My favorite part of web development?

Recently, I was asked what my favorite part of web development is…. for me, this answer ebbs and flows with the phases of website design and implementation.

I love nailing the basics of a design on the first sketch. It took me a long time to learn how to ask the right questions in the discovery phase to present prototypes that inspire clients to move to the next phase of the project.

I love finding tools that help my clients automate and accomplish their goals. I started creating with WordPress over a decade ago and have learned quite a bit on how to identify trustworthy plugins and themes, empower content creators, secure websites and maintain brand identities.

I love pushing the edge of my knowledge. A long time ago, in a software marketing department far, far away, I taught myself the basics of web design after my boss needed to fire our startup’s webmaster. I know just enough php to be dangerous because WordPress doesn’t always do what I want. I’ve fallen in love with the power of wp-cli. Google is my friend. I love that code can become art.

I love a successful launch. I love when a client emails me to thank me because the orders are rolling in. I love the ‘A-ha moment’ clients have when I sit with them to teach them to maintain their content, add blog posts, promote products, etc. I love projects where I learn things and feel accomplished.

Landing Pages

Today was a big day for landing pages around here. Landing pages are a great way to bridge the gap between old and new websites – or when you’re just beginning to build your audience. Be sure to include some sort of call to action for your visitors!


How did I get here?

In the mid-90s I was asked by a high tech marketing manager to take over for the fired-webmaster. I knew very little html at the time, but learned quickly and enjoyed the creative power of css. In the subsequent 13 years I call my ‘corporate days’, I worked in several software companies (listed below!) on small and large corporate teams creating all manner of marketing – including translations of software websites, brand development,  electronic marketing and social media.

In 2005, I left the software world to begin my own adventure as a proprietor of a healing arts center and metaphysical retail shop. With my husband, I built a successful brick and mortar store, developed a decent following online with e-newsletters, an online store, and social media and continue to manage the shop’s electronic marketing  and e-commerce today. We sold the shop to new owners in winter of 2012 and our email list has grown to almost 10,000 clients. It remains a successful brand in the original vision. I’m proud to continue to work there.

Since 2007, I have been building my own freelance marketing business that caters to small businesses and entrepreneurs who are in the DIY set. I do some print design, but have primarily website design and maintenance clients with whom I use only WordPress. I currently mange a few dozen websites in production, as well as several sites in development / maintenance mode.

Work History

Fontaholic Designs
Jan 2007 – Present
Northampton, MA

I love working with small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to take a DIY role in web site and marketing projects. I try to provide tools and education as well as design and development to empower people to contribute, communicate and expand their business and sell their products or services effectively to through their website, social media and email and print marketing.

Inspirit Common / Inspirit Crystals
Former Owner & Principal Participant / Now Shopgirl & Webmaster
Jun 2005 – Present
Northampton, MA

Inspirit Common (now Inspirit Crystals) a unique metaphysical center began in 2005 in Hadley MA,  offering yoga, massage, healing arts, workshops and inspired spiritually charged gifts. We moved moved the shop to Northampton in 2009, dropping the event and healing spaces. In late 2012 we sold our beloved shop to new owners, but I still remain in employment, offering expertise and continuity. While Principal Participant there, I was in ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ doing all tasks related to running a retail service establishment with my partner and a dedicated crew of employees. I also taught Svaroopa yoga for many years. A DIY marketer at heart, I created a complex drop-ship e-commerce website and grew the electronic marketing list to more than 5000 names. I am grateful the shop remains open and available as a resource to the community. Today I am still creating much of their marketing content and manage their web properties.

Chaiest Vision / Sparkle Chai
Jun 2008 – Oct 2015
Traveling tea and cookies for the highest and best. Created product packaging, booth decor and magical woodland tea house ambiance for my partner Bucky Sparkle’s famous chai tea – creamy, sweet, spicy – served hot or cold at many favorite festivals and events. Managed off season online sales and fulfillment.

BrassRing, a Washington Post Company
Marketing Manager / Webmaster
Sep 2003 – May 2005
Greater Boston Area

A pioneer Internet based job board system. I created our marketing websites and worked closely with the user interface team in the development department. Created corporate sales, marketing and internal slide decks, videos and screen casts to demonstrate the product from the point of view of the job seeker, hiring manager or interviewer. Worked with large branding company to launch international campaigns for enterprise users such as Ikea.

The MathWorks
International Web Specialist
Jan 2000 – Sep 2003
Greater Boston Area

Helped this popular mathematics software company expand their online marketing presence by managing the website translation process for more than two dozen languages. Worked closely with development and marketing departments to maintain corporate brand and technical accuracy as well as international offices for language consistency.

Marketing Manager
Sep 1997 – Dec 1999
Greater Boston Area

Recruited by previous employer to join this dotcom boom software start up to revolutionize the fax industry over Internet Protocol. Voice over IP was just gaining ground and we were forging relationships with the big guys like AT&T and international telecommunications companies. Maintained website, created corporate graphics, advertising, press releases, customer literature and sales materials. Managed international trade show program and traveled the world talking about fax over IP.

Atria Software / Pure Atria Software
Marketing Communications Manager
Aug 1994? – Sep 1997
Greater Boston Area

I was hired by the VP of Marketing at this Apollo Software spin-off that originally created ClearCase (now owned by IBM), version control management software. The company was growing quickly and we created tradeshow booths, sales decks, advertising campaigns, print materials galore while growing a team that more than quadrupled in size during my time there. I traveled to places near and far to set up workshops, press events, corporate meetings and boom style software conventions with parties and executive meetings and of course, lots of great schwag. When we merged with Pure Software, I managed our brand redesign project and worked in our Amsterdam office for six weeks doing European event management.

Price Lampert Associates
Marketing Communications Specialist
Aug 1992 – Aug 1994?
Framingham, MA

When the Vice Presidents of the design agency split off to form their own Event Planning company, they took me along. Being the third person on a three woman team, we accomplished a LOT for IDG / IDC publications like Computerworld, Network World and Info World magazines. We created the trade shows, corporate functions, private parties and other events. I quickly learned how to do rudimentary graphic design, managed large mailings, scouted venues, and sold trade show space and sponsorships and handled attendee relations. Several years after I left the company, one of the owners told me they had to ultimately hire seven people to fill all the gaps I had left.

The Selig Group
Telesales Specialist
May 1991 – Aug 1992
Greater Boston Area

Fresh out of college (Boston University, COM 91), I cold called businesses in the Greater Boston area to sell creative services, event production and marketing offered by this small marketing design agency. Supported designers, sales agents and event managers in daily processes like preparing presentation boards or portfolio packets. Clients included UMass, Earth Day and  International Data Group. Here I became familiar with Macintosh computer systems.

Until 2005, I used my maiden name, Emily Hierstein. In high school and college I worked at Lauriat’s book stores and for TWO balloon decorating companies in the Greater Boston Area. I also did a stint in a coffee bar called Coffee Connection in the mid-90s and worked at Maya’s Dream in Natick, MA where I feel in love with crystals.

My Custom CSS – Twenty Seventeen

WordPress Help

When I was starting to learn WordPress, I sought, and got, some great advice from random strangers on the Internet on many WP topics. With a little assistance from the Inspect tool, I  was able to figure out how to customize the look of my chosen themes.

Sometimes Google would reward me with  great articles that explained how to modify standard WordPress themes to suit style requirements.

In an attempt to give back, I offer the first in a series of Custom CSS articles that I hope will empower and educate.

I learned about Twenty Seventeen at a recent WordCamp US and was looking forward to playing around with it because it has lots of new bells and whistles. As luck would have it, the very next week, a client called in need of an emergency portfolio site and Twenty Seventeen fit the bill nicely.

Among other improvements to WordPress 4.7, is the  WordPress Customizer. > Additional CSS option.  This new panel will go a long way for the DIY WordPress crowd. Twenty Seventeen allows users to customize css from the wp-admin without having to create a child theme. If you’re new to CSS but feeling brave, feel free to use the snippets below in the wp-admin > Customizer > Additional CSS panel.

I will add more clips over time and welcome you to offer any of your code clips in my (moderated) comments.

Change background color behind the site title and description

.site-branding {background: #000;}

Change color of the site title

body.has-header-image .site-title, body.has-header-video .site-title, body.has-header-image .site-title a, body.has-header-video .site-title a, a {color:#AAC300;}
Of course, you can use any color you want.

Change size and letter spacing of the site description

body.has-header-image .site-description, body.has-header-video .site-description {font-size: 1.3em; letter-spacing: 3px;}

Change background color of a front page section

#panel1 div.panel-content {background: #AAC300!important;}
You may need to use a code inspector to identify the correct panel number, section content is defined in the Customizer > Theme Options

Change standard body font

body, button, input, select, textarea {font-family: "Comic Sans", sans-serif;}
Just kidding about the Comic Sans, but you get the idea.

Change menu item font, width and center label li {font-family: "Comic Sans", sans-serif; width: 20%; text-align: center;}

Change submenu background color

.main-navigation li li a {background-color: #123E4A!important;}

Change submenu link text hover color

.main-navigation li li a:hover {color: #B5C41E!important;}

Align bullets with left paragraph edge

entry-content ol, .entry-content ul {list-style-position: inside;}

Change footer background color and bring it on top of full page background image

.site-footer {background: #AAC300; position:relative; z-index:9999;}

Hide WordPress footer ad

.site-info a {display: none;}

Center logo on page

#masthead .wrap {text-align: center;}

Make logo larger

.custom-logo-link img, body.home.title-tagline-hidden.has-header-image .custom-logo-link img, body.home.title-tagline-hidden.has-header-video .custom-logo-link img {max-width: 100%; max-height: 100%;}

Created with TwentySeventeen

Hosting Options

When selecting Web hosting services for your WordPress project, be sure the host is Wordpress friendly. Does it support the currently required technology?

Also helpful are access to the hosting account

  • Control Panel (C-panel)
  • FTP Access & Administration
  • phpMyAdmin
  • Email Administration

I offer basic WordPress Hosting but actually prefer my clients to host with a third party.

WordPress  maintains a list of recommended hosts. If you’re currently hosting on GoDaddy, and are happy with them, I am also familiar with their setup and can work with you, but no longer recommend them to new clients. I generally point people to DreamHost as their service is reliable and their support is great.

Shared vs. VPS vs Cloud?

Depending on what the scope of your project is you’ll need to consider what type of hosting you site will require. Most small business and independent entrepreneurs find a shared host sufficient. Fair warning: Shared hosts can be sloooooow. Often the addage ‘you get what you paid for’ is true, cheap service likely equals slow site load times for varying reasons. If your shared site is getting bogged down you could consider using VPS. CDN & Cloud hosting is a great option for large online stores with heavy image traffic load.


What do you want it to look like?

Whether you’re in the inspiration or creation stage of your project, talking about art is hard! I find it most helpful when my clients can answer the following questions and provide their own digital artifacts.

  • Please provide the urls of up to web SIX sites that you think are most like the ‘style’ or ‘image’ you  would like for your web site. Be specific if you like the site’s colors, text layout, or other ideas you have.
  • Are there existing graphics, logos, photos, images for the site?
  • Do you have a color scheme in mind?
  • Would you like to have any animated graphics, text or video on your web site?
  • Would you like to have any sound or music on your web site?

Looking at stock photo sites or ‘best of’ websites are a good way to get inspiration when building a website. Pop your targeted keywords into Google and look at the sites that come up. Why do you think it works or doesn’t work?

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Still have questions? Contact Me.