website

Tech Thursday: Page Down!

We’ve talked about troubleshooting when your whole website is down, but what if only 10% or so of your website (a page or two) isn’t loading? This Tech Thursday, we have some ideas to help out with this “needle in a haystack” situation!

Due to some over-caffeination, this particular session has a lot of movie references peppered in with the wealth of information we’re laying down.

Have any questions or topics for future Tech Thursdays? Leave us a comment or check out our contact form and we’ll tech about it next week! Alright, no more coffee for me…



Website Launch: Tucker Mountain Log Homes

Tucker Mountain Log Homes was a fun build for us. From the moment we first spoke with Judy, it was clear that everyone on the Tucker Mountain crew is dedicated to the business and delivering a quality product that their customers will love. We even got to sit down with Cliff, Judy, and “the boys” to hear them explain various projects and their unique method of construction. After that, we started our own construction process (apologies for the really corny lead-in…), here is the highlight reel from our latest website launch:

A snapshot from the old site, our starting point.

A snapshot from the old site, our starting point.

Tucker Mountain Log Homes has an incredibly photogenic business, from the logs to the building process to the finished product. It was unanimously agreed that the new site needed to showcase the aesthetics of their work, so we went for a “show, don’t tell” approach. The first place was the home page, which now has a full size featured slideshow:

TMLH_HomePage

The next step was showcasing the log home process from start to finish. Using the amount of high quality images we had and Judy’s recommendation of dividing the gallery among the construction process, interior shots, and the finished product, we developed a gallery that gives clients an idea of what a custom build involves, from selecting the logs to a fully assembled home.

TMLH_CustomGallery

TMLH doesn’t only build log homes- they also do decor, furniture, and refinishing.

TMLH_Refinish

An example of the “Before/After” images used on the Refinishing page.

So we made a page for each of these services with a photo gallery and contact form. This way, as customers browsed, they could easily get to the ‘sign up’ process, no matter what page they were on.

Besides showcasing the different types of projects the crew has done, it was also important that the website lifted some of the weight off of Judy’s shoulders in the office. So, we incorporated a couple custom forms throughout the site. These forms handle general intake questions and specific requests. It’s an easier way for Judy to collect the initial information she needs so she is only following up when the person has done research and is ready for that next step… and we hope it helps ease some of her office management burden!

Getting to meet the team was a lot of fun, and now potential customers can “meet the team,” too! In addition to the business history from the old site, everyone now has their own blurb explaining who they are and what they do at TMLH (and there’s pictures, so you can put names to faces).

These guys already had a pretty good handle on social media, so part of the rebuild process involved linking their Facebook and Instagram accounts to the site. Now whenever they’re on-site and want to share project updates on Facebook, it’ll show up on their website, too. Oh, and all those beautiful images of log homes, decor, and furniture? Totally pin-able (because, who doesn’t have a “Dream Log Home” Board on Pinterest?).

Piece of cake!

Piece of cake!

Between Kassie’s (my) content writing/curating, Nicole adding website functionality and managing the project, and Leslie creating and implementing a custom design, we were all able to use our strengths to take Tucker Mountain Log Home’s website into the 21st century. (You can check out the finished product here).

Overall, we had a great time working on this project. It’s always a pleasure to work with small businesses with big passion for what they do- thanks Tucker Mountain Log Homes and enjoy your new website!

50 Ways To Know Your Server

Ok so not exactly 50 but I’m hoping some of you comment with your lines and reasons and I can rewrite this post with 50 someday. I just had to invoke that song which I LOVED as a kid! (Back in the day, we had to listen to whatever our parents were listening to in the car and I associate this with summer road trips in our Caravan.)

Now if you listen to the song, there’s really less than 10 reasons, so I feel ok giving you five examples here. And rather than leaving, we should just get to know our server first. Note: I am going to use server and web host interchangeably in this post. I can see Matt Baya cringing about this now but to the layperson, they are a similar idea. Web host = server = where your website lives on the internet.

For most people, web hosting, servers, all that stuff seems boring. But I encourage you to know your server…

Know the access, Francis.

Don’t wait until there is a problem to want to know how to access your web host. After looking up your name server with a tool like WhoIs.net, you should see something like ns1.nicoleisawesome.com and ns2.nicoleisawesome.com. NicoleIsAwesome.com would be your web host.

Now some big web hosts (like GoDaddy) might have slightly different or generic URLS. So if you see something like ’ns1.domaincontroler.com’ and ’ns2.domaincontroler.com’, a quick Google search for ‘hosting company domaincontroler.com’ should give you the company name.

If instead of reading the last two paragraphs you want a video guided tour, here’s a blast from the past:

Once you have the company name, you can either search your old emails for an old welcome message with access info or you can contact them. Get ready to prove who you are though, but I assure you access to your hosting is worth jumping through a few hoops. Once you can get in, you can do it all! (Well, not everything in life but everything with your website.)



Back it up, Chuck. (That one is from Leslie- I will link to her site when it’s live.)

If you don’t know your web host’s backup schedule, you should. Most web hosts do nightly backups but DON’T assume they do. I have met at least one web host who has admitted to ‘forgetting’ sometimes (not anyone I do business with- gulp).

In addition to your web host regularly backing up your website and email, you should be doing the same on your end. If you don’t have a backup plan, talk to your website person. It’s your website insurance policy.

What about webmail, Dale?

Most web hosts offer email services (ex: if I owned nicoleisawesome.com, I could make a yasqueen@nicoleisawesome.com email address). What you may not know is most all of them have webmail services. What does that mean?

Well, let’s pretend you are in Bosnia visiting your friend and you have to check your email. Your friend’s parents say ‘Do you want to use our computer?’ and you can check your email right from there using webmail. (I did this!) Typically most webmail addresses are something like: ’http://www.nicoleisawesome.com/webmail’ and then you type in your full address and password and you are in.

Webmail is a nice backup. Because you may be on the road, drop your phone in water, lose your computer for 8 days because someone mistakenly takes it at a TSA screening place. (All these have happened to me or people I know.)

Think of webmail as a backup way you can check your email. It’s not as pretty as your way but, when in a pinch, invaluable to know.

Where is it at, Kat?

Where is your server in the world? Is it in your friend’s basement? Galveston Texas? Knowing where your server is part fun fact, part ‘Oh they’re having a hurricane so maybe that’s why my website is being glitchy’. Some US based companies prefer to know their servers are in the US. I personally like to picture my server in a nice air-conditioned concrete building in the middle of a field surrounded by dairy cows. Since I learned where my server is, I have found this is not accurate. But still, nice to know where your service provider is located.



What version of PHP, G?

If you are a technical person reading this blog post, it is probably very clear that I don’t know much about web hosting. And it’s true, I am NOT a web hosting company but I need web hosting to do my job. But I also know a bit more than the average person.

I’ve had two instances that I would like to relate that make me look like a big idiot but may help you out. And both involve PHP.

As far as I can tell PHP is a software that runs on a web host. It has different versions and needs to be periodically updated. This is the extent I know about it. Until it effected me in another way.

Situation 1: Client’s website (which runs on a software I don’t entirely understand) broke when our server’s PHP was updated. Had to go and fix the individual pages. Not catastrophic (as it was quickly noticed and fixed) but weird to just have random error code show up on your website.

Situation 2: We wanted to upgrade a Wordpress plugin for a client but the server didn’t have a high enough version of PHP. Server ended up setting up a separate area we could put this client’s website only (see situation 1 as to why changing it for everyone in that moment wouldn’t have been a great idea) but it changed where they checked their email, etc. Another slight pain.

So before you upgrade your software in a major way or add new software that does important stuff (like, say run an online shopping cart), check what version of PHP (and any other software) it requires and what version your server has. I did an example screenshot here of Event Espresso, an online booking system I’ve used a fair bit and my settings (which I see when I expand my stats after I log into my web host).

what-ee-needs

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 10.33.26 AM

So in my example above, I have the right PHP and MySQL software, all I have to do is check I have the right level of Wordpress and I am good to install version 4 if I want.

There are lots of ways to know your server but those are some of my favorite. Remember, so long as you have access, you have options, with your web server or anything else for that matter. And you can leave it (or use it) however you want.

Please comment (with a link back to your website) with your way of knowing a server (Use subdomains, Duane? Forward that email, Gail?) and I’ll add it to the second version of this post (with hopefully 50 examples)! Let’s try to outdo Paul Simon and be really nerdy about it!




Tech Thursday: There’s a Plugin for That!

Ok, remember how a couple years ago everyone was saying “There’s an app for that!” (at least, Kassie is pretty convinced this happened)? Well, we thought we’d take some time this Thursday morning and appreciate the fact that when it comes to Wordpress sites, there’s pretty much a plugin for everything. From simple display preferences to online booking systems, and functional things like security and back ups, if you have a problem, someone has (most likely) already created a solution in the form of a plugin.

We take a moment to appreciate some things that we’ve used plugins for and reflect on some of our favorites. Plugins for the win!



Anonymous Social Networks 101

The internet began as an anonymous place. Chat rooms asked us ‘a/s/l’ and I’m sure I am not the only one who pretended to be a completely different age, sex, and location than I was. There was something about trying on a new identity.

As social networks using our real names came into play, it was harder to be anonymous. Your potential employer or your mom could be looking at what you just said or shared.

It was only a matter of time before the internet cycled back, recoiled from too much sharing. Apps and websites where you can be anonymous have come back into popularity.

We’ve previously blogged about YikYak but there are a couple of other anonymous sites to know about:

Whisper

So this network combines anonymous with location data. So you can share your secret thought and other people can like or comment… but you can also see other people’s secrets that are near you (1 mile radius, 5 mile radius, etc.) The secrets range from silly to serious:

whisperconfession1

whisperconfession2Something about having the image with the thought makes them stand out a bit, nice to read on a mobile device. And since this is an app, that makes sense.

 

Reddit

Reddit is a bit of a longer form social network with writing and links. You can see what’s trending overall by going to the homepage:

reddit-homepage
The more interesting part of Reddit though are the subreddits. For example, you can join a community about Game of Thrones (at www.reddit.com/r/gameofthrones) and discuss you interest in this show in detail with people all over the world.

Clearly works well if you are more verbose, or want to share a link and get comments on it.

Some people chose to have an active anonymous account while others use ‘throwaway’ accounts for a one time confession.

Anonymous social networks are similar to regular social networks:

  • Typically ordered by most recently updated content
  • Can participate on your phone only for some, others you can access on your computer too
  • You can like/heart/upvote things that you like to show support
  • You can leave comments for more detailed feedback.

Of course, sometimes anonymity brings out the worst in people in the way of cyberbullying but honestly, in these communities, I have found mostly support for my ideas too weird or dark to share on regular networks. (I know it’s sad but I used to be a little nervous to go on Reddit but, much like staying away from the seedy streets in your city, is a nice place for the most part of you don’t go searching for the bad stuff.)

As we figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to share with our real life friends on social media, I see the popularity of these sites growing. I personally love Reddit because there’s no real ads, no messaging, and I can just browse information… and contribute when I feel like. Personally I appreciate that because of the internet, there is a lid for every pot.

Don’t Be Afraid of Google Changes

I got no short of 50 emails in the last two weeks asking me the same question:

clientafraidofgooglechange

Fear mongering much?

Some of you may be wondering ‘Why now?’ Well, Google changed it’s algorithm April 21. Some called it ‘Mobilegeddon’ which is something that would make many people 1) pay attention and 2) freak out.

The link above is to an entire archive of Google’s changes. Yes, Google changes. several times in one year (at least 6 times a year according to that link). But a few things to keep in mind when dealing with this (or other) changes from The Google:

1) Dealing with a neg artist is not really fun.

If you get an email out of the blue from someone you barely know (or even better, someone you don’t) negging your website, this means you are dealing with a certified d-bag.

Negging is a term I am borrowing from the pickup artist world. It means when you subtly (or not so subtly) insult someone as a way to get their attention and bring down their confidence a bit. This guy will tell you all about it. (Note comments disabled on the video, wonder why.)

Don’t let the web guru equivalent of this dude insult your website. It’s not their place to give you feedback. When you are ready for feedback, a website person you trust will happily (and nicely) give you constructive advice when asked.

Negging in the dating world works on insecure people. Someone negging your website will only work if you are insecure about your website, which brings me to…



2) Coming to decisions from fear and lack of information ensures they won’t be good ones.

Take some time to understand about this Google change if you are concerned about it. Moz and other trusted search engine specializing websites and blogs will have information when Google does a shift: http://moz.com/blog/day-after-mobilegeddon (Nicole summary: Um, the world didn’t end. At all. There was a bit of an uptick though in traffic for mobile-friendly sites.)

My point is don’t listen to some random person emailing you to scare you. Do research and understand the change as much as you can, so you can make the best decision for you and evaluate the advice you are geting.

3) Your customers AND Google want you to have a mobile friendly site.

If you look at your website data, you can see mobile versus non-mobile user behavior. Not just percentage of people who come to your website but how long do mobile visitors stay? What information do they look at? What device are they on? etc.

So Google is now giving some juice to sites that are mobile friendly. OK but guess what? Your customers also want you to have a mobile friendly website so if you are going to make the change, do it for them too.



4) You aren’t just relying on Google to get people to your website.

The people I meet who truly panic about changes like Google made a couple weeks ago are those who only rely on Google traffic for their customers. When you go from the #1 ranked, say, coffee mug dealer to #3 in Google and you ONLY get customers from Google search, of course you’ll panic as a Google change, however small, means less dollars in your pocket.

But most of you have multiple ways you reach your customers online. You do social media. You have an email list. You do paid ad listings occasionally. You have a blog on your website. You crosspromote stuff with your online friends.

In other words, the faucet is not ever being completely shut off for you because you smartly are NOT putting all your eggs in one basket.

5) Do your thing, don’t care if they like it. -Tina Fey

I know a lot of people make a game of ‘tricking’ Google. Oh hyperlinked keywords are now being more heavily weighted? Let’s go through all 1,100+ blog posts we have and change all the link text we have.

Um no.

In general, just follow the rules Google has always says it wants you to follow and you’ll be fine. If one year, Google decides to prefer search engine friendly links higher to, say, h1 tags, you don’t have to worry because you’re doing both!



Common sense stuff to do (for Google and the people who visit your website):

1) Have words people are searching for on your website.

2) Use tools like bolding and larger fonts for more important concepts.

3) Have search engine friendly URLs (ex: breakingeveninc.com/about versus breakingeveninc.com/p=1967)

4) Name photos and use alt text/captions to describe what is in the photos.

5) Make sure your website loads fast. Here are some tools if you need to check.

Things spam websites do (to make sure you aren’t doing them):

1) Use content that has appeared elsewhere before. (A lot of spammers copy content from other websites and put it on theirs.)

2) Pretending your website is about X topic when it is really about Y topic. (Anything deceptive really.)

3) Ads all over the place.

4) Use so many keywords and phrases that it sounds like your robot wrote your website.



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