SYAF - WEB DESIGN MALAYSIA
How to Run Unproductive Meetings

How to Run Unproductive Meetings

We spent so many times on a 2-hour meeting that could have been an email. You’ll notice the moment where there’s no specific agenda (worse if the meeting has one but nobody sticks to it).

It is pretty easy to run an unproductive meeting. Dragging discussion for hours, delaying your team from getting back to work to make actual progress.

Follow this tips if you want to frustrate your team with long, agonizing meetings:

No set-up until everyone is in the room

Why would you want to connect your laptop to the projectors 5 minutes before everyone come? Let your team see you plugging the right connector cable and configuring the display like a pro. If it doesn’t work, don’t bother to call IT for help until 10 minutes or so have passed. Your team will appreciate your effort and being in a meeting that doesn’t start on time.

Review previous discussions while adding nothing new

Allocate the first 30 minutes for “Confirmation of minutes of the previous meeting.” By pointing out notes from the previous discussion, you may deliberately remind your team which task is still in progress. At this point, avoid adding anything worth to the table. Instead, make it clear to everyone to focus on completing their task. Let them know not to waste time on any unproductive activities.

Don’t prepare an agenda, or skip it if you have one

Outlines for a meeting agenda keep the schedule to wrap the meeting on time. Your agenda makes the entire discussion more focused and involved. Avoid this by walking through your train of thought by talking endlessly on irrelevant topics rather than keeping everyone focus on the goals of the meeting.

Avoid making decisions during the meeting

A good meeting is about collecting information, weighing options and coming up with a solution. Running an unproductive meeting, you shouldn’t come up with a concrete decision and let your team assume what the next action plan is. You can always follow up on it at the next meeting.

Conclusion

I don’t have problems with meetings, but those unproductive ones that are wasting my time. Meetings are essential to make everybody on the same page, working towards the same goal. But it’s worth nothing unless everyone started getting things done.


This article was published on Medium.com.

Why Your WordPress Sites Get Hacked

Why Your WordPress Sites Get Hacked

It’s all fun and games until you noticed something is wrong with your website. The symptoms could be one of the following:

  • You got: “This site can’t be reached” message when entering your URL
  • Random pop-ups appear on random pages while you are navigating your site.
  • Random files and folders suddenly appear in your web folder
  • Random new users account has been created
  • Your WordPress Admin account has been removed
  • Unidentified files have been installed in your FTP that you do not know
  • When you Google your site, the result says: “The site may be hacked”

There could be other signs your WordPress site have been hacked, but those are the most common one.

Reasons why you have been hacked

While it could be done by someone who has the access to your WordPress backend or your hosting control panel (like a disgruntle ex-developer), there are other reasons why your website is vulnerable to attack.

  • You have a weak & easy to guess password
  • Your plugins and theme files are outdated
  • You are using nulled plugins and themes
  • You never set up security solutions on your WordPress installation

What should I do if I’m hacked?

If your hosting provides scheduled backup, you can contact them to revert to the last working version of your website. If you don’t have backups, you may find a web design company who can retrieve back your website. This will be done manually and technically challenging depending on the size of your website.

Here are my 5 rituals in ensuring a secured website:

1) Strong username and password

What passwords and condoms have in common

You don’t reuse it
You don’t share it with others
You don’t use the same one as the others
If you’re in doubt, change it

Stop using ‘admin’ as your admin username, silly. Find a suitable username that’s not so common and probably unrelated to you in a sense that anyone could guess from looking at your Instagram or Twitter handles. Your username shouldn’t have anything to do with your personal information.

Same goes with your password. Use uppercase, lowercase letters and various characters to strengthen your password. I also recommend that you regularly change your password, especially if you had shared your password with some freelancers or anyone you hired to make the changes before.

2) Updates
If your site has a lot of outdated plugins, there could be security holes where hackers can break into your system. Therefore, it is important that you keep your plugins and WordPress updated. Updated plugins improve the load time too. Keep auditing your plugin list and remove any redundant plugins.

3) Hosting
I recommend using Siteground as a hosting and I have used them for our clients for many years. They have daily backup and 99.99% uptime on their servers. Prices are very reasonable and their control panel is user-friendly and easy to use. Their support is effective and competent. Based on my experience, in some cases, they will help in restoring your site if it got hacked.

4) Install WordFence
Wordfence is one of the most downloaded security plugins for WordPress. It has a number of smart features to protect your website from common hackers attack. Wordfence is easy to use, so you do not have to be a rocket scientist to use it. Installing Wordfence will significantly increase your website security.

Some of the features that I like include:

  • Perform a virus scan of your entire site and get a report.
  • Block IP addresses and countries from accessing your website
  • You receive an email every time a user logs in to your website. Here you can see the user IP, user hostname, and user location and their username.
  • Built-in firewall to protect your site from unwanted traffic.

5) Backups
I could not emphasise this one hard enough. You might purchase the best theme and plugins, hire the best web developers and use the best hosting solutions – but if you don’t schedule backups for your site, all your investments will go down the drain, once your site has been hacked.

There are lots of backup solutions out there, but I really like UpdraftPlus because it’s simple and just work in most case.

All of these rituals are not very technical because I want everyone to be able to understand and perform the security check yourself. However, there are some advance solutions that you can perform. Eg. You can limit write permissions to files and folders so you do not get the wrong people in and overwrite your files.

Remember to keep your plugins and theme updated. Outdated files may have security holes, making your site vulnerable to attack.

What I Shared about Self Promotion at WordCamp Kuala Lumpur 2017

What I Shared about Self Promotion at WordCamp Kuala Lumpur 2017

I was invited to be one of the panelist, discussing about Running a WordPress Development Agency at the WordCamp Kuala Lumpur 2017, last November.

Here are some points that I’d like to summarize from that discussion that could be useful, if you’re running a small web agency:

  1. Spend Time Perfecting Your Skills. Many people will have a product or talent, but will receive little to no recognition because it isn’t good enough. I suggest spending enough time developing a product, be it a website or invention, that you would buy it.
  2. Dont Be Humble. I have a problem with this; I hate “bragging” about myself. But if you think that you are worth it, go for it! When proposing a project to a client, tell them you’re better than the rest, then say why.
  3. Cover Different Mediums. Promoting yourself over several different mediums, like in social media, person-person communication, or the internet forums, will help clients recognize that you are in the market.
  4. Have GREAT Advertisements. A great advertisement is worth it; they are the deciding factor in whether a client wants to come to you. If you think that you’re worth paying for an advertisement, this is great; a well-done, professional advertisement makes you stand out from the crowd. Which brings me to tip #5.
  5. Stand Out. This is the most heard lesson today. By being unique, you are recognized more; by being recognized more, you are sought after more. Going back to Tip #2, tell your client why you’re different, and better.
  6. Sometimes, You Make More By Not Making Anything. This means free-work. Volunteering at a place before working there not only shows that your dedication, but also it gives you a chance to display your qualities. This can be translated into selling a product, to; demos and freebies are one of the most surefire ways to gain interest.
  7. Conquer Your Fears. I know at first, I was scared to self-promote. But then I would think of my bank balance, and see it with thousands of dollars more. It really helps!
  8. Be Assertive. When promoting your services, never stray from your self-assurance. I recommend before selling that you become so confident that any questions you’re asked come straight from knowledge. Know your services back and forth, like the back of your hand.
  9. Learn From Your Mistakes. I always like to ask, when I’m turned down, why I was turned down. That way, if they point out any specific fault, it gives you the chance to take that in and learn from it. If you really want to show maturity, tell them that if they tell you, it will give you the chance to improve. Then, leave your contact info, because they might look for you in the future.

There you have it! It was a great opportunity meeting wonderful people at the WordCamp, and I hope for another great one, next year!

How Many WordPress Plugins Do You Actually Need?

How Many WordPress Plugins Do You Actually Need?

I was just adding some plugins to a couple of my clients’ WordPress websites and noticed there are 99 pages of plugins under the popular category from the WordPress plugins section. Holy Moly, that is a lot of plugins!

Thank goodness for the popular tags directory and search by keyword box. Without those, some people could spend hours looking through all the plugins and not know what they were looking for.

The number of plugins is going to depend on what you want your website to do, and what you want out of your blog. There are people that have a list of 3, 5, 10, or more of the “must have plugins” for every website.

I don’t believe that is so. Every website is different, so the plugins you use on your website may not be on the must have plugins lists. Sure, there are the plugins for analytics, cache, SEO, forms, sitemap, and security to list a few that are useful and needed by all. However, if you are new to web development and have no clue which plugins you need it can be overwhelming.

I recommend if you are unsure, review the first few pages on the popular plugins page to get a feel of what plugins are available. Click the install on the side and read the description, how to install, view the screenshot options if available, check the FAQ’s, and additional notes, to see if the plugin is right for your blog. The information will also tell you if the plugin has been tested in the newest version of WordPress, how many times the plugin has been downloaded, and the last update of the plugin. Be careful, an outdated plugin can cause you more problems than good on your website.

I really pay attention to the number of downloads and last updates of the plugins. Now, is this the way for everyone? Not necessarily, but I use that as an indicator of the value of the plugin. Now on the other hand, some might say just because a plugin has not been downloaded numerous times does not mean it lacks value. I totally agree with that, but I just stated what I look for. It really all depends on what you need or would like your website to do.

Plugins are great tools to use to enhance your WordPress website for you and your visitor’s experience. As your plugins have a purpose for your website.

What to do When Freelance’s Work Dries Up?

What to do When Freelance’s Work Dries Up?

Freelance work always comes in waves. You’ll be the talk of the town one week, and then there will be nothing but silence in your inbox the next. Freelance dry spells are almost inevitable. So what is there to do during the down time?

Keep a Schedule
Even without regular work, you should be keeping to a regular schedule. Wake up at the same time every morning, get ready for work, then get settled in front of your desk.

Even if there is nothing for you to do at a normal, 9-5, you’ll still be expected to show up, at least for a bit. This will give you time to seek out work, touch up your portfolio and resume, and still leave you with a potential free afternoon binge watching on Youtube.

Stay Connected
Have some other friends that you know in the business? If you are a freelance writer, and have met a few other freelance writers, then why not get in contact with them? They might have a few ideas for your dry spell, a little extra work to throw your way (since you have nothing better to do), or might even be able to throw you a bone.

Get in touch with old clients that you haven’t heard from in a while and offer them a 10% discount. You never know what kind of business you can drum up just by keeping in touch.

Straighten Up
When you’re super busy, your desk probably reflects it. If your desk is loaded down with papers, books, pens and other nonsense, it may be time for some cleaning. Make sure to file away important documents, straighten up the bookshelves, and don’t forget to dust!

Play with your Portfolio
How long has it been since you read over your website, your blog, your social media site, or your portfolio? If it has been a while, you may want to just make sure all of your information is completely up to date. Old dates and obviously outdated information will make you look less professional and might scare off a few clients.

Learn Stuff
There are so many places to take short, informational courses; you never know what you might learn. There are Photoshop courses in Udemy, SEO classes at Skillshare, and even writing courses on Youtube. And all of these are very cheap or free. You’ll never be short of something to do by learning new things!

Look After Your Business
Are you charging enough? Is your blog professional enough? Should you change your Facebook page to reflect the new niches you’re hoping to start leaning towards? A free few hours can help you to evaluate your business model, and see if your plan could use a few tweaks. Ask your colleagues or professional friends what they think of what you are doing. You never know where great advice can come from.

You also need to consider if you have a contract in place that you use with your clients. If you have been burnt in the past from a client not paying you or asking too much, then you should consider updating your contract so you can use it for all your clients over and over again.

Add to Your Portfolio
Even a spare hour you have is a spare hour you could spend on expanding your portfolio. Don’t waste it!

Take Some Time Off
Maybe you’ve been working too hard. Perhaps you can look for more work tomorrow? Take the day and go out. Go to the movie, bowling or just take a stroll. When was the last time you playing Daytona USA? Or perhaps you can volunteer. Maybe take a fitness class at the gym you have never taken.

There is a whole world out there, and you can tackle your work problems tomorrow.

10 Proofreading Tips To Keep Your Sanity

10 Proofreading Tips To Keep Your Sanity

Is your client cringing due to you missing an error you were meant to proofread? Does your revision sound much worse than the original writing, giving you the feeling you should just bow down and cry into a pile of tears? Face it, proofreading may be a tough grind at times, yet it is always an interesting challenge at hand. Here are a few things to keep in mind – and by “things,” I mean ten things. Five just seems, amateurish.

Number One: Excessiveness in Wordplay

So you’re there, reading over the paper you were assigned to edit, and you notice some word being used over and over again. As an editor myself, this could really tick me off, let alone you, as well. For this, mark each repeated word with a number, so that by the end of reading the article, you have tallied up the times it has been used. If it is three or less, it shouldn’t be too big a deal. If it appears to be four or more – dear goodness and donuts! Either omit the repeated words and revise some of the writing, or use rather a synonym for a replacement.

Number Two: Didn’t I Read This Somewhere Before?

Oh plagiarism, nasty plagiarism. Some writers, or maybe a ton, can’t find the ability to scribble original work, so they turn to copying someone’s work and claiming it as their own. Cowards! There are quite a few websites out there that are apt to determine whether or not the work is a copycat or a fresh, new piece of writing. Plus, even if it does sound similar, pay close attention to the writer’s style – which leads us to the next point.

Number Three: Stylizing Differences

Yes, everyone has their own unique style, yay. But is the author using consistency in his/her writing? It could be the focus on character concentration, specific word choices within sentences, or biased decisions on unfair topics, such as debating that a banana is juicier than an apple (see what I did there?). Always make sure that the author is utilizing his or her own vision and trying not to seem inspired by another author. If the unfortunate occurs, the criticism will not only be directed to the writer, but you as well. In fact, criticism is everywhere.

Number Four: Stick With the Topic

If the magazine, website or book is centered on a particular theme, then it is important that the author is being consistent with the said theme. For example, you’re the editor of a music-based magazine, in which the focus is on uprising music artists; the author then writes a whole section dedicated to the art of the The Wachowskis (they’re awesome, anyway). The section is nowhere close to a music topic. Irritated? Omit! Instead, have the writer change the section to music that is featured in The Wachowskis films that made artists famous.

Number Five: If there’s A Quote

A quote in an article or a piece of writing (in general, of course) is always a nice aspect, but always make certain that the quote is accurate and on point in the topic of the piece. And for goodness sake, always check that the person actually said the quote that is being provided rather than a dull “It was a terrible game” line.

Number Six: Those Dam Homonyms

Horrendous errors come when words are being misused awfully. Like that, were you paying attention, or were you watching the newest episode of your awful television program? Watch out for homonyms, for the results could be one ride of a wild maize. And if you did catch the errors in this numbered tip, give yourself a pat on the back.

Number Seven: And One More Time!

After you’ve read the piece, read it one more time! Maybe you missed something along the road and BOOM! another error, this time you made the mistake. How dare you?! It’s always important to peruse a piece twice, or even three times. You want this to be perfect, right? And, if you so please, take the second reading for a later time. It doesn’t have to be right away. Put some fresh eyes onto it within a few hours. You’ll be just fine, don’t cry.

Number Eight: Love Your Voice

This one is classic advice for proofreading: reading aloud. Face it, you did it at least once back in junior high when you were forced to read your annoying classmate’s paper on sci-fi flicks. Whether you read in a whisper or saying it out loud, it’s always groovy to use your voice to your advantage to keep an eye out for those terrifying errors.

Number Nine: Stray Away From Distractions

Please, oh please, leave that tweet for later and concentrate on the piece of writing. With distractions, your proofreading abilities will diminish. That being said, put away your smart-phone, turn off your flat-screen television and whatever else normally eases your boredom. Okay, some music, such as classical or soft jazz, is acceptable, but put a rain check on that hip-hop you just purchased from the local record store. Aren’t lyrics of the essence in hip-hop? That’s what I thought.

Number Ten: Did Spelling Even Come to Mind?

Lastly, be attentive to spelling errors within the author’s writing. Keep a dictionary, or even the web, nearby to double-check for mistakes. Like, shouldn’t this be one of the top three in the list? Yes, it is that important. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, it is writing!

How Small Business Can Compete with Big Companies?

How Small Business Can Compete with Big Companies?

If you are just starting your new business, one of your major concerns right now could be how to professionally present yourself in the field you want to excel and compete effectively among larger business offering the same product or service like yours.

In today’s fast paced environment, every objective can be attained now with the help of the latest technology and of course the much needed revolving fund to keep your business abreast with the current trend and what your competitors are willing to offer to all your target clients.

Here are some techniques that any small or start-up business could try in order to have a competitive edge and perform closely with their rivals—the bigger companies:

1. Invest more in your advertising campaign

If you have adequate capital resources to spend, then invest in a reliable and certified marketing agency that can help you come up with a more realizable marketing plan. The best way to fully utilize your budget is scout for a good deal on all the marketing firms offering their services that promise to have your sales pitch soar high or get the needed traffic back to your site.

2. Avail the latest technology or equipment if needed

Even you are just new in the market, you can also provide what the bigger firms are offering the public. For example, if your business is concentrated into shirt printing, then, investing is a high-tech shirt design maker or equipment will give you more chances to compete with your rivals and provide also the same service that they are giving. The good thing about a start-up business is that you can still lower your prevailing rates, unlike with bigger companies they need to charge higher or maintain their existing rates in order to sustain all their expenditures.

3. Add a personal touch

Whether it is a small rented space for your showroom of your products or an online website featuring your newest product lines being sold, don’t forget to add a personal touch to your start-up business. Making your place well-presented, inviting to your walk-in clients and personally greeting them would make a big difference already as compared to bigger stalls which sometimes look snobbish when no one would even greet the clients, making them feel awkward or put-off to even enter their premises or stalls. Same applies with your websites, be sure you have an online customer service team who will be ready to attend to all your clients concerns and needs.

4. Improve your product or service from time to time

Being a newbie in this business, one aspect that you should never overlook is the continuous improvement of your product or service in order to cope up with the growing demands of your clients and the high rate of competency among your competitors. Strive to be the best in whatever industry you want to focus.

Running your own business really requires hard work, creativity and a lot of discipline. If you think all your best efforts are not enough for your motives to excel, then, the next best thing to do is follow the route of what big companies are doing to succeed. If they are using promotional gimmicks, then, it’s about time you do the same tactic in your own little way to get your consumers full attention. Never give up. Live within your dreams for self-fulfillment.

3 Elements in Managing Web Projects

3 Elements in Managing Web Projects

Managing a website project, whether it is big or small, both require good handling skills to the person assigned. Some individuals perceive that bigger projects are the only ones that need strict planning, enough capital and time, but contrary to this belief, even small projects do require the same amount of planning and management in order to gain success in the long run.

Expert project managers or team leaders usually apply these techniques when handling projects, whether big or small. Here they are for your information:

1. Proper communication

One of the most vital actions that could lead to the entire success of any project is proper communication from the top management down to the bottom line of its members, the employees or staff. A good project manager must be approachable and always ready to communicate effectively with his members no matter how difficult it may be, so that any misunderstanding or concerns could be opened out during the discussions. Making sure that barriers or conflicts are resolved promptly will surely help everyone to work wholeheartedly and harmoniously until the end of the project.

2. Clear visibility of the entire operation

An efficient project manager or team leader has the capacity to manage the entire operation of the project. He must know how to properly allocate all the resources needed in the good flow of work like adequate manpower to finish the entire project, sufficient capital or investment to make each task or target realizable and manageable and lastly enough time to finish the whole project successfully on the set date or deadline without any delays.

3. Good analytical skills

A reliable and efficient project manager or team leader must possess good analytical skills all throughout the project. He must have already a forecasted ROI (return on investment) once all the project requirements are met accordingly to the agreed plan. An expert project manager must have the ability to weigh all the possible outcome of the project on the basis of their guidelines. He must know exactly the proper course of actions or remedies to apply in case something goes wrong along in any of the stages of the project.

Managing a project, whether small or big, both have the same levels of challenges to the view of the person in charge like the project manager. Careful planning and detailed handling of all target plans and course of actions must be observed for the project to succeed in the end.

Remember the true success of a project or assignment is weighed on how both parties the manager and members have managed to work together and contributed effectively in the entire operation, leading to a positive outcome.

4 Challenges for Full Time Freelancers

4 Challenges for Full Time Freelancers

Maybe some of you would jump off their feet when they hear somebody claim that he/she works in the comforts of their homes as freelancers. Well, let’s face it, with the continuing instability of our present economy, anyone would be truly convinced to work at home if given the chance and get paid for their skills.

But, do you know that there are also disadvantages if one chooses to work at home? Here are some of them for your enlightenment:

1. No fixed income

Freelancing work is mostly per project basis so your source of income is not fixed, compared to someone working permanently in a company. Working at home doesn’t promise a steady flow of income. You may accept a workload depending on your employer’s budget at the moment and when the project finishes, then you are back to zero again in looking for another work assignment. The best advice here is accepting projects when they keep pouring on your plate, grab all these opportunities and try to keep a balance to meet all your deadlines. This will also help you save for the rainy days when freelance work is limited.

2. No benefits

Working at home as a freelancer has no benefits at all. Unlike if you work in an office as a regular employee, getting benefits like sick leave, annual vacation leave with pay or other health benefits. In case you have to be confined in a hospital, you have to shoulder all the expenses if you work as a freelancer, unless you have medical insurance plan, which might cover some of the cost.

3. Working alone

One of the freelancer’s pitfalls is to face the reality of working alone or on your own if you choose to do it at home because no employer will be directly supervising your every move as you start your work. Since, no one will be reminding you about what task needs to get done right away, you tend to become too relaxed with your environment, forgetting your deadlines and spending most of your time lounging, lying on your bed or binge watching on Netflix. Proper discipline and strong will power are the tow best traits to posses to keep you ahead of your freelancing career.

4. Additional skills required

Since you will be working mostly on your own at home as a freelancer, there is a need for additional skills in areas like doing your own financial assessments of your actual earnings and filing your own taxes. If you are just starting this online career, you need to have some background in accounting to help you balance all your finances.

The above lists of disadvantages are some of the actual experiences of some freelancers. You may have your own concerns about the freelancing career and the best move is weigh all the positive and negative points and from there come up with better working strategies, if you decide to pursue a freelance career.

5 Important Elements for E-Commerce Sites to Attract New Customers

5 Important Elements for E-Commerce Sites to Attract New Customers

Recently, MDG Advertising Agency produced an infographic presenting 5 elements that will attract new customers to increase engagement and sales.

1. FAST LOADING & USER FRIENDLY SITE

Customers want intuitive, responsive and fast-loading web pages. 47% of Internet users say that usability and responsiveness are the most important criteria of an e-commerce website.

In a fast-paced world, customers are becoming less and less patient: 75% of buyers will leave your site if the loading time is slow.

E-commerce site must be optimized for mobile use. 77% of users between 18 to 29 years old make their purchases online on smartphone or tablet.

2. ACCURATE AND DETAILED PRODUCT INFORMATION

Providing in-depth information on the products is essential. 68% of customers actually read the description of the product. If the information provided is too general, chances are they are not encouraged to make the purchase. 77% of buyers say that the product descriptions influence their decision in making the purchase.

Suggesting a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) helps reassure customers. 40% of them wish to be able to ask questions or find answers to their questions.

Product information must be accurate. More than 42% of those surveyed said they had already returned an item because the information on the site did not match to the product delivered – resulting to 86% of non-returning customers.

3. CLEAR IMAGES INCLUDING DETAILS

It is important to look after good product photos and other visuals. 26% of users admit to abandoned an online transaction due to lack of, or poor quality product photos. Keep in mind that, since customers won’t be able to touch the physical products, they will only rely on the high-resolution product images in making the decision to buy.

And talking about high-resolution product images, 67% of buyers zoom on the images in the product page to see the details.

4. RATINGS AND REVIEWS

Before making a purchase, 73% customers like to find out about other customers’ (verified) reviews about the products, quality of service, etc. Customers also are expecting items to be rated.

The ratings and reviews allow consumers to trust the company and guarantee the quality of the products. However, 48% of users are skeptical on the reviews given by others, since this can easily be manipulated.

5. A FAST AND DYNAMIC INTERNAL SEARCH ENGINE

The on-site search engine in an e-commerce site is crucial: it allows users to search & filter products. 70% use it regularly to save time.

For an optimal user experience, companies need to highlight the search bar, build in autocomplete feature, include images and ratings into the results, and include navigation elements such as breadcrumbs.

Based on these 5 elements, visitors will enjoy browsing your site and will be more easily influenced for a purchase.

Want to optimize your e-commerce site? Tell me about your project and we’ll take it from there.