Now Available: 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.

Now Available: 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.

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.

Continue reading

New for 2018: 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.

Continue reading

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!

Introducing WideRange Galleries Admin v.5.0!

I am pleased to announce the launch of the new WideRange Galleries Admin verson 5.0! This version of the website administration software looks similar to 4.0 on the surface, but under the hood I’ve reprogrammed the entire thing from the ground up, rewriting literally every single line of code. The new software provides a much more efficient and powerful code foundation which will be easier to manage and build upon in the years to come. While I was at it I also improved many of the features and added some new ones as well. Here I will explain some of the more noteworthy new and improved features, along with some screencast videos to show them in action.

Improved Text Editors

The new admin has vastly improved text editors, making it easier to manage your text content and providing useful tools for inserting images within your paragraphs. These modern and streamlined text editors do a great job of keeping your text data clean and correct. The text boxes also expand on the page as you enter more content, making it convenient to read and edit a long page of text.

A great new feature of these text editors is the ability to insert images within the text without needing to manually insert any HTML code. You can choose a new image to upload, or you can select existing gallery images to insert.

Improved Prints Management

In an effort to make the Prints and Products more intuitive and easier to manage, I have completely overhauled this section of the admin. Whereas before the prints and products where managed together in one giant products list, I have now separated them into their own sections. You can now manage all your print sizes on one page, and all your print display options on another. Changes made on either page will automatically update all their corresponding entries in the pricing list. Overall this new system makes it much clearer and easier to add or modify prints sizes and/or display options.

Additionally, you will see that the print sizes are now labelled with automatically calculated aspect ratios, and so are the photos. This aspect ratio labelling is handy for quickly identifying which print sizes should apply to photos when you upload them.

Finally, there is now a much more robust “Assign Photos to Prints” page which provides numerous tools for quickly batch applying many photos to their applicable print sizes.

Drag-n-Drop Sequencing and Nesting

Another big improvement in the 5.0 Admin is the widespread implementation of drag-and-drop sequencing for galleries, prints, products, searches, and more. Using this new tool you can quickly and easily drag and drop your galleries into the order you prefer. You can also drag galleries into a nested position underneath another gallery, in order to easily create a hierarchy of galleries and sub-galleries.

More New & Improved Features

  • Improved “quick edit” functionality: In various data tables in the admin you can click directly on the data to edit and save it without leaving the page. The new version of this feature functions as a pop-up overlay and doesn’t disturb the page flow or scrolling position on long pages.
  • Photo list filtering: On the photo modification pages when you’re trying to find a photo in a long list of gallery photos, you can now use the “Filter results” box to enter a search term and quickly narrow down the photo list.
  • Browser Anti-Aliasing option: At Photos > Settings you now have the option to turn off the browser anti-aliasing effect on your photos to increase apparent image sharpness. Read more about this option on that page.
  • Contact form reCAPTCHA Spam Prevention option: At Pages > Contact Page you now have the option to implement a modern “reCAPTCHA” human verification technique to add more protection against spam coming to you through the contact page form.

The new features above are the biggies, but throughout the redevelopment process I combed through every page of the admin to add little improved features, improve the useability flow, and update older components to more modern versions. The end result should make managing your photo galleries and print products even easier and more intuitive than before. I hope you like it! As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for new or improved features.

If you are currently using an older admin version, please contact me to discuss upgrading your website to the latest version!

Responsive Images!

I am happy to offer a new feature for WideRange Galleries clients with responsive-designed websites: Responsive Images!

Summary

• Responsive images allow you to upload larger images.
• The larger image files will be served to large or high resolution screens. Images will look sharper on retina screens.
• Smaller image file versions will be served to mobile devices with small screens, saving bandwidth and loading times.
• Recommended sizes for new responsive image uploads would be between 1200-1600px on the long side.
• Existing website photos will stay how they are; new larger images will be responsive.
• Instructions for uploading and updating images files are listed below.

What are responsive images?

Traditionally when an image is embedded in a page, there’s just one image file and the browser loads it. With responsive images, for each photo several different image sizes are provided, and the browser will automatically choose the best one to load based on a variety of factors including browser size, screen resolution, and internet connection speed.

Why responsive images?

The responsive images feature has two major benefits: it provides higher resolution image files for large monitors and retina screens, and conversely it supplies lower resolution image files for small devices that don’t need to load a big image file.

The first issue mainly involves retina screens. Retina screens are the newer high resolution screens like you’ll find on iPhones, iPads, and the newest iMacs and MacBooks, for example. Before retina screens came along, all websites displayed at 72ppi resolution, and images looked just fine at these fairly low resolutions. But because retina screens have over twice the resolution of normal monitors, webpages and images viewed on retina devices are automatically upsized by 2x in order to maintain the same relative visual size. This means that web images that look fine on a normal monitor will look soft and blurry on a retina screen.

Responsive images solve this blurry retina problem by providing an image that’s twice the resolution, which will look much sharper on retina devices. Similarly, people using large desktop monitors with big browsers will also get to see larger versions of your photos.

On the other end of the spectrum are small mobile devices, which often use slower wireless internet connections. Since more and more people are accessing the internet with these small devices using slower internet speed, it’s important to also provide smaller image files that will load quicker. There’s no need to load a huge 1600px image on a screen that’s only 320px wide! Responsive images solve this problem because the browser will be able to load a small version of the image file rather than the big version, thus saving valuable bandwidth and loading time.

In short, responsive images allow your website to cater simultaneously to both large and small screens, rather than needing to compromise on either.

Demonstration

To see responsive images in action, I’ve provided an example below along with a normal image to compare. To fully appreciate the responsive image, you really should view those photos on a larger retina screen such as an iPad or retina iMac or MacBook. On a normal monitor you won’t see any difference, while on a retina screen you can really see the difference in sharpness.

900px non-responsive image
A normal 900px non-responsive image. This will look fine on a normal screen, but a bit blurry on a retina screen.
Responsive Image example
A responsive image. On a normal screen this will load the same 900px image as above. But on a retina screen it will load a 1800px image which will look much sharper. Also, try resizing your browser smaller and see how it loads a smaller image file instead. (You might need to refresh the page to see the effects).

What’s happening in this case with the responsive image is that there’s actually four different sized jpg files at 600, 900, 1200, and 1800 pixel widths. In the code we’re telling the browser that there’s these four images available and what sizes they are, and the browser is automatically choosing the best one based on the screen resolution and browser size. It only chooses the one that’s as big as it needs, thus saving bandwidth for smaller devices resulting in faster loading times. For high res retina screens the browser knows it needs to load one of the larger images to display sharper.

How to start using responsive images

The responsive images feature is built-in with all Version 5 WideRange Galleries websites (basically any WideRange Galleries website built or updated after 2014). All you have to do is upload your web images at the desired size (see below) and the admin will automatically create all the various smaller thumbnail sizes.

Note that if your website is an older non-responsive website (meaning the content doesn’t scale to fit smaller screens/browsers) we will need to upgrade your site to the responsive Version 5 in order to utilize the responsive images feature. I highly recommend this, since more and more people are using the internet on phones and other mobile devices, so it’s becoming more important to have a responsive, mobile-friendly website.

Read more below about recommended photo upload sizes and how to replace any existing smaller pre-responsive images with larger versions. Continue reading

Quick Edit and Batch Edit

I’ve recently added a couple useful features to the WideRange Galleries 4.0 admin control panel to make it even more powerful and user friendly to manage your photos, prints, and products!

Edit in Place

The first is “quick edit” – also known as “edit in place” – which allows you to edit photo or product data directly from the data list. When you’re looking at a list of gallery photos or the list of products, instead of needing to go into a secondary editing page to modify a particular photo or product, you can simply just click on whatever data you want to change. That data will instantly switch into an input form where you can enter your new data and save it – all without leaving the page! This is a much faster and easier method of editing your data.

I’ve implemented the quick-edit feature for the photos and products – the two sections of the admin where you’re dealing with lots of data and where the quick-edit ability will prove most beneficial. The pages that are quick-edit enabled are labeled as such, and as you roll your mouse over the data you’ll see a blue rollover color that signifies the editable data. Just click on anything and edit it!

The second new feature is a photo batch-edit tool, where you can select however many photos you want and edit their location, keywords, and/or search tags all in one swoop! This could save a huge amount of time if you want to add certain keywords or search tags to an entire gallery of photos at once, without having to edit each photo individually.

Print Sales Statistics

Print Sales Statistics
Print sales charted by month and gross income.

Today I am super excited to announce a major new feature for the WideRange Galleries 4.0 admin program: Print Sales Statistics! If you sell a substantial number of prints through your website, statistics with visual charts and graphs can provide valuable insight into which photos sell, when they sell, and where they sell. Not only is this information just interesting to see, it can help you make more informed marketing decisions.

With this new integrated statistics tool, you can chart your print sales by history, years, months, photos, print sizes, display options, customers, countries, and states – and for any of those you can sort the data by number of prints sold or gross income. A variety of interactive charts and maps are provided to help visualize all this data. Better yet, by adjusting a couple settings in your PayPal account (see below), the statistics program will automatically keep track of your print sales from now on. Continue reading

Google Sitemaps

sitemapI am pleased to announce another great new feature for the v.4.0 gallery sites: Google Sitemaps! You can find this in the admin control panel under Settings > Sitemap. In this post I will first explain a little about what a sitemap is, and then I’ll explain how to use the new feature.

A sitemap is basically an XML-formatted file that lists all of the pages on your website. Google and other search engines have spiders, which are automated programs that periodically crawl through your website to evaluate and index the various pages for their search engines. The spiders can only index pages that they can find through links on your site (or from other sites). This is where the sitemap comes in handy, because it makes it easy for the spiders to see ALL your pages, even if some of them are buried deep in your site or not linked at all.

A sitemap won’t improve your pages’ rankings in the search engines, but they can help to increase the number of your pages that are indexed in the search engines. Another potential benefit is that the sitemap will list all your photos, along with the corresponding title, location, and caption information. This could be beneficial for image search results because it’s telling the spiders the specific information about each image – something that spiders have a hard time doing themselves since they cannot “see” the photos like we humans do.

Here’s how to start using this feature. The sitemap feature is set up to function manually; in other words, you have to select to generate the sitemap for the first time, and each successive time. You can do this in the admin control panel by going to Settings > Sitemap. Continue reading