Everyday Solutions – Ninja Forms

Published on Jun 10, 2014   //  Business Topics, Reviews, Web Development, WordPress

This is BlueFur’s blog series: Everyday Solutions! This series focuses on quick and easy solutions for common problems experienced by website owners.

For the average person, building a contact form can be difficult. 15 years ago when finding a talented web developer was far more difficult, building a form from scratch often involved using Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver’s built-in tools. If you were not fortunate enough to have a functioning WYSIWYG editor on-hand, you were stuck with Notepad and reading several tutorials trying to slap together what you wanted.

Ah, 1997. But we digress…

With how far things have come since that time, many people still have trouble with forms. And that’s okay! You’re a business owner. Or a graphic designer. Or a stay-at-home mom. You’re not a web developer, and you would much rather focus your time on great content, not on coding. If you use WordPress to power your website, you are in luck.

There is a wealth of contact form plugins out there, the most popular being Contact Form 7, Formstack, Gravity Forms, and Fast Secure Contact Form. Well there is a new kid on the block that’s making waves, and it is well worth a look.

Ninja Forms is slick. Really slick. It has a drag and drop editor to help you place your fields exactly where you want them, reusable fields, the ability to import/export both forms and data, and the ability to add custom styling.

That’s all well and good, but where most contact form plugins fall short for us is during the form creation process. Often things look out of place, the interface has a very high learning curve, and your form elements don’t actually end up where you want them to go. Ninja Forms’ interface makes that all disappear by being very clear about what does what, how to place fields where you want them, and providing all the extras like data validation, hidden fields, and file uploads.

As well as making it easy to build your form, the preview function is far, far easier to use than any other. With every other contact form plugin we have used we are always told to insert the shortcode into a page and then preview the page. Not so with Ninja Forms! There is a handy “Form Preview” link that will actually open the form in a new tab/window in your browser, no embedding necessary.

Beyond all that. it features integrations with many popular services like PayPal, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and Freshbooks. It’s a very handy tool that goes beyond simple contact forms. Try Ninja Forms out for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments!

Plugins That Make WordPress Security Easy

Published on Dec 20, 2013   //  Reviews, Security, WordPress

WordPress is one the most widely used pieces of software on the web, making it a huge target for attackers regardless of their intentions. The great thing is that, being so widely used and respected, WordPress also benefits from a large community of supporters that develop plugins to enhance its functionality.

One area that benefits from this fervor is security. Multiple services and plugins exist to help you lock down your WordPress site, making it far more difficult to attackers to gain access to it. Today we’re going to take a look at two leading security plugins: WordFence and Better WP Security.

 

WordFence

The story of how WordFence got its start was new to us, but the reason is one we know well. The creator, Mark Maunder, is the person responsible for discovering a massive security hole in what was a very popular thumbnail plugin called TimThumb. He patched it, donated the code back to TimThumb, and then set about building his own security plugin to protect his WordPress-based website after it was exploited via TimThumb.

WordFence’s name is very appropriate; it effectively puts up a virtual fence around your WordPress site. We feel some of the most important features include:

  • Scans of WordPress, theme files, and plugins
  • Real-time views of hacking traffic
  • Blocking fake search engine crawlers
  • Tracking IP address to their source
  • Scans for backdoors
  • Blocking brute-force attacks

WordFence also offers a premium version of their plugin for $39 per year, which is likely worth the cost if you run a popular website. The premium version offers more frequent scans, two-factor authentication, and country blocking which can be highly useful for locally-focused websites.

 

Better WP Security

Better WP Security has been developed by multiple people, but development is now led by Chris Wiegman at iThemes. It attempts to take WordPress security best practices and package them all into a single plugin, which has led to features like:

  • Removing or obscuring information about your WordPress install
  • Removing the default “admin” account
  • Vulnerability scans and fixes
  • Banning bots and malicious agents
  • Forcing SSL
  • Monitoring the file system for changes

While the goals are the same, WordFence and Better WP Security do not overlap entirely. For example, Better WP Security helps prevent many potential vulnerabilities from becoming problems, even for unpatched WordPress installations, by obscuring information like the version of WordPress being used, which plugins and versions are installed, and changing several defaults to make it harder for attackers to even figure out what exploit to take advantage of. This helps deter attackers in the first place, and they will typically move on to an easier target.

WordFence, on the other hand, has a mix of proactive and reactive measures. It will block known bots, brute force attacks, scan your WordPress site for vulnerabilities and backdoors, and it takes advantage of machine learning capabilities to automatically block new types of attacks. The real-time view of attackers and crawlers could be a boon for those of you looking to identify a resource hog.

Regardless, both plugins are very good at what they do and will protect the average WordPress site extremely well. If you feel it’s worth the money, WordFence Premium is your best bet for features like country blocking, two-factor authentication, and remote scans. If you’re on a budget, install either plugin and get it configured. Regardless, in this day and age you must be taking advantage of the free, easily accessible security measures available to you.

MyBB – Free and Open Source Forums

Published on Oct 13, 2011   //  Reviews

MyBB Hosting

When it comes to great forum scripts, you have a lot of choices out there.  One forum script that is receiving a lot of great reviews is MyBB.  It is a free and open source alternative to other forum scripts such as vB, IPB, phpBBB, SMF and more.

Here is a little more about MyBB from the developers:

A lot of thought has gone into the MyBB interface to make it easy to use. MyBB uses a standard discussion board structure, so your visitors will feel familiar with the way MyBB works. Your visitors can use the MyBB user control panel to change the way they view discussions. They can also easily start and reply to discussions and markup their posts.

From square one, MyBB does a lot to give you an interface that is not just simply designed but is also familiar to use. You can change things extensively from within the administration panel.  The ability to edit the layout, options and behavior of the script is all located within that area. The MyBB forums are also very extendable.  It has a very advanced plugin system that allows you to tweak almost every aspect of how the forum works and feels to your users.

Already using another forum script?  Their MyBB Merge System will allow you to easily convert your posts from another forum script over to MyBB.  If you need more information, be sure to go check out mybb.com.

TextPattern – Easy to Use CMS

Published on Oct 4, 2011   //  Reviews

TextPattern Hosting

Flexible. Elegant. Easy to Use.  These are all phrases people have used to describe TextPatern.  In a day and time where WordPress, Joomla and others get the majority of the love – I am here to introduce you to a script that helps you easily get your content out to the masses.

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Tribes Review

Published on Mar 5, 2009   //  Reviews

tribesI have been a long time fan of Seth Godin’s books. I have previous reviewed Meatball Sundae, Purple Cow and The Dip. Today I decided to purchase the audio book of Seth’s newest book Tribes. This was available on iTunes and is about a 4 hour listen. This book is a great book for those people in business who are looking to find a way to grow through social media.

This book touches on how to grow your own tribe around your business. It can be an external tribe like customers or an internal tribe like your co-workers. You do not need to be the boss to be a leader of the tribe with today’s technology, anyone that can rally others to a cause are today’s heretics and leaders.

He goes on to say that people choose not to lead out of fear. That we all fear criticism. If we can learn to accept the criticism and even embrace constructive criticism we would have more leaders in the world. The book explains the difference between a manager and a leader and that you should not be sucked in to the belief that just because you are not a manager that you can not be a leader is no longer true.

This book touches on Twitter and blogging as well.

If you have read this book what did you think?

iPhone Review

Published on Jul 22, 2008   //  Reviews

Last week I purchased the new 3G iPhone and thought I would share my review of the phone. I was not caught up in the hype of owning an iPhone and had no intention of getting one until my HipTop 2 died. I hopped on twitter and asked others about their experience with various phones and the only one that fit my requirements that was available is the iPhone.

The Good
This has to be one of the best phones I have ever owned. The various applications you can add and that are included make the phone useful beyond any standard phone…

  • SMS – although it is just SMS the iPhone allows you to track a conversation easily between your SMS friends. I have used SMS before and sometimes I forget the conversation if there is a large gap between. The iPhone makes that problem obsolete.
  • Contacts - finally a contacts area that integrates all the other applications on the phone. You can text, phone, email or visit a site all from one contact. You can even add a picture and set custom ring tones for each contact.
  • Maps – Do you get lost? With an iPhone that won’t ever be a problem again. The map works with the built in GPS that shows you where you are. If your in need of a coffee just fire up the map and enter Tim Hortons and all the local coffee places will be shown around you and you can find directions to them in seconds.
  • Weather – have to hunt for the local weather? The iPhone keeps the current temperature and weather conditions available and 7 day forecast.
  • Email - With many different options to setup emails the tool is easy to use and intuitive.
  • Safari – Surfing with the iPhone is in full colour and works with almost every site. The zoom feature means you can focus in on smaller type. You can open multiple sites in various windows and flip between windows.
  • WiFi - You can hook up to wifi and not use as much of your phone transfer.

The Bad
Even though it is a great phone there are some bad things with this phone…

  • Rogers/Fido coverage is not the greatest. I have noticed dropped coverage in Surrey for Internet. As more people come on I am worried that this problem will only get worse.
  • The keyboard is easy to use and you do get use to it. With only a few days under my belt I can type about 10 words per minute. With my old QWERTY phone keyboard I could type around 30 to 40 words per minute.
  • The Internet browser will reload randomly. I am surfing a site and go to the next page and the browser just reloaded. If it is a forum it can be annoying because whatever you had typed is now gone.
  • The email needs a select all button. If you have 50 or more emails in the inbox and want to just clear them out you need to select each one individually and the delete them all. I would prefer a select all and delete button.
  • 3rd party applications stop loading in the background. So if your listening to music through last.fm and want to read an email. The music will stop as soon as you leave that application.

The Ugly
These things are horrible about the phone…

  • You have to sign-up for a 3 year contract or no iPhone for you.
  • iTunes Canada does not have all the applications that the US iTunes does.
  • If you wish to develop for the iPhone you need to do so on an Apple computer.
  • Power Users will be unhappy with the 4 to 5 hour battery life.

Do you have an iPhone? If so what is your favorite applications?

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