Tech

Tech Thursday: Why Don’t You Want My Website to Have Fun?

Some weeks, we end up doing more design than marketing. This was one of those weeks. After some of our meetings, we felt kind of like parents who were telling their kids they couldn’t go to a party, but that they’d thank us later. We aren’t trying to shoot anyone’s design dreams down, but to better explain our rationale, we thought we’d use this week’s Tech Thursday.

We walk the line between artists and technicians in the web design process. It’s not that we don’t want your website to be fun and pretty- because we absolutely do. It’s just that we’re also thinking about things like mobile users and load time-the customer’s overall experience. As Kassie says, when your website’s animated header won’t load on a Kindle, it fills her with nerd rage. We want your site to look great, but also work well!

Tools such as Pingdom (tools.pingdom.com) are a great way to test a website’s load time, and it will show you the elements of the site that are taking longest to load. Most of the time, it’s an image that is slowing your roll. There are also ways to customize your site that aren’t going to impair your site’s load time- think of sprucing up photos by adding drop shadows, rotating pictures in your slideshow- and all that jazz.

To summarize, we aren’t being lazy or lame when we try to steer you away from an idea. We’re just trying to make your site the best it can be!

Tech Thursday: All About E-Mail

One of our friends asked us an interesting question about email “How do you prevent email issues like emails not reaching clients or going straight to spam folders – even when clients give you their email address with permission to send them stuff?”



There are, in fact, a few different reasons why this may be happening. The problems that we most frequently encounter include:

  • ISP for client and you (who is your server)
  • Web host for client and you (whatismyip.com),
  • You and your client’s email interface (try webmail)

We found this story from The Telegraph that asks “Why did this email take 3 weeks to arrive?” In the answer, the author explains how to check where an email got held up (very similar to tracking a FedEx package). As Nicole says, the cool thing about the internet is that everything  can be tracked. You can even find out who’s sending you email from an address you don’t recognize (similar to a reverse phone lookup).

Also discussed in the video: using email scripts in your networking efforts from Ramit Sethi and Kassie’s unintentional hacking experience.

What Plugin Should I Use?

Building and maintaining websites is endlessly fascinating to me, because there are so many different routes to explore in terms of design and functionality. For the sake of narrowing down this topic (and because this blog post would be more like a collection otherwise), I’m going to share only things I’ve learned from a Wordpress functionality standpoint. The tools in Wordpress that allow for the extra stuff- online ticketing, robust form software, Instagram feed, and whatever else your heart may desire- are called Plugins. A plugin basically helps your Wordpress site “do almost anything you can imagine.”

Pretty wild, right? Your website is capable of quite a bit thanks to plugins, but they can be a bit daunting. Oftentimes, if you have a specific task in mind- streaming your business Instagram account on the sidebar in your site, for instance- there are often several plugin options. Which one should you choose?

Finding a plugin doesn’t have to be an Indiana Jones-style ordeal. Here are some things you can look for:

1) Does it work with your theme? Different themes in Wordpress play differently with plugins. BackUp Buddy works well on our site with its current theme, but if we were to switch to a new theme, it may not. The good news is that during your initial plugin search, you can actually see if the plugin is compatible:

Huzzah! A compatible plugin!

Huzzah! A compatible plugin!

This plugin "has not been tested" with our theme- this doesn't meant it definitely won't work, more like "proceed with caution."

This plugin “has not been tested” with our theme- this doesn’t meant it definitely won’t work, more like “proceed with caution.”

Theme isn’t the only important thing your plugin needs to play well with- if you’re using an old version of Wordpress but want to use a newly developed plugin, the two may not communicate. The good news is that updating your version of Wordpress probably isn’t a bad idea and it’s pretty easy (just remember to back up your site first)!

2) Does it have documentation? There’s nothing worse than getting a tool that has vague or useless information on how to operate it. When you’re shopping for plugins, make sure before committing that there’s a healthy amount of helpful information. Below is a screenshot of what appears when you select a plugin, and in terms of documentation, “Screenshots” and “FAQ” are often the best places to gauge how well a plugin is documented.

Plugin_Documentation

Screenshots show you what the plugin looks like in action-using real screenshots, they take you through operating the plugin (usually setup, troubleshooting, general how-to).

Plugin_screenshots

Checking out the documentation of a plugin before committing to it is a great way to assess the level of support available. People/companies who have taken the time to write up and share information about their product are more likely to care about customer service and a job well done. Ideally with a higher level of documentation, you’ll be able to install and solve any problems on your own, but if the developers are willing to document extensively, they’re likely willing to answer any additional questions you have along the way.

3) Does it have good reviews? Reviews are also good to look at- but some are best taken with a grain of salt. I like to look at the reviews to see if there’s consistent feedback, like “X works well if this setting is Y” or “Great support.” Every now and then, there’s an outlier review that doesn’t match up with what the others are saying. These are the reviews to be wary of- one time I saw a review that said something along the lines of “This plugin is the worst thing to have ever existed, doesn’t work” when all the other reviews said things like “Easy to use,” “Excellent support.” One of these things is not like the other…

When you’re looking for your next Wordpress plugin, don’t just download the first one you see. It only takes 5 minutes to do a quick scan for compatibility, support, and reviews, and boom- you’ve got your dream plugin.

Tech Thursday: Thoughts on Trolling

This week, we discuss some ideas about people who troll (that is, attack others online…not the other kind). While we don’t get many online haters (let’s face it, we’re a small-scale operation in Maine), we still see negativity online aimed at clients. How do we handle it? Find out in the video!

We’re still figuring out what Google Hangouts is capable of, but we were able to get Nicole in on Tech Thursday from the road (she traveled to Fort Kent for a 6 hour seminar on Facebook yesterday), even if she isn’t on the video you can still hear her!

We also discuss Facebook’s new legacy contact feature and who we would choose to manage our accounts post-mortem (which is admittedly morbid).

Video Killed the Radio Star. And then there were Podcasts.

oldschoolradio
Technologically speaking, I am always a few steps behind the crowd. People who don’t know me assume I’m savvy because of age and job (neither of which are relevant to technological expertise), and people who do know me would never make that assumption. Although podcasts aren’t exactly “technology,” this seemed like a good way to get everyone on the same page and lower their expectations for what I’m about to share. Last week, I finally figured out podcasts.

Let me back up a bit. As a kid, I never appreciated my dad’s affinity for talk radio. He spends a lot of time driving, and insists that music is only fun for so long. My annoyance at talk radio (defined by my adolescent self as any radio program with more talking than music) persisted until my freshman year of college. After school breaks, Dad would usually drive me back to Lewiston on a Sunday morning (a 4 hour car ride), and we’d listen to Garrison Keillor. The first time, my iPod was accidentally packed beyond my reach, otherwise headphones would have been lodged in my ears. Now, my opposition to talk radio seems similar to how I viewed “real life” movies when as a young child, not understanding why anyone would be interested in a movie that wasn’t animated (note: I may have actually referred to them as “adult” or “grown-up” movies, which caused some confusion back in the day).

Anyway, these long treks back to Bates became one of those bonding moments, and we always tried to schedule the drive back to Bates during Prairie Home Companion. It also inspired a mid-term presentation on Radio Shows for one of my courses (we talked about the failed broadcast of War of the Worlds). Fast forward to a couple weekends ago, and I was driving back from Connecticut with Alison. Sick of listening to the same music, nostalgia tugged at me, and suddenly I wanted to hear a story. Another friend had recommended the Serial podcast a few weeks before (he’d just driven to Pennsylvania). Without really consulting Alison, I decided that we were going to listen to Serial (which involved figuring out how to access podcasts- something I’d never attempted). After beasting through the series in 30 hours, I decided that it’d be fun to explore what people find so enthralling about podcasts (myself included, now that I’ve figured them out):

podcast

1) Head Games. So, in my rambling introduction, I mentioned the sentimental value of listening to a radio show. Others may get that twinge of nostalgia from listening, too. Plus, certain shows, such as Prairie Home Companion and Serial, require a certain amount of mental energy and imagination. You aren’t being shown all the details, so your creative muscles have to flex a bit.

2) Hands free. Audio is a convenient information delivery system. In other words, you can multi-task. If you’re commuting, at the gym, cleaning your house, washing dishes, doing some data entry, you can just plug in your headphones and go. And yes, while stopping to smell the roses is highly recommended, we do live in a fairly bustley world where the more you can do, the better.

3) It’s free. Most podcasts are free for the listening, which, let’s face it, most of us appreciate. I’m not one to turn down free knowledge…More information on how obtaining podcasts here (in case, like me, you aren’t entirely familiar with how the process works and want more information).

4) The possibilities are endless. There are plenty of different topics and formats as far as shows go. You can even create your own for your business- its a similar idea to our Tech Thursday videos- they don’t directly make us money, but they’re informative and we have fun making them.

Call it coincidence, but two days after finishing Serial I saw this article on podcasts and radio broadcasts, which offers the following suggestion:”Rather than listen to the same songs you’ve heard over and over again on your way to or from work, why not keep up with the latest trends of marketing?” (Also, number 5 on the list is Prairie Home Companion, so this seems like a legitimate list). Here’s to listening!

 

 

Tech Thursday: Facebook News, Image Issues, Systems and Will Smith

We cover quite a bit of ground in this week’s Tech Thursday:

    • The new Call-to-Action feature for businesses on Facebook. We just noticed it’s appearance this Monday, and while the options are not incredibly robust (yet), it seems like a pretty useful tool.
    • What to look for if your images aren’t translating well online: Usually, it’s an issue with file size (i.e. trying to make a picture bigger than it actually is), but you may also want to consider the file type and what kind of device it’s going to be viewed on.
    • The increase in videos on Facebook for mobile devices (here’s the article Nicole references in the video). We’re curious- is it just a coincidence since we’re in the same area? Or are other people seeing this, too?
    • 2015: The Year of the Systems. It seems that at the beginning of this year, more business and personal improvement suggestions involve systematizing, well, everything.

If you have any questions or topics for Tech Thursday, give us a shout at www.breakingeveninc.com/contact!

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