An Exciting Year Awaits
The Divi community has never been stronger than it is today and we are really excited about what we have planned for 2017.
The Divi community has a really exciting year ahead of it, and today I just want to take some time to give you some insight into our plans for the future. Divi has become this big, huge wonderful thing that is full of its own energy and innovation. Full of business owners, website creators, child themes, extensions, library packs, learning centers, meetups and friendships all sprouting from one piece of software. Here at Elegant Themes, we have been asking ourselves what we can do to help fuel that innovation and empower the community to become bigger and stronger. This year more than ever before, we want to focus on creating the perfect environment that empowers the Divi community to flourish.
This isn’t to say that we won’t be adding new features to Divi, far from it (in fact, we are working on some really great new features right now that are super exciting). However, you may notice that our focus has moved away from adding lots of new “things” like modules and customizer settings. Instead, we want to make foundational changes that have wider implications for the entire community. We want to improve Divi’s user experience, improve performance, make the codebase more extendable and help empower Divi community leaders. We want to embrace Divi’s true nature as a tool. Recent updates to Divi like The Visual Builder, Auto Saves, Browsers Backups, and Keyboard Shortcuts are examples of those kinds of features, but they are just the beginning. We see ourselves as the guardians of the Divi platform, and you can expect that future Divi updates will showcase our new found respect for the size and scope of what Divi has become, and our new found ambition for what Divi can become.
So what can you expect from Divi in the next few weeks and months?
New Features Are Coming,
And They’re Coming Fast!
We have over a dozen new features in the works right now, and we are going to be releasing them every single week for the next few months! Get ready for lots of great new stuff coming your way very soon.
Fist of all, you can expect much faster iteration and smaller/more frequent feature updates moving forward. We are very happy with the amazing framework that we have created, and now we just want to make it better one step at a time. Over the next couple months, starting next week, you can expect great new features and improvements to be coming your way almost every single week! These features will focus on usability and performance. I can’t announce everything right now because most everything is still in the planning stage, but here are just a few of the ideas we have in the works:
In order for the Divi community to grow, Divi needs to be easier to jump into. We hear from our customers that Divi is amazing “once you get past the learning curve.” For many, that learning curve is just too much to overcome, especially when it’s combined with using WordPress for the first time. We want someone to be able to install Divi, jump right in and never get lost, which is why we are working on a new on-boarding and live-tutorial experience that is going to be extremely useful for new users. For Divi professionals, these new product tours are going to be the perfect way to introduce your clients to Divi and we expect them to save you a ton of time!
Whenever you are using Divi, no matter what you are doing in Divi, we want there to be a lifeline for you to reach for just in case you get stuck. We are currently working on a brand new tutorial series for the Visual Builder and an integrated help system that will allow you to watch video tutorials and follow along with them right inside the builder while you are using it. Again, this will not only be a great tool for new customers, it will also be integral in the process of handing off websites to your clients.
New UI Modes
The Visual Builder is the future of Divi. That being said, we understand that building things with a minimal visual interface is not the perfect environment for everyone and for everything. That is why we are building brand view View Modes that will give designers new ways to interact with and understand their content. We are exploring some really cool ideas in this area. Just imagine toggling between Visual Mode, Grid Mode, Hybrid Mode and maybe even Code Mode? The Visual Builder was built on a foundation that allows us to bring these ideas to life.
New Builder Options
At its core, the Divi Builder is a collection of options. Each module is only as good as it can be customized to be, and we want to give designers all the tools they need to build amazing and creative layouts. You can expect a lot of new options coming to the Divi Builder’s module set. Not only that, we want to make the options easier to use and understand within the builder interface.
We can’t keep adding more options unless we first improve the way that options are organized in the Divi Builder. Opening up a module’s settings window and clicking into the Design tab can be overwhelming, and finding your desired option can be tedious. We plan to make this experience much better by re-organizing options, grouping options and making options searchable.
We haven’t forgotten about performance. Over the next couple months we will be releasing a few very important performance enhancements focused on Divi’s use of CSS. Such performance improvements will continue to be a trend moving forward.
Divi 3.1: The Developer Update
Divi 3.1 will be remembered as one of the most important updates to Divi ever, laying the groundwork for a vibrant development community.
While the features above are being released, we will also be working on something a bit bigger and even more impactful: Divi 3.1. For many people, updating to Divi 3.1 will seem uneventful. There won’t be any new features and everything will look and work the same as it did before. However, behind the scenes the codebase that powers Divi will have received an update. The purpose of this update will be to make it easier for third party developers to create really great Divi child themes and Divi Builder extensions (and to do so in a way that is safe and won’t cause issues when Divi is updated). We will adding more hooks and filters, documenting all functions and creating clear paths for extending modules and creating custom modules. We will be taking all of these updates and creating developer documentation that anyone can use to learn about Divi and how to customize it. We think it’s a really important update that will continue to serve the community for years to come. For many people, updating to Divi 3.1 will seem uneventful, but the innovation it sparks in the Divi developer community should prove incredibly exciting indeed.
Stay tuned for more information about Divi 3.1 as our progress continues. Until then, get ready for some really great Divi updates coming your way starting very soon
The post Divi Feature Sneak Peek: What To Expect From Divi In The Coming Weeks And Months appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.
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We recently talked to half a dozen WordPress freelancers and entrepreneurs about how to improve freelance processes. Efficient systems and processes can make your work more productive and profitable, but putting those systems in place isn’t always something freelancers know how to do.
“My business really started to grow when I started regularly and intentionally taking time to focus on improving my processes and systems,” says Nathan Ingram.
The exact system to focus on first varies. Our pros mentioned a number of priorities, including marketing, client onboarding, project management, time tracking and invoicing.
In general, their suggestions fell into two categories:
“A way to get work and do work,” says Daniel Espinoza. “What I mean by that is a system to consistently market themselves to their target customers to keep a stream of leads coming through the door. Then a consistent system for doing the work. If one of these gets out of balance then things devolve into a feast or famine type situation.”
1. Freelance Process: Get the Work
Managing the marketing funnel and keeping new work coming in is an important process for freelancers. Otherwise you’ll slip into a feast or famine freelance cycle (best case scenario) or be out of work.
“Freelancers should always be finding new targeted prospects and converting them into leads (which can be done on autopilot with the right marketing funnels),” says Tamala Huntley.
The reality is that marketing is more important than ever.
“Today the market is flooded with freelancers and competition for customers is much higher,” says Rebecca Gill. “This means prospecting is harder and the quoting process is much more critical.”
One important freelance process that isn’t so easy to manage is networking.
“Every freelancer needs to manage their contacts,” says Chris Lema. “So rule number one for me is making sure I have a way to keep track of people, learn their stories, take notes and connect with them.”
Chris uses his own CRM to track customers, and before that he used Outlook. But the system you choose doesn’t really matter. “Just keeping notes is the work,” adds Lema.
“[A marketing funnel] helps avoid feast-or-famine mode and provides consistent cash flow,” says Tamala Huntley. “Once in the funnel they should have a follow-up process in place to turn those leads into clients.”
More than the exact process, doing the work is the challenge for networking and marketing. Other freelance processes like invoicing or time tracking are important, but they tend to take care of themselves. If you don’t send out invoices, you don’t get paid. Whether you have a good system or not, it’s going to get done somehow. But marketing never feels quite as important and it’s one of the first things busy freelancers put off until later. That’s why having a system and doing the work is so important.
“As someone who’s been doing freelance work for more than 15 years (on the side of my day job), I learned quickly that people rarely appear on my doorstep with immediate demand,” says Chris Lema. “So it’s a process of building rapport and consistently connecting to people—keeping my name in their brain—that eventually leads to a great consulting gig.”
2. Freelance Process: Do the Work
Many more of the systems and processes our pros mentioned had to do with how to actually do the work.
One of the first steps of doing the work is the client intake process.
“Put this in place to make onboarding smoother and less stressful for both the freelancer and their clients.” says Tamala Huntley.
Most freelancers just jump straight to the work, but onboarding is an important opportunity to set the tone and manage expectations going forward.
“I try to set expectations early on and I over-communicate so the prospective customer understands their obligations and our deliverables,” says Rebecca Gill. “The more I communicate in the sales process, the better the project goes in execution.”
Rebecca shares more about her sales process in our project scoping and contracts webinar.
A simple way to start is by creating standard emails that welcome new clients to the project and get them going on any project management systems you use with clients, such as Basecamp, Teamwork or Trello.
Then it’s time to get to work. Often it doesn’t feel like we need systems and processes to do the work—you just do the work, right? But there are a lot of ways that freelance processes can make your work more efficient and productive.
“I think the single most important thing a freelancer can do to be more productive is to have a consistent process in place for every project,” says Nathan Ingram.
For Nathan that means having a consistent setup to make build out faster:
“We have a single theme that we use for all of our custom website projects. This approach has allowed us to create a starter theme stack with all the normal CSS, functions, plugins and settings ready to go. Instead of setting all of these things up for each project, we simply restore the backup of our starter site with everything in place. This saves hours of time. Also, by using the same plugins and theme repeatedly, you can quickly become an expert at the items in your stack.”
Using a specific set of themes and plugins can speed up a project. It can also help to create standard systems and services you offer clients, like using a WordPress backup plugin like BackupBuddy to migrate sites and start a backup procedure, or using a WordPress security plugin like iThemes Security and iThemes Sync to manage multiple WordPress sites for ongoing maintenance and security.
Whether you bill by the hour or by the project, it’s still important to track your time. You need to know how long it takes to get something done.
“My current approach to time tracking has worked really well for more than three years, and it’s about as simple as you can get,” says D’nelle Dowis. “I use a Google Sheet to track billable and non-billable time. Each fiscal year is a new sheet and each billing period is a new tab.”
Whether you use a simple spreadsheet or one of the many available apps, you should have a system for tracking your time.
It’s also important to use your time wisely, and yes, there’s a process for that.
“As for processes, I think the one I use the most is called time boxing,” says Chris Lema. “I regulate how I use my time by carving out and planning my priorities so that I run my schedule and not the other way around. It’s what helps me get a lot done in each day.”
One of the easiest areas to set up a process is tracking money and getting paid. There are so many different options for online accounting software out there that you can easily find something that works for you.
“I use Freshbooks, but I don’t think there’s anything magical about it,” says Chris Lema. “It could be anything. But it helps me monitor who’s paid, who needs a reminder and who I need to call.”
There are tons of options and automated services out there, so there’s no excuse for not finding something that works for you.
Even if your accounting is pretty simple, creating a system for invoices and tracking payments can save you a lot of time.
“I don’t like ‘chasing’ people for money, so I’ve always let my systems and processes get my money for me,” says Tamala Huntley.
A standard process for communication can help improve any project. Even if a project is going off the rails, there’s a chance you can save your reputation and the relationship if you communicate well.
“Communicate even when there isn’t anything to communicate,” says Daniel Espinoza.
Clients need to know what’s going on, even if nothing is going on. Often clients are the holdup and you need to consistently—and carefully—communicate that the ball is the client’s court. Reminding them that they are the holdup—sometimes repeatedly—will keep clients from blaming you for the delay. Sometimes that’s not even a conscious thing, but consistent communication will keep it from happening.
“A simple update email once a week can go a long way to providing an excellent experience for your client,” says Nathan Ingram. He recommends the three-sentence email for better client communication.
Another strategy to streamline and improve your communication is to create a system of canned email responses.
Creating some processes for communication can be especially helpful if you’re the kind of person who would rather be coding than talking to people. It’s a way you can force yourself to put good communication skills in practice.
Reevaluate Your Process
Whatever processes you do come up with and put in place, it’s important to revisit and evaluate those processes so you can continue to improve.
“I think you have to find something that works for you, embrace sticking with it for a significant chunk of time and plan to reevaluate consistently,” says D’nelle Dowis.
That should include considering new software and apps, as well as looking at your own process and see if there are ways you can improve it.
“If we do run into an issue with mismatched expectations, I modify our process so it doesn’t happen again,” says Rebecca Gill. “This means more details in our proposals and project plans so everyone is on the same page. Every client question can be shifted into better communication for on-boarding and ongoing project management.”
General Freelance Process
Implementing a solid freelance process can save you a lot of time and sanity.
“I’m a strong believer in using software to drive tight processes,” says Rebecca Gill. “The money I spend monthly on these services are returned 10 fold in customer satisfaction, on-time projects and timely payment of receivables.”
Pay attention to repeatable tasks in your freelance work and find ways to create processes and automate as much as you can.
“Every time I’ve gone away from my procedures or contract it’s bitten me in the butt,” says Tamala Huntley.
You can learn more about the freelance process from the full interviews with each of our freelance pros:
The post Freelance Process: How to Create Amazing Business Systems appeared first on iThemes.
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Today we are excited to announce the release of Bloom version 1.2. This version adds 3 new email providers, bringing Bloom’s supported email provider count up to 19! In addition, we have completely re-vamped the API system that Bloom uses to connect to third party providers, streamlining the system using WordPress core functions and laying the groundwork for the easy-addition of new providers in the future. This means better compatibility with more hosting accounts and a much leaner and more maintainable code base. The new system has also been extended to the Elegant Themes core framework shared by all of our products, which means we will soon be able to take advantage of all 19 email providers in more of our products (such as Divi ) Finally, we have added a Success Action system that allows you to perform different functions when someone subscribes to your list (such as redirecting them to a new URL).
Three New Email Providers
Bloom now supports a total of 19 email providers! No matter what service you use, we want to make building your email list as easy as possible.
Today we add support for three new email providers, including ConvertKit, MailerLite and Mailster. Bloom now supports a total of 19 email providers, including all of the most popular third party services and WordPress plugins. We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to build their list, no matter what email provider they are using. We continue to recognize email as the king of online marketing, and every business should be encouraging their users to opt-in to their newsletters!
ConvertKit claims to have found a sweet-spot between power and usability. “The power of Infusionsoft, but easier to use than MailChimp” is their motto, and we have had a lot of Bloom users requesting support for their service. ConvertKit was built with bloggers in mind, which makes it a natural choice for WordPress users. Combined with the power of Bloom, it’s the perfect way to take your blog to the next level.
277,365 businesses, start-ups and freelancers around the world trust MailerLite, and it has been at the top of our “most requested” email providers list for some time. Now you can easily grow your MailerLite list using Bloom’s suite of opt-ins and advanced targeting methods.
Mailster is one of the most popular WordPress email plugins, allowing you to build, maintain and email your subscribers right inside your WordPress Dashboard. This makes it a more affordable solution than most SAAS providers since your hosting company handles the work.
Introducing Success Actions
Each opt-in that you create in Bloom can now have a custom success action assigned to it, such as a custom success message or URL redirect.
You can now redirect users to a custom URL after they subscribe to your lists. Each opt-in that you build in Bloom can have its own success action and its own unique URL redirect. This is the perfect way to welcome users to your newsletter. It’s also a great way to distribute incentives after signup, such as free downloads or resources. Offer a “free ebook” for signing up and then redirect them right to the download page!
Improved API Support & Core Integration
Bloom’s core system for interfacing with third party providers has been completely re-imagined and improved, laying the groundwork for adding and maintaining more email providers in the future.
Managing the code base for 19 different email providers is not easy. Previously we were taking advantage of large and often bloated API wrappers, each of which was developed and formatted differently. From a development perspective, it made it difficult to understand every piece of the puzzle. Each time we added a new provider, things got a little more complicated. In addition, these third party wrappers were not built specifically for WordPress, which means they did not take advantage of WordPress core functions for handling requests.
We decided to take on the challenge of re-writing all of these API wrappers from scratch and creating our own extendable system for managing third party API’s using the native functions that come with WordPress. The results is a much leaner code base that will be easier to maintain and easier to extend to new providers in the future.
Now Part Of ET Core
This new system for managing third party APIs has been extended to the Elegant Themes core framework that comes with all of our products. This unifies the system we use for interfacing with these third party providers and lays the foundation for extending support for these provides in more of our products. This means, for example, that Divi will soon be able to support all 19 providers when using the Divi Email Optin Module!
Some improvements can already been seen in the latest version of Divi, released today, which takes advantage of the new API system an introduces a slick new interface for managing lists right inside the Divi Builder!
The post Bloom 1.2 Has Arrived With Three New Email Providers, Form Success Actions And More appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.
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