Accelerated Mobile Pages

Purpose and how it works

Serve pages FAST on mobile devices. Stripped-down pages load quickly because of less data and cached on Google servers.

AMP pages are displayed only when clicked on from Google search results, and only to mobile users.

Your AMP should offer a user experience equivalent to the corresponding non-AMP page, as much as possible

Google favors AMP pages

Backlinks to AMP pages found through Google search won’t transfer any link equity to your site

Limitations

AMP HTML: no forms allowed.
Limited JavaScript. All CSS must be inline and is limited in size.

It’s not clear why can’t an AMP page link to non-AMP page that contains the form: “”AMP pages must be recognized as being fully isolated. There is no navigation to the rest of your site, nor is there support for your homepage, blog indexes, etc.” Really? Doesn’t this rule break the web?

How important is it for WP theme to be AMP-compliant? All the standard templates are plus Genesis Framework and two Genesis child themes. Docs claim other themes can be made compliant with minimal changes

AMP pages’ enhanced load speed and boosted search rankings come with an ironic trade-off: backlinks to AMP pages found through Google search won’t transfer any link equity to your site.

Strategies to implement AMP:

Use WordPress AMP plugin

Code your AMP pages by hand, as separate pages, and served from a folder within the main website (my untested idea)

Steps for WordPress and how it works:

  • Install the AMP plugin, configure for reader mode (another mode codes ALL pages as AMP)
  • https://wordpress.org/plugins/amp/
    Install Yoast SEO plugin if not already there
  • Install the plugin “Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP”
    – might be needed to config AMP for more than single post pages
    Create your AMP
    – create AMP pages in AMP HTML
    – set your AMP link strategy
    – create the two canonical links in the <head> section of both pages via Yoast
  • Add structured data to enable AMP-specific features in search results e.g. in top pages carousel – step might be optional
  • Add structured data to enable AMP-specific features in search results.
  • Check your AMP and fix problems
    – AMP must be valid in order for Google to accept/index
  • Update the Google Cache for your AMP – get your AMP onto Google servers
    – How? And, Google cache is part of why pages serve so quickly
    Check AMP at Google Search Console
  • – Search Appearance > Accelerated Mobile Pages
    – it may take some time (how long?) for your AMP to appear

Some Details:

How to tell Google there’s an AMP variant of your web page? We add information about the AMP page to the non-AMP page and vice versa, in the form of <link> tags in the <head>.

Add the following to the non-AMP page:

<link rel=”amphtml” href=”https://www.example.com/url/to/amp/document.html”>

And this to the AMP page:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/url/to/full/document.html”>

AMP URL scheme: Your AMP URL scheme should make sense to the user.

Canonical page:

https://urban.realtor/myarticle

AMP options:

https://amp.urban.realtor/myarticle
https://urbanlrealtor/myarticle/amp
https://urban.realtor/amp/myarticle
https://urban.realtor/myarticle.amp.html

Tutorials:

WPBeginner: brief introduction, there’s gotta be more, such as how to update Google cache?
– set “reader” mode if you want to set up a limited set of AMP pages, for the most important or most visited pages
– focuses on changing APPEARANCE of AMP – why?
– Yoast plugin? will set up the canonical URLS

amp.dev: Specifics for implementing AMP outside of a CMS, should be helpful in using WP AMP plugin

Getting Started with AMP on Google Search: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/enhance-amp

Codelabs: Seem like tutorials to learn AMP, E.g. the AMP Foundations “lab” is here:
https://codelabs.developers.google.com/codelabs/accelerated-mobile-pages-foundations/#0

Tools and Resources:

Validate AMP pages: article is here: https://amp.dev/documentation

AMP test tool is here: https://search.google.com/test/amp

Validate structured markup on pages: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool

https://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-properly-disable-google-amp-in-wordpress/:

– Google does not penalize websites for not using AMP.
– alternatives: improve your website’s speed and performance on mobile to compete for mobile search audience

Auto-Updating WordPress – core, plugins, themes?

I was surprised to see that my big client’s LIVE website was automatically updated to WP 5.0.1. It appears my client is letting SiteGround’s auto updater do this. What is your philosophy of allowing WordPress automatic updates vs. doing them manually?

I see WPBeginner describes how we can fine tune the type of auto updates by installing the Easy Updates Manager plugin:

Easy Updates Manager

It’s highly rated, does anyone have experience with this plugin, or recommend a different plugin, or would you rather set variables in wp-config.php to configure the auto updates?

WordPress default is to auto update WP core minor updates only. However you can control: whether to automatically update plugins, themes, WP core MAJOR updates, or disallow ALL auto updates.

More info on this topic, including pros and cons of auto updating, can be found here:
https://www.wpbeginner.com/wp-tutorials/how-to-disable-automatic-updates-in-wordpress/

Note that the likelihood of a WordPress update breaking your website can depend on whether you’ve modified core WordPress files of your website, or whether you have a LOT of plugins which can conflict with each other.

My preference is to apply ANY update manually, at a time of my choosing, so I can backup before, apply the updates, then check the website. But that’s time consuming. Has anyone experienced a WordPress (or plugin) update that broke a website? What turned out to be the cause?

How to Add a New Post to Your WordPress Website

In this example, I’ll show you how to add a new “Perspective” at debbieduncan.com.

Go to the Perspective’s URL in your browser, e.g. https://ww2.kqed.org/perspectives/2017/12/12/christmas-cards/
In another browser tab, log in to go to your WordPress admin and go to Posts. Hit the “Add New” button.

Posts Page – Start Here to Add a New Post

The add new post form appears. Make sure the Visual tab in the editor is in front. Fill in your title and text and check the category (KQED Perspectives). Fill in the date in the “publish” block upper right, which determines the ordering in the Perspectives widget.

Fill in Your Post’s Content: Title, Text, Category, Date etc.

 

Creating a Link

Also fill in the Perspective’s date within the post text along with a link to the audio version:

    • Start by copying the date and link from another Perspective.
    • (Oops I got lost – edit/update needed!)
    • Once you can see the old link (in that other Perspective), click anywhere within it, to make an edit link short form appear. Hit the little pencil to paste in the new Perspective link (from your other browser tab)
    • Hit the link options icon to be sure the link will open in a new tab
    • Hit the little blue “apply” arrow to save your link changes.
Choose Link Options to Open a Link in a New Tab

Hit publish to publish your Perspective.

Finally, check your work from the front end. If your Perspective is the newest one, it should appear first in the list. Make sure your audio version link goes to your intended page. Make any necessary corrections.

Check Your Work , from the Website’s Front End

Optional: add tags to your post

Adding tags for SEO seems redundant in this case, as the title is already “Christmas Cards” – but as author you may have other meaningful words in mind.

Some websites may use the tags to find/show posts according to their tags. At such a website the purpose would guide you as to the words.

How to Override PHP Files in Your Child Theme

I figured how how to override an arbitrary file in a child theme. It is ALMOST as simple as placing the override file in the corresponding folder for the child theme. The step I didn’t know about, was to add a require_once() for the specific file in the child theme’s functions.php. Here is my example step by step:

My example is how to replace the font list in Customizr theme, with my own font list.

WordPress admin screen showing customizer for Customizr theme's Google Fonts setting

1) If I were to “hack” the parent theme to make this change, I’d change the file wp-content/themes/customizr/core/init-base.php

2) Make a copy of core/init-base.php, make your changes, and place it in the child theme’s folder: wp-content/themes/customizr-child/core/init-base.php.  Note you must create a “core” folder in which to place init-base.php — you must replicate the full path of the overridden file (or whatever file you refer to in step 3).

Screenshot of Windows Explorer
The overriding file is in the “core” folder

3) Modify your child theme’s functions.php to include the overriding file, by adding the following line:

require_once( get_stylesheet_directory() . 'core/init-base.php' );

Why? According to the WordPress codex: https://codex.wordpress.org/Child_Themes, about half way down, see …

Referencing / Including Files in Your Child Theme

When you need to include files that reside within your child theme’s directory structure, you will use get_stylesheet_directory(). Because the parent template’s style.css is replaced by your child theme’s style.css, and your style.css resides in the root of your child theme’s subdirectory, get_stylesheet_directory() points to your child theme’s directory (not the parent theme’s directory).

Here’s an example, using require_once, that shows how you can use get_stylesheet_directory when referencing a file stored within your child theme’s directory structure.

require_once( get_stylesheet_directory() . '/my_included_file.php' );

In my case, I’ll add this line to my child theme’s functions.php:

require_once( get_stylesheet_directory() . 'core/init-base.php' );

Screenshot of TextPad with Filezilla behind
Adding the “require_once” line to the child theme’s functions.php

4) Upload the new file and the modified functions.php to your web server, and the next time you access the font choices in the customizr, you’ll see your new font list.

I can do Better than Switching to Flat Design – How?

I found a setting at Customizr, my favorite WordPress theme, which let you choose between “Flat (Classical) Design” and “Material (Modern) Design.” Maybe you have already heard of Flat Design, which means no 3D objects: no shadows, gradients, glow effects etc. I started my reading here:

Is Flat Design a Web Design Standard That’s Here to Stay? 10 Designers Chip In

At the top of this page are three examples of flat design that help us to “get it.” From my previous reading on flat design I had concluded that besides no 3-D, flat meant single page websites with no sidebars.   “Flat” as in “no hierarchy.”

Summary:

Users are so familiar with the web that they won’t need the cues provided by 3-D. Others blast flat design for being non-intuitive and trendy. I agree with the latter.

The Nielsen Group (we like Jakob Nielsen since way back) doesn’t like flat design either, mainly because it lacks signifiers on clickable elements. They say “Flat 2.0” may be a better alternative, aka “Material” design:

Flat Design: Its Origins, Its Problems, and Why Flat 2.0 is Better for Users Sep 2015

Details:

A flat, green web page - Watlinger
Flat Design

This article stated that now users are so familiar with the web that they won’t need the cues provided by 3-D. I disagree: I miss tooltips and I don’t like flat edges that make one window blend into another. Though wherever something can be done without, it makes for a cleaner design and one that fits better on a handheld.

The article continued with quotes from web designers saying that flat design aids cross device compability (responsive layout) and in fact led to usability improvements such as bigger input fields, larger buttons, or larger and more legible text. (I agree with those usability improvements, just don’t waste my space with GIANT text if I read your mobile-first page on my desktop.)

However the bottom third of the page is full of feedback blasting flat design as discrimating against the disabled and the elderly and in general wasting people’s time as they try to figure out the page. It’s fun reading, a lot of good rants in there, some of my favorites:

It gave me a sudden appreciation for the gradients, drop shadows, and other design elements I’d taken for granted in more traditional desktop UI – these are useful hints that aid accessibility that we’ve sacrificed because “flat looks cool”. To really judge good design I think you have to show it to users who have never seen it before. All UI is learned, so people will catch on eventually, but my own opinion is that good UI (and good design) should be intuitive – e.g. is that flat rectangle a button?! Hell if I know, guess I’ll click to find out.

Good design is about respect for a user’s time. Sure people can figure out how to wade through an interface with less than obvious cues, but how can you justify stealing even milliseconds from your users? Bad design sucks the life out of humanity and flat design sucks hard. It’s nothing more than wire framing with a little added color. It’s lazy at best and criminal at its worst. When I see plain text acting like a button I hear Christopher Guest’s voice telling me “I just stole one minute of your life, how do you feel?”

Crop from a green, tan, and white website
Flat Design

It’s like saying “we’re going to remove all signs in a metro station because passengers know it well and the corridors will look cleaner”.

 

On to

Flat Design: Its Origins, Its Problems, and Why Flat 2.0 is Better for Users

www.nngroup.com/articles/flat-design/

The types of cues people use to determine clickability:

* Traditional, externally consistent signifiers (such as the blue, underlined text or raised buttons) – vs. flat “ghost” buttons.

* Something reminiscent of a traditional signifier (such as underlined text of any color or boxed text)

* Contextual clues (such as actionable text or placement at the top of the page) e.g. words on a menu bar

Flat-Design Best Practices

www.nngroup.com/articles/flat-design-best-practices/

A web page with a box that has a shadow
Semi-flat Design

Use the clickability cues mentioned above.

As long as in-line text links are presented in a contrasting color, users will recognize their purpose, even without an underline. (I’ve been doing this for a long time. I often make the underlines appear on links only upon hover)

When Flat Designs Can Work: the potential negative consequences of weak signifiers are diminished when the site has a low information density (is this a good thing?), traditional or consistent layout, and places important interactive elements where they stand out from surrounding elements.

Next up (but not tonight): The Characteristics of Minimalism in Web Design.  Looks like lots of good illustrations, may help me to reduce clutter in my designs.

And finally, I will finish up with: Flat Design vs. Material Design: What Makes Them Different?

What’s your web design philosophy?  What WordPress themes or Joomla templates support this philosophy?  Do you have a web page you’d like to show us and point out the main features that contribute to its usability?

How to Add Links to Your Facebook Posts

An effective promotional post would include a sentence or two (call to action) and an image illustrating your message that linked to a spot to read more.  But how to do that?  Here’s the best I can find TODAY:

A Facebook post in progress
Facebook builds a “Link Preview” if you type a space character after your link.
  1. Prepare your link, message, image, and start your post.
  2. Suggested image size is 560 pixels wide.  It will be displayed at full post width, so set the height with that in mind.
  3. Write your message in its entirety, followed by your link and a space
  4. The space will trigger a “link preview” (see picture on right)

    Facebook post composition in progress
    Editing a Facebook post: options to upload a photo
  5. The link preview appears to take text from the web page’s meta description tag, and let you cycle through a few images from the page.  You can’t edit the meta description part of your post.
  6. If you don’t like any of the pictures or the meta description, you can remove one or both using the tiny faint “X” upper right.  That leaves you with the text of your post and an option to UPLOAD a photo.
  7. New post in Facebook ready to post
    Facebook ready to post

    I don’t see a way to use a photo already existing at your Facebook account.  So you must upload from your browser/PC.

  8. The only way to close the image window is to hit the blue “Post” button lower right.
A Facebook post with a link and a photo
Finished Facebook post, containing a link and a photo.

To the left is the resulting post.  My link goes to the URL shown, the photo goes to … not the link, but to some details about the photo.

To summarize, if the page you link to generates a Facebook link preview that you like, visitors may actually click through to your call to action page.  If the page you link to doesn’t generate a suitable link, you can upload a photo that may draw visitors’ attention, but only the most dedicated visitor will seek out the tiny text of your URL and click it.

What is your experience creating Facebook posts with links?

I took my screenshots, and described my experience, using Facebook as of April 25, 2017.  Have you noticed any improvements since then that you’d like to share?

How Facebook can be a Conduit to your Website

Our chief Facebook poster at Santa Clara FireSafe Council taught me a communication method today, that I’ve shared with my budding Facebook team at Bicycle Exchange. She says it’s a way for Facebook to be a conduit to your own website. Or any link you want to promote. Maybe this technique will help you too.

Postscript: I believe the ideal link would be words or a picture that link to the action page. However Facebook will only let you post a “link preview” it builds from the page; or you must spell out the link and upload a photo from your browser/PC. The photo can only link to the Facebook photo comments panel. As described in my tutorial.

Facebook post
Facebook post that links to a web page

Our Facebook team at Bicycle Exchange has used this “conduit” technique to recruit more volunteer bicycle mechanics. For example, Ivan has created a post that links a photo to our website’s “Contact” page. Here’s the technique I learned:

1) Identify the action you want the person to take as a result of the post.

2) Identify the photo which describes the action, event, news or fact.

3) In a sentence or two describe the thing and summarize the action you want the reader to take.

4) Link the action words, or the photo (or both?) to … something.

5) The “something” in our case can be a page at the Bicycle Exchange website.

Continue reading How Facebook can be a Conduit to your Website

In Joomla: How to Float an Image Left or Right of Text

Here’s how to float an image left or right using JCE editor in Joomla, using your template’s custom styles.

image inserted into article in JCE editor
Image inserted into article in Joomla JCE editor

1) Create your article in the JCE editor, and get it far enough along that you have your text and image added to the article.  Put your image just ahead of the paragraph or list containing the text that’s to be floated alongside the image.

 

JCE editor showing an image selected and the styles menu open
Open the styles pull-down menu

2) Click on your image, then click on the styles pull-down menu to open it.  There are a bunch of styles there to choose from, listed in no particular order.  Scroll down to find the styles img-right and img-left.

 

image floating to the right of text, in JCE editor
Click to apply the style, observe that the image now floats to the right of the text

3) For our example, click the style img-right and note the image now floats to the right of the text in the JCE design view window.

4) Notice too, that the image now has a thin black border.  That is part of the CSS img-right style for this website, as well as custom margins all around the image.

How it works: For each Joomla website I create two custom CSS styles for floating images left or right.  I name them something like img-left and img-right, or image-left and image-right.  These styles will also apply the border and margins to the image, to match the style of your website.

image floating to the right of text on a web page
Front end view, image floated right with thin black border

The margins keep the text some distance from the edges of your image.  For an image floated to the right, I set the right margin to zero and the other top, bottom, and left margins to some small distance.

Extra credit: These custom styles go into the custom style sheet for the Joomla template, named something like custom.css.  In JCE editor global configuration I specify the location of this CSS file, so that the JCE design view window preview shows your article as it would look with these custom styles applied.

How to Add a Title Tag to your Image in WordPress

It seems both WordPress and Joomla make the website editor go the extra mile to add a title tag to an image in a post.  This is the tag that allows you to describe the significance of the image.  Browsers usually display the tag’s value as a “tooltip” when the visitor hovers over the image.  Not to be confused with the “alt” tag which describes how the image looks to a visually impaired person and helps Google to rank the image.

Small five-petaled pink flowers - Leptosiphon montanusTry hovering over this image to see how your browser displays the title tag.

Both CMS’s automatically build an alt tag value when the image is first used in an article or post.  Joomla hides the setting for the title tag behind an “Advanced” tab in the JCE image editor.  That’s not helpful for encouraging a novice author to provide text for the title tag.

Today in WordPress I wanted to add a title tag to the image in my new post.  I dutifully filled in the caption, description and alt tag values in the image editor when I uploaded my image.  A title tag was automatically filled in for me.  But when viewing my post in a browser window, no tooltip on hover!

So, I went to text mode in my post and added the title tag “by hand.”  This time on hover I got an entire paragraph of text with embedded HTML markup.  So that didn’t work.  On close examination of my markup I could not see what was wrong.  So I found this helpful article by WPBeginner.

WordPress post editor, showing image selected
WordPress image editor, showing an image selected, pointing out the edit button

It explained the purpose of alt and title tags, and even explained that the “title” setting WordPress uses when the image is first uploaded, is NOT the title tag that shows as a tooltip.  The article’s directions said that, in my WordPress visual post editor, click on the image then click the edit button that appears.

Look in the “advanced” section to find a field you can fill in with the value of the title tag.

I had to hunt a while to find the “advanced” section, as it was out of view within the popup box.   But finally, “success!”Editing image title attribute - screenshot

I have figured out how to add the title tag in two ways now: if nothing special is going on with captions or other shortcodes, you can simply add a title attribute to the image in question in the post editor’s text mode; or you can use the image editor, scroll down to “advanced” settings and fill in the tag there.

By the way, in adding those last two images, I was reminded of how easy it is in WordPress to display a CAPTION for the image: you just fill in the caption field within the image source.  In Joomla how the caption is used depends entirely on the template, and it requires tricky CSS overrides on the web developer’s part, and perhaps CSS knowledge on the editor’s part, to make it look good.

Also, I accidentally selected two images and found BOTH were inserted into my article.  Does anyone have a good use for such a feature?