All posts by ThemeSquirrel

What to Look at When Redesigning Your Website

[Image Source: Unsplash]

What to Look at When Redesigning Your Website

You’re probably here because you’re considering a website redesign. Perhaps you’ve begun to suspect that your site is looking outdated and that it might be time for a change. Maybe you’re having issues with traffic or the lack thereof, or your conversion rates are dropping.

Whatever the reason may be, a redesign can help, but only if you do it right. This post is here to help you do just that.

A good rule of thumb for business success is that what is good for your customers is usually going to be good for your business. We approached a profesional web designer to find the safest, most effective, and overall, the best way to redesign your site with your customers in mind. 

What is a Website Redesign?

First, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page. A website redesign is not the same as a refresh or update. The difference between the two is mostly related to the scope and reach of the changes you’re making.

A website refresh, or update, is a process in which you apply minor changes to your site’s look and feel. It basically represents putting a new coat of paint on your site, with updated typography and maybe a new color pallet. Some small UX tweaks can sneak in as well.

With a redesign, however, not only does the visual appearance of your website change significantly but so does the code. Let’s suppose that you’re going through a full rebranding or a visual identity change. In that case, you’ll be looking to restructure your information architecture, incorporate new functionality to your site, or even add a new content management system (CMS).

Despite all these differences, a refresh and a redesign have one crucial thing in common — both can impact the customers’ experience on your site. The semantics are far less important. What really matters is how you approach the changes you’re about to make.

Things You Should Determine Before Redesigning Your Site

The only way to find out what your customers want from your site and what it is currently doing well is to do some research. Here are three critical questions to ask yourself about your site and your customers before embarking on a redesign project.

What Are Your Website’s Most Important Pages?

Let’s take a second and think about the way you should approach a website redesign. First, you need to figure out what you want to change and what you want to keep. Think of it as you would think about remodeling your home. You wouldn’t just grab a hammer and start swinging without working out a plan for knocking down your walls.

You should have a clear website redesign roadmap as well, outlining the pages that need to be rebuilt from scratch and the ones that only need a few tweaks. 

One way to do this is to analyze your traffic and your conversion rates. This type of analysis will put each of your pages into one of the following categories:

  • Low traffic, low conversions — the most risk-free pages on the site. You can redesign these pages as much as you want because not many people are likely to notice, and there’s no risk for your conversions.
  • High traffic, low conversions — not quite as risk-free as the last category, but some experimentation is allowed. You’re getting lots of eyes on these pages, but something is clearly not working in terms of getting conversions.
  • Low traffic, high conversions — tread lightly with your changes. Most likely, there’s nothing wrong with these pages, and you need to redesign the rest of your website to funnel more traffic here.
  • High traffic, high conversions — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. These pages are the ones pushing your business forward, and any significant changes to them could have massive consequences. Proceed with caution.

Knowing which pages to get rid of and which to keep will help you get the most out of your website redesign. This way, you can make sure that you don’t ruin your conversions or break anything else that is currently working well.

Who Is Visiting Your Site and Why?

Finding out which of the pages on your site are the most important is only half of the story. You also need to know your visitors, specifically who they are and what they want from your site.

Users can come to a website for one of these four reasons:

  • They want to know more about your products or your brand
  • They want to get in touch with you
  • They need instructions on one of your products
  • They want to buy something from you

It is pretty clear that these reasons are all quite different. Understanding the intent of your customers will help you redesign your site with their interests in mind.

An excellent way to start is to create customer personas. These are representations of your current customers based on the data you’ve collected. Customer personas help you determine:

  1. Your target demographic
  2. Your customers’ primary intent

You can start creating customer personas by placing surveys on your site and collecting useful info about what is driving your customers there.

What Is Pushing Your Customers Toward Conversion, and What Is Stopping Them on the Way?

By this point, you’ve figured out what your website’s most valuable pages are. You also know who is visiting your site and why. 

That’s a great start, but there are still a couple of large gaps that you need to fill before you can start your website redesign. To fill these gaps, you need to answer the following questions about your site:

  1. What elements are nudging customers in the right direction, helping them complete the actions they came for?
  2. What elements are stopping customers on their way to conversion?

The answers to the first question are your hooks, while the answers to the second are your barriers. Investigating your hooks and barriers will help you get the answers to the following questions:

  • What about your site is working and what isn’t?
  • Where are your customers getting stuck?
  • What’s preventing people from converting?
  • What do your customers enjoy or dislike about the experience of visiting your site?

And so on. If you can’t make a connection between your website’s performance and your customers’ behavior, you might end up with a lot of the same problems after the redesign. We’re sure you’ll agree that this would be disastrous, as it would render the whole exercise pointless.

Finding the individual elements that work and those that don’t is crucial to your ability to determine what to keep and what to remove.

You Should Never Stop Redesigning Your Website

Once you’ve answered these three key questions, you can proceed with your website redesign. However, if you think that your work is done, think again. The online world is volatile, with accessibility standards, design practices, browser technologies, and customer preferences always changing.

What worked at the time of your latest redesign may be an outdated practice now. 

Keep asking the questions outlined in this post regularly, and your site will remain competitive regardless of the changes in the online landscape.

Author bio:

Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. He is focused on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.

Difference Between WordPress And Wix, Which Is Better?

Featured Image Source: Unsplash

If you’re willing to take up website design and development, choosing a tool for building your site is the first step you need to take. 

Although there are plenty of options available, WordPress and Wix are the most popular alternatives out there. 

So, what are the differences between them and which one will be better for you? 

Well, today we are going to give you an answer. 

WordPress vs Wix: The Main Difference 

Before figuring out both the pros and the cons of these tools, we first need to understand the difference between them. 

Wix is a website builder, whereas, WordPress is a content management system.

A CMS, like WordPress, is software that runs on a web server that allows you to store, create and manage content. Being open-source, CMS gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to managing your site. 

You’re not bound to a particular host, but keep in mind that you’ll have to manage maintenance, security and backups all by yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you. 

Website builders, like Wix, are a different story. They provide you with all the tools necessary for creating your website. However, you’ll only be able to work using their platforms.

WordPress vs Wix: Which One Is Better? 

The short answer is that it depends, mostly on the complexity of your website. But let’s discuss this in further detail. 

1. Pricing 

Both of these platforms can be free of charge, to an extent. For example, Wix offers a free basic website builder for as long as you want. However, you won’t be able to use a custom domain name and Wix will also add advertisements throughout your page.

So, if you want to get rid of the ads and have a custom domain name, you’ll have to upgrade to one of Wix’s premium plans. Here, you can opt for a monthly or yearly subscription, starting from $5 per month and going up to $35 per month.

Since WordPress is an open-source CMS, you can download and use it for free. However, by having just a Content Management System, you won’t be able to get your website up and running. 

You’ll also need to find a hosting provider and a custom domain name. For example, when it comes to hosting, Bluehost’s cheapest plan will set you back around $3 a month, which will also come with a free custom domain for one year. 

Besides subscription payments, you also may need to pay for premium themes or additional plug-ins that will give your website more functionality.

2. Ease of Use 

Building a website with Wix is as easy as it can get, making it perfect for beginners. Simply drag and drop any element, such as paragraphs, pictures, buttons, etc. and arrange the layout of your page to your liking. 

Also, if you’d like to add more functionality to your site, just go on the App Market and add new features in no time. 

When creating a website with WordPress, on the other hand, you might end up watching a few tutorials here and there. That’s because you might have to do a bit of coding and also figure out how to work with certain features of the platform. 

3. Customization 

Although Wix is very easy to use, it won’t give you that much freedom in terms of customization and flexibility. That’s because you will only be able to customize your website by using the built-in tools Wix provides you with.  

Besides, even if there are hundreds of templates available that fit a wide variety of industries, once you’ve selected one, you won’t be able to change it. 

With WordPress, you not only have access to a much larger variety of templates, but you can also change or modify them to your liking, provided you know a bit of HTML and CSS, that is. 

In other words, Wix is limited but provides just enough customization options for beginners. Whereas, with a little bit of knowledge, WordPress gives you endless possibilities in designing your website. 

4. Functionality 

When it comes to functionality, Wix can provide you with over 250 free and paid apps through its App Market. 

Although it may not sound like a lot, each one of these apps is either created by Wix, or by third-party developers which are approved by the platform. This means that any plug-in you will find on Wix is guaranteed to work with your website.  

On the flip side, the number of plug-ins available in WordPress is close to 55,000. So, the chances of not finding exactly what you need, are quite slim. 

That doesn’t mean you won’t stumble across some of the lower quality plug-ins. However, checking other user’s feedback can mitigate that risk. 

5. SEO 

Speaking of apps and plug-ins, we have to talk about the SEO capabilities of these two platforms.

The good news is, both Wix and WordPress provide you with tools that will aid you with Search Engine Optimization. 

Even though the number of plug-ins available on Wix is rather limited, it still offers quite a few dedicated SEO tools compared to other website builders. 

One of them being Site Booster, which comes free of charge if you have a subscription on anything that’s above the Unlimited plan. If you opted to use Wix for free, or you’ve subscribed to the Combo plan, this app will cost you around $3.50 per month. 

Site Booster offers pretty much all you could ever need from SEO. It helps you rank higher in search results, get your site listed in directories and business listings and more.

However, due to the larger number of plug-ins you can find on WordPress, you’ll be able to have a slightly better SEO compared to Wix. 

6. Customer Support 

Wix offers 24/7 customer support in all of its paid plans, making this one of its strong points. Furthermore, if you’ve opted for the VIP package, you’ll be able to get help right away. 

WordPress lacks in this department. In fact, WordPress does not offer any official customer care. So, if you happen to come across an issue, your best bet would be to head over to its community forums, which might not always fix your issue. 

7. Online Stores 

Regarding eCommerce, Wix is best suited for smaller online stores. It comes with plenty of features that will help you run your business such as social media integration, abandoned cart recovery, post product reviews on your site and more.

However, some of these features are quite limited. In order to run your online store on Wix, you need to choose one of their eCommerce plans. Note that the cheaper ones have a rather limited amount of features available.

WordPress, on the other hand, comes with a large number of plug-ins that are specifically catered toward online stores, WooCommerce being the most popular. 

In fact, over 28% of all online stores are using this plug-in. So, why is it so popular? Well, just like WordPress, WooCommerce is also open source, meaning that you’ll be able to extend the set of features your website has by installing additional plug-ins, features that your online store might not benefit from by using Wix.

Conclusion 

So, is WordPress or Wix a better option for you? 

Well, if you’re comfortable with coding, building and maintaining your website by yourself, give WordPress a try. It offers a lot more functionality and customization options that will most likely give you better results in the long run, compared to a website builder. 

However, if technical skills are not your strong suit, you should try Wix. Due to its ease of use, this platform is perfect for beginners who don’t want to meddle in building a website all by themselves.

Author bio:

Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. He is focused on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels

SEO Tips: Time vs. Money

For many business and website owners, SEO is still seen as something that is too expensive to get into. This is both correct and incorrect; yes, SEO can be very expensive, but you don’t have to have a big budget in order to optimize your site and get your SEO performance up. SEO is always about time and money, and in this article we are going to discuss how you can balance these two aspects accordingly.

seo-tips-2015

Big-Budget SEO

The simplest way to do SEO is by having a team of experts helping you every step of the way. If you have a big budget for SEO or internet marketing in general, then this is definitely the route you should take. Over 60% of today’s internet traffic still come from search engines, which is why having your site at the top of search results is a huge plus.

The guys at Blue Hat Marketing shared their secrets for maximizing your SEO budget. According to them, there are three main things to focus on:

1. Superb articles and other site content that will attract and engage visitors. Content is still the heart of every SEO campaign. Luckily, you can now hire the best content writers and creators from all around the world to help you produce high quality articles, podcasts and videos for your visitors.

2. On-site SEO optimizations that will help your site blooms. The best content needs to be presented correctly not only to users but also to search engine crawlers. Having a team of SEO, web design and programming experts optimizing your site will indeed be a huge plus.

3. Off-site SEO done right. In order to truly have a successful SEO campaign, you also need to build relationships with other sites and site owners.

What about doing SEO with low budget?

The secrets to a successful SEO campaign remain the same: the three points we discussed earlier. To have a truly successful campaign, you need to do those three steps correctly and effectively. The good news is: you can do most of them yourself.

seo secrets

When you have low or limited budget for SEO, all you have to do is invest more time to the campaign. For example, you can produce your own articles and keep your site updated. You may make mistakes at the beginning, but article writing is a craft that is easy to learn.

The same goes for optimizing your site. You may still have to hire a web designer to do the programming for you, but figuring out the elements that need to be improved is something you can do yourself. Of course, you can also spend some time connecting with other influential websites and writing guest posts to improve your site’s exposure.

Time vs. Money

At the end of the day, SEO is about time vs. money. Whenever you can’t afford to spend on your SEO campaign, you can always invest your time into it. it is just a matter of choosing the right balance to have a truly successful SEO campaign without breaking your bank.

WordPress Fires Back Against Mass Surveillance

reset the net logoIn recent days, Paul Sieminski from WordPress.com posted a blog entitled “Reset the Net.” It rhymes, it’s catchy, and apparently it had quite a profound effect, as plenty of sites picked up on it, including ThemeSquirrel. The article’s thesis: “We’ll be serving pages only over SSL for all *.wordpress.com subdomains by the end of the year.”

The blog entry starts by noting that one year ago, “We joined the world in shock on learning that governments were spying on internet users around the world… Just as troubling as the revelations themselves is the fact that since last summer, little if anything has changed. Despite a lot of rhetoric, our three branches of government in the United States have not made many concrete steps toward truly protecting citizens from unchecked government surveillance.”

Apparently, WordPress’ parent company, the famed Automattic, has been one of the champions of support for legislation combating mass surveillance. With so many websites powered by WordPress, a call to action by a company as large and as relevant as Automattic could mean quite a change in the industry. When Automattic speaks, the WordPress world listens.

As Sieminski concluded, “If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that encryption, when done correctly, works. If we properly encrypt our sites and devices, we can make mass surveillance much more difficult.”

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum or what your views are about the place government has in your daily life, the comments on Sieminski’s piece were overwhelmingly in support of WordPress’ actions. One user wrote, “Excellent! This is great news and I support WordPress in its efforts to protect its members,” while another reader added, “Thank you. It is disturbing the lengths governments go and spin it as being to protect their people. They’re just snooping.”

If you’re thinking that the title of Sieminski’s blog sounds familiar, it’s because “Reset the Net” was the name given to a public awareness day that took place on June 5 devoted to privacy and surveillance online. As a pledge you can find on ResetTheNet.org says, “Mass surveillance is illegitimate. I’m taking steps to take my freedoms back and I expect governments and corporations to follow in my footsteps and take steps to stop all mass government surveillance.”

There are a variety of ways to protect yourself on ResetTheNet’s website, including apps focusing on text messaging and phone calls, password protection, and encryption for online discussion. Whether you’re a Mac user, Windows user, or Linux user, you’ll find something on the site of value if you’re interested in privacy.

gmail statsEven Google is getting into the act. Around the same time that WordPress posted, Google’s team revealed that it had launched a new section of the Transparency Report (pictured at left) focusing on what percentage of e-mail was encrypted in transit. As Google pointed out, “Our data shows that approximately 40 to 50 percent of emails sent between Gmail and other email providers aren’t encrypted.”

Google added, “We’re making available the source code for End-to-End, a Chrome extension. It’s currently in testing and once it’s ready for general use, it will make this technology easier for those who choose to use it.”

Other participants in Reset the Net include Reddit, Mozilla, Greenpeace, Dropbox, and Fight for the Future, which started the campaign in the first place.

Automattic will likely continue to grow in power and influence going forward, as its CEO, Matt Mullenweg, who is also the co-founder of WordPress, was recently quoted as saying, “We still have 70 percent of the web to go” when asked about WordPress’ long-term plans. A man with a vision and, perhaps in this case, a mission.

Proof That WordPress Can Adapt to Any Industry

bandOn this Memorial Day week, we ran across an article that appeared on TheMusicVoid.com advising band members and managers how to start their own WordPress sites. Yes, even rockers can get into the act on WordPress along with the rest of us, which was proof enough of how dynamic the content system we all know and love can really be.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re setting up a portfolio or a photo book or a rock band’s website; the process is the same. However, let’s follow The Music Void’s example to see if we can discover what about WordPress is particularly important in that industry compared to others you might be familiar with.

After a band figures out what their URL will be, which is likely just their name, it’s time to find a WordPress theme that suits them best. But, what traits are important when it comes to selecting a band’s WordPress theme? As the site put it, consider “the genre which you/your band plays, the image you want to evoke, the style you want to convey, [and] the practicality of employing these on your WordPress site.”

For example, a country band may want to use country-related images, while a particularly dark band may want to employ a not-so-vibrant color scheme. The layout and look will likely depend in large part on what the band actually is.

Then there’s content. If you’re a band trying to get the word out about your existence, The Music Void recommended that a video appear on the home page: “A video or sound-byte would be the ideal choice as far as initial presentation is concerned. If you do include this for your index page, make sure to have options to turn it off and also have options to adjust the volume.” Nothing is more embarrassing than navigating to a web page while at work only to have music blare through the computer’s speakers.

Other content that’s important to bands specifically is an “About Us” section, according to the same site, so visitors know all about a band and can easily contact them. The Music Void added, “Band sites are rich with audio-visual content and customization is key to getting your name out there. Becoming popular and getting work is everything for a band and you should customize your site in order to be unique.” We’d recommend including tour dates and live show information if these exist as well.

wp-showThere’s a WordPress theme we’ve reviewed here on ThemeSquirrel called WP Show (pictured) that includes an oversized video player on its main page. If you’re a band or any entertainment entity, using a theme that features video heavily, as we just learned, is quite important. The WP Show theme includes a featured video carousel and supports text posts.

WordPress.com offers music-related features including a song player, tour dates, social media involvement, video embeds, and mailing lists. Apparently, WordPress powers the websites of artists like Snoop Lion, Xzibit, and The Gap Theory, just to name a few.

One of the most popular hosting solutions among websites we saw suggested that bands set up their own domains using BlueHost, which offers shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting. There’s optimized hosting for WordPress starting at $34.99 per month. There are also plans that cost a few bucks.

It’s interesting how many industries the WordPress concept can adapt to. Each industry values different marketing tools and, with the right theme, WordPress can bring each desired feature to the forefront of a site. Whether a business thrives by showcasing videos, audio, images, text, or a calendar, for example, there’s a WordPress theme that fills the need.

Website Platform Pantheon Raises $21.5 Million

pantheon logoAccording to various sources, including Forbes and Venture Beat, the website platform Pantheon has raised $21.5 million in cash as part of a Series B funding effort. As Venture Beat put it, the reason for the latest round of fundraising is to “help Pantheon as it intends to maintain a larger portion of websites on the internet. It is targeting companies looking to spend somewhere between a few hundred and several million dollars a year.”

Forbes noted that Pantheon is quickly gaining steam and currently has 65,000 websites. As the news site explained, “The value prop for those website owners is that Pantheon relieves their internal staff of the duties related to setting up, maintaining, and scaling the underlying infrastructure upon which their websites run.” Essentially, Pantheon lets companies focus on their own business and lets Pantheon take care of keeping the websites up and running.

Pantheon supports Drupal and WordPress and, as TechCrunch revealed, will soon expand its staff and “invest in partnerships.” According to a blog post from CEO and Co-Founder Zack Rosen, “Our mission at Pantheon is an ambitious, long-term undertaking. My co-founders and I have long experience bootstrapping companies, but we’ve known since the beginning that the venture financing path is the correct one for Pantheon. There would simply be no chance of achieving our goals without the backing of top tier venture investors.” The site launched in 2012.

If you’re a regular reader of ThemeSquirrel, then you know that Automattic, which runs WordPress.com and features WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg as its CEO, recently received $160 million in funding. Automattic is not alone, either, at least not in terms of raising money, according to Venture Beat. The site said, “Squarespace raised $40 million. Weebly also took on $40 million. WordPress-focused WP Engine picked up $15 million. Earlier-stage Brandcast received $1.5 million.”

Pantheon is thinking big too, as its CEO stated that the company’s goal is to “power 30% of the Web.” Yes, that’s a long-term play, but money – and lots of it – will be one of the keys to reaching the finish line.

You’re reading a WordPress-related site, so let’s at least add one paragraph to this article that focuses on WordPress. In March, Pantheon introduced a website platform for WordPress. Rosen compared Drupal users to WordPress users by saying, “WordPress developers face the same tricky website DevOps challenges as Drupal developers. Pantheon turns tasks like version control, setting up development environments, workflow, team management, and high performance scaling into one-click operations.”

zack rosenPantheon has five levels of pricing available: Personal, Professional, Business, Enterprise, and One. Each option comes with varying levels of storage, pageviews, updates, support interaction, and automated backup, just to name a few. The Personal version runs $25 per month, while the Enterprise and One options require a person to call Pantheon in order to figure out how much the company will charge.

By the way, you know Rosen (pictured) is a big deal when his Twitter handle is simply @zack. Seriously, how early do you have to get into the Twitter game in order to squat on @zack? The answer: 2006. In addition to his role at Pantheon, Rosen is the owner of Mission Bicycle in San Francisco and a partner at Chapter Three.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which was among the first news outlets to report about the funding, “The Series B round was led by Scale Venture Partners and includes OpenView Venture Partners and current investors First Round Capital and Foundry Group, taking Pantheon’s total funding to $28.8 million.”

We’ll keep you posted on the latest business news affecting the WordPress community right here on ThemeSquirrel.

Why Laymen Choose WordPress

wordpress adminYou use WordPress, but, hey, you’re a reader of ThemeSquirrel and know quite a bit about the industry. Why would a layman use WordPress of all of the options out there? How do WordPress and its themes appeal to the common man? Do you remember why you started using WordPress in the first place? For the answer to those questions and more, we’ll turn to an article from Business News Daily that compared WordPress to one of its rivals, Squarespace.

Themes are one of the main reasons WordPress is so popular. After all, we have reviewed plenty of them here on ThemeSquirrel and regularly help you find the best ones by publishing articles like 20 WordPress plugins to improve your social media presence. Themes help make the WordPress experience unique.

As Business News Daily pointed out, there’s a lot of theme appeal to the common man, as “Themes can be used as-is without any need to code or may be customized by those with more advanced coding skills.” You can find WordPress themes for just about everything, from hotels to restaurants to portfolios to news sites. No matter what your business model or goal for a website may be, chances are there’s a WordPress theme to match.

Similarly, from calendars to HTML sliders to extractors, there are plugins for just about any task you can imagine. As the site put it, “Like themes, there are a slew of plugins available and they only need to be installed, eliminating any coding to make them work.” In the end, taking the technical know-how out of website development makes WordPress a top-of-mind option for many laymen.

One of the handy aspects of WordPress is that it allows multiple users to manage a single website with ease. For example, this author logs into ThemeSquirrel with one user name, but our admin has an entirely different set of credentials with different layers of permissions. As Business News Daily put it, “[User profiles come] in handy for editors and writers who deal with content, marketing people for analytics and data collection, and administrators who maintain the website as a whole.”

One area where Squarespace seemed to have a leg up was in support. Business News Daily reminded laymen who might be a bit tepid about computers and technology that Squarespace has round-the-clock e-mail support. The company also has live chat, whereas WordPress’ options are much more limited: “Your only official source for WordPress help is via the WordPress Support Forum.”

The verdict: if you want “choices and flexibility,” WordPress is the way laymen should go. However, if you’re looking for speed to market, choose Squarespace. With so many websites using WordPress, we’re sure many laymen have chosen that path.

google logoOther websites we found agreed with many of the same aspects of the Business News Daily article. For example, WPBeginner stressed that the number of WordPress tutorials found online can help anyone become adept at WordPress in relatively short order. We found video tutorials produced by everyone, from Joe Schmo all the way up to Microsoft.

One of the other major pluses to WordPress is its focus on search engine optimization. According to WPApprentice, one Google engineer heralded, “WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues.” There are a host of SEO options contained within WordPress, which can help any laymen entrench his site into search engines like Google.

Finally, as the same site pointed out, there are plenty of people honing their craft in a vibrant WordPress community: “With so many users, it’s only natural that a huge, active, and generous community has sprung up to provide support, exchange ideas, and make WordPress better for everyone.”

So, keep on loving WordPress and encourage your laymen friends to do the same.

WordPress Co-Founder: “We Still Have 70 Percent of the Web to Go”

Matt MullenwegYou have to love ambitious entrepreneurs. The bottom line is that if you’re trying to grow a company, you can’t rest on your laurels. To the contrary, you need to keep scratching, fighting, and pushing your way to the top, even after you’ve succeeded. Take Automattic CEO and WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg, who told TechCrunch in recent days that despite all of WordPress’ success over the years, “We still have 70 percent of the web to go.”

You’ll remember a recent article here on ThemeSquirrel about Automattic seeking a $1 billion valuation, which seemed overwhelmingly high to some people, but fair to others. Whatever your take on the astronomical sum may be, Automattic ended up being valued at $1.16 billion during its most recent round of funding, which brought in $160 million.

TechCrunch pointed out that despite Mullenweg being one of the most well recognized people in the WordPress world, he still tools around his hometown in a 1998 Chevy Lumina. Yes, that model of car no longer exists and is the same one this author’s mother drove for a decade.

WordPress has been facing competition from other content management systems and among those creeping around is Medium. TechCrunch asked Mullenweg about Medium, which was created by the co-founders of Twitter. Mullenweg responded, “Their editor interface is great, but I think we can do a next version of it… We think about how to make WordPress better all day. We do try to strive for excellence.”

One major advantage WordPress has, and one that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, is the continued explosion of mobile devices. This author’s home alone has more mobile devices than inhabitants and, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mullenweg considers phones and tablets to be allies, not enemies: “With mobile, people are writing more and consuming more, but they’re just as comfortable consuming long-form [content] on phones and tablets as they were on a desktop.”

What’s next for WordPress and its fearless founder? TechCrunch explained that the platform has several major projects on deck: “[Mullenweg singled out] a project called ‘new dash,’ which is a major rewrite of the WordPress backend and editing interface. He also hinted that the iOS 8 editing tools will allow the company to provide a mobile interface that is ‘much, much better’… The company also plans to focus on Jetpack, its tool for bringing cloud-hosted features from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress blogs.”

Automattic has been quite busy as of late. The company purchased Longreads in April and, shortly thereafter, acquired Scroll Kit, promptly shutting that service down. World domination could be next, but you’d never know it from the cool, calm, and collected Mullenweg, who seems to be the person you’d want with you in a bunker during a zombie apocalypse.

raining moneyWhat we do know is that Automattic has several ventures earmarked for the $160 million it just raised. The Journal outlined, “With the funding… the nine-year-old company plans to grow its staff; improve its offering beyond the English-, Spanish-, and German-language speaking markets; and potentially acquire other startups.”

According to a post from Mullenweg, the $160 million cash infusion is the company’s first investment in six years. Moreover, it has required just $12 million in “outside capital” in the last eight years, making the $160 million figure even more eye-opening.

Mullenweg elaborated on the need for cash, saying, “There was an opportunity cost to how we were managing the company toward breakeven and we realized we could invest more into WordPress and our products to grow faster. Also, our cash position wasn’t going to be terribly strong [going forward].”

Stay tuned to ThemeSquirrel for the latest WordPress news.

WordPress Parent Buys Scroll Kit, Shuts It Down

scroll kitWe have more business news for you here at ThemeSquirrel. This time, the parent company of WordPress.com, Automattic, has acquired Scroll Kit, according to a statement posted on the latter’s website. When you visit ScrollKit.com now, you’ll see a giant WordPress.com logo and a five-paragraph message bidding farewell.

The statement read in part, “Our objective was to create a process for making the web that was more like drawing on a piece of paper. A visual tool that was easy for most people to pick up, but could take them to a place that was uniquely their own. And over the years, the work we saw became a window into the minds of creative people from all over the world. We learned from you and thank you.” It’s very poetic.

Scroll Kit will be shut down, according to the statement, and the site’s staff will join the product team at WordPress.com. If you regularly use Scroll Kit, you’re in for an upheaval of sorts, as “the editor will shut down in three months. You’ll be able to download all of your work in the next six months and, after that, scrolls will continue to be online but the site will become read only.” The button to log into your account is in the upper right in case you can’t find it.

According to a site called Venture Beat, Scroll Kit gained popularity courtesy of the New York Times: “Scroll Kit got attention when one of its cofounders created a tutorial showing how folks could make their own version of the New York Times’ acclaimed Snow Fall piece, which won a Pulitzer and a Webby and was hailed as the ‘future of online journalism.'”

If you’re not familiar with it, Snow Fall contains a visually stunning theme-scape with multiple images, paragraphs of text, and even a slide show. The Times issued a cease and desist letter to the Scroll Kit team, which responded with a statement to readers that said in part, “They demanded that we take down our replica, and we complied, but I ask them to change their mind. We are admirers of the piece, and others are, too; making a replica only makes the piece more iconic and celebrated.”

According to TechCrunch, the latest purchase by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, is the company’s 14th acquisition. If you’re a regular reader of ThemeSquirrel, you’ll know that Automattic recently bought Longreads. In addition, it is seeking a $1 billion valuation in preparation for another round of funding. Automattic is a giant any way you slice it.

snow fallAt the heart of Scroll Kit was the tool’s ease of use. After all, the brains behind it claimed they could recreate Snow Fall (pictured), which reportedly took the Times months to complete, in a matter of an hour. In essence, according to one site, almost anyone could build a sharp-looking, award-winning site without having to be a whiz kid.

TechCrunch relayed what significance Scroll Kit could have for Automattic: “Scroll Kit will give [Automattic] some technology that can be used to enhance ways that people can use WordPress to create websites. While today there are thousands of ready-made themes that you can use for a WordPress-powered site, what Scroll Kit will do is give users the ability to add even more creativity to the process, if they so choose.”

Users must export their scrolls by October 31 and only support e-mails related to the export process will be responded to from now on.

The financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed. TechCrunch and several other sites pointed out that Scroll Kit received a little over $200,000 in seed money to start the site in 2010. Given Automattic’s recent spending spree, we can only assume that another purchase is in the offing. We’ll keep you posted on the latest.

Automattic Acquires Longreads

automattic logoWe have a major acquisition to announce in the WordPress industry, as Automattic has acquired Longreads. According to Business Week, the financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed, but what we can probably deduce is that one of the most powerful names in the world of WordPress is getting bigger. Let’s take a look at the big news and see who will benefit from it.

According to Business Week, “Matthew Mullenweg, the Chief Executive of Automattic, says he’ll add the Longreads staff of four to WordPress’ editorial team, which highlights new material on WordPress.com and the company’s mobile app.”

Mullenweg was quoted as saying about the longwinded site, “The world cannot live on 140 characters alone. Longreads embodies a lot of what we really value with Automattic and WordPress.”

We wrote an article here on ThemeSquirrel in recent weeks that recapped an interview between Mullenweg, who if you’re not familiar is the co-founder of WordPress, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The interview, which you can read more about by clicking here, alluded to Mullenweg’s love of long prose, as the Automattic executive said, “I am a strong believer in long form and book and written content.” Maybe the acquisition of Longreads is simply a match made in Heaven.

longreads logoBeing a member of Longreads will set you back $3 per month, but as outlined by founder Mark Armstrong, the content on the site will not change with new brass. “The idea has been to provide the best collection of reading material on the internet, both from well-known writers as well as [from] undiscovered writers and publishers,” he told Business Week. “It’s all about the mix of writers and topics, and that is part of our DNA.”

When we hit up Longreads to see what the site was buzzing about shortly after the acquisition, the lead story was entitled “The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms” from The Atlantic. Yes, you read that headline right. It’s a pretty interesting read and even includes a discussion of whether we need separate men’s and women’s bathrooms or if we should all just parade into one and do our business. No wonder Longreads is successful.

The story’s length, by the way, checked in at a healthy 4,520 words.

Topics on Longreads are broken out by category, including Steve Jobs, London, TV, Sports, and Obama, so there’s a little bit of everything. The 300-penny monthly membership includes early access to future site features and support for the site’s continued growth. There’s also an annual subscription for 30 bucks. Whether the pricing will change with Automattic’s leadership remains to be seen.

Matt MullenwegBusiness Week noted that Longreads jives well with Mullenweg’s (pictured) vision for content: “Mullenweg says he’s been trying to expand the company’s focus to reading and finding great nuggets on WordPress blogs.”

It seems to us that Longreads almost goes against the general fabric of online content nowadays. Whereas terse Tweets and Facebook posts rule the day, Longreads feels nostalgic, harkening back to a time when wordiness and in-depth analysis were king.

As a press release on WordPress’ website praised, “As consumption has moved to mobile devices, there has been a growing hunger for longform content: phones and tablets are perfect for enjoying in-depth articles and there are more moments than ever for readers to dig into a story – on a commute, on the couch, or just waiting in line at the store.”

Perhaps mobile devices and the on-the-go mentality that many of us have actually fit with what Longreads has to offer.

Business Week described Longreads’ financial state as “fledgling” and “bootstrapped,” so perhaps an acquisition is just what the doctor ordered.

WordPress exists on a number of the top websites in the world, including Time.com, CNN.com, NYPost.com, and TechCrunch.