Our Go-To WordPress Plugins and Why We Chose Them

Our Go-To WordPress Plugins and Why We Chose Them

There are over 50,000 registered WordPress plugins. A lot of these plugins are contributed as open source by members of the WordPress community on their own time and dollar.  When you run a professional web development agency like Sharp Hue, and pride yourself on best practices including optimized WordPress hosting, it really does matter which plugins you choose.

Utilizing plugins that are constantly supported and updated by their developers is our #1 criteria in choosing a plugin. 

The second thing we look for is if the plugin is paid for free. There are a ton of amazing free plugins that have developers who keep the plugin up to date, free of charge.  As software developers ourselves, we know that if someone is paying us to keep up our products, we probably will keep them up. So with WordPress plugins, we are willing to shell out a few dollars to get the best features, ad-free, while supporting the developer.

Most premium / paid plugins can be obtained for a nominal fee and often have a developer license that can be used on many sites.  Sometimes you pay an annual support capability where you can email and contact the developers directly with questions.

Here’s a list of plugins we use often and couldn’t do our best work without

Akismet ~Paid Version


Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet Web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.

Advanced Custom Fields ~Paid Version


Advanced Custom Fields is the perfect solution for any WordPress website which needs more flexible data like other Content Management Systems.

Advanced Custom Fields: Repeater Field ~Paid Version


The repeater field allows you to create a set of subfields which can be repeated again and again whilst editing content!

Advanced Custom Fields: Date and Time Picker


This is an add-on for the Advanced Custom Fields WordPress plugin, that allows you to add a Date and Time Picker field type.

Formidable ~Paid Version


Build WordPress forms the fast and simple way with a simple drag-and-drop interface (and a visual form styler in version 2.0). Create custom Formidable forms or generate them from a template with this stunning WordPress form plugin.



Imsanity automatically resizes huge image uploads down to a size that is more reasonable for display in browser, yet still more than large enough for typical website use. The plugin is configurable with a max width, height and quality. When a contributor uploads an image that is larger than the configured size, Imsanity will automatically scale it down to the configured size and replace the original image.

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP


This Google Analytics for WordPress plugin enables you to track your site using the latest Google Analytics tracking code and allows you to view key Google Analytics reports in your WordPress install.

Yoast SEO


WordPress out of the box is already technically quite a good platform for SEO, this was true when Joost wrote his original WordPress SEO article in 2008 (and updated every few months) and it’s still true today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve it further! This plugin is written from the ground up by Joost de Valk and his team at Yoast to improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. While this Yoast SEO plugin goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimization, more on that below, it first and foremost helps you write better content. Yoast SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere.

Simple Likebuttons (Facebook, Google+, Twitter)


The plugin does what it should: adds to posts and pages the classic facebook, google+ and twitter buttons. Very easy to install and no initial configuration needed.

 TinyMCE Advanced


This plugin will let you add, remove and arrange the buttons that are shown on the Visual Editor toolbar. It includes 15 plugins for TinyMCE that are automatically enabled or disabled depending on what buttons are chosen.

S2Member Framework ~ Paid Version (Payment Integrations)


The s2Member® Framework (free) integrates with PayPal Website Payments Standard (also free). Sell “Buy Now” or Membership access to your site. Restrict access to Roles, Capabilities, Posts, Pages, or anything else in WordPress.

Shopp ~ Paid Version (Support)


Shopp adds an infinitely flexible WordPress e-commerce plugin and secure shopping cart that runs thousands of successful online storefronts.

All in One SEO Pack Pro


All in One SEO Pack Optimizes your WordPress blog for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).



TablePress allows you to easily create and manage beautiful tables. You can embed the tables into posts, pages, or text widgets with a simple Shortcode. Table data can be edited in a spreadsheet-like interface, so no coding is necessary. Tables can contain any type of data, even formulas that will be evaluated. An additional JavaScript library adds features like sorting, pagination, filtering, and more for site visitors. Tables can be imported and exported from/to Excel, CSV, HTML, and JSON files.

Tickera ~ Paid Version (Mobile Ticketing Support)


If you want to sell tickets on your site and deliver them to your buyers digitally, Tickera is exactly what you need. When you use the Tickera plugin to sell and send tickets, you are essentially setting up your own hosted solution wherein you control the profits with no requirement to send a cut to a third party.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a way to compare variations of the size, color and arrangement of your web pages’ elements in order to let you know which version provides optimum conversion. Split testing can let you know which changes increase conversion rates, unique visits, lead captures, signups and other calls-to-action.

A/B testing can reveal the truth about your design assumptions and alert you to interpretations you didn’t anticipate. A/B Testing

Where do you start?

When you perform A/B tests on your site you will want to keep your goals clear and in order. Ask yourself, “What do I want my visitors to do when they visit my site?”  Once you’ve answered that question, consider all of the basic page elements you have at your disposal that will facilitate that goal: your logo, action buttons, heading text, input forms, informational text, photography, and navigation items.  Create a design that arranges these elements according to what you think will best encourage fulfillment of your goals. Put your best foot forward and start your tests.  If you use a platform like Google Analytics Content Experiments to perform your A/B tests and have steady traffic to your site, the results should start to favor A or B within a couple of days.

What do I look for with my test?

A/B testing is not simply about identifying which page performs best.  It is about identifying why a particular page performs the way it does. The former tells you what’s popular. The latter tells you what your visitor wants and needs.  That’s the most important part.  Otherwise, you’re still guessing why your visitors took one path over another.

It is important to remember that when you test multiple changes simultaneously it can be difficult to determine why exactly a particular version was successful or unsuccessful. For instance, if you make a version where you move the logo and change the text in the same variation, then you have no way of knowing if the key factor was the position of the logo or the new text. The most valuable tests are ones that give you information on what your users prefer not just which version wins. One of the great things about optimizing your web site is that you can’t lose if you do your tests methodically. Each new test will give you the answer you need and eventually you will end up with a version that is better than the one before.

What else can I do?

Consider using a heat map tool like CrazyEgg to enhance your understanding of which parts of your site visitors expect to be clickable. Traditional analytics software like Google Analytics can tell you which pages are getting attention relative to other pages on the site; but they can’t tell you how far down your visitors scroll, which images and headlines they expect to be clickable or whether they ever saw your call-to-action button.

Optimizely is a popular tool used for A/B testing. It is a code generator that allows you to create variations of your website by inserting a snippet of code into the head of your pages to be tested. The code is generated through an online editor that lets you resize, move, hide, edit your HTML and more.  Unbounce is another A/B testing tool, but, unlike Optimizely, Unbounce includes landing page templates, lead capture forms, email lead notifications, Facebook “like” conversion tracking and even mobile landing page templates.


A/B testing can be a very useful process to help you optimize elements on your site that will lead to higher conversion.  Sometimes a particular design choice versus its outcome is not intuitive. You don’t always have to take the recommendation of an A/B test if you feel it may compromise your brand or messaging.  Use A/B tests to help you validate design assumptions and produce the best business result for your web site.

How To: Keep Your WordPress Site Secure

With more than 70 million sites around the world running WordPress, it has become a frequent target for hackers.  Security against such hacks is critical to avoid unnecessary downtime or embarrassing warning messages people search for your site on Google.

If you’re an admin, you won’t always know whether your site has been hacked until someone points it out to you after seeing a notice like the one above.  It’s useful to keep an eye on your site(s) and periodically login to your WordPress Dashboard so you can update your plugins and WordPress installation.  You should do this often whether or not you have time to write that blog post you keep telling yourself you’ll write.  If you start to feel paranoid about this process, you’re probably doing something right!

One of the most obvious signs of a hacked web site is load time/speed.  If your site “feels slow,” it could be loading malicious scripts in addition to your normal pages. If you suspect this is the case:

  • Use an HTTP debugger like Fiddler to see what data is being loaded and where it’s being loaded from.  If you see HTTP requests from domain names other than your own, start asking more questions.  Of course scripts like Google Analytics and TypeKit are okay, but question everything. Hackers are sneaky!
  • View the HTML source of your site to see if any unusual scripts are being injected.

Tip #1: In WordPress, most hacks happen in the underlying MySQL database.  This is because even a site that’s totally secure still has to use the underlying MySQL database to store and retrieve posts as well as the /wp-content/uploads/ folder to store your uploaded images, PDFs, etc.

Why Me?

Oftentimes it’s not a specific person that has selected your computer or hosting account as a target.  Usually it’s a highly automated process and it is very much a numbers game.  Hackers have to gain access to large numbers of accounts in order to be successful with their overall exploits.  One hack that we saw turned the underlying hosting account into a host for a fake Royal Bank of Canada login page.  This page was used in combination with a spam and phishing attack to trick people into signing into their RBC account (and therefore giving up their sensitive login data).  Identity Theft is big business for criminals and in today’s digital world it all comes together in ways you’d never expect.

Tip #2: This goes without saying for some of us, but the tactic still works because some people still do it: never click on links or attachments in an e-mail from people you don’t know and never use pirated software.  If you do, you could unknowingly contribute to the success of a malicious hacker!

Hosting Matters

Hosting is very much a “you get what you pay for” service.  Many companies promise “unlimited” resources for under $10/month.  The way they are able to provide this rate is by cutting some corners.  You don’t want your hosting company to cut corners if it could mean downtime and paying someone to fix a hacked site.  Make sure you ask questions about their server, operating system, and security patching schedule.  The best hosting companies will apply the latest security patches at least once per month.

There are a variety of helpful resources on the web that will guide you through a secure setup of your WordPress Installation by locking down your .htaccess file and /wp-content/upload directory.

For example, view the official WordPress.org codex documentation on “Hardening WordPress“.

Strong Usernames and Passwords

Choose your username and password wisely. Your WP install may come with a default “admin” username (depending on who initially sets up the WP installation).  Login and immediately create a new user account with a custom username. Use a solid Password Generator that will force you to create Strong Passwords.

Be careful how you transmit your new account credentials. Avoid sharing usernames and passwords by email multiple times (as part of replies, etc.).  You should also take care storing your login credentials. It’s a good idea not to store the initial username/password email that WP sends.  This prevents access to your WP account should your email account event get hacked.

Use Reputable Plugins

Plugins can be fun and incredibly useful. With more than 19,000 free plugins available from the WP Plugin Directory, you can pretty much find a plugin for anything you can think of. You should, however, use caution and install only the minimum amount of plugins necessary for you site.  There’s usually not a good reason to keep plugins activated if you aren’t using them.  If you’re not using a particular plugin, do yourself a favor:   DELETE IT.  This will help reduce the “surface area” of potential vulnerabilities in your site.

If you really want to lock it down or have had a previous bad experience, then you should only use plugins that have been recently updated to support the latest version of WordPress.  Plugins that have not been updated in 467 days should never be used.  That usually means the plugin developer gave up on maintenance of the plugin and hackers can use this against you!  Also, look for plugins that have at least a 3/5 star rating, have been downloaded thousands of times, is not an early beta version number, and was developed by a reputable developer/company.  All of those things usually indicate a worthy plugin that other WordPress users have vetted.

WordPress Patches

It may be YOUR responsibility and not your webmaster’s responsibility to update your WordPress site with the latest patches from WordPress.  It’s a good idea to check in with your webmaster every once in a while when you are doing major WordPress upgrades (ex: going from version 3.2.1 to 3.4.1).  WordPress is constantly getting updated so it’s not surprising when you get multiple updates in month.  Stay on top of them!

Options for Fixing a Hacked WordPress Site

If you know your site has been hacked, try restoring your site from a backup.  (This is in addition to making sure your host does backups in the first place!)  The backup file you use should be at least a couple of weeks old.  Sometimes hackers will get their malicious code into your site long before the code becomes active.  You may lose valuable posts and other data, though this might be a reasonable compromise to make.

Sometimes, unfortunately, fixing a hacked site is not as simple as going back to a previous that you have zipped up and sitting on your harddrive or in your Dropbox account.  Sometimes you will need to hire an expert to make the right choices.  It may take a few hours of their time, but they are very likely to be able to recover recent posts, e-commerce orders and important files (because they know what they’re doing).

Once you are all cleaned up and ready to go again, make sure you change ALL of your usernames and passwords (using your strong password generator). Work with your webmaster or host to change the underlying database usernames and passwords stored in wp-config.php


How To: Use WordPress’s Image Editor

If you didn’t already know, WordPress includes a simple image editor tool that allows you to make some basic adjustments.You can crop, flip, rotate, and even scale. Here’s a quick rundown on how to get started.

However you decide to upload an image (from the media library or using the media button in your content editor), you will see the following screen:


Clicking on the “Edit Image” button expands this screen and displays a series of buttons above your image and a series of sidebar areas to the right of it:


If you want to crop your photo, select an area to crop by dragging your cursor:


Next, click on the crop icon ( ). Voila.


You can make use of the aspect ratio feature if you prefer to have your image cropped according to a specific ratio (2:1; 3:1; 1:1, etc.). Enter the ratio values you want to use. In this example, I used 100:100 which is the same as 1:1. This will create a simple square. To create your object, hold the “Shift” key and drag your cursor across the image. This will select an area according to the ratio you’ve set.

Hit the crop button and you’re all set. You can also rotate and flip the image using the other icons above your image. You can even undo changes if you make a mistake.

Let’s talk scale for a moment. If you want to reduce the size of your photo but keep its proportions, click on the “Scale Image” link to reveal the dimension fields and scale button. The original dimensions of your image will auto-fill the fields. If you change the value of one field, the other will change automatically and proportionally. For example, if I want to reduce the width of the image from 1024 pixels to 300 pixels, all I have to do is enter the number 300 in the width field and the height field will automatically change to the correct, proportionate value: 225.

Click the “Scale” button and you’re done.

Regardless of whether you are scaling an image, cropping it, rotating or flipping it, remember to save it. If you hit it accidentally or make a change you later decide you don’t like, don’t worry. WordPress has a feature that allows you to revert back to your image’s original properties. Once you’ve made a change and saved it, you will see a “Restore Original Image” link underneath the “Scale Image” link. Clicking it does exactly what it says: it discards all of your edits and displays the original image you uploaded.

Going Mobile-Friendly

Explore Northwest Arkansas-mobileIn 2011, mobile access to the web doubled to over 8%. In many of these cases, the site visited from a mobile device is the exact same site displayed on a laptop or desktop computer. Just because it can be seen, however, doesn’t mean it can be used. Most full sites viewed on a mobile device require you to pinch, flick, double-tap, or drag in order to access their content. You need both hands for these gestures: one to hold the device and the other to perform the action. A mobile-friendly site, however, eliminates this barrier and makes accessing essential information as simple as a single touch with one hand.

By displaying only essential information such as hours of operation; directions and location; contact information; service offerings; deals and promotions; and basic “about” information, mobile-friendly versions make it easy to identify critical information without the need to navigate a full site. Trimming down information from a full site for a mobile device and making it “touchable” rather than “pinchable” is one of the most significant advantages of a mobile-friendly site.

Awareness of these differences is important when considering the development of a mobile-friendly version. Jumping in headfirst, however, is not advisable. There are guidelines and considerations for going mobile-friendly. A substantial increase in capabilities is not necessary to create a custom, friendly version if your site traffic is minimal. More specifically, we at Sharp Hue use the metric that if 20% of a site’s traffic (as reported by Google Analytics) is mobile, then it’s probably time to put the design of a mobile-friendly site on the to-do list.

Bikes Blues And BBQ-mobileWordPress is one platform that simplifies the process for displaying a full site on a mobile device. Plugins such as the WordPress Mobile Pack, for example, will automatically rescale a site’s images, split articles into multiple pages, simplify styles and remove non-supported media. Plugins such as this enable these capabilities quickly. However, they are usually not customized or visually appealing. They don’t necessarily use the color palette from your full site and they don’t necessarily display the logo you’ve invested so many resources in creating. Further, plugins like this don’t necessarily make the mobile version of your site easier to use.

In addition to these pre-packaged plugins that can do most of the heavy-lifting, there are also mobile frameworks available, like jQuery mobile, that allow for custom, rapid development without the extensive resources necessary to build a full-fledged mobile application. Frameworks such as this make it easy to maintain a site’s color palette and logo. They also make it very easy to manage content from within the Dashboard if WordPress is used as the site’s platform. Using this technique allows changes to be made to two different sites with only one edit. This sounds elementary, but managing mobile content is a development consideration many people disregard. Developing mobile-friendly sites should always include thoughts about maintaining the mobile version in the long run.

Another consideration in developing a mobile-friendly site is redirection; i.e., how a site’s visitors will navigate to it. Generally speaking, when a URL is typed into a mobile browser’s address bar, a request for information is sent out. A browser can recognize that the request is coming from a mobile device and, in those cases, sends back a specified message. The message can be a command to redirect to another site like an “m.domainname.com” site, for example. The message can also be a serving of different content or even a stylesheet change.

WordCamp Fayetteville 2012-mobilePlugins can take care of this return “message” for you as well. We’ve found that Mobile ESP for WordPress is best suited for our needs. Many times, plugins like this are sufficient to do the job. It all depends on the needs of your mobile version. Sometimes you just need something that isn’t worth a developer/designer’s time to miniaturize a full website. Other times, a smaller, limited version of a site is needed, especially if the site owner wants to maintain their color palette and display their logo. In still other cases, the theme being used isn’t compatible with any of the available mobile plugins. In the case of WordCamp Fayetteville, which is yet another example, the full site is built on a multi-site platform administered by super-admins who work for WordCamp Central. Plugin compatibility isn’t an issue. It’s not even an option. The theme and administrative privileges of WordCamp sites don’t allow for the installation of plugins. It’s in cases like these that it’s time to create a custom, mobile-friendly site from scratch.

White Space Makes Everything Better

usametalrecycling.comWhite space in web design is not the absence of an element. It is its own element and has its own properties and functions.  It is also a fundamental and necessary consideration that is often overlooked by web designers and developers when creating sites for their client’s customers.

It is well-known that web users scan web pages. They don’t read. This means that, as a designer, the amount of screen real estate you allocate to content must be concise, purposeful, and obvious.  You have to say what you want to say quickly, efficiently and in a manner that anticipates a visitor’s questions well ahead of time.

At first glance, this sounds like a navigation issue. Ensure you have necessary information appropriately arranged and easy to discover, right?  Right.  However, it is white space that drives this initial discovery and allows visitors to find the information they want easily. It does this in at least three distinct ways:


White space improves readability by adding space around blocks of text, between words and even within words. The font type and size you select matters not only stylistically, but also in terms of readability; and some font families are naturally more readable than others.   The goal of using white space for readability is to increase comprehension and subconscious appeal by making the job of reading seem easier to the reader.

Breathing Room

White space provides a feeling of fresh air, comfort, and relaxation. When a site is constructed with only essential elements, visitors are allowed more pause to reflect on the message of the site and more time for deeper comprehension. Sites that have too much information on a single page or crammed together too closely create feelings of suffocation, information overload, and distrust. This distrust can carry into the psychology of the visitor who is seeking your business goods or services.  Visitors may imply that if you’re not organized on your site that you are not organized enough for a business relationship.

Qrme.co.kuAn example of overload is http://www.qrme.co.uk/. When you first land on this site, you see ten pages in the top nav, one of which has twenty child pages.  There are also ads, randomly placed images, a login feature, a visitor counter widget, a slider linking to an online store, and more. Although the background is a very light shade of gray, and although there is, technically, lots of white space on the site, there is very little space between the elements. Fonts have been reduced to fit more content on the page and graphics with varying widths dominate the middle of the page.

Attention & Focus

With fewer elements on a page, there are fewer opportunities for distraction; fewer competing messages; and fewer options for action.  With a skillful use of white space, your visitors can concentrate on one thing at a time and take their time absorbing the carefully selected information you decided to include on your page.  The challenge with fewer elements is that every decision you make becomes a strategic one.  Allocating screen real estate for white space forces you to economize the remainder of your available space. It forces you to be thorough, quick and effective with your message.  It forces solid copywriting.

We’re Only Human After All

A sponge can only hold a limited amount of liquid before it starts to leak. Likewise, there is a limit to the amount of information a human brain can process in a given time period before it reaches a saturation point; before it simply can’t learn anything new.  If you’ve ever gotten burned out at a conference or reached that point when you’re “done”, then you know the feeling.  An effective use of white space understands the limit of this capacity and reduces your visitor’s cognitive load by dividing page elements into easily digestible chunks.

In other words, it’s easier to remember stuff if there is less stuff to remember.  “But what about…?  We’ve got to have that somewhere!”  Do you? Do you really?  If you ride that necessity out to its inevitable conclusion, you’ll see that a site is never complete.  There is always something more that could be said; and that’s okay. That’s what contact forms are for. Just be sure to answer those emails in a timely fashion.

In Conclusion …

White space, when used thoughtfully and with patient deliberation, creates a sense of natural balance and a sense of emotion. Visitors who are engaged on more than only pragmatic levels use a site more often; stay around a little longer; read more than scan; remember your message and have a better chance of clicking your action button.

Heat Maps Increase Website Usability Analysis

How far down do your website visitors scroll? Which images and headlines do they expect to be clickable?  Where is the best place to insert a photo or button?

Heat maps are visual representations of the relative popularity of your website’s elements; and they can answer these and other non-intuitive questions.  As a small business owner or non-profit organization, you need to know where your website visitors are getting frustrated. You need to see the elements that are causing your visitors to hit the back button and you need to know where your visitors are clicking.

Web analytics software like Google Analytics can tell you how your visitors found your site; which pages of your site are most popular; how long your visitors spent on your site; where your visitors are geographically located in the world and more.

Although most web analytics software can give you the “numbers”, they cannot tell you which parts of your site visitors expect to be clickable. They cannot tell you exactly how far down a page your visitors scroll. Without this information, you don’t know whether your visitors ever saw your call to action; whether they value one image over another; or whether a specific field in a form is the culprit for that page’s peculiar bounce rate.

Heat map tracking software, like CrazyEgg.com, enhances your existing analytics by filling in these gaps and providing precisely this kind of information.

Heatmap My Diamond Obsession, Monday, January 09, 2012Let’s review a snapshot of the homepage for My Diamond Obsession as an example.  The most frequently clicked elements of the page are colored in yellow and the least clicked elements are colored in blue.

There are several areas of this page that are completely untouched. Two “Buzz” posts, two “Most Obsessed” products, and one of the products in the featured slider don’t have a single click.  Instead, the hottest spots are the arrows showing additional product, other product, and the RSS button.  This suggests visitors want to know about future additions, but don’t necessarily like what they see on the homepage in this instance of time.  This should be a clue to add different content to the homepage.

Heatmap Selling to the Masses, Monday, February 27, 2012Let’s take a look at another example: Selling to the Masses.

In this graphic you can see that one of the “hottest” areas is the play button for the video.  This is as it should be.  The site owners invested a substantial amount of resources to produce the video and should be one of, if not the most, frequently clicked elements.  You can see that “The Mentors” and “The Classroom” links in the main navigation are popular as well. Careful review of this map shows a series of blue spots along the right vertical. What are these? What does this pattern indicate? One possibility is that these are attempts to exit the modal or “pop-up” that appears when the video is played. This is something to consider in an evaluation of this site’s usability. While heat map software provides rich, visual insight, it is important to examine the anomalies of the software’s resulting graphic.

A more significant point of interest, however, is that the “Browse Mentors” link all the way down at the bottom of the page in the footer is highly popular compared with other links on the page. Notice that the central area showing photographs of featured mentors shows very little activity. Some of the photographs are completely untouched. This site’s visitors are more interested in browsing mentors than they are in looking at the details of the featured mentors. This should trigger a repositioning of the browse link to a higher, more prominent area of the homepage.

Heat maps alone do not provide all of the data that other analytical software does. Heat map software can, however, increase conversion and add value to your web analytics by:

  • answering design questions you may not have thought to be relevant
  • revealing poorly performing areas like specific fields in a form
  • identifying usability issues that might have been missed
  • suggesting refinements to your site’s information architecture
  • highlighting areas commonly mistaken for links or other clickable elements

This kind of information allows you to keep the things your visitors like and change the things they don’t. It reveals an entirely different view of your website’s usability and helps you keep your most desirable content intuitively accessible for your visitors. Another advantage of heat maps is that they are visual and, as such, they are well suited for presenting raw data to non-technical audiences. They also help cement the position and organization of the elements of your site that work; and they can help you ensure that that the content on your page is relevant, easy to use and valuable.

Happy 6th Birthday Sharp Hue!

Shan PesaruMay 11th is always a special day for us here at Sharp Hue. Today we celebrate our 6th birthday. We have officially survived five consecutive years of business. It is extremely satisfying and humbling to know that over 130 clients trust us to deliver exactly what they are looking for: a beautiful website that works.

Given that it is our birthday, it’s only fitting that we hear a few words about our past, present and future from Sharp Hue’s owner and CEO, Shan Pesaru.

What led you to found a web design firm?

I started Sharp Hue because I wanted to build a company around my passion. I built my first web site when I was in the 6th grade and knew it was something I wanted to do as a career. There is so much to learn in this industry and I think staying cutting edge has always been a driver for me. My education and career paths have always aligned with the Internet and every single day I try to become better at my craft.

What’s Sharp Hue’s current business philosophy?

Build enterprise quality solutions at affordable small business prices. Ordinarily, producing the highest quality product at the lowest price is a sure way to end up in the red. The way we make it happen is to offset the difference with extremely hard work. When we hit the 5 year mark last year, I knew we were on to something and that our “recipe” was proven. Growing a business during a recession quickly validated for me that our product is exceptional and in high demand.

What are your goals for Sharp Hue moving forward?

We’re on track to grow at a faster pace than ever. For us, that means hiring a new employee every few months. This past April, we hired a new manager of Client Services, Megan Perez. With him on board, we are able to take on a larger workload and deliver even more services in an accelerated time period. We have grown this company organically without any outside investment. Owning 100% of my company means a lot to me. In the next couple of years we will need to move into a bigger office space and add a few more developers and designers.

What about you? What do you see yourself doing after you add more staff?

Even though I’m the owner and CEO, you’ll still see me writing lines of code, configuring servers, and moving pixels just like all of our talented employees. I’ve worn all the hats over the years so I intimately understand what it takes to do this business right and exceptionally well. There will likely be a time where my role in Sharp Hue’s operations will transition to a purely visionary one. I’m thinking something like Creative Director and Head of R&D. You’ll have a tough time tearing me away from the keyboard!

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners you’d like to share?

Customer service and communication are the keys to any business. If you listen to what your customer’s say, you’ll know exactly which way to head with your business. As you grow, expand your company at a rate that’s comfortable for you and in such a way that you constantly remind yourself of the core competencies and values that got you there in the first place. Remember to have fun in the process and get out and play every once in a while.

I often joke with budding entrepreneurs that every company I started with a business plan failed (because I tried hard to stick to the plan). The ventures of mine that still exist have experienced success because we adapt to customer needs, develop efficient processes, reinvent ourselves when necessary, carefully manage our expenses, and surround ourselves with talented people. I still stick to my entrepreneurial roots in order to stay agile and humble. The difference now is that I make fewer mistakes and better decisions.

Launch of Bikes, Blues & BBQ Website Redesign with First-Ever Mobile Version

When it comes to great music, amazing food and—most importantly—loud motorcycles, you just can’t beat the Bikes, Blues & BBQ Motorcycle Rally in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The event is a favorite for bikers from all over the country, featuring tons of live music venues, great BBQ food and hundreds of vendors with the latest and greatest in bike accessories, clothing, and gear. This year, Sharp Hue was proud to revamp the event’s web presence, which included its first-ever mobile website!

Yet again, we pushed the innovation boundaries and redesigned the BBB website to modernize the look and feel of the organization, providing easier content management tools so that the group could easily update information on the site. We just finished launching the website on July 23, and look forward to helping this group raise awareness and contributions to its cause.

We were very happy to work with BBB, a great organization that raises money for local charities in Northwest Arkansas through its annual rally. As one of the top five largest motorcycle events in the country, the rally attracts visitors not only from all over the U.S., but from around the world. This year’s event takes place September 28-October 1.

As with any charitable organization, time and resources are precious commodities, which is why we streamlined the management tasks for the site. With custom integration of existing technologies like WordPress, Google Calendar, WuFoo Forms, Twitter, and Facebook, the site is easy to navigate and runs very smoothly. Furthering the group’s dedication to engage in cutting-edge technologies, the new web presence for BBB includes a first-ever mobile version of the site, which provides timely information available at the fingertips of hundreds of thousands of event-goers.

Some of the exciting features of the new BBB site:

  • Redesigned look, completely original and unlike any version of the site in the past decade
  • Custom styling of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube
  • Custom email marketing template
  • Mobile-friendly version of the website (check it out yourself from your mobile phone!)
  • Sponsor ad tracking that records ever-important impression and click metrics
  • Online vendor application forms and payment
  • Online volunteer signup forms
  • Optimized and custom web hosting, providing fast performance before, during and after the big event

BBB’s rallies have donated over $600,000 to local charities since the event began in 2000. We are honored to work with local organizations like BBB, as well as others like the Arkansas Crisis Center, Boys & Girls Club of Benton County and Chile Pepper Cross Country festival. We’re committed to providing our local nonprofits with high-quality and cutting-edge resources, allowing them to best serve those who they wish to help.

We invite you to take a look at the revamped website for Bikes, Blues & BBQ at www.bikesbluesandbbq.org. Please let us know what you think!

#10: Keep your site fresh

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series…

The best websites are like living things. Your visitors come to see what’s new, to interact with your company, to learn, and to enjoy.

Getting this effect takes time and effort. If web design, web content, and web marketing aren’t your areas of expertise, it can be a struggle. Yet it’s essential. Your web site is an investment. Failing to keep it fresh limits your return on that investment. An out of date site creates the impression that your business is also out of date. It’s the same as having a ramshackle building with peeling paint. It affects your visitors’ impression of your business.

Plan when you design your site for the ways you’ll want to refresh your web site. Your web professional can help you explore the options and make the best plan for your circumstances.

Managing a small business and keeping up with your web site can be cumbersome. But it’s worth doing. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, or prefer not to divert staff from essential tasks, engage a professional to keep up with your web site.