Back to the Basics

After taking some time to look closely at my website and evaluate what I want to accomplish with it, I decided it was time to give it a complete make over.

What started me on this process was that there’s a lot of talk about missing Livejournal among my friends and so I want to bring back that sense of conversation and community as much as possible. I think that for my website’s re-design, I am going to go for a much more radical simplification and will strip things down to the basics while putting the blog’s content front and center.

The pages it will contain will also be stripped down to the basics: About, Contact, Policies, and a basic Shop (it, too, will be simplified). It will also include re-working the back-end, reducing plugins and functionality down to the absolute minimum needed.

It will remain on a managed WordPress installation with Dreamhost (Affiliate link) rather than reducing it down to a shared-host account, mostly because of the attached WooCommerce shop and server-level caching and reverse-proxy that the DreamPress account provides.

If it means tearing out the page-builder and it’s myriad modules, so be it. If it means reducing the topics and categories, then that too. If it means removing or re-writing past posts, then I’ll do that, too. Switching themes to a default theme and working within it’s limitations is completely an option, too.

Minimal, functional, and deceptively simple.

I feel up to the challenge.

Shopify, WordPress, WooCommerce, MAGAts, and Trust

FTC DISCLOSURE: This website may contain affiliate links to different products or services. You can help to support this website directly by clicking on the link and making a purchase or signing up for a service that I linked to. I may earn a small commission for each referral. You may rest assured that if I recommend it in an affiliate link then I have personally used it or verified it. Even though the links are sponsored, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Thank you, as always, for your support!

-Adrian

I’ll get right to the point. Shopify has lost my trust. Here’s how.

This week, Shopify had a data breech. Though it is currently small in scope it looks like this may be the final factor to really take into account while I consider the benefits and issues I can face if I decide to migrate American Bogan™ away from Shopify onto a WordPress site.

This website is built with WordPress and hosted on Dreamhost (Affiliate Link). Originally, it was under a different domain existing on Squarespace. Migrating away from Squarespace onto WordPress was a project that was more complicated than it needed to be, and highlights the risks involved in subscribing to a full website building platform instead of a building a site on a real webhost’s infrastructure.

Fact is, I have been mulling it over for a bit, now, based on little things that have been popping up. Shopify’s data breech will most likely the final factor.

Beyond the data breech, which all providers are at risk for from multiple attack vectors, I am noticing how much each Shopify based store is used to promote Shopify, without necessarily informing their users about it. Some people are fine with this. I am not.

ConsentMatters and #PrivacyMatters

You can see “Powered by Shopify” links in the footers of Shopify based websites, for example. Some users leave it because they do not know how to change it. Other users can remove “Powered by Shopify” (Google Search) through Shopify’s backend to read “Powered by Clown Farts and Dick Blisters,” but it does not change the actual hyperlink. The average user won’t necessarily know how to change the hyperlink through editing the theme’s code, but they can look up how to change it on the backend.

Problem is that any text you change it to, using Shopify’s backend, will still link back to a campaign-tracked back link to Shopify. Back links remain a classic SEO component. Nearly every Shopify store is coded with, what amounts to be, a hidden back link that isn’t easy to get rid of for most users.

screenshot of Americanbogan.com showing "powered by shopify" anchor text changed to "RemoveTrump #BlackLivesMatter #FuckTrump" and displaying the hyperlink behind it. adrianfeliciano.com
I temporarily changed the “Powered by Shopify” anchor text on American Bogan™ to “RemoveTrump #BlackLivesMatter #FuckTrump” to demonstrate the tracked hyperlink behind it and then deleted it all together once I took this screenshot.

One can argue that isn’t an issue BeCaUsE iTz ShOpiFy’s SeRviCe aNd PLatForm, and that is an absolutely correct and valid argument to make. In the end, it IS Shopify’s platform. Not yours.

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t care about Shopify’s willingness to platform MAGAt oriented shops. Trump’s campaign, and Breitbart’s webshop come to mind right away. To be fair, Shopify also hosts shops whose values are much more in line with mine; however, by using hidden backlinks in the footers of websites, Shopify is giving their subtle endorsement of that particular web-shop’s policies and politics, as far as I am concerned.

screenshot of breitbart webshop showing "powered by shopify" anchor text and displaying hyperlink behind it. Also, #FuckTrump #RemoveTrump #FuckMAGA #FuckAltRight and #FuckNazis adrianfeliciano.com
Shopify is using “Powered by Shopify” on Breitbart’s webshop to track the backlink and benefit from the SEO effects it can have.

Beyond the monthly hosting fees and transaction fees (depending on your payment processor), Shopify’s SEO is benefiting from those sites by using them for their SERP-enhancing backlinks.

The biggest factor, however, comes down to trust in the platform and control over my own content. In a nutshell, if I lose trust in one service provider, how easily can I migrate to a new one? As a corporation, my trust in Shopify has always been tolerant at best, and nearly non-existent at worst. This data breech, how they’ve responded to it, their use of un-disclosed backlinks, and their willingness to give a platform to (and use those backlinks to gain additional benefit from) the MAGAt cult, and multiple other minor limitations and factors, which I will get into below, have really started to pile up on top of each other.

I’ve already seen how complicated of a process it was for migrating my website away from Squarespace when it was primarily a blog and portfolio based site. I am now looking at rebuilding a fully functional e-commerce shop because the products, themselves, won’t easily migrate away. Printful, the main print-on-demand vendor I am using, cannot re-connect one shop to another and push all product data back to the new platform.

Once the migration and rebuild is done, several things become possible:

  1. I can have daily, weekly, and monthly backups of the entire website and can restore them at anytime. Shopify does not have backup functionality available for users. This is an enormous risk.
  2. WordPress has more than a few free themes that include backlinks in their footers. No big deal. If I decide not to dig into PHP and CSS code snippets to change it, I can always install a different theme that doesn’t include backlinks in their footers.
  3. SEO can be improved greatly — Shopify SEO is notorious for its poor implementation.
  4. Not that any product I create needs more than three options and 100 variations, but they’d be unlimited under WordPress.
  5. I can create multiple pages and blog posts to look pretty much how I want. With Shopify, the homepage is where most of the ability to alter the design is, at least for the free themes. Separate pages and blog posts are rudimentary, at best, and are very basic in design.
  6. If Dreamhost ever lost my trust, migrating to another WordPress installation on a different host will take, at most, a day if I am feeling lazy. Two if I am feeling exceptionally lazy.
  7. I can add on a support forum or other social features, up to and including a full blown social media site, if I really feel up to the challenge.
  8. Speaking of social features, both platforms allow for guest-checkouts. You can order a product without creating an account. With WordPress, I can help increase the overall security of my customers by requiring a social media account to checkout. That way, no user password is ever stored on my servers.
  9. Product reviews are already built into a WordPress based shop
  10. All of this for about $30 less per month.

Things that I will be giving up are minor, to me:

  1. If I want live shipping rates, I can only use one fulfillment vendor. With WordPress and WooCommerce, I cannot have products from Printful and Printify in my shop and use live-rates from both vendors. I’d have to stick with complicated shipping tables, or just use flat rates and price accordingly. I do, however, have to pay Shopify an extra $20/month just to turn on live-shipping if I don’t want the full $80/month plan.
  2. Shopify does have multiple channels available to sell through, integrated nicely by default, and you can add more. If I want to create Facebook ads, I can do it from within Shopify but they are limited in scope, and not always very efficient. I’d have to do them by hand, through Facebook.
  3. That’s not really an issue, since half of my stuff gets hilariously auto-rejected by Facebook’s algorithms, anyway.
  4. Shopify has integrated a rudimentary abandoned-cart email function. I’d have to find an effective one under WordPress (Adrianfeliciano.com uses a free one that is already more functional than Shopify’s),

In conclusion

What I’ll be giving up, realistically, is only the convenience of a well integrated e-commerce backend and a highly competent front end, for the ability to fully own and control all of my website’s content on a webhost that I trust (Affiliate Link) where I can build it to be whatever I want, to help better protect the privacy and security of my customers by having backups and the ability to improve on our security posture, and to reject a platform that tacitly endorses and benefits from dangerous, anti-American, ideologies.

What do you think?

Given the line of thinking in the post above, would you still consider Shopify for your e-commerce shop? Please me know in the comments below. You can leave comment after securely logging in using your Social Media account. It helps to greatly reduce spam on this website.

Is Cloudflare Necessary With DreamPress?

FTC DISCLOSURE: This website may contain affiliate links to different products or services. You can help to support this website directly by clicking on the link and making a purchase or signing up for a service that I linked to. I may earn a small commission for each referral. You may rest assured that if I recommend it in an affiliate link then I have personally used it or verified it. Even though the links are sponsored, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Thank you, as always, for your support!

-Adrian

This is just quick entry about using DreamPress behind Cloudflare.

Some very broad observations:

Turns out that putting Adrianfeliciano.com behind Cloudflare didn’t seem to have a huge impact on improving overall performance and responsiveness on the public facing end. Originally, my purpose for using Cloudflare was to add another layer to help reduce the overall impact of heavy traffic on my website’s servers, including DDoS attacks, while blocking traffic based on country, to help significantly reduce comments from spam-bots.

Problem was that, in someways, I felt as if Cloudflare actually slowed down initial page loading, from the backend. WordPress is incredibly finicky as it is.

As a result, I removed Cloudflare, and saw an immediate improvement in responsiveness to my website’s front end. I use DreamHost (Affiliate Link) as my webhost and domain name registrar. They already have a solid proxy-cache in place built around NGINX, via my DreamPress Hosting Plan, that can take on a MASSIVE traffic load. Rather than blocking entire countries through Cloudflare or marking individual comments one at a time, I decided to prevent spam-bot comments by refusing guest comments all together. One is now required to be logged in to an active account in order to leave a comment.

If you have something to say, and it is important enough, then you can say it with your name attached.

The only other thing that Cloudflare helped with was domain privacy. By using them as a proxy, Cloudflare also blocked my domain’s registration information from being exposed publicly. Thing is that DreamHost already does this with every domain you register through them (GoDaddy and Hostgator charge extra for domain privacy).

Bottom line is simple:

I trust DreamHost (Affiliate Link) to host my WordPress based website.

I Exported My Website Away from Squarespace

FTC DISCLOSURE: This website may contain affiliate links to different products or services. You can help to support this website directly by clicking on the link and making a purchase or signing up for a service that I linked to. I may earn a small commission for each referral. You may rest assured that if I recommend it in an affiliate link then I have personally used it or verified it. Even though the links are sponsored, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Thank you, as always, for your support!

-Adrian

The Problem With Exporting Your Website Away From Squarespace

I finally — FINALLY! — managed to pull the rest of my images and blog posts off my older Squarespace website, get them imported correctly into this WordPress based site, hosted by Dreamhost (Affiliate Link) where all the images are now correctly imported into and served directly from the media library.

Formatting for some image galleries is off, but that can easily be fixed. The important part is not having to chase down broken image links that point to a defunct website as the source and having to re-upload them one at a time, per blog post, to fix them.

I let it sit for nearly a year because I didn’t want to deal with it while editing single blog posts whenever I felt up to it.

What a ?!*#%$&!?! pain in the ass it is to migrate data I own away from Squarespace! And, as I understand, with Squarespace’s newest templates, exporting away is not even supported.

If you are looking to build a website and want to choose between an integrated website builder platform like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Shopify, etc vs building with WordPress, Drupal, Concrete5, or some other open source CMS, consider how important your content is to you, and what your options are should you need more functionality or resources than what you started with.

If you hit that point, will you be able to easily take ALL of your content with you to another platform or website, if at all? What happens if you export everything into an XML file, only to find that all of the images you had posted didn’t import correctly and now you have to fix dozens of broken image links.

Or what if you want to export everything but find out, at that moment, that you cannot because the platform will only export certain things or won’t allow you to export out at all..?

Choose carefully.

How to Write Effective Emails to a Photographer

FTC DISCLOSURE: This website may contain affiliate links to different products or services. You can help to support this website directly by clicking on the link and making a purchase or signing up for a service that I linked to. I may earn a small commission for each referral. You may rest assured that if I recommend it in an affiliate link then I have personally used it or verified it. Even though the links are sponsored, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Thank you, as always, for your support!

-Adrian

First Things First:

How Not To Write an Email To a Photographer

screenshot of cut and paste spam marketing email how to write effective emails to a photographer. please support this website by making a purchase from my merch store at adrianfeliciano.com/store
If you are going to write some sort of effective bulk email, PLEASE at least have the decency not to send it to my Photo Licensing email address? There are other, more effective, ways to contact me, a photographer, via email that won’t necessarily be seen so negatively, and so quickly.

When I received the email below, it arrived at my Photography Licensing Request email box. Unless you want to license any of my photos for your use, that is absolutely the wrong email box to use. Normally will just outright delete messages without giving it a second thought. This time though, because it was the second one that came in on the incorrect email. For giggles, I decided to research them a little bit. Variations on “‘NAME.com’ spam / reviews / scam” etc. Nothing very in-depth, really. Bottom line, this is not an effective email.

screenshot of generic response to generic cut and pasted marketing email how to write effective emails to a photographer. please support this website by making a purchase from my merch store at adrianfeliciano.com/store
I wrote this response, and figured that would be the end of it. The image is now linked to my website’s online merch store. If you want to support this website directly, please consider a purchase. Every little bit helps! https://adrianfeliciano.com/store.

To make a long story short, they don’t have a very positive search engine footprint — most of the links I found were fairly negative in nature. So, I wrote the reply via email below and then made the initial blog post about into a week long Sponsored Post on Facebook and Instagram for giggles. I was feeling feisty.

What I did not expect, however, was any sort of reply from someone else within the company. Obviously someone within the company actually read the blog post that I referenced, and passed it on to someone who sent an email back.

screenshot of humorous reply back that is a better example of how to write an effective email to a photographer. please support this website by making a purchase from my merch store at adrianfeliciano.com/store
This image is also linked to this website’s online merch shop.

What I also did not expect was the subtly cheeky, and effective, email response in return by pasting my name on top of another generic form-letter.

Well played, Sir. Well played.

So, how do you write an effective email to a photographer?

If you want to contact me, a photographer, then please click the “SEND EMAIL” button. You’ll then be sent over to my contact form. All you have to do is fill it out and then send it. That’s all. Simple, right?

If you’re curious, this website is hosted by Dreamhost on their dedicated WordPress hosting plan, DreamPress. Dreamhost is currently my favorite hosting provider. I arrived here after migrating away from Squarespace, and after having looked at Hostgator, SiteGround, InMotion Hosting, and Pressable, and I refuse to touch GoDaddy. Right now, on my shared hosting plan, I am also hosting two websites, one for Zoe’s chainmaille and scalemaille webshop and one for Artemis’ psychedelic electronic music DJ website. Dreamhost is the right combination of price, storage, un-metered bandwidth, expertise, and support (I swear, I learn something new every time I contact Customer Support with a new question).

Please check out Dreamhost (Affiliate Link), I’ve been happy with them for a couple of years, now!