Jacco Blankenspoor is a website developer from the Netherlands, and is currently involved in job sites built on WordPress. You can see him in action at his current pet sites: Heathrow Airport Jobs and its successor Airport Career, which is often used in his articles as a demo.

Jacco's articles

  1. 18 of the Best WooCommerce Plugins

    By default, WooCommerce is a great eCommerce platform to start with. Since it’s built on top of WordPress, there are hundreds of plugins available to make your web store even better.

    In this article I will show you some of the best WooCommerce plugins around, categorized by use. These plugins allow you to improve your product listing, use various discount methods, improve your ordering process and maximize your sales by going social.

    Most of these plugins are paid, with many of them costing only a nominal fee compared to the benefit they bring you. You will find some free plugins in this list as well.

    Some plugins are offered by WooThemes (the company behind WooCommerce), while many others are offered by independent developers. The latter can be cheaper, however, WooThemes is known for its excellent product support but you’re gonna pay for it. Just be sure to check the reputation of an independent developer when it comes to support, since the lower pricing comes with slow or even no support in some cases.

  2. 5 of the Most Popular WordPress Caching Plugins

    WordPress is a great CMS, but once you dress it up with a fancy theme and some plugins, it has the tendency to act like a diesel engine. You will get there, but don’t expect to go red light racing with it. So, unless you really like the default theme that WordPress comes with, and don’t use any plugins, you will probably want to spice it up a bit.

    Say hello to caching; the magic word for speeding up your site. There are some great plugins available for your WordPress installation, and in this article I will list the five most popular ones. You basically can’t go wrong with any of these, but each have their own special way of doing things.

    You are obviously free to try any of these caching plugins yourselves, but today I will shine a light on what makes these plugins different.

    What Is Caching?

    Caching is a collection of methods that speed up the loading of your site. What it basically does is make a static copy of your dynamic site to reduce server rendering times. The same goes for your database and compiled PHP code. This is all saved in a type of image, which is served every time the site is visited. When changes are made, this copy is stored in the server’s memory.

    A good caching plugin goes even further, optimizing the JavaScript and CSS files by minifying and compressing them. These optimized files can also be served from the server’s memory or even or on a CDN. It should also take care of proper browser caching, along with some minor additional optimizations.

    We all know web page speed is important. When properly set up, a good WordPress caching plugin can literally make your site fly, and allows for thousands of visitors per day without any problems (eventually it will come down to your server, magic can only do so much).

  3. Campaign Monitor’s Canvas: Email Design Made Easy

    Nowadays, everyone is saying you should start your own mailing list — they even make it sound easy. But building up a list with subscribers and actually making a newsletter are two different things, the latter almost being harder than the former. It can be a truly daunting task to create a decent newsletter.

    Back in the day, you just needed to make sure your email looked nicely in the most popular email clients, all of which displayed it mostly the same. This meant you could just send yourself a test mail and if it looked good in your inbox, you were assured it would look the same in anyone else’s.

    Not anymore. With a large number of your subscribers reading emails only on their mobile or tablet, you’re now confronted with many different screen sizes. This means either owning all of the popular devices (which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, if you can afford it), or finding a provider which has the relevant previews and templates to match them. Making pretty newsletters is one thing, maintaining a unified look on all types of devices is even harder.

    Without a lot of experience behind you, coding an email just isn’t something you want to be doing. You can easily screw up the layout, and it can be incredibly difficult to use images (we’ve all received those newsletters in the past where an image location was linked to the sender’s local drive), or make sure everything is lined out properly.

    SitePoint newsletters are sent using Campaign Monitor. If you’re subscribed to Versioning you were actually part of a few tests in July. These tested various designs created with Campaign Monitor’s new email template tool called Canvas.

    Canvas solves exactly the problems I described above. It’s a visual editor which allows you to select a template, after which you just drag-and-drop the necessary components. Campaign Monitor already has A/B testing built in. SitePoint’s Adam Roberts did an excellent article on this on the Campaign Monitor blog.

    Split Testing

    Let’s see just how easy it is to make a pretty newsletter that looks great on every device. Campaign Monitor also lets you do your own testing. Setting up a new email campaign starts with the option to run different tests.

    Campaign Monitor allows for testing three different angles:

    1. Subject line

    Split testing subject

    Subject lines can heavily influence your open rate, and therefore the success of your newsletter campaign. This is the easiest way of testing, and setting up is even easier.

    2. From name

    Split testing from

    Not as beneficial as having a good subject line is using a trusted sender. You could run a few tests with this, choosing different names and email addresses as the sender, just don’t expect major changes in your open rate.

    3. Content

    Split test content

    If you want your recipients to engage with the content of your newsletter, the most important type of split testing is through varying the content. If you look closely at my screenshot you’ll see you can set up Content A and Content B, indicating the different content pieces.

    Using Canvas to modify the template

    Content gallery

    You can choose from a selection of 12 templates, or import your own. I decided to go with “Slate” because… I like it! For each template the basic layout is roughly the same. The template starts with a combination of pre-defined colors, which you can’t change afterwards.

    On the bottom you see a button called “Add layout”. This little button is a very convenient way of adding a professional layout to your newsletter, with all the elements lined up perfectly. You can even choose to include placeholder content to see how it looks.

  4. 10 Things You May Not Know WooCommerce Can Do

    Just like WordPress itself is capable of transforming into many forms, so is WooCommerce.

    WooCommerce is a great plugin for running a web store on WordPress, however, it is not just a web store, it is quite a versatile plugin that can be used for a variety of other purposes.

    The reason WooCommerce can do so many things is that it has an excellent built-in payment engine, which other plugins can tap into. So even if you’re not actually selling products, you can still use this engine and its many different payment methods.

    Transforming your WooCommerce website into something different is done by using additional plugins or extensions as they are often called.

    In this article, I’ll cover 10 different WooCommerce extensions to give you some ideas of what you can do with WooCommerce, with one recommended plugin for each purpose. Feel free to Google around and see if there’s an alternative plugin that may better suit your specific needs.

    Bookings

    Bookings

    Demo: The WC Resort & Spa
    Plugin: WooCommerce Bookings

    Whether you are selling hotel rooms like in the demo, or tickets to your very own stand-up comedy show, using a bookings plugin takes care of it. It uses a date and time calendar to allow visitors to select the time they want to place a booking.

    The plugin is quite ingenious by giving you enough ways to control your calendar, preventing over bookings or no shows. You can even have a customer check availability with you first. The plugin also takes care of the invoicing, using the WooCommerce payment option.

    Subscriptions

    Subscriptions

    Demo: Sellxed WooCommerce Subscription Demo
    Plugin: WooCommerce Subscriptions

    Subscriptions are used for allowing recurring payments. This plugin is simple yet powerful to sell subscriptions for newspapers, online access, products etc. It even synchronizes with many popular payments gateways. So when a customer cancels his subscription with the provider itself, the subscription gets cancelled in your store as well.

    It doesn’t matter if you are selling physical or online products with monthly or yearly subscriptions. As long as it is recurring, this plugin will fit the bill.

    Memberships

    Memberships

    Demo: -
    Plugin: Groups for WooCommerce

    WordPress already has an excellent Groups plugin which can be used to define membership levels. Combine that with the Groups for WooCommerce plugin and you can begin selling paid memberships. Add the aforementioned Subscriptions plugin and you can even sell recurring memberships.

    Paid memberships are very popular with mastermind or study groups. This way a new member needs to pay for a membership, after which they get access to the premium content the author is providing. Coupled with subscriptions, the author is assured of a recurring income from their group.

  5. 10 Ways to Earn Money from Your Site

    When you are running your own site and you start to see some serious traffic, you’ll probably want to earn some money from it.

    In this article we’ll look at 10 of the most popular ways to make money from your site. In each section I’ll list the big players in that specific field, but there are many more opportunities available–Google is your friend.

    You’ll find that you can mix and match many of these methods. Just be careful that you don’t overcrowd your site with ads. And of course you’ll need to test to find out what works best for your site.

    Let’s get started.

  6. 10 of the Best WooCommerce Themes

    One of the first things you need to do after getting started with WooCommerce, is to add an attractive yet functional theme.

    Even more than regular websites, web stores really need a strong focus on usability. Every time a visitor gets lost on your site, you will most likely lose sales which is certainly not ideal. Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to research and find the right theme for your store.

    WooCommerce Themes

    There are hundreds of WooCommerce themes available, both free and paid.

    In this article, I will show you some of the best WooCommerce themes out there. These themes range from general purpose themes to niche specific themes for things like fashion or food.

    Niche specific themes are mostly used to give the store a particular look and feel for the visitor, by using related images and colors. However, as with any WordPress (and also WooCommerce) theme, you can still customize it as much as you want.

    Here are ten of the best WooCommerce optimized themes, that will allow you to make full use of WooCommerce’s extensive features.

  7. A Downloadable Feast? A Review of Hemingway’s Desktop App

    Hemingway started out life as an online-only text editor that offered a unique way to improve people’s writing, based on the style of author Ernest Hemingway, renowned for his brief sentences and simple language. Recently, the team behind the app launched a desktop version (for Windows and Mac) that allows for opening and saving files. […]

  8. Getting Started with WooCommerce

    If you’re looking to run a web store based on WordPress, you’ve probably come across the name WooCommerce many times. WooCommerce is considered to be one of the best WordPress shopping cart plugins, if not the best. It combines a whole range of built-in features with the ability to use many useful extensions. Starting your […]

  9. Transform WordPress into a Full Featured Forum with bbPress

    Even in 2014, forums are still very popular, despite the rising popularity of the newer forms of social networks. The beauty of forums is that they allow for a focused discussion amongst like minded people. However, forum software is notoriously sluggish, hard to manage and can cause many forums to eventually lose their spark.

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn your favorite CMS and blog platform into a full featured forum? Enter bbPress. bbPress is a forum application that comes in the form of a WordPress plugin. By using WordPress to power your forum, you can rapidly reduce the learning curve, for both users and forum managers. bbPress was developed by the people who also brought us WordPress itself.

    So, is WordPress really up for the the task? Can a CMS effectively be turned into a forum with all the standard features you would expect? We’ve seen WordPress being used in many different capacities, so we know the potential is there.

    In this article, I will take a look at how easy bbPress is to install on WordPress. I will also review the main features that make it so popular and how it stacks up against ‘traditional’ forum software and other competing WordPress forum plugins.

    Configuring bbPress

    Setting Up bbPress

    As you can see in this screenshot, setting up a new bbPress based forum is as easy as making a new post. You might think this approach could never serve a really useful forum, and you’re right. It is rather simplistic to say the least. Or is it?

    After Setting Up bbPress

  10. ICANN’s New gTLDs: Is It Worth Becoming a .guru?

    This year hundreds of General Top Level Domains (better known as gTLDs) were made available. It’s now possible to identify yourself or your company with cool domain names like website.builders, futureless.ventures or IAmYour.guru.

    While some despise the ICANN (the organisation behind this move), others see it as an opportunity to get a unique domain name. It’s become hard to find a short domain lately, so now we can be creative in coming up with domain names that aren’t registered.

    I’m already hooked on these new gTLDs (I finally got to call myself the War Movies Guru, but they also come with major downsides. To help you decide I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons to consider before you register one of these news gTLDs yourself.

    Why you should register a new gTLD

    1. It sounds cool!

    Who doesn’t want to add .guru, .expert or .ninja to his profession? It sure does look great on your business card. Or what about link.builders? You have to act fast though, since there are only so many guru’s and these run are running out fast already.

    2. No ambiguity

    If you use the gTLD the right way, you can use your domain name to let potential customers know exactly what it is that you do. Brand.management, Leadership.training, LetMeMakeYouThePerfect.kitchen all leave no room for guessing. I’m sure there were many people interested in dedicated.hosting. I’m also looking forward to the release of the .review domain.

    3. Laser targeting for your product

    The gTLDs are not only perfect for showing what your company does, it’s also a great way of branding your products. Think about TheUltimatePHP.book or UltimateBling.diamonds. These domains are great for branding, and are maybe easier to remember (although it’s not that difficult to remember a .com.)

    4. They are actually pretty useful

    The best examples are .london and .berlin, which are great domains to use for tourist activities for example. Bring them in with Visit.london, have them travel around with Transport.london, and go for maximum monetization with Shops.london. It is even possible to have your own company gTLD, but I am not sure if .americanexpress is that beneficial to the company.

    Why you should not register a new gTLD

    1. It’s not a .com

    This is the number one reason why people don’t like the new gTLDs, or at least don’t see it being useful. People are that much accustomed to .com that they will probably still type warmovies.guru.com. That’s why I also registered warmoviesguru.com. But you still need to be lucky to find an available .com domain name to do this. Kind of takes the fun away from the process, which was one of its main benefits.

    2. Entry requirements

    Applicants for the new gTLDs got to choose if they wanted their domains to be open, restricted or closed. Open domains are available for everyone, restricted domains come with limitations, closed ones are, well, closed. The latter are primarily company domains, like .amazon. But restricted ones are tricky. Most country or city specific domains tend to have restrictions, like having a local presence. Luckily, most applicants decided to lose the restrictions, with monetary benefits being a good reason to do so.