Formatting Your Web Page or Post

Journalist getting ready to type

Journalist getting ready to type

Make Your Readers Uber Happy

A bit of a snoozer – formatting pages and posts right? But did you know there are some established tricks to make them easier to read and increase comprehension? Zzz – what did I just lose you?

Let’s try that again – how about "pages that get read" and "awesome posts". Here are a few tips.

Dos

  1. Honor thy theme stylings. Use the theme styling set for paragraphs, titles, block quotes and colors. Consistency is key with keeping an organized easy to read layout.
  2. Do left align the text – it is the easiest to read alignment.
  3. Paragraphs should be relatively short and one topic.
  4. Use bulleted lists to impart lists and info – users love love love them. Your theme hopefully is putting a line between lists otherwise it’s a giant paragraph.
  5. Use titles to announce new subjects, this will guide the eye down the page more effectively than paragraphs. It’s easier to read than a "sea of text".
  6. Quotes look great with the blockquote function in WordPress and help break up the text. A lot of themes will be pre-styled for quotes.
  7. Use restraint with bolding and italics, it should be the exception not the rule.

Don’ts

  1. Underlines on websites are a no-no. Underlines mean one thing – links.
  2. Link your URLs using a word or pic, not www.anywhere.com. Your site visitors know what a link is and this is not a print document.
  3. For adding pictures inside bulleted lists – align right. Left aligned pictures with bulleted lists look messy and many themes have no margin established for that format.
  4. "Click here" is out. People are more sophisticated these days, they get what a highlighted linked word is.
  5. Avoid red text emphasis – unless it’s part of the theme palette. Ignore marketing gurus on this, they are not usability experts. A high contrast color that matches your theme palette is sufficient.
  6. Don’t override alignment with centering, it’s rarely needed and will be tough to read.
  7. Don’t justify the text. It will look like a sea of spaces and studies show it slows reading comprehension. The web is not quite there yet with justification – but soon.
  8. If centering a picture, make sure it’s more than 1/3 width of the content box area. But normally, resist the urge to center.
  9. Keep it readable. Don’t reduce the font size below 16 pixels (not points). This is the standard size now for the multiple devices your site will be viewed on.

And of course – use an AWESOME picture with your post to emotionally engage your readers. Not sure about images? I wrote some tips for that.

Posted in Formatting Posts and Pages

Finding the Right Images

Searching image

I’m going to assume you all know you can’t just google for pictures and grab them off websites right? Images are creative works and even if no copyright is displayed, it does not mean it is public domain and available for use. Permission is always required. So be sure to always check the licensing on any image you use.

Most of you most likely are using stock images and illustrations and already are careful about licensing or able to figure out Flickr licenses on what is allowed. Excellent.

One of the free sources that was talked a lot about recently was Getty Images. There are some downsides to using the Getty’s embed free images, I did a blog post about it if you want to check it out.

Choosing the Right Image

Before we move along to where to get images, first, how about choosing the right images?

  1. Make sure they match the style of the page.
  2. The image or illustration should relate to the subject of the page. If your blog post is about coffee, showing a picture of a rubber duck would obviously confuse the reader.
  3. Avoid overused stock images – this is B O R I N G. Look for less used images or illustrations. We get lectured about this a lot at web design conferences – avoid overused stock and consider using illustrations.
  4. Look for emotionally engaging photos/illustrations that help the point of your blog post or page. It need only be one idea or emotion.
  5. Use photos that are empathetic to the reader when appropriate.
  6. Use quality images. Even if they aren’t free, some are only a buck. Looking for free images that don’t meet the criteria mentioned usually short changes your marketing message.
  7. Images should engage but not overwhelm. Content first – most of us are not photographers showing our portfolio.

A good blog post about picking images is on Noupe "Ten Golden Rules for Choosing the Right Website Images."

Favorite Image Resources

For editorial images (usually involves a popular persona) for a news article.

There you have it – nice little list of fav image resources for your posts and pages. ENJOY!

Posted in Formatting Posts and Pages, Web Design, Website tips

Easy Peesy Heatmaps with Crazy Egg

Scroll Map example

Scroll Map example

One of my friends recently stated I knew all those web design insider secrets. Secrets? Well no it isn’t a secret, most things I share are often standard stuff to the typical web designer. Like any industry, we have best practices and popular tools but I do read a lot of industry publications to keep abreast of the latest.

Today I’ll share one of those possible so called secrets. Heatmaps!

Sidekick for Google Analytics

I know, yawn, Google Analytics. Hardly the most interesting of reports to delve through so I won’t bore you on how they are useful. Hopefully you already know stats about bounce rates, traffic and page views are useful info for marketing decisions.

However, sometimes it just isn’t enough to give you the whole picture. This is where heatmaps are pretty nifty. Lately I have incorporated it into my web design process so I know how well a current layout is doing.

See Clicks in a Heatmap

What is a heatmap? A heatmap shows what is popular visually with colors ranging from red for hot to blue for cold. Heatmaps track the clicks on a page on a website (snapshots).

CrazyEgg.com is one of the leading services for heatmaps. With Crazy Egg, you install a tracking script (or WordPress plugin) on your website. The script once installed will track the clicks on the pages you picked out for snapshots. Over time you will see visually where your site visitors are clicking.

I gotta tell you – nothing like a picture to say a thousand words. Sometimes stats just aren’t enough, a picture shows you exactly at a glance how effective layout items are. For example:

  • Are the menu items working? You can tell exactly what they find interesting.
  • How about your sidebar, are they clicking on your promoted items or shared info?
  • How far are they scrolling down the page? You can see that visually too with a scroll map.
  • Where are the clicks coming from? Confetti view can show you.

So how useful is this information? Instead of just reading about numbers of page views and page links, you get a view of how well the layout is working. Is it working, does it need a few tweaks, do they find your call to action box interesting?

I wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement to Google Analytics, but presentation of the information is very useful. If you need to know how well your website marketing items or layout is doing, this designer gives it 2 thumbs up.

Posted in Website tips

Websites Are Not “Set It and Forget It”

Model-T car repair

Do you never change the oil in your car? Ignore the check engine light or never fill it with gas? I’m guessing no, cars get a bit fussy if you ignore them right?

One of the topics I see come up a lot with my colleagues are ignored sites that crash – and they do. Anything can happen from outdated software that no longer works to a malware infested site. If you ignore your website it is a matter of when, not if, it will fail.

I’m going to give you some tips to prevent those costly website recoveries. Being a smart business owner – I bet you are doing at least 1 of these steps.

Where is the Check Engine Light for Websites?

Sorry, but there isn’t an all encompassing alert your website needs servicing. Just like a car, they do require regular ongoing maintenance to stay operational. There are a lot of working parts to a website including software, databases, servers, third party plugins and files. Many of these are changed often and are outside your control. A good comparison – how often do you need to update your smartphone software and update your apps?

Your Website Needs the "Oil Changed"

Your website isn’t going to go out of its way to let you know maintenance is required. There are only a few notifications available in your dashboard. For example, "worn down parts" aren’t obvious they need attention or replacing. Here’s some tips to avoid a publicly displayed server error in place of your site, or the "white screen of death."

  • Renew your domain name URL. All domain name providers send out a renewal notice annually by email. Did you save it as a contact so it doesn’t go into the junk folder? How about your account contact info so they can email you, or your auto renew billing info? Is it up to date?
  • Update your WordPress software. Letting this slide is one of the top reasons a website is hacked or fails. Many of the software updates for WordPress are security and maintenance releases to keep up with changing technology. WordPress is up to 3.9.1 – check your version.
  • Update Plugins. If you are using WordPress, those third party plugins also need to be updated. Think phone apps, plugins also receive regular updates.
  • Automated offsite backups. Don’t rely on your webhost, many don’t maintain backup copies of your website. Use Vaultpress or Backup Buddy (affiliate link) to keep a full backup – peace of mind for $60-80 annually.
  • Security Maintenance. Use services like Sucuri (affiliate link) and/or WordFence to keep the worst of the worst from compromising your site. Be patient, if you have WordFence or other security programs, they can lock you out for failed login attempts. Trust me – once you see those scary logs of the many attempts to break into your website daily – you will be patting yourself on the back for being a savvy business owner.
  • Your Website has "Expired." Once you get past 3 years, things can get iffy (remember your smartphone). Get past 5 years, and oh boy, we are talking eminent website drama. Many server companies are updating to PHP 5.4 this year and most older sites top out at PHP 5.3 (psst – most don’t give much or any heads up). Check your website on Sucuri, under "Website Details" tab look for Powered by:PHP/ which will display your version.

My advice, 3 years is an eternity on the web. Expect to update your website theme design, at maximum every 3 years to be accessible. After that your web design will look outdated. If you are past 3 years, for example, right now you are most likely providing a squinty view on those phones and what do site visitors do – leave. A three year run is about the most you can reasonably expect.

There you go – web design insider secrets to keeping your site humming along and staying strong.

If this all seems to much – we do offer security maintenance for the overwhelmed, the techno phobic, or the “get er done” folks. No matter your reason – keep your website safe and online.

Posted in WordPress Maintenance

Googling for Fonts – Hidden Traps and Land Mines

avalanche

avalanche

That Free Font May Not Be Licensed

You googled for a font, it looks like it is exactly what you need. You download it from a website you found it from and install. The website doesn’t mention anything about restrictions and licensing so it must be okay to use, right?

Unfortunately many of these free font collection websites have little to no license verification and some even accept uploads from users. They may scan for malware, etc, but even then there is no guarantee.

Find Out If You Can Use the Font

Staying on the right side of copyright requires just a little homework. If the license isn’t displayed including the name of the font creator (or foundry) and the usage terms, this is a red flag. It is up to you to verify it truly is licensed to use commercially.

Here are some steps to help you find if your font is available to use.

  • Find the name of the artist of the font or foundry (font companies are foundries). Find the artist or foundry website, licensing usage for their fonts are usually stated in the End-User License Agreement (EULA).
  • Most free fonts are only for personal usage. In order for a font artist to gain exposure they will release a font publicly. Many of these are not licensed for commercial use.
  • Check established websites like fonts.com, myfonts.com, or fontshop.com to see if they are for sale. If they are – that free font was pirated.
  • Check safe free sites like Google Fonts and Font Squirrel. Their fonts are public domain or display licensing. Font Squirrel provides desktop and web fonts – I highly recommend them.

Fonts from Your Desktop Computer

Typically, commercial fonts have up to 5 users allowed but many lower budget fonts specify just 1 user. Licensing as to the use of the font for artwork, websites, ePubs and software vary. Fortunately most allow for embedding in print artwork. But always check, don’t assume, just because you have it installed doesn’t mean it can be shared elsewhere.

My Fav Places to Find Fonts

I prefer to stay on the safe side of licensing and more importantly, using really good quality fonts. Sifting through public domain font sites can be a bit of a crap shoot. Sure there are some great ones, but there are some fonts that shouldn’t have made the grade.

Most individual fonts cost about $29 and are terribly cheap, so this is not the area to get all price conscious.

Commercial:

  • TypeKit. For $50 a year (the full portfolio) you get access to their quality list of fonts for websites.
  • FontSpring. Individually purchase fonts from $15 – $70 (or in packages). Beautiful listings of web fonts, I go there frequently for inspiration when I need to find just the right font.
  • MyFonts. Large resource of desktop and web fonts with category tags are a big help.

Public Domain or Free:

  • FontSquirrel. Commercial usage terms are spelled out clearly. They have web fonts and desktop fonts. Nice list of their most popular fonts.
  • The League of Moveable Type. Just a few displayed but they are good ones you will probably recognize.
  • Google Fonts. Created for making fonts available for everyone. There are good ones here – these are just web fonts. Most themes you get will be using Google Fonts due to the friendly licensing.
Posted in fonts

Tips For the New Twitter Layout

Twitter Profile Example

It’s Here! The New FaceBook, I Mean Twitter Layout!

If you have logged into your Twitter account recently you may have discovered you are prompted to try out the new layout. If you haven’t been prompted, you can take a peak by clicking on the "Me" menu link item and it will prompt you. No worries though, you don’t have to commit until you are ready.

But eventually it will switch you so I’m here as your web designer sidekick to give you some pointers.

What You Need To Know

Twitter is much better than the behemoth Facebook in giving you accessible information on the sizes needed for the new graphics and settings. Here is the scoop.

  • Cover Image. You no longer have a background picture where you are trying to somehow (awkwardly) position information on the side for who knows what monitor people are using. That was a pipe dream. Now you have a cover image similar to Facebook. The dimensions are 1500 pixels wide by 500 pixels high.
  • Profile Image. Twitter asks for a 400 pixel by 400 pixel profile picture. This is much larger than the old days of 70+ pixels, unfortunately that will look grainy. Due to retina image displays, Twitter is asking for larger pics.
  • Crop Your Profile Pics. Tip, make sure it is mostly a headshot. A body shot is going to look pretty tiny on high resolution displays. For example I have a non-retina display on my monitor and I see 200 pixel square displayed but the profile picture is actually 400 pixel square. See this example I just did for a client.
  • Background Image. Alas this is now gone for the new layout. If you haven’t converted your profile to the new layout your background image will still display, but not for long.
  • Background Color. From what I can tell, the public isn’t going to be seeing your background color with the new layout. Your profile page now displays a Twitters color scheme for the background. However the interior pages for you does offer a color so go ahead and go wild! Access it from the settings widget icon, then pick from the left sidebar "Display."
  • Theme Color. This is the color for the links. Make it a nice contrasting color that works with your cover photo/artwork. In the display settings for your profile (settings widget icon, then pick from the left sidebar "Display") you will see the option for "Theme Color."

If you aren’t sure what your website is using for colors, hop on over to Stylify.me and put in your domain URL.

Tip, don’t go too wordy on your cover image. That image is resized for the mobile devices and squinty tiny text is not going to look good when viewing in a browser. Try editing your profile description to fill in the gaps since that is now prominently displayed.

Bufferapp had a really good article about the new Twitter profile that is super helpful, highly recommend.

Okay there you go. I hope that helps you in getting ready for the big layout change. Have you changed to the new layout? Send me your URL, I would love to see it.

Posted in Social Media Graphics

Have You Tested Your Contact Form Recently?

Shaking Hands

Just One Of Those Things – Test Your Contact Forms Regularly

I was testing a client contact form recently for a new website and recalled it has been a while since I have tested mine. It is a good idea to test your contact form every other month. With last week’s WordPress update to 3.9, there have been a slew of updates to plugins. This would be a great time to make sure your contact form is still working.

Unfortunately, it turned out it was a good thing I tested my form. It was NOT working. Tests proved nothing was wrong with my form, however my email was now filtering responses in the spam filter.

Gmail Marks From You That Is To You as Spam

When your website contact form sends a filled out form submission via email, your email provider sees it as from your domain URL. If your email shares that domain, it looks like it is an email from you going to you. Many email providers will mark it as spam thinking someone is "spoofing" your email or reject it completely.

The easy fix? Send your contact form notifications to a different email address that doesn’t share your domain URL. I send my contact form submissions to my personal account.

Here is what I did – setup your form notification settings to do the following:

  • From field should be an email address that shares your website domain (this avoids looking like spoofing which definitely looks like spam).
  • To field should be to another email address that doesn’t share your website domain (yourname@gmail.com for example).
  • Reply field should be set to the email address provided by the contact form submitter. Otherwise when you reply you are replying to yourself.

Other ways of ensuring it goes through if you need to use your same domain URL email? Contact your email host provider (Google Apps, Exchange or your webhost for POP3) and ask them to whitelist your email address. Depending on what their procedures allow and level of tech sophistication, they might be able to help. There is no question most of these are simply rejecting your email outright or putting it in the junk folder.

Need a contact form? Best in business for WordPress is Gravity Forms (affiliate link) with a lot of options for connecting to other services.

What is your favorite contact form plugin (or service)?

Posted in WordPress Maintenance

What Does the Heartbleed Bug Mean for You and Your Business?

heartbleed logo

Heartbleed logos

Do You Sell Products or Services on Your Website?

What is the Heartbleed bug? Basically it is a vulnerability in the software for open SSL Certificates that leaves it possible for hackers to read your passwords and other protected information. As bugs go this is a biggie.

If you are selling anything or have a membership website, you might be using an SSL Certificate. Usually you can tell because your URL will have HTTPS as part of the address for secure areas and you are getting billed annually for your SSL Certificate.

Here is a handy tool to check if your website is affected (use only for your own website or those you administrate on behalf of):

If the test has indicated your site is vulnerable here is what you should do right now. Don’t put it off – this is important.

  • Contact your webhost, fill out a support ticket and ask when they will be doing the heartbleed patch fix.
  • After the patch has been done on your server – ask your SSL Certificate vendor to generate a new certificate and keys (most do this for free). If you get your SSL Certificate through your webhost, hopefully they can just take care of all that for you.
  • After both steps, replace your administrative passwords to your website including user WordPress accounts, cPanel, and FTP accounts. All user accounts and membership accounts to the website should also be changed.

If you have a dedicated server, you are responsible for taking care of this directly.

What This Means For You When Using Websites

Those impacted will most likely ask you to replace your passwords. Many will publish when they have fixed this problem and probably prompt you for a new password.

Lastpass has a tool you can check if a website you use is vulnerable to the heartbleed bug. It isn’t infallible, it doesn’t know if a website has done the patch – only the date the SSL Certificate was issued. But it can give you some peace of mind with services you need to use right now.

Lastpass is awesome, another good password tracker are the 1Password apps which you can install directly on your mobile and desktops (sync with Dropbox).

There you go. I hope that helps relieve your mind – have any questions email me or post on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Posted in WordPress security

Is Domain Privacy Worth It?

Wondering About Domain Privacy

Wondering if Domain Privacy is worth it

Whois Guard and Other Privacy Options When Buying Domain Names

On FaceBook I was asked whether domain privacy is worth it? As I answered the question I realized, maybe not everyone knows this is worthwhile to do – and may not be for the reason you think!

This is one of those occasions you don’t want to save a penny because it will cost you time and worse, money. What happens when you don’t opt for privacy protection? Your email address, name, and mailing address are published on the WHOIS directory.

Here are the risks if you don’t opt for privacy protection for your domain name.

  1. Spambots get your email address to send you spam. Your filter is only so good – some of it may leak through.
  2. "But I have a spam filter," you say. Yes but spam is like pollution, it "clogs up the pipes" of the internet adding to the cost of services that have to deal with it from your internet provider to your email provider. Most spam is criminally based.
  3. Your mailing address will be picked up and you will get those fake "renew your domain" letters. Your domain provider is unlikely to send you a letter, but scams fool you away from your existing provider so you pay quadruple the cost or more with a misleading domain vendor.
  4. Your contact information is being added to mailing and phone lists of unethical marketers and con artists. WHOIS Directory is a gold mine for them. Yikes!
  5. Those annoying unsolicited Google Ads you get on your business number – yup you can start by blaming the WHOIS directory for publishing your info.
  6. Less protection against domain hijacking. A dummy email address is listed with your privacy protection and a transfer will fail using that email address. Transfers can only occur with privacy protection turned off (unlocked).

The one drawback I have seen is that some advocate it makes you LOOK like a spammer if you are hiding your identity behind privacy protection. Well I’m not sure why business owners have to subject themselves to an unwanted flood of solicitation because some are abusing the service.

All domain name information is publicly displayed unless you buy privacy protection service/option from your domain name vendor. All domain owners are published on the WHOIS directory unless you are using a privacy service from your domain vendor.

Recommendation

Opt for privacy protection. Until the WHOIS Directory can protect against spambot scripts and reasonably protect a business from unwanted solicitations and scams, spend the $10+ yearly. Your time is valuable.

Question

How much does your domain vendor charge you for domain privacy protection? Have you always opted for that?

Posted in Domains

Website Security Quiz – Are You Naughty or Nice?

Kid licking a cake

It’s time to rate yourself on how well you are keeping your business asset, your website, safe from malware and other assorted baddies. Having a website go down is time consuming, embarrassing, and expensive to fix. Fill out the quiz below and check out your website security preparedness!

Kid licking a cake

Action Steps

  • Still have “Admin” as your username login? Your site is extremely vulnerable to attack. Change it and protect yourself from the botnet hoards trying to break your password.
  • Backup your website to a remote location other than your webhost. Webhosts only keep backups from the previous evening only. If an infection, plugin conflict, or any files were deleted or damaged, you are out of luck. Try Backup Buddy or VaultPress. Backups are peace of mind! (See our list of resources.)
  • Keep your WordPress software up to date, most of the updates are security related. Also your plugins should be kept up to date as well – even the inactive ones.
  • Login protection – Login Security Solution does a nice job of slowing down botnets from breaking into your website.
  • Is your website always up? Unless you are personally checking many times a day, you simply won’t know your site visitors are having problems accessing your site. Ignorance isn’t bliss and could be costing you money from lost sales. Down time is more prevalent than most people realize. Get a free pingdom.com account and get alerted if your site goes down.

Yikes, Need Help?

We can do this all for you, sign-up for our Security Package and breathe easy!

Posted in WordPress security

Web Design Insider Tips

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