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Ever since Google started talking about giving an SEO boost to SSL-enabled websites there’s been plenty of questions going around about SSL from people who’ve never considered it in the past. This prompted me to record the following video to help explain some of the basics of SSL encryption, along with some of the misconceptions surrounding it.
Throughout the above video I’ll be going over the following main points:
eCommerce is a phenomenal business, and ofcourse the sheer concept of taking your product, putting it online, and selling millions of it and becoming rich is a phenomenal thing. Unfortunately there are a ton of things that I’ve noticed over the years get overlooked by most people. That being said I decided to record the following video to talk about some of the common things that get overlooked when it comes to eCommerce.
Check it out below, let me know what you think, and subscribe to the channel for more webmaster videos.
Earlier in the week I had to do a rather niche task with a local leasing company I work with. They have switched over to eLEAD CRM and as such wanted to convert all of their online lease quote request forms to submit to their new eLEAD CRM. This way requests from existing customers will automatically be assigned and recorded to their customer account; and new quote requests will automatically generate new prospects within the CRM system. Having done several of these implementations in the past I figured I would outline what it takes to take this on yourself.
For starters let’s define what ADF XML is. ADF stands for Auto Data Format which is the standard data delivery format for the automotive industry. Using ADF XML leads and customer details can easily be imported/exported across a wide array of platforms and dealerships. You can read the v1.0 of the ADF XML specifications here.
Now that we got the pleasantries out of the way – let’s start doing some coding. We’ll need a form first which will collect the information from our customer. For the purposes of this tutorial I’ll use the following simple form, however any pre-existing form you have will work just fine.
<form action="submitLead.php" method="POST" > First Name: <input type="text" name="fname"><br /> Last Name: <input type="text" name="lname"><br /> Phone: <input type="text" name="phone"><br /> Email: <input type="text" name="email"><br /> Desired Make: <input type="text" name="make"><br /> Desired Model: <input type="text" name="model"><br /> Comments: <input type="text" name="comments"><br /> <input type="submit"> </form>
Now let’s head over to our submission script, in this case I have it in a separate file called submitLead.php. I won’t go into detail here on the basics of sending out an email with PHP as I have described that in a separate tutorial here – alas the basis of this entire process is based on sending out an email via PHP so if you feel you need a refresher head back to that tutorial. Otherwise let’s collect our form variables and start building our ADF XML email.
In addition to gathering the usual POST information from our form we’re also going to need to create a few additional variables for our request id number, the eLEAD email address assigned to us, and the date of the request. For this tutorial I simply generated a number for each lead lead using
<?php // Start ADFXML Email Options $fname = $_POST['fname']; $lname = $_POST['lname']; $adfphone = $_POST['phone']; $adfemail = $_POST['email']; $commentsbox = $_POST['comments']; $currentdate = date(); $adfmake = $_POST['make']; $adfmodel = $_POST['model']; $eleadtrackemail = "[email protected]"; $six_digit_random_number = mt_rand(100000, 999999); $adfsubject = "Lease Quote Request:".$adfmake." ".$adfmodel."";
Now that we have all the variables we will need setup, let’s build the body of our email. The part that will actually be made up of ADF XML. All of the ADF XML emails you will be building will all always start off with the following lines:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <?ADF VERSION="1.0"?>
Following that you will always need to specify a unique lead ID and a source for the lead. In my example I am listing my source as Lease Request Page.
$adfxml = '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <?ADF VERSION="1.0"?> <adf> <prospect> <id sequence="1" source="Lease Request Page">'.$six_digit_random_number.'</id> <requestdate>'.$currentdate.'</requestdate> <vehicle interest="lease" status="new"> <make>'.$adfmake.'</make> <model>'.$adfmodel.'</model> </vehicle> <customer> <contact> <name part="first" type="individual">'.$fname.'</name> <name part="last" type="individual">'.$lname.'</name> <email>'.$adfemail.'</email> <phone type="home">'.$adfphone.'</phone> </contact> <comments>'.$commentsbox.'</comments> </customer> <vendor> <vendorname>My Awesome Dealership</vendorname> </vendor> </prospect> </adf>'; $sendelead = mail($eleadtrackemail, $adfsubject, $adfxml);
Now take note that this is a very basic implementation and ADF XML offers alot more elements and has the ability to transmit additional information such as vehicle VIN numbers, odometer readings, and much more. A full write-up of of all the different elements is available here. At the end you’re submit script will resemble the following:
<?php $fname = $_POST['fname']; $lname = $_POST['lname']; $adfphone = $_POST['phone']; $adfemail = $_POST['email']; $commentsbox = $_POST['comments']; $currentdate = date(); $adfmake = $_POST['make']; $adfmodel = $_POST['model']; $eleadtrackemail = "[email protected]"; $six_digit_random_number = mt_rand(100000, 999999); $adfsubject = "Lease Quote Request:".$adfmake." ".$adfmodel.""; $adfxml = '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <?ADF VERSION="1.0"?> <adf> <prospect> <id sequence="1" source="Lease Request Page">'.$six_digit_random_number.'</id> <requestdate>'.$currentdate.'</requestdate> <vehicle interest="lease" status="new"> <make>'.$adfmake.'</make> <model>'.$adfmodel.'</model> </vehicle> <customer> <contact> <name part="first" type="individual">'.$fname.'</name> <name part="last" type="individual">'.$lname.'</name> <email>'.$adfemail.'</email> <phone type="home">'.$adfphone.'</phone> </contact> <comments>'.$commentsbox.'</comments> </customer> <vendor> <vendorname>My Awesome Dealership</vendorname> </vendor> </prospect> </adf>'; $sendelead = mail($eleadtrackemail, $adfsubject, $adfxml);
Now once you’re form submission has processed simply head on over and login to eLEAD CRM and you’ll see your new lease request within your mail inbox with a new prospect automatically assigned to the request.
Wordpress Menus can seem a bit confusing at first, and after having a friend recently get totally lost trying to figure out the menus for his website – I got the idea to put together this quick tutorial. First off let’s define some terms I will be utilizing throughout this tutorial. Menus are collections of links. Menu Locations are places within a WordPress website where you can place a Menu. You assign a Menu to a Menu Location. The confusion between the two often arises because it’s common practice among webmasters to name a Menu the same as the Menu Location where you’re going to put it. In reality this comes in quiet helpful in trying to figure out where a menu belongs 8 months after you’ve made it.
The names of Menu Locations are set by the theme, so for the primary navigation menu on the site one theme might use “Main Menu” while another uses the term “Navigation Menu“. The amount of menu locations available is also dependent on the theme you are using. Under Appearance -> Menus there is a Manage Locations tab which contains all the possible places in your theme where you could place your menu.
While the theme ultimately determines what menu locations are available, you can always assign any menu to any Widget Area on your website by using the built-in Custom Menu Widget that ships with every WordPress installation. Now to keep things simple, WordPress only shows a few basic types of content for you to add to your menus: Pages, Links, and Categories. Don’t fret though. There is ALOT more you can do with your WordPress menu. Head on over to the Screen Options tab on the menu page and you’ll see a plethora of additional content options, such as Posts, Tags. Simply check the items you’d like to reveal on the Menu screen and a new box will appear from which you can add Menu items in the usual way.
Depending on other types of content created by Themes, Plugins or your own customizations, there may be dozens of possible content boxes shown in Screen Options for the Menu screen. (more…)
So you’ve made the decision to use a website builder for your website and now your sitting there wondering “now what”. Well now that you’ve made the decision to use a Website Builder, you need to pick one.
Picking the right one for you is going to come down to what exactly you want to be able to do with your website, and how you want it to look. Theres a few website builders out there I would recommend you look I to:
Start off by comparing the various designs offered by each builder.
Pick which website builder has the designs that best fit with your ideas for your own website. Then go through the feature lists for each builder and figure out which one will let you fulfill your ideas. Price really won’t be much of a factor here in deciding as most of the annual plans are priced around the same here.
Once you’ve made your decision it’s time to make that purchase. Right before you do run a quick search for a coupon code or an existing sale for the website builder of your choice. Saving a few bucks never hurts. I often mention coupon codes for various website builders in the blog here.
Once you’ve gotten your purchase squared away it’s time to start customizing and building your website. To avoid getting overwhelmed sit back and plan things out. Start by writing out the different pages your going to have and what content needs to go on each page. Once you have that list together start to put together all of the requirements of each page. Your content, images, etc. It’s a lot easier to dive into this with all your resources ready than to wing it as you go.
Unless you have everything all prepared already – this will probably take you a day or two. Bookmark this post and come back when your ready. Once you have all of your content lined up and ready to go – start knocking things out one page at a time. First off select the theme you originally decided on using – and start inputting all of your content page by page. Once you’re done sit back, give everything a look over and check that all images load properly, and you have no typos anywhere. Finally hit publish/save (depending on the web builder your using) and you’re brand new website is now live and ready for the world!
So you decided to bypass the website builder route and build your website yourself. This is definitely the harder way to go about building your website however you will learn alot more and hopefully have some fun along the way.
First thing is first. Your going to need to get yourself a domain name and a hosting plan. Now usually you can get the two together if your comfortable prepaying for a year of hosting upfront. Most hosting companies will offer a free domain name for those that pay yearly. I do. If you plan to purchase your domain name separately you will have to change the nameservers to point to your hosting account. I have included the tutorial links showing how to change your nameservers on some of the more popular domain name registrars below:
Now I’m not going to tell you which company to go with here – you will have to make that decision for yourself. I will mention a few key things you should be aware of when you are shopping around for your hosting company:
Finally when you have made your decision run a quick search online for the latest coupons amd sales at your chosen hosting company. No sense not getting the best possible deal. I post a wide array of hosting and domain name coupons here.
Alright now that our hosting account is setup and our domain name is configured we can finally get started with our website. This is going to be where you will want to sit down and address your technical skills and your own learning desires to figure out how you wish to proceed. You can download a free or premium HTML template, crack open a few HTML tutorials and start building your site; or you can install WordPress, install a free or premium WordPress theme and start building your website that way.
Utilizing a CMS such as WordPress will allow you to build a much more dynamic website with significantly less programming skill and knowledge. That being said having some basic knowledge of HTML, CSS ans JS would only help you accomplish that much more ei th your CMS based website.
To get started with a CMS based website you will want to start by choosing the platform you would feel most comfortable with and then selecting s theme to use. WordPress is by far the most popular one and the most beginner friendly. Furthermore WordPress is integrated into most major hosting control panels allowing you to install WordPress with a few mouse clicks inside your hosts control panel. A good thing to note here is that many hosting companies such as Site ground offer their own custom WordPress themes which come pre-installed with your new WordPress install. No reason to not check those out and see if you like any of them.
Assuming the provided themes aren’t up-to-par and your still looking for a theme you have a few options. A quick Google search will get you tons of free themes you can download and use on your own website. You can also utilize Themeforest to purchase a premium theme – and there are LOTS to choose from.
Starting off by customizing an HTML template will, depending on your existing skills and knowledge, take longer than utilizing WordPress. The process will involve plenty of research and time spent reading tutorials. However in the end you will know your website inside out. There wouldn’t be a single area of the website that would rely on a plugin whose code you don’t know. You will learn a ton and in the future save yourself s pretty penny from not having to hire outside developers for your own projects. My Getting Started with HTML tutorial series is a great starting place.
So the time has finally come when you’ve decided it’s time to get a website up – whether it be for your personal blog or your business you’ve made the decision to get yourself onto the world wide web. So now you’re probably sitting there wondering – What now? Do I call GoDaddy? Web.com? Wix?
There’s a lot for you to figure out and unfortunately I won’t be able to cover everything within this one post – so with that I would like to introduce the I Want A Website post series. This series is intended to cover the various steps you’ll be going through to get that dream website of yours up and running. Starting with getting your domain name registered to choosing a hosting provider and deciding how you will be building your website. I will try to cover as many different options as possible while going through this, giving you the various pros and cons of each method.
With that – let’s start by figuring out what it is that we want exactly. I don’t so much mean the look and design of the website we want; rather first we need to determine what kind of website we want. You could have, for example,:
There are many, many different types of websites out there – and the type of website your building will determine what set of tools and services you will need.
For the sake of this series I will focus primarily on service and product based websites as these will overlap with most other sites in many areas. The rest will be mentioned upon in less detail. The average business will want to start with a simple website to provide some information about them, offer information about their products & services, provide contact methods, and possibly maintain a blog about their businesses latest happenings.
So with that knowledge at hand we have a few different routes available for us. Because our website does not contain any truly custom functionality, and we aren’t building a complex and custom eCommerce site, nor anything server intensive, we can either utilize one of the many website builder platforms out there, or we can build our site ourselves. I’ll go into the pros and cons of each method below.
Going with a website builder means you’ll usually bundle together your domain name, hosting, and website builder all into one. This makes accounting extremely simple. Furthermore you need barely have any programming knowledge to put together a decently presentable website. Furthermore designing your website is all handled via a drag and drop interface aimed at someone who has never built a website before.
For those of you looking to utilize WordPress, Red Dot, or any other CMS – Website Builders aren’t for you either. These are all built to be their own CMS solutions.
So with that said what do you do if you do decide that using a Website Builder is for you? You head on over to our Using A Website Builder post.
Going the custom route does make things a little bit more complicated for you initially – however you do end up with a lot more control over everything.
For starters it’s up to you to get your hosting and your domain name setup. Luckily the majority of the time you will get a free domain name with the purchase of a new annual hosting plan. This takes care of your initial two worries immediately and puts the responsibility onto your hosting company to set things up correctly.
Now keep in mind this doesn’t mean you do have to build everything from scratch. You can make full use of existing themes and templates to help you put together your website. If you wish to utilize a CMS such as WordPress you can make use of a huge resource of available free and premium themes to get you started. The same applies to starting with a simple HTML template.
So if you do decide to go with the custom built solution head on over to our Building My Own Website post to continue on.