Create captivating and engaging email footers: a review of Scribe

I was recently asked by a client to set up a some email signature templates that would work alongside her newly launched website and related branding. Great idea!

As a consequence I researched a bunch of tools that enable this and I ended up signing up to Scribe so I could test it before recommending it (or not). Here’s my review of Scribe.

The Brief

My client was specifically looking for a tool that would enable her to have a single branded email footer that could be used by her and members of her team. Each individual had a different computer setup and preferred email tool, with some on Apple, others on Outlook, and then various combinations of webmail and Gmail. This meant the solution would need to work across various platforms.

A Review of Scribe (on offer with AppSumo for 39 USD)

What’s included?

Having a reviewed a few other tools I decided, for the price, Scribe would be worth a look so signed myself up on a lifetime deal. For this price I get:

  • Lifetime access to Scribe
  • All future plan updates
  • GDPR compliant (partner verified)
  • 60-day money-back guarantee, no matter the reason
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs) and banners
  • Analytics tracking
  • One-click installation
  • Co-workers signature personalization

Sounds like a lot of good stuff!

First Impressions

My first impression was very good! It’s a cloud-based tool so I just logged in with the email address I used for the purchase (via AppSumo). Once logged in via I have access to comprehensive looking “dashboard”.

The Departments View in the Scribe Admin Dashboard

As you can see, I had the option to create deparments, which would mean I could create variations on my main signature for different teams. If I have co-workers to add (currently I don’t) I can assign them to one of the departments I create. For now it’s just me, so I don’t need this featured – but it’s useful to have for the future.

Next in the menu is the Email Signature configuration, which is the reason for me testing this out. There are few more options here, but it’s pretty self-explanatory: on the left is a form to fill out, with your name, job title, logo, etc. and on the right is how it will look. There are options for changing the colors for the phone, address and social media icons, and various font optiotns. I changed from the default to Montserrat, which matches the paperwork I sent out (invoices, proposals, etc.)

Customizing the Email Signature in the Scribe Dashboard

You can see at the bottom of this screen there are options to add calls-to-action, promotional banners, and a special Covid-19 banner. What’s great about these is that they are trackable, so if you do put one of these on there you will have access to stats tracking. I think that’s a really great featured in these days when mailing lists and client communications are such an important part of promoting your business.

And, of course, if you don’t want to use these features, you don’t have to.

Other configuration options include the classic or minimal layouts.

Classic Template
Minimal Template

The other section of the dashboard are there for you to add Coworkers, who you can then assign to departments and create unique signatures for, and also to track your analytics and manage your account. If you have questions or feature request, you can click on the Feedback Board and submit them.

In Settings there are also some interesting features that include integrations (currently just Mixmax), enabling or disabling the tracking cookie feature (disabling this will disable analytics if you have any CTA buttons on your signature), and also the option to configure the tool so that the email signature is “sent” using your custom domain.

And that’s pretty much it.

Using your custom signature

Once you’ve set everything up it couldn’t be easier to implement your new signature.

Just go into the Signature section and click the Install Signature button at the bottom of the page. This gives you various options that include:

  • Copy HTML code
  • Copy Gmail code
  • Copy Outlook code
  • Copy code

Then you just paste it in.

If you’re not sure what to do with this code once you’ve copied it, try the relevant link below for an explanation. If you need help, get in touch!

My Thoughts

I like the interface – it seems pretty intuitive and doesn’t have a vast number of options, so I don’t think it will be overwhelming to a non-techie user.

The result is clean and fresh. It’s easy to customise – with a logo, avatar, photo, or custom colors – and, as long as you are familiar with the signature tools in your preferred mail app, easy to install.

My only gripe – and this is something I raised a ticket with them about – is that it doesn’t work 100% in Gmail because Gmail doesn’t support a full set of custom fonts; ironic given the font I use is a free Google font! What do I mean by this? Well, in Scribe I set my signature to use Montserrat, which matches my branding (well, the latest branding that is yet to make it to my website!) – however, in Gmail the email signature is displayed using the default Serif font. Not what I wanted. I’ve stuck with it because a) the developer has an active user forum and b) it still looks better than before I used Scribe, but I think this is an issue they need to overcome if they’re to claim full support for Gmail. I haven’t tested the signature in other mail applications so can’t comment, but if you have found the same then please let me know and I’ll update this post to reflect the signature’s behaviour in your particular email client setup.

This post contains an affiliate link. We only include links to products we have personally used or tested and are happy to recommend to our clients. What this means is that we receive a small commission for any sales made by anyone who click an affiliate link from this page. You do not pay more for this; it’s almost not worth mentioning but legally we have to!

Troubleshooting, WordPress

Fixing Your Site after Installing an SSL Certificate on WordPress

Sometimes, after adding installing an SSL certificate or migrating a site from one platform to another, it doesn’t behave as expected. There are several fixes for this so, if your site isn’t functioning properly after applying an SSL certificate, read on.

Generally the issues are caused by problems with your page links; that is, links to your site that were listed as http but are now https. Sometimes these slip through the cracks. The three main steps to try are:

  • Running the Really Simple SSL plugin
  • Updating the URLs in the WordPress database
  • Updating the site’s permalinks

Let’s get started.

Run the Really Simple SSL Plugin

This plugin is really simple to use, just like it says! You can install it from the Plugins library, then Activate it.

Once activated you will see a message box like the one below. Just click Go ahead, activate SSL and you’re done! (Yes, there are a few more configuration options but essentially that’s it!)

Update URLs in the WordPress Database

This is a bit more technical because you have to go into the database via PhpMyAdmin and use SQL searches to hunt down any old instances of the HTTP address and replace them with the HTTPS versions. I’ve found that whenever it gets to this stage, the find/replace usually does the trick and it’s one of the first things I check after finding any migration issues.

I usually run a search first to see whether there are any HTTP address lurking in there, and usually there are. To do this:

  1. Click the Search tab in PhpMyAdmin (make sure you’re in the correct database!)
  2. In the Words or values to search for (wildcard: “%”) field, type the search term, in this case the full website address using http://, e.g.,
  3. Copy and paste the results into a text file. If you have any instances of the search URL in your database you will want to run the SQL statement to change them.
  4. Rerun the search using the variant of the URL without the www prefix, for example,
  5. Again, copy the results into a text file so you have a record you can refer. These search results give you the correct table names to use.

Now you’re ready to replace the URLs. The SQL statement to use is:

UPDATE wp_options SET option_value = replace(option_value, 'Existing URL', 'New URL') WHERE option_name = 'home' OR option_name = 'siteurl';

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'Existing URL', 'New URL');

UPDATE wp_postmeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value,'Existing URL','New URL');

UPDATE wp_usermeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value, 'Existing URL','New URL');

UPDATE wp_links SET link_url = replace(link_url, 'Existing URL','New URL');

UPDATE wp_comments SET comment_content = replace(comment_content , 'Existing URL','New URL');

To use it:

  1. Click the SQL tab in PhpMyAdmin (make sure you’re in the correct database!)
  2. Copy and paste the SQL statement above into the SQL Query field.
  3. Modify the original statement so that it shows your URLs (old and new) and amend the table names, if yours are different.
  4. Click Simulate. Then, if it all looks good, click Go.

That should have changed all the URLs.

Sometimes you’ll have a table or two not covered by the SQL statement above, or there may be another field in the table that is not listed. In that case you’ll need to add additional statements to cover those tables and/or fields. If you’re not happy to do this yourself, contact me for help.

If the above still hasn’t fixed your site, there’s are still two more things to try. Next we’re going to change the permalink settings, then we’ll try reinstalling the template from a download.

Update the Site Permalinks

In the Dashboard, click Settings and then Permalinks. You see a list like the one below.

By default you probably have your site set to use the Post name for links. Whatever setting you have, these are the steps to follow:

  1. Click Plain then Save these amended settings.
  2. Click Visit Site to see whether the sites is back on.
  3. Go back into the Permalink settings, then click Post name (or restore to whatever setting you had before, if different.) Click Save.
  4. Visit the site again. Is it fixed?

If you’re still having issues there’s one more thing to try: deleting and re-installing the WordPress theme. This will create a little more work as all your customisations are likely to disappear, unfortunately, but at least it should get you back up and running again!

The steps for completing that task are in a separate post. Good luck!

Troubleshooting, WordPress

How to Remove then Update your WordPress Theme

Generally, things go smoothly when you update your WordPress theme, but sometimes they don’t. When this happens the way to fix it is often to completely delete the old theme and then reinstall it using the theme files direct from the developer. This post walks you through this process step-by-step.

There are several ways to remove an old theme: from the Themes menu in the Dashboard, or from the File Manager on the server, of via FTP. In this tutorial, we’ll stay within the WP Dashboard.

  1. Visit the theme developer website and download the files for your chosen theme. These will be available for download as a zip file.
  2. In your WP Dashboard, select Appearance and then Themes.
  3. If you haven’t already changed to a theme that works, do this now as you won’t be able to delete a theme you are using. Choose a “safe” default like Twenty Twenty or Twenty Fifteen.
  4. Find the theme you want to replace and click Theme Details (this flashes up when you hover of the image.)
  5. At the bottom of this page you should see two buttons (Activate and Preview) and a red text link saying Delete. Click Delete.

Now your site is ready to be updated.

  1. Back in the Themes list, click Add New then attach and upload the zip file containing your theme files.
  2. Wait for this to upload (you’ll see a % indicator at the bottom of the screen while it uploads) then Activate the theme.
  3. Check the site again. Is it working?!
Websites, WordPress

Maintaining your WordPress Website

You’ve finished your WordPress website (or your webdev has handed it over to you) so now you can get on with writing and sharing your blog posts and updating the content now and again and that’s it, right?

Unfortunately, as with all your tech, a WordPress website is just like any other and regular maintenance is needed to keep it all running smoothly and, importantly, securely too.

But where to start?

What do I need to update?

Generally there are three main areas of your site that need to be kept up-to-date. These are:

  • The WordPress “core”
  • Your theme
  • Plugins that are used on your site

Those are the three building blocks, if you like, of your site. In order for the site to function all three need to be kept in sync, which is generally why there are always updates.

In addition, very occasionally there is the need to update the PHP version the site run on. This is basically the programming language that WordPress uses to “talk” to the database that stores all the content for your site. As with any language, it evolves, so sometimes changes are needed in order to keep everything in sync.

None of these jobs is beyond the abilities of all but the biggest technophobe but, because sometimes things go wrong there are “safe” and “risky” ways to go about it.

So, now you now what you need to update, let’s find out why it’s necessary – and get a taste of what can go wrong.

Why are updates needed?

One of the main reasons for updates is to fix security flaws. These are usually issues that don’t affect the performance of your site (as it in it still works) but plugs any gaps – “vulnerabilities” – that would enable a hacker to access your site. If you don’t want to risk losing your site, these updates are on the critical list!

But many updates are a result of improvements to the software, trying to reduce “bloat” (which is tech talk for tidying up the code) or implement new features.

As an example, WordPress recently issued a major update, going from version 5.4.x to 5.5.0. In software terms a major update is a Big Deal, which is why there was a Mexican wave of screams on developer forums, because the update changed something quite significant in the way WordPress works and consequently loads of plugins stopped working! Obviously then the knock-on of this is that lots of plugin updates were rolled out. Actually, these are still coming out, because as the updates are released new bugs are found (they had to react fast to try and fit in with WP 5.0.x, which is never a good place for a software developer to be!)

Likewise the changes impacted themes, which are built around the WordPress “core” software. Furthermore, some themes are designed and tested to work with certain plugins, so you can see how the whole things is interconnected and faults in one will impact another.

How do I know what needs to be updated?

The caveat with all this is that you have to have Admin level access to be able to keep on top of this, so if you have an account you use for site updates and another for full access to the Dashboard, you need to login as an Admin from time-to-time to see whether there’s anything do.

Likewise, if you don’t have an admin level account, you should (must) ask the person who created your site to either create one for you OR to create a new account for you. As the owner of the site, you really should have full access to it.

Once you’re logged in as an Admin you can check for updates and start to apply them. You can find the list of everything that needs updating in the Updates list, under Dashboard.

I don’t know where to start. What’s next?

There’s no magic to updating a WordPress site and – usually – it’s fairly straight forward. As with anything tech-related, before making any changes you should make sure you have a full backup. There are various ways to do this, and I’ll explain one or two in future posts.

When was the last time you updated your site? Did you run into any issues with the major WordPress update that was rolled out?

In my next post I’ll describe how to check your site so you can see whether updates are needed. Then we’ll look at doing the updates themselves.

Tools & Tips, Computer Maintenance, Tutorials

Spring Clean Your System Series: Introduction

Spring is in the air – at last! With the increasing light, we naturally start to clear out all those dusty corners and give our homes and gardens a good tidy up, ready for the year ahead. But what about your technology?

If, like me, you use your computer for work and also have a number of other devices you use, such as a table or iPad, the chances are you have a lot of files to organise. Whether that’s photos, e-mail or documents, just like your regular paper-based filing pile, a lot of clutter can build up over time if you don’t stay on top of it. And that’s just the stuff you see.

Whenever we use technology lots of files are used behind the scenes and these also mount up over time; things like temp (temporary) files, cookies from websites we visit, and a legion of other one-time and short-time-use files. All this invisible clutter stays on your system and over time slows it down, which is why it’s worth removing it. And what better time than Spring, since that’s when we get busy tidying generally.

Now all you need is a few specialist (free) tools and the know-how. What better way to start the week than with decluttered and organised computer! To help you with this I’ve put together a series of posts that will take you through the various ways you can tidying up and also get organised.

What’s Covered

First we’ll look at ways to declutter all those invisible files using some free software designed just for that purpose.

Then we’ll look at decluttering our files and applications.

And finally, once we’ve cleaned up our act, we’ll make sure we’ve got everything backed up, either to The Cloud or to an external disk or drive.

While you’re waiting…

In the meantime, why not get out some screen wipes and give the screen and keyboard a good wipe down. And, if you have a desktop PC or a laptop with a visible vent, it’s a good idea to put the hoover up to the back of the fan vent and suck out the dust especially if you have pets. No, seriously. One of our computers was constantly overheating. When we took the back off to check that all was well with the heat-sink we found, to our surprise, an enormous ball of fluff had collected there. No wonder it wouldn’t work!

Taking that one step further, if you’re confident to open the case on a desktop machine – and can do so without invalidating any warranties – it’s well worth giving your computer’s insides a good freshen up. Just open it up and give all the dusty looking bits a blast of air from an air canister such as this one on Amazon*. No more fluff – and no more whirring fan.

Although the focus of this will be on Windows systems, many of the techniques and tips will also be relevant for Mac users. Where there are differences, I’ll provide separate info in later posts.

Credits: main image copyright

Are you ready to Spring Clean Your System? Don’t want to miss out? Make sure you click the green Follow button and subscribe to receive Languedoc 121 Tech tips and news via email.

PLEASE NOTE, that this post contains an affiliate link. If you buy something through one of those links you won’t pay a penny more but I will get a small commission.

Productivity Tools, Tools & Tips, Websites

SEO Tools: From Yoast to SEO Press

Since I first started working with WordPress I’ve been using the Yoast plugin for my SEO. It’s a great tool. I’ve been happy with it and have been happily recommending it to clients. But lately there’s been chatter in some groups where WordPress pros and others discuss their SEO tools of choice, and I’ve been hearing very good things about SEO Press. After reading many reviews to find out more, I’ve decided to give it a go.

As I type, I’m backing up my personal blog and will shortly be installing SEO Press. Once it’s installed I will then go through the configuration and setup procedure (if there is one) and then work on and publish my first post using it. According to the instructions I’ve read it’s simple to use and has some great features, such as tools to help with titles and metatags, the creation of XML and HTML sitemaps (the latter being somewhat overlooked these days but still very helpful), content analysis with unlimited keywords, and also making it easy to implement Schema – a form of metadata that is increasingly favoured by search engines, giving your content much greater visibility in searches.

There’s a comparison of the tool’s features on the SEO Press website. It sounds impressive, at least for a free plugin. As with anything the proof will be in the pudding. After using it for a while I’ll come back with a review – on usability and also whether it makes any discernible difference to my site’s SEO! Of course, there’s no plugin in the world that can actually boost your site’s SEO. Only good writing and constant review and improvement can do that! But what a good SEO plugin can do is guide you a little and make some of the technical side of SEO, such as adding Schema tags and maintaining your XML sitemaps, easier to manage. Wish me luck!

Do you need help with your website SEO or WordPress tools and plugins? If so, contact me to arrange a free consultation – no obligation.

Read more articles about WordPress

Tools & Tips, Troubleshooting, WordPress

Fun and Games with Mixed Content and SSL Errors

Thanks to Google everyone is now familiar with the secure site padlock in the browser address bar. It’s pretty easy to setup thanks to some great tools like Let’s Encrypt (that generates free SSL certificates) and (for WordPress) plugins Really Simple SSL. But it’s not always plain sailing! Sometimes, despite using these tools you get mixed content and SSL errors> There’s plenty of info online about how to find and fix these (again, using plugins) but this is how I was able to repair a site that had just one page layout that was showing as HTTPS in the address bar but still listed as Not Secure.

Finally! I’ve been trying to figure out why a client site, one with no SSL issues (until now) has been showing just one page of the blog as Not Secure. I Googled, backed up the site then tried changing the URL using Elementor Tools (using the http version of the address and changing it to https). Nothing found.

Then I went into the SQL database and ran query on the http version of the site. Nothing found. Hmmm…

Another check on the incredibly handy Why No Padlock site (which should have been my first port of call) and an old non-HTTPS URL, actually to a development copy that I hosted locally, was flagged up for one of the images used on the page.

Next step: check the source for the offending image file.

Next setback: no file with that name is listed in the source.

So back in the SQL database I ran a search on the path of the file and found that there were 107 instances of it in wp_postmeta and another 27 in wp_posts. It’s definitely there!

A quick URL find and replace later using this query and it’s all back to being padlocked and secured.

UPDATE wp_postmeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value, 'OLD URL', 'NEW URL');

UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = replace(guid, 'OLD URL', 'NEW URL');

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'OLD URL', 'NEW URL');


News & Updates

Our hosting is Green!

As of 2019 we are happy to be able to announce that our servers are powered 100% by ”green energy”. But what does that mean? Well, in this case, it means all the energy used to power the data centre* comes from renewable sources. Because our servers are in the UK, the provider is Ecotricity. Look them up. This isn’t about planting a few trees or an annual carbon offset – this is genuinely renewable energy!

For the new year I’m working on some standard hosting packages, which I’ll be launching later this month, but for now, if you need hosting, contact me to discuss your needs.

Our self-managed* hosting packages start from 10 euros per month and include:

  • Unlimited domains
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • 99.9% uptime
  • WordPress
  • Webmail
  • GDPR-compliant security, based in the UK
  • A fully-featured CPanel admin panel

With a self-managed package you are given full admin access and take responsibility for all of the management – adding domains, site backups, updates to your WordPress site, and so on.

Tools & Tips

Your Website and GDPR: Privacy Policy and Consent Copy

In my previous post, Are You GDPR Ready?, I suggested seven steps you should take to get ready for GDPR. In this post I’ll address numbers two and three:
How to Publish a Privacy Policy on your site to gain your user’s consent and Implement an Opt-In policy.

Publish Your Privacy Policy

Step 1:  Write Your Privacy Policy

Yes, the first thing to do, if you don’t already have one, is to write the policy. The new regulations advise businesses to use ordinary language so the best way to do this is to write it yourself. Take a look at the one on this site and also take a look at others, ideally for businesses similar to your own. Assuming you’ve done your audit already, you should understand exactly what data you have, how and why you use it, and where and how it is stored. All of that information needs to go into your policy document.

Step 2: Publish the Privacy Policy

To publish this to your site, create a new page for your website or blog and copy the policy text there.

It’s good practice to make this easy to find, so add a link to it from your website’s menu or somewhere out of the way but not hidden, like the page footer.

Step 3: Share Your Privacy Policy with Visitors to Your Site

If you have a website built around one of the many CRM platforms – Joomla, WordPress, SquareSpace, or Wix – the developers are ahead of the game, and there are a number of plugins that will make your work easier.

This site, based on WordPress, uses the plugin called GDPR by TrewKnowledge. It’s easy to set up and requires linking to your privacy policy page and some text added for the cookie consent popups. It has a bunch of other advanced features that you can use, if you need to.

Search Google and you can easily find similar tools for the other platforms listed above. If you’re not sure what any of this means, ask your web developer for help but don’t ignore the issue! It’s a necessary step in ensuring your site (and therefore your business) is compliant.

If you’ve got a static website, the simplest way to do this is make your new privacy policy page the landing page for your site. That way you know anyone who visits your site will have read it. Create a link to your main site, hidden behind the policy page, and require them to click link text that makes it clear that by clicking on the link to accept the site they accept the policy.

The downside of this approach is that it’s fairly unsophisticated: anyone visiting the site again will again be taken to the same policy page and will be required to consent on each repeat visit.

Implement an Opt-In Policy

If you collect email addresses for a mailing list or use forms, you need to ensure that users opt-in to any use of or storage of their data.

Opt-In to Mailing Lists

Most mailing list forms require the user to enter their name and email address before clicking a button to submit the form. Make sure that your text explicitly states how this information will be used (e.g., “in order to send you the weekly newsletter”, or whatever) whether or not it will be shared with or used by third parties, and anything else relevant to the person signing up in order that they can consent to it. You then need to ensure that any emails that are sent to the list, including any welcome message, makes it clear how the person who has signed up unsubscribes. That’s pretty standard stuff these days, but it’s worth checking that you have your house in order.

Opt-In for Forms

For contact forms, you must add a check box alongside a statement requiring consent for the data you provide to be used and stored. It’s also worth putting a link to your privacy policy but that alone is not good enough: you need to spell it out to the user there and then, in order that they can consent. An example of this is to say: “By submitting this form you consent to [company name] using and storing my information in order to respond to my inquiry.”

As with anything, there is more you can do but for small business and organisations it’s unlikely they will be necessary.

Disclaimer: This information is intended as guidance only. It is not a substitute for legal advice and is based on personal research conducted by the of the author. Ensuring your business is GDPR compliant is the responsibility of your Data Controller. 

Now read part 3 in this series.

In the next post find out how to makes sure files you create and store, on your laptop or other device, are secure.

Image credit:

Do you need help? Contact me now to arrange a personalised tech support or training session.
A banner with the words Tool Tip! and the words "Use icons on your docs and website" written on a small blackboard.
Tools & Tips, Websites

Using Icons in Websites and Documents

If you’re building a website or working on a document and you want to use some icons, where do you find them? A well-placed and well-designed icon can really give your site and files a professional look and feel.

There are many places to find them but you can quickly search Bootstrap, Font Awesome and Google via the Icon Reference page on the W3S site. Other icon sets, along with Font Awesome, are available from this Bootsnipp page.

From here, as the URL suggests, you can search the main open-source font sets using keywords. Or you can select a particular font set, if you have a preference.

The instructions below are for using the icons on your website. I’ll describe how to use them in a document in another post.

Search for an icon to use.

Type a relevant word into the Search box and click Enter. Keep in mind that most labels have a US focus, so you should look for trash instead of bin. In the example below, I searched for “home”. Scroll down the page to see the available options.

Get the link text for your icon.

When you’ve found the icon you want to use, click on it. This opens up a window showing the code to use for the icon. Press Ctrl+C to copy the code then OK to close the window.

Paste the code into your file.

Because the code is HTML, you need to make sure you are working in a format that can read it. If you are working in a WordPress template file (.php) or an HTML file, then you can just paste it in. If you’re in a blog post or page you will need to make sure it is read as HTML. In Gutenberg, do this by choosing the Custom HTML block type, which is listed under Formatting. If you’re using the Classic Editor, you should change to the Text tab and paste it in position.

Add a link to the icon source to your website’s header file.

When a browser reads an icon file link, t needs to know where to get that information from, so you need to put the link information in your website. The best place to do this is somewhere that’s related on the every page. In most WordPress template, these links will be there by default. If you find that your icons aren’t showing, check the header file, and if it’s not there, paste it in.You can find all the links on the Links for Font Icons page of this site.

That’s it! Just upload the edited header file to your server and your icons will be displayed. Here’s how my home icon looks on this page, with the icon code inserted here –>

For reference, here’s a link to my page with the icon source links:
Links for Font Icons