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Disgusted With ProfilePress Hijacking, We Switched to WP User Avatars

Disgusted With ProfilePress Hijacking, We Switched to WP User Avatars

Three months ago we told you about WP User Avatar Plugin Ruined by ProfilePress. The WordPress community has had a massive response to this plugin being hijacked and the original plugin has been flooded with one-star reviews. Strangely there are also some new five-star reviews though many of those seem sketchy at best.

Not only was the original plugin hijacked and changed drastically, the new version also had major security issues. While those issues have been fixed for now, it still shines a poor light on the new developers. These new developers have also had a very poor attitude when confronted with the hijacking and security problems.

Personally we feel the developer should be banned from the WordPress repository for their behavior. Whether that truly happens or not, we don’t know. Regardless, those who simply want a plugin to handle avatars need a new solution since the new developer has ruined the once popular plugin.

One option is that some other developers have taken the old WP User Avatar plugin (prior to its hijacking) and forked it under new names. In other words, the same old functionality is available under a new name. When we needed an alternative, those forks didn’t yet exist. Our solution was the WP User Avatars plugin. The only name difference is the “plural” of avatar. On each of the sites where we have used WP User Avatar, it took maybe 5-10 minutes to make the switched. Granted, we only had 3-4 users on each site so it wasn’t a big deal. If you have a lot of users with custom avatars, one of the forks may be a better answer.

Regardless of your choice, please avoid ProfilePress at all costs. They are not a developer that can be trusted.

WP User Avatar Plugin Ruined by ProfilePress

WP User Avatar Plugin Ruined by ProfilePress

The core of WordPress links user profiles to a “gravatar” for their image. In some ways this does simplify things as my email is linked to any WordPress site where I have a user account. If I changed the picture stored at gravatar.com, it automatically changes on all sites. This meets my needs and those of my clients in the majority of sites I build.

There are other sites where I need more. Typically I need a higher-resolution avatar on blog sites so that it looks good on author pages and in the bio of authors. Many years ago I found the perfect solution in a plugin named WP User Avatar. It had one basic function in using locally-stored files for a user’s avatar. If you didn’t load one, it used the Gravatar version. It did the job well until a new company bought the plugin and completely destroyed it on May 16, 2021 when an update gave it a new name with vastly different functionality.

A notice appeared telling me the name had been changed from WP User Avatar to ProfilePress. The name change isn’t that important to me but the other message telling me I have to create at least five more pages on each site for the plugin to work properly was very concerning. As I looked closer, it was now a full-blown membership system. If I had wanted a membership system, I would have installed that in the first place.

Prior to the change, the WP User Avatar plugin was rated very highly. As of this writing, it has 158 five star reviews. It also has 135 one star reviews, most of which were added after the plugin was so drastically changed. Many of the reviews talk of the plugin being hijacked or users feeling it was a bait and switch. That’s definitely understandable. Others say this action is a blatant violation of the WordPress Terms of Service. I don’t know the TOS rules well enough to say if it is truly in violation. But it is definitely not the actions of an ethical company.

For some users, this broke their sites due to conflicts with other plugins and required many hours of work to undo the damage. Luckily I was able to reinstall the previous version of the plugin as a quick fix that only wasted a few minutes of my time for each site. It is still wasted time, just not as much as others have reported.

I will look at alternative plugins to use going forward and WP User Avatars looks promising. At least two people have taken the previous version (legally) of WP User Avatar plugin and developed it without all the extra bloat. So I’ll wait for at least a couple of weeks before I determine how I’ll move forward.

Why Was This Done?

There is no way to truly know the developers intentions. ProfilePress has been listed as a separate plugin with 4000 active installs. That plugin was removed and then ProfilePress took over the WP User Avatar plugin with more than 400,000 installs. So a guess would be the developer thought that having that many installs would help to sell premium versions of the plugin. I would also guess they felt the damage inflicted on users was worth the profits they might reap from this stunt.

If nothing else, they have gotten a lot of attention as I’m writing this post about the plugin. The folks at WordPress Tavern also wrote a detailed post entitled ProfilePress Rebrands and Repurposes WP User Avatar, Now a Membership Plugin, Users Revolt via the WordPress Review System.

One thing is certain. I won’t ever do business with ProfilePress and I’m guessing this stunt will completely destroy their business much as they did with a great plugin.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping Builds Quick Following and Sells Merchandise

Four Seasons Total Landscaping Builds Quick Following and Sells Merchandise

One thing I want to make clear up front is this post has nothing to do with politics even though politics was involved in the story. My focus is on how a family-owned small business turned a circus-like press conference in their parking lot into online success. For those who want the full backstory on the press conference and everything that followed, please read Philly’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping dishes the dirt on the news conference heard ’round the world: ‘It was nothing we anticipated’ in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Prior to the infamous press conference on November 7, 2020; Four Seasons Total Landscaping had a Web site with a small following and a very basic Web page describing their services. It was around 11pm that night that the owner decided they needed to do something because of all the press coverage (both very positive and very negative) the company was receiving. They next morning (Sunday, November 8) they posted a message on their Facebook page and by that afternoon they were making plans to sell t-shirts. Twitter and Instagram accounts were also created.

Here we are less than a month later and they have more than 33,000 fans on Facebook, 27,000 followers on Instagram and 18,000 followers on Twitter. Their Web site did not have e-commerce and it was quickly added. They’ve already received more than 35,000 orders for t-shirts, ugly Christmas sweaters and face masks. In total, it brought it more than $1.3 million in sales!

Four Seasons Total Landscaping Online Store

The demand for merchandise and the social media followings will undoubtedly wane in the coming months as the time since the press conference is longer. In the long term, their focus will be back on landscaping and there is no doubt the extra exposure will allow them to build their business.

What would you do if your business had such an opportunity? Is your Web site ready for the world to visit? I have to admit the Four Seasons Total Landscaping site could use a lot of improvements. Yet I will give them kudos for adding e-commerce almost overnight.

Should your company need a Web site updated or if you want to add e-commerce to your existing WordPress site, please reach out and allow us to help you!

Perfect Landing Page for Utah Airport FBO

Perfect Landing Page for Utah Airport FBO

I first met the Gardiner family more than 25 years ago. One thing I knew from the beginning is that flying and airplanes was a big part of the family. In fact, the family business was running a FBO (fixed based operator) at the Vernal, Utah airport. What they didn’t have for a long time was a Web site.

When the patriarch, John, passed away; Dinaland Aviation was taken over by his kids. Each of them assumed a specific role and Russ wanted to get a Web site in place. Our goal as a start was a single landing page that covered the most important information pilots needed. We’ll add new pages over time as new content is created.

Dinaland Aviation FAQ

When a pilot is planning to visit Vernal, there is a specific set of information that could be important to them. Most of that information is included in an FAQ accordion. When they click on a specific section, it will expand with details on that item. In the example above, it shows the local weather followed by the other section titles.

Dinaland Aviation Fuel Prices

From our discussions, the most important piece of information was the current price of fuel. Not only did it need to be displayed prominently, it has to be easy for the folks at Dinaland to update the prices without my assistance. A row was created above the site footer (see example above) that displays the prices and it can be embedded on other pages as desired. It was set up using the Divi theme so that Dinaland could change the prices with only a very minimal amount of training.

Of course the site was launched during the COVID-19 shutdown when the airport is receiving a minimal number of flights. When the planes are ready for takeoff, the site will be ready for them!

New Look For Neighborhood Wine Bar

New Look For Neighborhood Wine Bar

I was enjoying dinner at the neighborhood wine bar last December when the owner approached and asked me a few questions about their Web site. It was originally built using GoDaddy’s Website Builder and now they were having trouble making changes to it. Some ideas were bounced back and forth to come up with a plan for a makeover. Let’s first look at the old home page.

Wine Cellar Nopolo Home Before

While it didn’t look horrible, there were definitely ways we could freshen up the look. Unfortunately the information was outdated and the site didn’t work well on mobile devices. Given that it is also a popular spot for dinner, it was also important to show off some of their most popular dishes. Below is a portion of the new home page with updated info and photos that make you hungry. For those outside of Mexico, note that the prices are in pesos!

Wine Cellar Nopolo Home After

Not only does the new design look better, it was designed so that it works every bit as well on mobile devices. This is important for good Google rankings, but also important to the many people who browse on their phones.

Previously only a portion of the menu was available on the site and the prices had changed since their were posted. Below you’ll see a portion of the old menu page.

Wine Cellar Nopolo Menu Before

There are actually multiple menus that need to be presented. Food menus are available in both English and Spanish. Wines have two menus, one by the bottle and the other by the glass. What we didn’t know when the makeover plan was implemented was that COVID-19 would require all food to be carry-out or delivery.

Thankfully everything was designed in a way that made the transition easy. We simply needed to add a little information about changes in the law and more contact links. Below is the top part of the new menu page and each page of the menus are displayed below this on the site.

Wine Cellar Nopolo Menu After

For those of us living in the neighborhood, we know exactly where to find Wine Cellar. But that isn’t always the case for someone coming from outside of the area. Their previous design had a couple of versions of the map. One zoomed way out the show the location of Loreto and another showing how to get to the restaurant.

Wine Cellar Nopolo Visit Before

Yes, the map was very important and we decided to embed a live Google map into the new site so visitors were able to zoom in and out as needed. A side benefit is that it links to the Wine Cellar’s Google My Business page. A contact form was also included so questions could be asked or orders could be placed for carry-out and delivery.

Wine Cellar Nopolo Contact After

Once a site is released, some clients prefer to make minor changes themselves. Ofter designers will cringe as those attempts at changes can change the look of the site or even break it. Even though this client had zero WordPress experience, I was pleasantly surprised that they were able to change some of the text when local laws changed. This was at least in part because the site was designed so that even a novice could find what they needed to change.

This site was a very small project, but the timing of the makeover couldn’t have come at a better time. It allowed the restaurant to keep food coming as the locals were practicing social distancing. Give the new site a look and stop in the next time you are in the neighborhood.

If your site is in need of a makeover, reach out with the details and maybe we can help you!

Just a WordPress Website Makeover

Just a WordPress Website Makeover

Before we talk about the makeover, I need to tell the story of how this project happened. Roll the clock back to 2015 and I saw a post on Facebook about a free book written by Jinx Schwartz. That was around the time I started to read books on Kindle so a free book was very appealing. Even better that the story sounded fun to me. I read the book, Just Deserts if you’re curious, and really enjoyed it. At the end of the book was a link to the author’s Web site and let’s just say it needed some help.

Divi WordPress ThemeSoon after I’d read the book, I started using the Divi theme to build WordPress Websites. I wanted to build a site where I could learn Divi and try out new things. For me, building a site for Jinx Schwartz was an obvious choice. Once I had the first draft of the site finished, I sent her a link. While she was interested in using the site I’d build, nothing happened. Every now and then I’d try out something new on the site. If there was a problem, it really wan’t a problem since nobody knew about the site.

Time passed. I’ve now read more of the books (I’ve now read 12 of them). Occasionally Jinx and I would trade an email about making the site live. She was the writer, her husband Mad Dog was the tech person so I’d need to work with him. He fell ill in 2017 and passed away that March. Jinx kept writing books, but the Website was on the back burner for a bit. Then as I’m walking the streets of Loreto in December of 2018, I ran into Jinx. It was the first time we’d actually met in person!

Jinx Schwartz and Foster Coburn

The project got back on track, but we still had a major issue. Like with many clients, she wasn’t sure hot to login the the registrar for her domain name. Until we solved that, nothing could be done. More time passed and we finally got it done in 2020. Within hours, the new site finally went live.

The Old Site

The screenshot below was taken just a few hours before the new site went live. Four of her books weren’t on the site at all and one book had a broken graphic. The design also left a lot to be desired.

Jinx Schwartz Old Home Page

The New Site

First and foremost, the new design had to put her books front and center. I wanted to make sure the new books would automatically appear on the home page from newest to oldest. The new site had to work well on all devices, specifically phones and tablets. I also thought it would be good to have a dedicated page for each of the books showing the cover, the description and a link to get the book from Amazon. Divi’s project feature was perfect for this!

Jinx Schwartz New Home Page

Mission accomplished! Check out the new site and get yourselves copies of Jinx’s books. They are a fun read!