Virus Protection - Am I really protected? Things have to change!
Add Some Holiday Cheer! Hits Versus Visits
The Heat Is On! Simple Things That Can Help Improve Your Site
Time to Spring Clean Your Website! Using Images on Your Web Pages
Naming Conventions Within a Website Elf Yourself!
A Little Something on a Personal Note... "I am so glad the website is finally finished!"
Make sure you own your website and your hosting access!  

July, 2011

Virus Protection - Am I really protected?
The answer to the above question is Maybe!

The term virus protection is actually somewhat misleading.  Yes, virus software does protect your system, and if I were you, I wouldn't be caught dead without it.  However, you must keep in mind that there are people out there who try to hack systems just because they can.  They may develop a new virus that your current protection doesn't have a suitable definition for.  Unfortunately for some, they become infected before they have the chance to download the latest definitions or fixes.

How do you beat them at their game?  First, be vigilant.  Make sure your preferred virus protection is always up to date.  Don't just rely on scheduled updates.  The virus may in fact disable your scheduled updates and scans.

  • Check your system often to make sure your protection is actually turned on.
  • Watch for strange update screens and notices that you are infected.  These virus alerts can be rogue viruses.  If the screen is not recognizable as your current software provider, DON'T click anything to fix it!
  • Don't open email attachments unless you trust the source.  Even then, scan the attachment prior to opening/running it.  Just because the sent from address "looks" like it's from someone you know, doesn't mean it's so. Your best buddy may be infected and not know it.
  • Apply the same sort of caution on social sites as you would email.  These are especially viral and will spread faster than they can be deleted.
  • Don't put off fixing the problem.  The longer you wait, the more the infection takes hold and spreads throughout your system and puts your data and contacts at risk. You also risk having to reinstall your operating system and loosing your data.

Should your system become infected, there are a number of options available to you.  Only you can decide whether you should attempt the fix yourself or have someone more knowledgeable do it for you.

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November, 2010

Add Some Holiday Cheer!

Once again, the Holiday Season is looming large on the horizon.  Soon, everyone will be scurrying around looking for the perfect gift, visiting with friends and family and recovering from an ongoing onslaught of office parties, rich food and maybe a few to many eggnogs.

It's easy to forget that this time of year is the perfect time to step up your web presence.  After all, if you have a product or service to sell, yours might just be the perfect gift.

On a personal note, I want to take this opportunity to be thankful to all those who have continued to entrust me with their websites. I consider each and every one of you to be an extended part of my family. So, from my family to yours - Please be safe this Holiday Season.  I wish you ENOUGH!  Be Blessed!

Need help getting into the holiday spirit?  Elf Yourself is back with some fun new ways to spread some cheer!

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July, 2010

The Heat Is On!

Summer is finally here, and we all have that urge to make the most of the warm weather.  Given the choice, I know many of us would prefer to be out and about, catching those rays and leaving the office time far behind us. However, if your business shows an increase over the summer months, now is not the time to avoid making those updates or additions to your website.

Be aware of those seasonal trends and try to cash in on them.  Have you considered doing a monthly email blast?  Sending out coupons or promotional codes?  These may be just the ticket to turn those first time customers into repeat business.

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March, 2010

Time to Spring Clean Your Website!

Spring is in the air! If you are anything like me, you just can't wait to open the windows and blow the dust out of everything. 

Since spring is the time for new beginnings, it may be the right time for adding something new to your website. Maybe it's time to freshen up your color scheme.  You may also want to think about adding features.  If you need some ideas, I'd be happy to help. Just drop me an email.

Your customers want to see something new from you REGULARLY.  Remember, if you don't give it to them, they will find a site that will.

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January, 2010

Naming Conventions Within a Website

Whether you are building a new site or revamping an existing site, one thing you should keep in mind is your use of naming conventions. This is a rather broad statement because it regards to your domain name, navigation, file names, image names and how you refer to each of these as you develop each page. I use the old saying, "If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck."  So, let's be sure to call a duck a duck.

There are a number of reasons to pay close attention to naming conventions. The issue I will focus on is usability.  After all, if the end user is unclear about your intentions, you may lose them. If they are confused by what they read, they will leave your site and find one that appears to be more clear.

When it comes to navigation or referring back to previously written pages, be consistent.  If the end user is not sure where they will end up if they click on a link, they may abandon the effort altogether.  If your navigation link is for "Products & Services" be sure to reference that name in your links and text.  If you reference "Offerings" instead, the user will not be entirely sure what you mean. When they click on that link, they will be expecting to find themselves looking at a page of "offerings." They may not feel they are in the right place if the name on the page does not match the naming convention used within the link.  If you find that the term you have previously used is no longer clear, change it globally.

While this may seem like common sense or an easy thing to remember, websites evolve over time.  In addition, there may be more than one author or content provider adding information to the site.  It's best to keep these things in mind.  You may also want to enlist a friend or colleague to do some preliminary usability testing.  A second or even a third pair of eyes can often see what we miss because we are so familiar with the site and the content.

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September, 2009

A Little Something on a Personal Note...

I thought I would take this opportunity to bring you up to date on some of the changes that have taken place in my personal life.  Many of you may be aware that I am an avid dog lover.  If you've read my bio, you know that I have been the proud parent of three wonderful dogs (The Clusterpups) for the last 16 years. Over the past couple of months, My wife and I have been coming to terms with the loss of all three of our four-legged companions.  We lost all three within 6 weeks. They were 15 and 16 years old.

The house just didn't seem right without the pitter patter of paws. My wife and I decided to adopt a 1 year old shar-pei/lab rescue dog named Tasha.  Tasha has quite the history.  She was beaten with a baseball bat BECAUSE she was pregnant.  She lost all but 2 of her pups as a result of the beating.  She was then placed in a kill shelter in Georgia and was scheduled to be put down. Some wonderful folks transported her to Western New York to a non-profit organization called Pet Connection. There, Tasha was able to rear her two pups and heal from the traumas.

Tasha has very quickly become my new best four-footed friend.  I am sure that my three Clusterpups would be very pleased to see that Tasha now shares the home they once did.

Folks, please have your pets spayed or neutered.  And please... if you are looking for a pet, consider those in the shelters.  You might just find YOUR new best four-footed friend.

Meet Tasha:

Tasha with her 2 surviving babies in the shelter in Georgia.

Tasha in Shelter Tasha & Pups in Shelter

Tasha on August 12, 2009. Her first day home.

Tasha in August, 2009

Tasha on October 7, 2009 after all the bumps, bruises and hair loss have healed.

Tasha in October, 2009

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July, 2009

Make sure you own your website and your hosting access!

I recently had a discussion with someone who was looking to make changes where their web developer was concerned.  The more we spoke, the more I was inclined to believe that there may have been some bad blood between the developer and the organization.  The developer was hesitant about providing information about the server and access.

As the call progressed, I was informed that the "client" had no clue how to gain access to their site server.  After some checking, it was discovered that the developer had been paying for their hosting, and as such, the site access was in his name, and his name only. Unfortunately, this arrangement has placed the client in a rather sticky spot.  While the client DOES own the domain name, every development file posted, including database files are inaccessible. 

It is understandable that for some folks, setting up a website, adjusting settings and domain registration can seem a little overwhelming.  I offer this service to my clients as part of their website maintenance. The point I want to make is this:  You can have someone knowledgeable help you with these things, but you need to remain in control of your own website hosting accounts. 

It's perfectly OK to set the web developer up as a user or technical contact on these accounts.  In fact, I recommend it.  Doing so allows us developers to speak to your hosting representatives about any hosting, email or outage issues that may arise.  But, should trouble arise, you need to be able to access your account and make whatever password or login changes you feel are necessary. 

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May, 2009

Things have to change!

It's all over the news, in every newspaper and on the lips of everyone you have a casual conversation with - "The economy is in BAD shape."  We are inundated with reports of rising unemployment, corporate bankruptcies and stories about families that are on the brink of catastrophe. No one is disputing the fact that things have to change.  We all feel it.  We all want it. Yet many people fail to put the kind of changes into effect that can help turn things around sooner.

I recently had two experiences that got me thinking about what I would write for this month's home page. The first was when someone sent me a link to a competitor's site. "This guy's site is kicking the crap out of a couple of us other guys. He must have spent some $$ on this site, but I think he’s making it back."  The second was with someone who said, "I used to be overly concerned about what my website development was costing me each month.  Then I realized that whenever I've made improvements to my site, I've always made that money back and then some."

If your site can be improved upon, do it! If you've been putting off making changes to your site, think about the customers that you may have already lost to your competitors and translate that into money, not just what you'd make now, but the future income generated through customer loyalty.

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March, 2009

Hits Versus Visits

Reading your site's web stats can seem like a daunting task.  You may look at the report and the graphic chart that is usually displayed with it and simply not know where to begin.  The content generated depends on the reporting software used.  Most hosting companies provide reporting services as part of their hosting package.

So, the question is:  What is the difference between Hits and Visits?

Simply put, Hits are the number of requests that are made of your server for information, not the number of times a page is requested. Web pages may be made up of a variety of file sources, such as images, scripts and external style sheets. Each time a page loads, requests are sent from the browser to the server asking for these files to be loaded.  Each time one of these files is requested, the log program counts it as a Hit.

Visits are the a count of the number of times your site has been visited over the reporting period.  While this number is useful, it is even more useful if you have a count of the number of unique visitors.  Dividing the number of visits by the number of unique visitors will give you a general idea of how many returning visitors you may have over the reporting period.

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February, 2009

Simple Things That Can Help Improve Your Site

The easiest way to get an honest opinion of your site is to ask a group of friends to help you with a usability study. Be sure to involve users with varying levels of web experience.  Create a short questionnaire with very pointed questions, give them some time to complete it for you and put on a thick skin before you read them.  Not all of the responses will be bright and sunny, but you will get some honest feedback on where and how you can improve.  This simple method will help you see your site through the eyes of a first-timer

One of the first things I do when I am evaluating an existing site is to validate a couple of pages against current coding standards.  Obsolete tags or poor standards can cause problems as newer browser versions become available.  While you may not be in a position to totally revamp your site, these coding fixes may be just the ticket to tide you over until you're ready for a redesign. If you need assistance with this, I can help.

Take the time to surf your own site.  You may know the information you have posted, but when was the last time to really looked at it? Do all of the external links in your site work?  It's one thing to keep up on your own link changes, but if you link off to other sites, you also need to keep up with theirs. Also, watch for those missed typos and deviations from standards.  A polished website reflects well on you.

Take the time to look for your own website on various search engines. If the search words you would use to find you aren't bringing up your site, then make note of them with plans for incorporating them into your site pages. 

Look at your site on more than one computer.  If your site colors seem way off, chances are a websafe color palette wasn't used to build your site.  While you may be happy with slight variations, glaring color differences can make your site look a lot less appealing. Make note of anything that doesn't look quite right.  There may be very simple fixes to remedy the situation.

If you have any questions about these tips or any of the information on this site, please feel free to contact me.  I'll answer any questions in upcoming posts.

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January, 2009

Using Images on Your Web Pages

If you are like most people, you want your site to be informative, fun, interesting and appealing to the eye.  Of course, all of these things can and should be on your list of things to consider when you are building or updating your site.  However, there are some things you should take into consideration when deciding to add images.  Please see below for more:

  1. Can the image be sized and optimized to to fit your desired overall file size?
  2. Will the image distract the user from the content or the overall message of your page?
  3. Is the image part of your content?
  4. Does the image fit within the standards for your site?
  5. Do you own the image, or have you paid for the rights to use it on your pages?
1. I recommend that images be under 50k as each image you add to the page adds to the total download time.  While most people are now using high-speed connections, there are still users out there that are accessing your site through limited access.  If your pages take more that a few seconds to load, chances are the user will abandon your site and move on to another site that will load quicker. There are exceptions, so bend the rules if you have to.

I recommend that you send me the full size image.  I can resize it and optimize it as needed to reduce the overall file size.

2. If you are thinking of adding an image just because you think it's cool, please rethink your decision.  What you think is cool eye candy may actually distract your user from the REAL content on the page. You have a limited amount of time in which to get your message across. Try to view the page as one of your users might.
3. Images can be most effective when they tie into the content of your page.  Images that demonstrate an action, introduce the user to a key person in your organization, act as section headers, or highlight a product are examples of how to tie the image into your site. These images can provide the user with a "rest" from reading, provide needed white space for ease of navigation, and provide an overall aesthetic look and feel to your site.
4. There are many options to choose from when adding images to your site.  You may need to decide if the image is to be placed in a container, if a border will be used, color choices for backgrounds and more. Randomly adding images without applying standards may make your site look like a contemporary garage sale, whereas careful forethought could produce a list of standards that will totally fit the desired look and feel of your site and provide a polished image. If placement of the image looks like it was an afterthought or unplanned, it could affect the users' overall impression of you.
5. If you are providing an image to post to your site, I assume that you either own the image, purchased the image or have permission from the image owner to use it.  The best course of action is to put on your creative hat and or have me put on mine.  Together, we can come up with fresh ideas of how to best represent you and your site.

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December, 2008

Elf Yourself! If you have a few minutes and you want a good laugh, check this out!

Dear Friends,

As the holiday season is upon us, I want take this time to extend my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and a VERY prosperous New Year. 

Please remember to keep your pets safe during the holiday season.  No chocolate, no turkey bones and keep the poinsettias out of reach.  Consult The Humane Society of the United States for more pet safety tips.

It's not too late to put a holiday greeting on your website or to do some end of year updates or maintenance. If you're already thinking about website changes for the new year, now is a good time to start putting it all together.  Let's all think "ABUNDANCE" as the theme for 2009!

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November, 2008

"I am so glad the website is finally finished!"  Have you ever said this? 

Many people think that when they finally put the finishing touches on the design of their site that they are done.  The book is written in stone.  The project has reached completion.  That's all folks! Now, let me get on with building my widgets. I can cross this off my list of things to do.

Believe it or not, your work is only beginning.  If you view your website like a book that is written once, bound and placed on a shelf, you may be missing all the wonder of that which is the web. I rarely find myself inclined to re-read a book.  Once I've read it, I'm on to something new and fresh.  Your site visitors are going to view your pages in much the same way.  If there is nothing new for them to view when they get there, eventually, they will cease to return.  If the visit is not memorable, you won't be memorable either. 

You want them to return.  You want them to remember you. You want them to tell everyone they know about how wonderful you and your widgets are. After all, you are wonderful, aren't you?

Just like any other part of technology, the coding used to build web pages changes from time to time. Tags or pieces of code eventually become obsolete.  New browser programs handle data differently, which may cause your pages to be viewed differently than you originally intended.  What you thought was the snazziest looking page 2 years ago may cause your inside voice to say, "What on earth was I thinking?"  You change, your business changes and so should your website.

If your website was built more than a year ago, it's time for a tune up.  Your pages should be checked for code validation and your site should be looked through to make sure that standards are in place and followed.  If your site's look and feel is no longer in step with you or your business, it's time to make some changes.  If your site no longer conveys the same message the rest of your marketing efforts are trying to impart, it becomes more of a liability than an asset.

Your site should have new content on a regular basis.  Hey, you are the all-powerful Oz in the world of widget making. You should have a lot of knowledge to impart. Your site should be a main communications artery pumping information to your clients, vendors, employees and family.

So, put your website back on your list of things to do and keep it there. Remember, your website might very well be the avenue through which your first impression is made.

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