A quick sale

Is this thing on? Just a quick mic. check before we transition this blog to a new platform. Use the coupon code five on our website and get any hosting package for $99 a year through the end of April.

Visit fused.com & select any package to participate.

Installing SSL for WordPress

We've just hit an important milestone: Google chrome is now displaying a Not Secure warning for sites that don't make use of SSL certificates.

If you haven't heard of SSL whatsoever, here's your chance to read about how it applies to you and your website, WordPress or otherwise.

SSL error in Chrome

Introduction to SSL

The basic gist behind your website having an SSL certificate is that it allows visitors to your site & your website to communicate back & forth securely. Information sent between a user & your site being encrypted can be a huge advantage.

Using SSL with your WordPress login & administrative panels, and contact forms is an immense security benefit.

The secure padlock in your browser has become somewhat ubiquitous — you only notice when it's missing or screams something ugly. With the most recent chrome change, any site not using SSL is going to output a rather ugly error, which, over time will get increasingly uglier with Firefox & Chrome.

The good news is we've done all of the difficult work in getting SSL fully operational. Now's the time to enable it.

Setting up WordPress to use SSL

The change from non-ssl to SSL only takes a few moments, and we've compiled a reasonably thorough document on the topic over at SSL for WordPress which you should review & implement.

If you're hosted at Fused, we took the liberty earlier last year to ensure that we had 100% coverage for Let's Encrypt SSL certificates for all of our web hosting clients, so while the error might appear scary it takes all but 15 minutes to get your WordPress site loading over SSL.

Do it!

Meta tags & search engines

If you've been around as long as I have, internet-wise, you've wielded meta keywords on all the sites you build. It doesn't appear most search care about them much at all however, here's a good read on the topic: Search Engine Land on meta keywords

Using a forum to offer support

Public forums are great for self-service support (users supporting users), but there's some caveats. I'll detail some of those below. It's worth adding that some helpdesks like zendesk (the most recent time we've used it) have public Q&A; sections, which I think are a good middle ground between forums & helpdesks.

Pros & cons for forums

Before becoming useful, forums need to reach a certain level of momentum. Getting that momentum is often the biggest problem forums face. Posting lots of content won't necessarily build momentum quickly enough to attract users. Forums are very much like a vegetable garden, in that months of effort can bear fruit, but not without lots of time spent beating away pests & pruning forums constantly. As a small team, finding out what works best for your company is going to pay dividends. Forums, like anything, can prove to be a distraction from your core product. For a tech-centric product like say web hosting, wordpress theme developers, or some software product, forums can prove great & beneficial. For other types of industries, your mileage may vary. Tread wisely.

The Benefits of a Forum

  • Great way to build a community.

  • Often inexpensive to manage from a software standpoint.

  • It's wonderful to have self-supporting users, potentially freeing up your time to work on your product & business

The Negatives of a Forum

  • Building momentum is hard, & can be very tedious & expensive from a manpower (or womanpower, woo!) standpoint, especially upfront.

  • Forums require lots of pruning, updating & user management. When dealing with social interactions, suddenly having to remove the wrong person from a forum might damage your reputation or momentum.

  • You'll need to prune quickly to prevent spam, people posting affiliate links & trying to steal your clientbase almost constantly

  • Like anything, they can be a distraction from your product

There's many forums out there, and we haven't had time to audit them all in the recent years. Punbb, phpbb, vbulletin, vanilla, discourse & some others are the newer ones.

Using a helpdesk to make support easier

If you answer any more than a few emails a week, & do so in capacity that requires accountability & reasonable response times, it's likely time you started using a helpdesk. A helpdesk often is a centralized piece of software where folks can get support. Many feature frequently asked questions, knowledgebase articles & the ability to submit tickets and inquiries. There are many, many available versions with varied features. I'd highly recommend tinkering with each and finding one that fits your needs.

We've done a good bit of testing with each, and I'll list the pros & cons of each below.

The bulk of the software below have the following:

  1. Allow people to email you, and, for you to respond back via email. It'll convert those emails into tickets.

  2. The ability for multiple team members to login & manage said tickets. This makes for good accountability, and, allows everyone (whom might need to) to review said tickets.

  3. Allows tickets to be converted into tasks, knowledgebase articles & FAQ pages to make it easier for other users to look up answers for their own questions.

Self-hosted helpdesks

Self-hosted means that you'd be responsible to host the software yourself, either on a web hosting account at a company like Fused or elsewhere. Some have non-self-hosted versions available where the vendor hosts it for you. There's some advantages and disadvantages to self-hosted software.

Advantages

  • Often open source to some degree, meaning you can tinker with the code & make changes as needed

  • You can move from host to host based on uptime & performance needs

  • There's very little vendor lock-in. You can export your data to another helpdesk as needed

Disadvantages

  • You get to upgrade the software yourself! Yay .

  • You (or your host) get to manage the security of said product. This can be both a plus or minus, but for most folks would be a minus.

Kayako

We've used Kayako what seems to be over a decade. It serves our purpose well, but, given its age it's beginning to show some wear & tear. Kayako offers both a self-hosted (i.e., one you host on a web hosting account at a company like Fused) & hosted version (one kayako hosts). The software features live chat, a helpdesk that allows emails to convert to tickets and a decent knowledgebase system.

It's got a slightly antiquated interface, but nonetheless allows us to respond to inquiries promptly. It's a great system to consider, but lacks some social features like converting facebook posts/twitter responses into tickets. Nonetheless, it's got fairly open code, so if you're technical enough you can add your own modules.

Link to Kayako: Kayako

Cerberus

Cerberus is great. No complaints, slightly antiquated interface, but it "gets the job done".

Link to Cerberus: Cerberus

Hosted helpdesks

Desk.com

Desk is a great product from salesforce. It has a decent interface, lots of applications available for mobile, ipad & desktop. It features a long list of social media integration (for twitter responses & such) and overall has a decent pricing scheme. It's SaaS only, which means salesforce hosts it for you. There's some limitations with that, mostly that you're locked into using their software. If you come across something you don't like, migration would prove tedious.

Link to desk.com: Desk.com

Zendesk

Zendesk is the product of a public company. It has a great interface, and supports lots of nifty features & includes many mobile device apps. & such. The one limitation is it's self-hosted only, we've heavily considered & wielded their software -- it's good stuff.

Link to Zendesk: Zendesk