and those customisations are safe in a separate theme. You can then update that parent theme as much as you want and your customisations will never get overwritten. So that’s why just par for the course every single time you set up a WordPress website, it doesn’t matter what theme you are using, set up an empty child theme which, I think it just needs a function.php file and the style.css file that points back to that parent and then, you know, you’re away. Then if it comes to the point we go Yes I actually do need to make some changes to this theme. Copy the file that you need to change into your child theme, make the change there. Everything works – wonderful!

Gary Weis: [00:10:58] Thanks mate. It’s probably one of the most common things that we get called on here at WP Butler is to have a look at why the site’s broken and typically it’s because the theme is being updated and the customisations inside the theme have been overwritten with the new update on the theme. So a lot of the work we do here is also about then taking a brand new child theme and actually stitching it in to the website so that doesn’t happen going forward. But very very very very common. Thanks for the explanation mate. Nat, our Kiwi friend from across the ditch, wants to know, What’s your favourite theme?

Andrew Marks: [00:11:38] Ahh, what’s your favourite theme?

Gary Weis: [00:11:41] Well I think.

Andrew Marks: [00:11:41] There are so many, so many to choose from.

Gary Weis: [00:11:43] You know what, and I don’t want no there up to the WordPress repository, but there’s thousands and they’re free ones at the repository. And then you’ve got the you know the plethora of themes that are out there in terms of the premium ones. I think the one we’ve probably settle on the most here in terms of flexibility and ease of use for clients to use is probably the Divi theme. However – probably good time to discuss this – is theme frameworks vs page builders vs Gutenberg. WordPress his new page builder. Might through it over to you.

Andrew Marks: [00:12:21] Yeah, well we discussed this last week, the question about Gutenberg. Herein lies the problem. Gutenberg is an update to the editor and themes like Divi which come with its own builder are built on the old editor. So there seems to be a mad scramble at the moment for a lot of themes to sort of catch up or to customise their page builder so that it does work with Gutenberg which is quite a job because it’s a rebuild from the ground up. So that’s a real, real issue. Now as we discussed last week, you can install a plugin called Disable Gutenberg and get on with your life, continue using Divi, continue using Divi Builder, but there’s going to come a time where that’s no longer viable. Now, I was going to say my favourite theme is one called Salient and that comes with similar, but comes with one called Visual Composer. And with that theme it’s allowed me to build whatever I want. I call it more of a framework than a theme because you can make a website that looks like almost anything. It’s really amazing. Now I’ve started experimenting using other themes because I need to sort of remove my reliance on these visual builders and the other aspect of website building that’s becoming increasingly important is the speed of your website. So there’s a theme that came out late last year called GeneratePress which is free. There is a premium plugin you can buy for that. But that is tiny. It is something like 200Kb, 0.2Mb – 0.3Mb and your page loads lightning fast. So you’re foregoing visual elements like animations and, you know, some of the layouts. So I’ve decided… I’ve almost made that commitment to use this theme to build up a handful of websites use the Gutenberg editor to lay out the pages and make sure everything looks great and then try and get it lightning fast. So yeah I mean to answer the question, for me Salient, although I have used Divi, it is very cool and does a lot of a lot of cool things. But those… I don’t want to say they’re the dinosaurs but they are probably on the way out if they continue to rely on these visual builders that aren’t compatible with Gutenberg.

Gary Weis: [00:15:05] The way I look at the visual builder, the page builder scenario is it’s sort of like you’re trying to make lunch, you know, to go to work for. You can you can create a couple of nice sandwiches and put on your lunchbox or you can brag a whole entire smorgasbord along with you. The Lightweight themes that load fast are like the little sandwich inside the lunchbox – you only got what you need to eat this. The smorgasbords are fantastic if you then need all those features built in and you’re gonna use them. But if you’re not going to use them, you’re just lugging them around and that is just going to slow you down. Yeah. So lean as fast. Thanks Andrew. Okay.

Andrew Marks: [00:15:45] Now we have, yeah, a couple of quick questions that we’ve added to the list. These are client questions that have come in through the week. We’re going to answer them quickly. But yeah these are real questions from some of our customers. What’s the first one there?

Gary Weis: [00:16:04] Matt from Coffs Harbour asks which courier should I use.

Andrew Marks: [00:16:08] Right, so Matt has a technology website that sells product. They Use WooCommerce which is probably the single best e-commerce plugin available for WordPress. And he got in touch and said, you know, which courier should he use. Well this isn’t a website question and in fact it probably should be a question that, before the website was even built, Matt and his team I guess should have decided on. So we couldn’t really advise – it depends on where he’s located, what couriers are available, the size of the product that he’s shipping, all of those sort of questions need to be answered before you then settle on a courier and implement a technology solution. So to point him in the right direction we said, well look you use WooCommerce. If you Google commerce extensions, you can find then all the shipping options. There are extensions for couriers in Australia already set up, ready to go. If none of those are appropriate, there are then courier aggregators. There’s one relatively new called Sendle which has its own plugin and that allows you to choose from a variety of couriers, all from within that one plugin. Bottom line is if none of those work, there is in Australia Post plugin which then has rules for whether you want to send a satchel or a box or whatever it is. So again, to help Matt we pointed him in the right direction but unfortunately it’s not something we can choose for you. That’s sort of a business level decision you need to make and then we can help you implement that technology.

Gary Weis: [00:17:52] For sure. We personally love the Australia Post plugin because I think what it does is it’s giving you the exact same rights baked into your website as if you walk down with your parcel, stood at the counter, got it weighed, got it measured and handed over handed over the cash to pay for the freight. So what enables you to do is there’s know 100% that you’re not under charging when you send it through Australia Post you know exactly how much going to go how much it’s going to cost. And it also enables you to put a margin on your freight. Now it’s not about putting huge margins on if I could just enough to cover your package and handling which customers are okay with.

Andrew Marks: [00:18:32] Now I think the other thing some people forget is when you start looking at shipping, if you need it to calculate on live shipping like a DHL, a Couriers Please, Australia Post. Each of your products need the dimensions and the weight attached to them or you can calculate that information. And I don’t think in Matt’s instance that had been done. So he’s got a bit of a job ahead of him before he can get those couriers plugged in. But yeah you know, my advice for most small businesses is, you know, you should be you should have some idea of what the average send out is going to be. And so if you’re just starting off just put a flat rate, you know, 10 dollars, 15 dollars, whatever covers it 90 percent of the time. And that way you’ve got a very simple solution. And over time once you’ve started making those sales because that’s more important than mucking around getting it perfect straight up front, Get it done, start making some sales and then you can smooth that over after that.

Gary Weis: [00:19:34] Very good. And Caroline from Tasmania asked how do I change wording in the Google search results.

[00:19:43] This was an interesting one because Caroline uses the Yoast plugin which is an excellent SEO plugin and what she found was in Yoast you can create your search engine results snippet. So you give it a title, you give it a description, and then when your page shows up in the results, that title and description are often associated with it. What she found was that that didn’t seem to be working. So we had to look at that. But, diving into it, Google actually announced last year that they’re not necessarily going to use your title and description anymore which, this is the first time we’ve seen that actually happening. So Caroline’s website does a variety of things and her description only potentially described one of those things. So when someone searched for one of her other services, that description that came up didn’t necessarily reflect what that customer had been searching for. So Google decided, well actually we’ll put a better description in there so that you’re more likely to get that click. So that’s actually Google being smarter than us which we’ve known they are there. Which we’ve got to come to terms with that Google know more about us than we know about us. And so that was what the problem was. She’d set up Yoast correctly the description, the title, everything was there but Google chose not to use that. And we’re going to see that more and more I would say.

Gary Weis: [00:21:15] For sure, for sure. That’s about the end.

Andrew Marks: [00:21:18] I think so. We’ve done well.

Gary Weis: [00:21:19] No more questions for this week. But thanks again for joining us on the couch at Facebook. Lunchtime Live. And join us next week. We’ve got something a little bit different planned for next week so please tune in. But for now I think that’s about it. You got anything else?

Andrew Marks: [00:21:36] That’s it. Thank you very much.

Gary Weis: [00:21:38] Thanks for tuning in. See you next week.

Andrew Marks

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