Free Cloud Hosting with Amazon (AWS) Free Tier

Amazon Web Services Free Tier Hosting

Besides leaving packages at our front door, Amazon runs a massive cloud computing operation branded as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Many companies, e.g., Amazon’s store, Netflix, Reddit, Pinterest, etc., use AWS to back their systems. Even some federal US government agencies employ AWS: NASA and the CIA.

As an incentive to new users, AWS offers a free tier of a selection of their products for the first year. The free tier includes a t2.micro instance web server:

This is great for designers/developers to power their WordPress website free of charge! The free tier would also be adequate for small businesses with low to medium net traffic. Since AWS is designed to be highly scalable, it is easy to scale the services as your demands increase.

Setting up the AWS server

This guide will walk you through the steps of creating your free AWS server.
The free tier has usage limits–you will be charged when these are exceeded.

Step 1: Setup your AWS account

  • Navigate to
  • Set up your new AWS account

Step 2: Fire up an Ubuntu Linux instance

Amazon provides a very detail guide on the proper way to set up an EC2 instance: Read the documentation.

Step 3: Install the the software prerequisites for WordPress

Once the server is up and running, we can being to install applications on our brand new Ubuntu server. To be able to run a WordPress server, we need to have a server (NGINX), a database (MySQL), and PHP.

Digital Ocean provides a fantastic guide on setting up the LEMP stack. Read the documentation.

Step 4: Obtain WordPress

This step will retrieve the latest installation of WordPress and put it on our server.

Step 5: Set up the database

We need to set up a database for our WordPress installation to store its data. The following instructions is for the command line–an alternative would be using PHPMyAdmin.

Step 6: Provide the proper database credentials for the WordPress installation

This step enables the communication between WordPress and our database.

Step 7: Configure Nginx hosting options

Nginx handles the requests coming into the server.

Step 8: Test our server

Restart nginx/php5-fpm

Point your browser to your domain or IP address and you will be greeted with the WordPress screen!


Top Web Design Trends to Adopt in 2015

At the time of writing this, the web is almost 24 years old . From what started as a strange science project has grown into a media consumption and human expression engine like the world has never seen before. The internet is a constantly evolving machine that has reached roughly 40% of the world and growing, without showing any signs of stopping or slowing down. Every business, from multinational brands and corporations to mom and pop shop’s need an online presence. Some stand out and some don’t, but in today’s world if you don’t stand out you just drown in the rest of the noise that humans have learned to tune out. Here are the top web design trends that we are seeing in preparation for 2015:

A Strong Conceptual Direction

The days of boring static content displaying your offerings with lists of text and boring stock imagery is coming to an end. With the endless choices of sites for viewers to spend their limited time on, no one has time for boring content. Taking a cue from the advertising industry, the web is becoming more entertaining and thus there is a need for concepts. The conceptual direction of the site should focus on entertaining the people that you want as customers and brand ambassadors. To create a lasting impression the content should not only be relevant but also worth watching or reading. Here a few examples of awesome concepts.

Withings Aura

Withings launched their #NoMoreSnooze campaign to promote their new Aura alarm clock. The site entertains the viewer with awesome videos of different alarm clock being destroyed in different ways while educating the viewer with fun facts about sleeping and health. The Aura is a different type of alarm clock that uses light instead of sound. Their unique content strategy beautifully matches a unique product.

No More Snooze Website

Jack Daniel’s Bar Stories

In this example Jack Daniels speaks to their core audience that frequents dive bars with an entertaining display of bar stories from around the country. Jack understands their target market and this microsite shows that perfectly.

Jack Daniel's Official Website

Warsaw Rising

Warsaw Rising combines video, scroll interactions, and smooth modern animations to create an amazing experience that tells the story of Warsaw, Poland during World War 2.

Warsaw Rising Website

Beyond Charts: Data Visualizations

While static charts and graphs still have a place in the world, dynamic and interactive content is leading the way in web engagement. Interactive data visualizations are not only interesting and beautiful to look at, but also entertaining to play with and fun to learn from.

Here is beautiful example of population growth around the world that displays the power of WebGl in an awesome 3D Chrome experiment (Google Chrome only).

Data Arts Website

This is an awesome example using three.js to simulate the neural network of the brain. The viewer even has the option to customize the visualization with a series of options such as color, size, and speed.

Neural Network

Large Beautiful Videos That Tell Stories

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes they just get scanned over, or they are too conceptual and the viewer has to decide what they are looking at. Videos add another layer of depth to your content that when done right can help tell the story of your brand or give another layer to your messaging. Here are a few examples of videos done right:


We2Print’s target market consists of traditional printers looking to expand their business into the digital market. By displaying the familiar video of a press at work with a catchy tagline overlayed the landing becomes more interesting than any other company competing in their space.

Web 2 Print Website

Kientzler Consulting

Kientzler consulting’s workshops revolve around collaboration between team members within an organization. The background video of a team collaborating not only becomes an interesting texture behind an overview of the process, but also lends itself to the creative nature of the experience.

Kientzler Consulting Website

The Obakki Foundation

The Obakki Foundation shows a powerful, beautiful introduction video of water being brought to Africa to quickly set the tone of their organization upon landing on the site. The context of the videos are quick and self explanatory, but it also sets the tone for their branding as a whole. Clean, modern, and sophisticated.

Obakki Fountation Website

Unconventional Messaging and Graphics

Unless your target market is the entire world (if you say it is we should be having another conversation), your message should not attempt to reach everyone. You should instead choose to craft a message that speaks directly to your audience as if you are in the same club.

Creative agency Purple Rock Scissors uses “Every Day We’re Hustling” to bring their own personality to the forefront of their site. While taking the risk of possibly scaring off certain clients, they will be instantly recognized by others as creative and fun to work with (on purpose).

Purple Rock Scissors Website

German creative firm Hochburg uses aggressive graphics with an emphasis on hand done vs digital imagery that sets them apart in a way that may seem too risky for some, but exactly what another client may be looking for.

Hochburg Website

Modern Animations

Buttery smooth animation is an absolute must for any effects added to your website. Glitchy, slow, or dysfunctional animations instantly turn away viewers. With all of the high resolution screen devices on the market today choosing the right framework is key. A few libraries that we recommend are:
Snap SVG

High Quality Images

15 years ago it may have sounded like an awesome idea to be able to go online and type in “Business man holding chart” and having an endless array of various hands, in various colors, posing in various positions popping up on the screen. The only problem with that is the whole world caught on and now stock image is a style. The environment is clearly staged with actors pretending to be doing something professionally, with a slight hint of blue if it’s in the medical or business category. Instead either opt for hiring a photographer, selecting more conceptual images, or just take a look around at what’s in the high quality public domain. Here are a few of our favorites:

Pic Jumbo
Split Shire

So step it up a notch
It’s not just enough to have a clean professional website anymore. You have to create engaging content that has an intentional purpose. Whether you are looking for new customers, launching a new product, or spreading a message, bring content that has a soul and personality or be ignored.


Set your WordPress Data Free (WP Rest API)

The Future of WordPress

WordPress is a great piece of software that has grown way beyond its meager blogging roots. But the future of WordPress might be as a set of components that allow you to pick and choose what you need from it. With the recent 1.1 version release of the new WP REST API plug-in, the software is evolving into a more flexible content management platform. This API  is slated to  become implemented as part of the core module sometime on or after version 4.1  but we can see its potential and play with it now .

What is an API?

If you don’t know what an API is, its basically a way to publicly expose the data that you want to share in an easy to work with format. At its core, Word Press is just a great  front end for a SQL database. The WP Rest API is a simple plug-in that allows us to access our Word Press database from another piece of software
Retrieving or updating your data  from a WP site is as simple as issuing an HTTP request.  The data is returned in the easy to use JSON format.  It can include posts, pages, users, taxonomies and more.

I used an awesome Chrome browser plug-in called Postman to send this request.  This is what the returned data looks like.Set Your Data Free WordPress Rest API
To use this in a website you would create a standard javascript or jquery  Ajax request .  The returned data can then be formatted for presentation in any way you would like.

Looking Forward with WordPress

The idea of controlling the presentation of data is dying. More and more software companies are creating  API’s that allow others free access to their data. This will allow others to manipulate data in ways that the creator of the data may never even have thought of.  With just a small hook into a WordPress site you now have  access to all the information that you need and you can present it in any way you see fit.

Looking forward, who knows what we can build with this new API. As developers and designers, we have not yet thought about what the most exciting implementations will be.  Will this open up a whole new line of entrepreneurship?  Probably.  Developers are already creating new plug-ins that extend the current API.  Soon we will see awesome user dashboards  built on top of this new API. These dashboards will allow clients to update their website content in ever more intuitive and manageable ways.

This is also a huge advantage for the mobile app world.  Developers  can now access a WordPress site and store that data for offline viewing.  Something that has not been previously possible. But perhaps the biggest benefit is that web applications that require access to a Word Press content  can now be built in any language that you like. This opens up a world of possibilities.  For us here at ZenDen, this is an exciting time to be a Word Press developer.