We are releasing a premium WordPress plugin

At Real Big Marketing we have been using WordPress to help our clients achieve their goals for years. Over the course of those years we’ve gained experience with the platform and have participated in the WordPress community in a big way. From publishing free plugins, to contributing patches to Meta trac, to co-organizing a meetup and a WordCamp, we have made a name for ourselves as the WordPress guys.

And so now we’ve taken another big step and are announcing the release of our first official product, Render. Render is a plugin for WordPress which enables content creators to insert complex elements anywhere they desire with very little effort. What sort of complex elements? Here are a few examples:

  • A dynamic list of posts
  • Content in a column layout
  • Content that is visible or hidden based on conditions such as whether a user is logged in or not
  • Information about the current user such as their username and email
  • Many more

Here’s a video which demonstrates what the plugin does:

The plugin includes a very easy to use interface for adding these elements to a post’s content or even a sidebar. It is also incredibly developer friendly so taking advantage of the functionality that Render provides is a snap for anyone with basic WordPress coding skills.

What does this mean to you?

If you use WordPress…

Consider taking a look at Render to see if it might be able to help you create better content more easily. We’ve packed it with very useful and unique features and invested heavily in the User Experience to ensure the use of the features is painless for even basic users. And let us know what you think! Do you see any way that we could make it better? Do you have questions about it? We’re here to help.

If you are a client or considering hiring Real Big Marketing…

Know that our commitment to providing the highest quality marketing services to all of our clients is unchanged. Consider this an illustration of the fact that we are more than capable of developing quality custom solutions and you will have to search for a while to find a team more comfortable and experienced with the WordPress platform. If anything, this demonstrates how important it is to us that what we develop is easy to use.

What Data Should You Ask For on a Landing Page Designed for Seniors

Senior Citizen working on the internet
Photo courtesy Elvis Pelt

We are planning an upcoming CPG promotion and determining what data is need to move forward with inbound marketing as one component of an integrated strategy. Success means motivating parents and grand parents to buy a retail item, especially online; an item designed to help children grow.

A segment of our target audience contains senior citizens, who are not as well represented online. We’re buying lists for direct marketing. Those are easy to use and packed with data. However, our desire to have clients purchase online is dynamically opposed to their desire to be there.

As of 2013 The Pew Research Internet Project states that even though Seniors continue to deepen their use of the internet, nearly a third do not use it at all.

We’re aware that this group will require alternative means of order placement, and those channels exist. This discussion is in regard to optimization the conversion rate for seniors that do visit the site.

How much do I need to know about my customers?

“Everything” is a cumbersome, clunky response that’s ill conceived especially with this demographic. Many media articles would have you believe that big data is the only way to unlock success. Consider these four points:

  1. Mental Models and age groups
  2. Protection of consumer data
  3. Friction to completion
  4. Testing means change

Make it familiar

User experience (UX) engineers rely on what are called mental models or intuition of how something works based on previous experiences. Hypothetically this is why your grandparents can use a complex object like a car or a microwave but have a lower representation on the internet. Their mental model of a remote control is extensive and familiar whereas their comprehension of the internet is less robust.

Consumers have their guard up for good reason.

The same media outlets telling you that data is useful are the same media outlets warning consumers about the nefarious reasons data is collected and evil corporate intentions. With good reason. Spam and exploitation are two of the biggest consumer fears coming from black hat marketing. These are people who either believe their tactics are perfectly ethical, even though they’re not; or worse, they know they are horrible and do it on purpose.

Keep it simple

There’s also a school of thought among marketers about friction. Basically, that adding questions or complexity to a workflow also ads friction toward completion. More questions therefore equals fewer respondents.

Narrow it down

There are a million data points you could request: name, email, address, children’s names, etc. Narrow it down to optimize the response rate. Segregate your data into groups; required, useful, and extra. The only required field to communicate for inbound portion of this campaign was the purchasers email address. Personalization of the message could come from first and last name, so they were useful. Everything else, like physical location and other demographic data could come later so it’s extra.

Always Be Testing

There is middle ground. By clearly defining the data needed versus the data that’s wanted you’ll quickly identify the items To test on the form. For our example we’ll start with Email address required and the first and last names will be available to fill out but not required. The form gathers the necessary information but is simple enough to remove friction. From there we’ll begin split A/B testing to produce the highest conversion rate.

Marketers are testing and pushing against the hypothesis that seniors prefer not to go online. Our team believes that there are tools we can use to overcome the obstacles. Moving mature clientele online is just the first hurdle. Once there, It’s our responsibility to bolster response by; making the workflow familiar to other situations where they have ordered products, protecting their data and demonstrating that trust both visually and in our actions, keeping the workflow simple, asking for little more than what’s required, and continuously testing.

The Last WordCamp San Francisco

Picture of 1000 people exiting the building during the 2014 San Francisco WordCamp fire alarm.2014, My first and last trip to WordCamp San Francisco. Why first? Economics and because WordPress has become our primary website creation toolset. Did you know that, as of the time of this article, ~23% of all websites use WordPress.* Why my last? Because it’s changing. Matt Mullenweg made a huge announcement at the event that #WCSF14 has outgrown itself.

WordCamp started in San Francisco in 2006 and the WordCamp Central team have done a great job of supporting the event. Because Matt and Automattic are located in SF, it’s become the defacto WordPress PR event of the year. Matt even comes to give his State of the Word presentation and the Saturday Afterparty is held at Automattic HQ. Historically, They’ve been tightly tied together.

With over a thousandish attendees, looking forward to the main event each year, something had to give. Though the presentations were amazing, you could tell that the faciilities were maxed out. The food was amazing but it was evident that 1000 people eating all at once was rough. Not bad, just logistically tough.

Something new is coming. It’s been described potentially as WordCamp North America, WordCamp USA, WordCamp Central (to mimic the team that drives it, or just WordCamp. We’ve heard rumors that the event will still be in San Francisco, but at another venue or that the WordCamp Central team may pick a different city/team each year, like the decision process for the Olympics.

We’re eager to see how it comes out for 2015 and we will likely attend. If it is a changing venue, we’d love to see the event help to prop up a city that could use the business instead of the old stand-bys. I’ve been to Vegas, Chicago, LA and New York for far to many conferences. Variety please. How about Detroit? Cost effective accommodations and capacity to spare.


How To Customize the WordPress Admin Menu

For as long as I’ve used WordPress, the admin menu has been a component I’ve wished for more control over. In stark contrast to the menus one can assemble for the front end of a WordPress site, the backend menu is extremely inflexible. There have been countless times that I’ve wished for an easier way to modify the WordPress admin menu to improve the experience for my users and even myself.

To be fair, it has always been possible. Plugins have existed for some time that enable users to take a little control over the WordPress admin menu. In addition, anyone with development skills can make their vision a reality by writing some code. But most long time users would agree with me when I state that no easy solution has been available.

Today, thankfully, that is no longer true. We’ve spent quite a bit of time and effort on this particular issue and recently incorporated an elegant admin menu customization feature in the latest release of Client Dash. So, here’s how you customize the WordPress admin menu using this plugin:

1. Install and activate Client Dash

Install the Client Dash WordPress Plugin

It is a free plugin listed on the WordPress.org plugin repository so you will be able to find it by searching within your WordPress site’s Add New plugin feature.

2. Navigate to the Menus section in the plugin’s settings

Go to Settings – >Client Dash. The second tab will be Menus. Go there.

3. Select a role

Where it says “Select a menu to edit”, click in the dropdown and select the role you would like to customize the admin menu for. Then click on the Select button.

Select a role to create a custom WordPress admin menu for

4. Create the menu

Ensure that “Import role’s existing menu items?” is checked and hit the Create Menu button. This will show a progress bar briefly as the menu that the selected role is currently seeing is imported. This way you don’t have to start from scratch but can easily modify what users with this role are already experiencing.

5. Add new menu items (optional)

Add items to WordPress admin menu

If desired, you will now be able to select available menu items from the left side of your screen and add them to the menu. You will then be able to drag and drop them to their desired location in the menu. Indent them to the right if you wish for them to be submenu items.

6. Remove menu items (optional)

Each item in your menu will have a drop down arrow on the right. Clicking on this will cause the item to expand and present other options. On the bottom left you will see Remove which will delete the item from the current menu.

7. Change menu item labels (optional)

If you’d like to change the actual name of an item simply expand that item and change the text in the Navigation Label field. This will not change how the item works or where it goes but only what it says. Here are a few ideas of labels you might consider changing:

  • Posts – >Blog
  • My Sites – >Your Sites
  • Your Profile – >About You
  • Media – >Pictures
  • Plugins – >Features
  • Plugins – >Addons
  • Dashboard – >Home
  • Add New – >Create New

This is where it would be a good idea to consider your site’s users and what skill level and familiarity with existing terminology they have. A good idea might even be to interview them and ask them to describe what they expect to see in their dashboard and what words they understand.

8. Change menu item icons (optional)

Change icon for WordPress admin menu item

Icons can communicate as clearly as words so choosing the right icon for your admin menu items is important. To change them, simply expand a menu item and click inside the Menu Icon field. A drop down will appear which will list all the available icons. Clicking on the icon you want will automatically add it to the current menu item.

9. Save your changes!

Once you hit Save Menu, all users with the selected role will begin seeing the menu you just created.

10. Test your menus

If you want to verify that everything is working correctly and see what your users are seeing it is simple to do so. I would recommend one of two plugins which could help you do this:

  • Role Quick Changer – This plugin allows administrators to easily change their role on the fly in order to experience their site as a user with another role would. Very handy.
  • User Switching – Gives you the ability to switch your account to a different specific user, experience the site as they see it, and then switch back. Super useful for understanding what clients are actually seeing when they login. For testing all roles it does require that a user with each role exists that you can switch to.

Other notes

  • Each role will continue using the default menu arrangement until you create a new menu for them and save it. So if there is only one role you need a custom menu for, don’t bother making one for the others. Simple as that.
  • If for some reason you don’t want to use your custom menu for a certain role, it is helpful to simply hit the Off toggle next to the top save button. This will save your custom menu but will not enforce it on users with that role. Instead they will go back to seeing the default settings for their role until you decide to turn your custom menu back on.

I hope this is helpful. If you have thoughts on this tutorial, please leave a comment below. If you like the plugin, please consider leaving a review.

Kyle’s WordCamp Grand Rapids 2014 Presentations

WordCamp Grand Rapids 2014 was an absolute blast this year. We attended in 2013 for the first time which was excellent and have been excited ever since for 2014. This time, I was privileged enough to be asked to speak, not once but twice at this fantastic event.

The entire event was great and I thoroughly enjoyed all the presentations and meeting so many awesome people.

Both of my talks were a blast and I was thrilled to receive lots of great feedback. Here are links to my slides as well as all the tweets from kind folks who attended my presentations:

Don’t Fear the Code



1, 2, 5! Theme Customization Best Practices


Thanks everyone for the comments and for attending. See you all at the next WordCamp!