Yoast says sliders and background videos should be banned

Our customers know that we at Lewis Studios and Trail Websites do not recommend the use of sliders or background videos. Rather than write a long post explaining why we advise against these conversion-killing gimmicks, we offer links to Yoast’s posts:

Sliders suck and should be banned from your website

Video backgrounds suck, ban them from your website

If you’re not familiar with Yoast, they make the most popular WordPress SEO plugin and offer courses and other SEO related plugins in addition to a blog and enewsletter with useful SEO tips.

Using has_term to check if a WordPress post is in a category

Sometimes the documentation lets us down. In WordPress, has_term($term, $taxonomy, $id) is used to check if a post has a term. The documentation says the taxonomy field is optional. It is not.

To check if a post is in a specific category, you need to use “category” as the taxonomy name. In a loop, you can use null for the $id to use the current post.

To check whether the current post is in the category of newsletters, use this:

if (has_term('newsletters', 'category', null) == 1) {
  // do something

Frequent visitors may know that we use the WP-Types Toolset plugins for many sites. You can add has_term as a custom function to use in conditional output in a Content Template. The above notes about has_term apply to this use too.  We use this conditional to substitute the font-awesome newspaper icon for a featured image on posts in the newsletter category in an archive for example:

 [wpv-conditional if="( has_term('newsletters', 'category', null) eq '1' )"]
<i class="fa fa-newspaper-o" aria-hidden="true" style="font-size:120px;"></i>

Mautic Marketing Automation

Mautic’s open source marketing automation has all the functions you need for drip marketing, content marketing and scoring web visitors from anonymous to converted. It is available in two flavors: do-it-yourself and hosted. For many, the price for the hosted and managed version is well worth it. Mautic takes care of updates, keeps things working well and handles backups for you. For those with the technical ability, curiosity and time, the self-hosted community version can be a great solution.

image of mautic's dashboard showing contacts per day
Mautic’s Dashboard

Getting Started with Marketing Automation with a tool like Mautic

I suggest starting with visitor tracking and scoring through a few basic elements like downloadable assets (an ebook, for example). Try to collect a bare minimum of data from downloaders so you can identify them and tie them to records in your CRM (email address is often easiest to ask for and good for matching). Load data from your CRM into Mautic so you can start to try dynamic content and conditional email drips based on other things you may know about the target.

In our Conservation and Land Trust focused subsidiary, Trail Websites, we use dynamic content and drip campaigns that leverage CRM data about the state of prospects’ websites. If they are already mobile-friendly, we don’t pop in dynamic content about why that is so important. If we know their site is hand-built and not using a CMS but that they are small and volunteer-run, we add a blurb about the ease of managing content with a CMS based site. This kind of content personalization is useful and doesn’t come across as creepy. If they download our WordPress for Conservation and Land Trusts ebook, we add points to their score that affects drip emails and moves them closer to being flagged in the CRM for the attention of a salesperson. At our scale, this is a good set of automation and a repeatable toolkit we can use to build future campaigns with different assets.

Marketing Automation doesn’t have to be scary or expensive to get started with. Mautic is making it much more accessible. At Lewis Studios, we help customers with their marketing strategies and can help them leverage tools like Mautic to execute their strategies. We also use Mautic ourselves both at Lewis Studios and for Trail Websites. Many thanks to David Hurley and the Mautic team for bringing us this powerful tool.

A few observations on self-hosting Mautic:

  1. A basic, shared server is probably not going to make you happy — things like dynamic web content need to be very responsive.
  2. SSH access is essential — things can go wrong with upgrades and updates on shared servers and they are much easier to fix when you can get into a shell and run some php commands.
  3. Always, always backup before upgrading or updating; better yet, make a local copy of files and database and do the update there then upload it — this is especially relevant if you ignore #1 above.
  4. Take the time to learn about marketing automation; Mautic offers some handy videos and there is even a “Marketing Automation for Dummies” book that is not Mautic specific but does help with the concepts.

Introducing Page Progress Tracker

Image showing title and screenshots

Do you have a member site built on WordPress that offers courses or other content that your users need to track their progress through?

We built a Page Progress Tracker plugin that we are now testing with a few selected customers. Here’s an introductory video tour:


  • Put a shortcode on pages where users need to be able to mark progress as in-progress, completed + bookmarked, or completed (still working on it, done but want to find it again easily or completely done, respectively).
  • Put a shortcode on pages (like module or course home pages) where you want to show percentage completion of child pages (that are not parents) to show module or course completion percentage. Output is just a number so you can put it in a sentence like “You are 50% done with this module.” or use it some other way. Could also be styled into a progress meter with some CSS.
  • Put a shortcode on the bottom of the page to provide automated page-to-page navigation
  • An additional shortcode will show a user the pages they have marked as in-progress, completed + bookmarked or completed or any combination thereof. Especially useful for showing them pages they need to finish and completed pages they wanted to be able to find again easily.

Contact us if this is something your site needs and you are willing to join our beta test program. Being in the beta program means you are willing to risk the plugin not working perfectly and that you will do your best to give us feedback to make the plugin better. While highly unlikely, the plugin could break your site during this testing phase of development.

Customizing WordPress

We’ve been building websites for clients that need customized functionality. WordPress is still our go-to foundation but we’ve found that adding a little admin capability and some front end user experience enhancement through customization makes for great solutions.

If you want to build your own customized WordPress sites, we recommend Toolset Components quite useful. If you need a company to customize your site, contact us.