Welcome to the official WideRange Galleries blog, written by Jack Brauer, owner and lead programmer at WideRange Galleries. This blog is meant as a resource for clients to keep track of latest features and tips to maximize the potential of the gallery software.

NEW: Remote SMTP Email Account Connection

By default, WideRange Galleries websites send out contact page emails and order confirmation emails from ___@widerangegalleries.com email addresses. These emails are sent directly from our webserver, and sometimes they are mistakenly marked as spam by the recipient (you or your customers).

For improved deliverability and reliability, if you have a website email address (like “you@yoursite.com”) you can now set up a remote SMTP connection so that all the website emails are sent directly from your own actual email account rather than the default @widerangegalleries.com addresses.

Many WideRange clients have professional Rackspace business email accounts that I’ve set up for you; this is perfect for hooking up with a remote SMTP connection!

To set this up, in your admin panel go to Settings > Emails, and there you will find configuration instructions. If you aren’t sure if remote SMTP will work for you, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

NEW: Improved Order Confirmation Emails

FYI! I have implemented customized HTML customer order confirmation emails for all orders, for both Stripe and PayPal payments!

So now when a customer purchases a print or any other product, in addition to the standard generic receipt sent by PayPal or Stripe, they will receive a nicely-formatted email including your customized logo, your personal messages (both generic and product-specific), and a list of items ordered including thumbnail images.

Additionally, now there is no confusing configuration necessary in your PayPal account! Everything is handled for you automatically. Print Sales Statistics are also automatically configured and connected from now on as well.

So what do you need to do? Technically, nothing; however, you can make your confirmation emails look nicer by uploading a logo or graphic image to include at the top of these emails. To do this, go in your admin control panel to Settings > Emails, and there you can upload a .jpg image up to 500px wide. Also on that page you can customize the messages you’d like to include in your emails, and find directions on how to test your beautiful new order confirmation emails.

Gallery Thumbnails on Homepage

WideRange Galleries homepages just got a cool new feature! You now have the option to display a gallery’s thumbnails on the homepage below the slideshow and text! To use this feature, modify your homepage in the admin (at Pages > Homepage), then just select the gallery you want to display from the dropdown list of galleries. The thumbnails from that gallery will then be displayed on the homepage with all their native thumbnail and layout settings.

Here are a few useful ways you could use this for your homepage:

• You could display your main galleries directly on your homepage. Here’s an example.

• You could create a gallery for all your newest photos and display that on your homepage.

• You could create a hidden submenu-format gallery with a series of sub galleries with direct links to important pages of your site. For example, you might include thumbnails which link to pages such as your main Gallery page, your Print Information page, your About page, maybe a Sale or other newsworthy page, or maybe some other Product pages like Workshops, Calendars, or something like that. See a few examples here and here.

This last option is really what this feature is meant for and how it can be utilized to its fullest potential. It provides a way to guide your website visitors directly from the homepage to the most important pages of your site through a more visually appealing thumbnail format.

Note that this feature is not applicable to homepages that feature the full-browser slideshow.

Photo-specific Print Preview Images

Print PreviewsSummary: You can now upload print preview images that are unique to each photo.

One of the advantages of WideRange Galleries websites is the clear and intuitive way that the print ordering options are presented for each photo. The print options are listed in sections organized by each display option (such as framed, metal print, acrylic mounted, etc.), and each display option section can include a brief paragraph of descriptive text along with a chosen thumbnail image. The end result is a simple but elegant interface that seamlessly informs customers of your various print options and makes their choice and purchase quick and easy – which is important for impulse purchases.

For each print display option you can upload a single image that represents that display option. This image is usually a corner detail picture of the display option which shows how it looks up close. So for example, for metal prints you might upload a close-up image of the corner of a metal print, showing how the surface is glossy and how the thin aluminum substrate floats off the wall. A close-up corner image of an acrylic-glass face mounted print would show how the print is sandwiched between plexiglass and the backing substrate. These display option thumbnail images give the customer a good idea of what that display option looks like, thus inspiring confidence in their selection and purchase.

The print display option thumbnail images are uploaded once for each display option, and thus the same thumbnail image is shown for that display option for every photo. This is then the default image for the display option. However, I have just added a new feature to the admin control panel where you can upload a display option image PER PHOTO, which will override the default display option image. Using this new tool, you can now upload print preview images that are unique to each photo. So for example, if you have a nice picture of a print hanging on a wall, you can upload that picture for that particular photo and display option, and it will be displayed instead of the default print display option image for that photo. In the example screenshot above, for my “Snowmass Lake Reflection” photo I have uploaded a special preview image for the “Acrylic-Glass Mounted” display option, while the “Glossy Metal Print” option still shows its default thumbnail.

Admin Print Previews Screenshot

Using this new feature is easy. In the admin control panel, you just modify a gallery photo like usual (at Photos > Modify), and on the photo modification page at the bottom right side of the page you’ll see a new panel titled “Display Option Preview Images”. Here you can select and upload your special print preview images for each display option. That’s it! And of course you can always modify and remove then as you see fit.

The print preview images should be prepared and sized for the web just like all the rest of your photos’ jpg image files. The preview images could be anything from pictures of your prints on walls, to photoshop mockups of images hanging in designer room images, or maybe even a customized corner detail image for that particular photo. For the last two options, with some research it may be possible to find Photoshop mockup templates that can help you generate print preview mockups, such as perhaps here (specifically, here are canvas, metal, and dibond template examples). Or you can take your own photos of empty room walls, or search stock photo sites for blank wall images in fancy looking rooms, then in Photoshop just drop your print images on the wall along with some drop-shadow effect. If you are proficient in Photoshop you could perhaps even create a Photoshop action to automate this process.

In any case, this new photo-specific print preview feature further extends the possibilities and control you have over your website’s print ordering presentation.

Click-Through Agreements for Workshop Products

Attention workshop leaders! I’ve recently added a new little feature that you might find useful for your workshop products: click-through agreement checkboxes for products like workshops!

What this does is that for applicable product pages it adds a checkbox that says “I agree to the terms and conditions listed above” (or whatever you want that to say) and this checkbox must be checked by the customer before they can add the item to the cart. This effectively turns the product page into a legally binding “click through” agreement because it’s impossible for the customer to purchase the item without first clicking to agree to the terms.

Most workshop product pages have a “single product” page format, which means that you have your page full of text and information, then a price and add-to-cart button at the bottom. All you have to do to implement the click through agreement is to change the product’s page format to “single product – with terms“. Then, if desired, you can customize what you want the agreement checkbox text line says by scrolling down and entering alternative text in the “Click-Through Agreement Checkbox Text” text area.

Of course you should also probably add a “Terms and Conditions” section of text to the product page’s text, preferrably at the bottom of the page just above the agreement checkbox.

I’d still recommend consulting a lawyer about whether or not you should have your workshop clients sign a contract, but at the very least this click-through agreement purchasing process ensures that your client is aware of your terms and provides a basic initial legal agreement.

Stripe Payment Processing

Stripe payment processingI am pleased to announce that WideRange Galleries v.5 website shopping carts are now fully integrated with Stripe Checkout payment processing! While PayPal payment processing is still available and still works fine, the Stripe cart checkout process is much more streamlined and professional. In the Cart Settings page in the admin, you can now choose whether you’d like to use PayPal, Stripe, or both.

Stripe vs. PayPal

PayPal has long been a trusty payment method, but Stripe offers some major improvements on the checkout flow.

With PayPal, when a customer on the shopping cart clicks to “Check Out”, they are sent to PayPal’s website where they go through the payment process. This transition from your website to PayPal might seem a bit jarring to some customers who are probably more used to on-site shopping cart payments. Also, while it is possible for customers to pay without signing up for a PayPal account, this option is not totally obvious which might potentially cause some confusion with customers. Once the customer finishes the payment process, they get an order confirmation email from PayPal, which lists the order details in the standard PayPal email format.

Stripe Checkout PanelBy comparison, the Stripe checkout flow is much quicker and more seamless. A customer in the shopping cart clicks “Pay with Card” and a very clean and simple Stripe payment panel pops up over the cart. There are no convoluted options or sign-up forms – only the necessary payment details are presented. Once the customer submits payment, the popup panel disappears and the customer is sent to an Order Confirmation page that summarizes their order. Additionally a custom Order Confirmation email is sent to them – this email has the order details along with customized messages which you can set up in the admin. Overall the Stripe checkout is quicker, easier, and more professional.

You can choose to use both PayPal and Stripe if you want, in which case both checkout options are displayed for the customer on the shopping cart page. This might be the best solution since some customer may prefer to use PayPal.

For what it’s worth, I have been using and testing the Stripe Checkout on my photography site for the last month or so, and so far the majority of my customers have been choosing the Stripe checkout option; only one customer has opted to pay with PayPal.

How to Activate Stripe

1) Sign up for a Stripe account at Stripe.com. You will need to follow their instructions to hook up your bank account for deposits and to fill out the various business settings on the account settings pages there.

2) In your Stripe account, go to the “Developers” menu, then to the “API keys” page. Copy the Publishable and Secret Keys, and paste those into the respective fields on the Cart Settings page in the admin. Make sure these are the LIVE keys, not the TEST keys.

3) Customize the Stripe Checkout panel. On the Cart Settings page in the admin, upload a square 128 x 128px jpg image file for the Checkout Panel Image. This is the little logo image that shows up in the circle in the Stripe Checkout panel, like my little mountain logo you see in the screenshot image above. Also, write a brief Checkout Panel Description – mine in the example screenshot above is “Photography by Jack Brauer”. The main title above this comes from the Business label as seen in your General Settings page in the admin.

4) Customize your Order Confirmation Emails, which are the emails sent to customers when they’re finished paying. You do this on the Cart Settings page in the admin.

A screenshot of the order confirmation email, showing how the messages are compiled. Click for larger view.

  • First upload a Confirmation Email Logo Image, which should be a 500px wide jpg image with a white background, since the emails are white. This displays at the top of the emails. Try to optimize the file size of this image so that it will load quickly in your customers’ emails.
  • Scroll down the Cart Settings page and enter an Introduction and Footer text. This text will be included on ALL order confirmation emails, so it should include only very generic information that will apply to all your possible orders. If you only sell one type of product, such as prints, then you can include all the info you need in these two fields and that’s enough.
  • If you sell different types of products – not just prints, but other non-print products as well – then you can modify those products to give them product-specific messages to include in the order confirmation emails when those products are ordered.

5) Test your Order Confirmation Emails. An easy trick to test the order confirmation emails is to create a set-amount discount code for yourself on the Products > Discounts page in the admin, then add a variety of prints and/or products to the cart on your website, then apply that discount. When the discount code covers the entire cart total, you can then proceed through a “no pay” checkout and the order confirmation emails will be sent to you (assuming you enter your own email address in the customer email form).

6) Test a live cart payment using Stripe, to ensure that everything is working as expected. You can either create a cheap $1 print or product item to do this, or create a discount code for yourself that covers most (but not all) of the cost.

I hope you find this new feature useful and that it hopefully leads to increased sales! As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions and/or suggestions.

Accurate Sales Tax Calculations

While online sales have traditionally been free from sales taxes, recently states have been implementing complex online sales tax rules in the wake of a 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing them to do so. Most states still don’t require sales tax on out-of-state purchases (unless the business makes more than $100,000 in sales in that state each month). However, many states are now requiring sales tax on all in-state purchases, and the sales tax rates are dependent on the customer’s city and county address, not the business address. This has caused a nightmare of complex sales tax calculations and submissions – particularly burdensome to small businesses such as ours.

Fortunately, our WideRange Galleries websites can now help alleviate some of this burden with seamlessly integrated TaxJar address-based sales tax calculations in the shopping cart. This is an optional feature for WideRange Galleries v.5 websites; if you want to activate it, just go to the Cart Settings page in the admin and choose the option to charge sales tax. Once you do that, you need to set up a few configuration settings on the Sales Tax Settings page, then you’re all set! You don’t need to have a TaxJar account or pay any additional fees; it’s already all integrated and included.

Once you activate sales tax, your customers will see a shipping address form in the cart which they will fill out prior to payment checkout. The cart checks if the customer’s address is in your state, and if so it will calculate the exact tax amount based on their shipping address, including the exact city, county, and state tax rates. The accurate sales tax amount is then listed and added to the cart total prior to payment.

Additionally, since sales tax is typically only charged for physical shipped goods and not services, you can turn off sales tax on a product-specific basis. For example, if you sell workshops on your website, you’ll want to turn off sales tax for those items on the Products > Modify page in the admin. Digital products are taxed in some states but not others; refer here to find out if your state charges for digitally downloaded products.

Whether or not you choose to charge sales tax is up to you. If you make a lot of in-state sales, particularly with numerous small dollar items, then charging accurate sales tax will be hugely advantageous. On the other hand, if you mainly do out-of-state sales and/or big ticket items, it might be simpler to just not charge sales tax and absorb any sales tax fees that you may owe each month.

Please contact me if you have any questions!

* Sales tax calculations are only available for U.S. clients.

6 Ways to Improve Your Online Security

Cyber Security

As our businesses and personal lives are increasingly conducted online, it is more important than ever to keep our digital activities as safe and secure as possible. Here I will share some tips for safeguarding not only your website but your personal digital presence in general.

1) Keep your apps and software up to date, including WordPress

One of the main reasons why software developers provide regular updates is for security patches. So if you are running old software versions you are potentially exposing your computer to security vulnerabilities that have long since been fixed. This includes your computer itself — you are much safer if you keep your computer’s operating system up to date. I know some of you are reluctant to update your OS because of certain software compatibility issues (*cough* Adobe CS6 *cough*), but you should really consider whether it’s worth running an old OS that is vulnerable to all kinds of viruses and malware.

Also, if you have a WordPress blog, you MUST regularly update it and all its plugins to the latest versions! It’s easy, just log in to the WP admin and click the updates link in the menu when it shows that updates are available. Just follow the directions there and after a few clicks it’s all done.

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Introducing the new WideRange Blogging system!

Today I am pleased to announce the launch of the new WideRange Blog system! Fully integrated within the existing WideRange Galleries Admin 5.0, this is an easy-to-manage gallery-based blogging system that you can start using right away. The blog is managed much like all the other galleries in your admin, with one main parent gallery that acts as the main blog page, then its sub-galleries act as the individual “posts”. You can quickly upload or include photos in each gallery post, rearrange the photos, then add text between the photos. This integrated system is much easier and faster to manage than a separate WordPress blog. The WideRange Blog also features standard blogging components including post categories and tags, commenting, and an RSS feed.


Watch this video screencast for an introduction to the WideRange Blog and tutorial for setting it up for you own website. Be sure to click the video settings and select the 720p60 HD option in order to see the details of what’s going on, and better yet take it full-screen!

Each gallery post – just like the normal galleries – can have a variety of layouts to choose from, but the most important for the blog is the “Large Photos” gallery format which displays all the photos at full size on a single page interspersed with text, much like a normal blog or article page.

Photos can be inserted one by one into the gallery post’s textfield, similar to how you’d do it WordPress. Or you can simply upload or include a batch of photos into the gallery, rearrange them, then add additional text in between the photos. These tools enable you to quickly build out a photo journal post much more quickly than you can do in WordPress.

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5 Common Admin Mistakes to Watch Out For

Homer at workWith the WideRange Galleries Admin software, I strive to provide robust yet intuitive tools to manage all of your galleries, photos, prints, and other website content. While some website companies opt to make their admin panels as easy as possible by dumbing down the available options, I prefer to offer more powerful tools even though I realize that in some cases it may increase the risk of confusion or misuse. In this article I will explain the most common pitfalls that clients sometimes make in the WideRange Admin.

1) Overuse of Embedded Formatting in Text

The WideRange Admin features advanced text field editors that make it easy to add links, insert images or videos, add lists, or apply special styling to text. It is this last feature that is often abused, particularly when it comes to changing text colors and alignment.

Keep in mind that these text editors are NOT what-you-see-is-what-you-get text editors! Your text will look different on your website than it looks in the admin. For example, in the admin text editors the text is always black on a white background, but your website might have light grey text on a black background. The default fonts and font sizes will also be different. Your website already applies default text styling and formatting, so there’s no need to apply it manually in the admin. There’s almost never a need to change your text colors or text alignments in the admin, except for occasional unique circumstances. The key is to only embed text colors or alignments sparingly, only when necessary for a specific unique purpose. If you find yourself regularly changing the text color or alignments of entire paragraphs, you’re probably doing it wrong and it would be better to contact me to change your default text styling for your website instead.

It is best practice to keep your text as clean and free of embedded formatting as possible. Overuse of embedded text styling or formatting inevitably leads to inconsistent looking pages, which in turn looks unprofessional. Also, when you have an overabundance of embedded text styling/formatting it makes it very difficult to modify later on, for example if you want to update your website design or fonts in the future. Because instead of just updating the default site-wide CSS text styling in one swoop, you then have to go in and change or remove all the individual bits of embedded styling throughout your data, which is a huge pain.

Remember, if you keep your text data as clean and raw as possible, your website will look more consistent and it will be much easier to update in the future.

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SSL Encryption!

Encryption

Due to recent technology improvements and server software upgrades, I am now able to offer SSL encryption for your website! SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and, in short, it’s the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and safeguarding any data that is being sent. It uses encryption algorithms to scramble data in transit, preventing hackers from reading or modifying the data as it is sent over the connection. You can tell if a website uses secure SSL encryption when its address starts with “https://” instead of just “http://” (notice the extra “s” in the secure address). Also, the browser bar will show a little lock symbol to signify that the website is properly secured.

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Comments, Anyone?

Lately I’ve been implementing features into the WideRange v.5.0 software to enable some more blog-like functionalities within the galleries and other pages.

One such feature is the ability to easily add the Disqus commenting system to any gallery, product, or other page of the website! You can activate commenting on a page simply by toggling a button for that page in the admin. Here’s what it looks like on my site:

disqus-screenshot

For some live examples, I’ve activated commenting on my recent Trip Report galleries; here’s an example. These kinds of journal or article pages are well suited for encouraging comments, feedback, and discussion.

By enabling comments along with a combination of “journal menu” and “large photos” gallery formats, you can set up a layout similar to a blog – all within the WideRange Galleries software, and it’s so much simpler and easier to manage than WordPress.

All you need to do to activate commenting on your website is to sign up for a Disqus account and then enter your Disqus “shortname” into the WideRange admin settings. You can find detailed instructions in the WideRange admin at the Settings > Comment Settings page.

Another recent feature that can be used effectively to create blog-like articles is the new and improved text editor. The new editor allows you to easily insert images from the database (or upload new ones), all within the text flow, along with captions as well. If you haven’t tried this yet, be sure to play around with it; it’s a subtle but powerful feature if you take advantage of it.

While these features don’t constitute a fully functional blog, they do make it a lot easier to create and manage a simple “blog-like” presentation in your gallery website, without having to slog around in WordPress. Enjoy!