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Blog

This is a base install of the infamous Joomla K2 component (http://www.getk2.org) with a few customizations already set up.  I found myself repeating the same hacks, so I figured others might be facing similar issues:

  • Enabled K2 comment auto-notification (patched for v2.2) - I'm not sure why this wasn't included with K2 from the start...
  • Patched for sh404sef: multi-word tags work; download links fixed an intermittent SQL error

Installation: Install this component via the standard Joomla Extension Installer.
Upgrading: This will override your existing K2 templates and settings.  Be careful.

Enjoy!  Comments / questions / requests welcome.

[Edit: Updated for K2 v2.3 - new download added!]

We've been hosting clients' web sites and email on our server for the last few years - and one of the most common areas of confusion, questions, and support has been with the configuration and usage of the email system.  Since the email system frequently yields responses such as "I didn't know it could do that," I figured that I would put together this video tutorial that addresses uses, tips for setting up an email client (Outlook), and common issues.

Video Contents:

  • Configuring using Outlook 2007 (or any other Email client such as Outlook Express, Eudora, Thunderbird, etc…)
  • Adjusting outgoing server settings for blocked port numbers (e.g. Comcast or Verizon blocks access to the outgoing server and you need to use a different port and/or outgoing server
  • Using multiple devices to connect (e.g. your PC and smartphone)
  • Accessing email via webmail, changing your password, forwarders, and auto-responders


Register for an account here:
http://www.covingtoncreations.com/create-an-account.php

Sign in here:
http://www.covingtoncreations.com/log-yourself-in.php

View the tutorial here:
http://www.covingtoncreations.com/tutorials/video-tutorial-email-configuration-and-usage.php

Covington Creations, LLC has been recognized by Joomla(R) as a consultant. As such, we are also listed in the "JRD" (Joomla Resource Directory). To see our listing:

http://resources.joomla.org/directory/other-services/consulting/covington-creations-llc.html

Covington Creations, LLC is a professional web design, development, hosting, and management service.  Contact us with information about your next web project today!

 

media-wikiIf you've familiar with WikiPedia, you know that the basic premise is that anyone can make changes to the site's content.  There are obviously limitations - you cannot advertise yourself, you cannot defame anyone or anything, and they even "lock down" certain articles... for example, during the holiday season, they've been known to lock people out of making changes to the PlayStation articles.  Makes sense.

Just got done applying a new "skin" to this site... after building dozens of custom Joomla templates for client projects, I decided it was time to treat my own site to that same custom treatment! Below is a before & after mock-up - what do you think? Thanks for visiting!!

{gallery}blog/aug2009{/gallery}

When it comes to building your company's web site, there are two basic ways to build it.  The first method is to use a program like Dreamweaver to build the template, menu, and pages using HTML.  Each page becomes a separate HTML file, and all of the HTML files are interconnected.  For basic sites, this method is fine.

If you want to have more control over your site, you will want to use a Content Management System (CMS).  Compared to the first method, where each page becomes a separate HTML file, a CMS-powered site will store each page into a database.  This way, all of your content is stored in rows and columns, which makes it much easier to manage.  For example, you could display the latest 5 articles on your home page.  If your site is built using a database, you can tell the home page to look inside the database for the most recent 5 articles, instead of creating all of the links by hand in HTML.  A real time saver!

There are two basic types of CMS software.  One is a commercial license, where a software company charges a setup fee, plus maintenance, for using their software.  This Enterprise-level software typically costs a few thousand dollars for the setup fee, and a couple hundred a month for maintenance.  Examples of commercially licensed CMS software include Ektron and Red Dot.

The other type of CMS software is Open Source.  Open Source software is free to use, and free to customize.  It is supported by an online community of developers - thousands of nerds from all over the world (like me) develop, support, maintain, and upgrade the software so that they can use it for their own purposes.  Frequently, a client who needs an open-source plugin will fund the initial project, and makes the resulting software freely available.  Some developers also build commercial plugins which can be purchased, typically for less than $100.  Examples of such Open Source CMS packages include Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, and OSCommerce.

Also, a CMS-powered site will be easier to enhance, upgrade, or re-skin in the future.  Many CMS packages will have basic functions like search, rss feeds, and image uploading capabilities built-in.  Also, a strong CMS platform (my personal favorite is Joomla) will have a plugin system which will allow you to add features to your site such as eCommerce, photo galleries, client extranets, online communities, discussion forums, and more.

It appears that Google Maps / Google Local Business Center has updated their listings service to include reporting and other data - neat! (see below) If your business is not listed in Google's local business center, you can add your listing here.


Dear Nate,

We are writing to let you know about an important update to your Google Local Business Center account (log in at www.google.com/lbc).

Your account now has a new interface designed to show you more about how customers interact with your verified business listing. A new reporting dashboard shows statistics about your business listing, like how many users saw your business as a local search result, zip codes where driving directions requests come from, and the top search queries for which your business appeared. Here is a sample of your data:

Business: Covington Creations, LLC
Impressions in the last 30 days: 282

This information and more can also be found here: www.google.com/lbc.

Sincerely,

The Google Maps Team
Google Inc

 

Tip: You can now hire us to manage your Google Local Business listing data, along with other social media and website optimization requirements.  

Getting Started with C2 Online Support:
  1. To create an account, go to www.covingtoncreations.com
  2. Click “login.” Then, choose “register” at the bottom of the “Login” page.
  3. Once you log in, you will be able to check the status of your support tickets, access client-only resources & tutorials, and make payments via PayPal.

C2 Online Pricing:

Our project proposals typically include time to customize the site’s design and workflow, load the site's
content, and provide training so that our clients are able to update their sites once the project is
completed. We've had a number of people asking if they could save money on a web project by:

  • Using a stock template
  • Loading the content themselves (basic knowledge of HTML a major plus)
  • Providing their own design(er)

YES! Our new Joomla Setup & Installation package is $750. Hourly support as low as $75:
Here's how it works:

  1. Log in to www.covingtoncreations.com
  2. Choose “Payment Plans”
  3. Purchase Joomla Setup & Installation Package and/or Hourly Support via PayPal.
  4. Upon completing your order, we will install and configure Joomla for you, to your specifications, and give you administrative access to your site.
  5. We deploy your site on the final hosting server when you're ready. Pay for hourly support, training, and customization on an as-needed basis.

Note: You DO NOT need a PayPal account to complete the transaction.

Hosting Payments:

We now offer online payments for our hosting clients using PayPal. Further, the rate is $120 per year if
you pay for the full year up front. To make a hosting payment:

  1. Log in to www.covingtoncreations.com
  2. Choose “Payment Plans” and select the $120/year Recurring Hosting Plan.

Note: You DO NOT need a PayPal account to complete the transaction.

On May 30, 2009, I will be participating in the Crohns & Colitis Foundation Walk in Philadelphia.  Funding research for Crohns & Colitis is a very important issue as it affects many people - and there is no cure.  Please click on the link below to make a donation and support this cause.

[Please Sponsor Me! Make a donation online.]


Background info:

Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis is CCFA’s national evening walk and celebration and the nation’s largest event dedicated to finding cures for digestive diseases. Participants will enjoy a casual 2-3 mile stroll and raise money for crucial research that wouldn’t even have been possible a few short years ago, bringing us closer to a future free from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Throughout the year, Take Steps enables patient families to join together with their local community to build visibility and awareness about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis while raising critical funds for research. Over 1.4 million American adults and children are affected by these digestive diseases. While many suffer in silence, Take Steps brings together this community in a fun and energetic atmosphere, encouraging them to make noise and be heard.

One in every 200 people suffer daily with digestive diseases. With the support of communities nationwide, CCFA has raised much needed funds that, through research, have brought us closer to a cure. For those living with these chronic diseases, life is a roller coaster of active and remitting disease. However, the opportunity to make life more manageable for patients who live day to day with intense pain, the threat of long term hospital stays and multiple surgeries has never been greater. Please join me or donate to my efforts to support CCFA in finding a cure!

analytics_network_location_menuAs a business owner, it is frustrating to think that there are potential clients browsing my web site that I may never know about or meet. These people may have found my site by accident, and they might have received my direct mail piece which has motivated them to log onto your site.

What can we find out about these people? Our first stop is Google Analytics, which is a free visitor tracking tool. You could literally spend all day going through the data that Google gives you. My favorite place to "snipe for sales leads" is the Google Analytics "Network Location" report. For starters, this is how we access this data:


  1. Log into Google Analytics here:
    http://www.google.com/analytics/
    (If you don't have an Analytics account, it's free. You should.)
  2. Click "view reports" on the opening screen to access your reports.
  3. In the menu of the left side of the page, navigate here:
    Visitors -> Network Properties -> Network Location

Questions we can answer using some (free) Google search techniques:
  1. Which pages does Google have indexed from my site?
    This is a great way to see if any pages are listed in Google that you don't want the general public to see!  If you recently launched your site, this technique will tell you if Google has you in their system yet or not.  View a listing of all pages that Google has indexed from your site by searching for "site:www.yourcompany.com"
  2. What other pages link to my site?
    This is a great way to see how popular your site is (in Google's eyes) which is one of the greatest contributors to SEO / organic listing rank. View a listing of all pages that Google records (generally only of PageRank4 or higher) by searching for "link:www.yourcompany.com"
    Bonus hint: If you want to receive notifications any time someone mentions your company or brand on Google, sign up for Google Alerts.
  3. I just lost a page or graphic from my web site - how can I recover it?
    Option 1: Use Google's Cache
    Bonus hint (Option 2): Use Archive.org's Way Back Machine

In an effort to increase the quality of our services, we are conducting a survey in order to collect feedback from all our clients. If we work with multiple contacts in your organization, we ask that each person submit a survey:

http://www.covingtoncreations.com/survey/

The survey should only take a few minutes of your time and is greatly appreciated. We look forward to working with you in the future.

Warm regards,
-Nathan Covington, CEO

In an article released earlier this month, the French Police reported saving millions of euros by adopting Ubuntu, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Windows.  This is because open-source software is free to use.  It is developed by thousands of like-minded computer nerds (like me) who collaborate to build powerful, effective software.

Open source content management system software is a great way to take control of your web site, and unlike 10 years ago, it won't cost you $20,000 to hire a developer to build it from scratch.  Contact us to learn how open source software can help make your web site work for you!

Google has released a video explaining the logic behind bidding on keywords using Adwords:

"Our Chief Economist, Hal Varian, explains the AdWords Ad Auction and how your max CPC bid and quality score determine how much you pay for a click on Google.com."

Disclaimer:  Whenever he says, "Google wants to make a good experience for both the advertiser and the user so that they come back and use our services in the future" - he really means, "Google wants to keep advertisers and users connected through their revenue machine."

I've been an AT&T Mobile customer since 1998. In December 2008, I decided to switch from their 'personal' line of accounts into a 'business' account. This was due to better pricing and service/support for business accounts, and since my cell number is also my work & home lines, it made sense. At the time.

Since then, I have had 2 negative experiences with ATT's business "premiere" support team.  First, they charged me twice for the month of December.  No big deal, only an hour later with a few of their billing support people and they credited my account.  Nice.

Then, I realized that they kept sending me bills in the mail.  I had paperless billing, and autopay, set up before I switched over to their business plans.  Now that I am under a new billing account number, I had to enter my credit card information again, no big deal.  Then, when I logged into my account and tried to enable "paperless billing," the control panel choked on my request by saying "A General Error has occurred, please contact customer care."  So I did, about 4 times.  During these 4 calls, I spent several more hours on the phone with their tech support people, all of which promised that they could fix the issue, and nobody delivered.  I have 2 "ticket numbers" in their system about this.

Last Friday, I ended up giving their tech support crew MY LOGIN AND PASSWORD so that they could log into my account and read the error message themselves.  It's like they didn't believe me.  They entered ANOTHER support ticket, and promised that their IT department would have the issue resolved in 72 hours.  Now that it's been a week, I figured I'd write this general letter to AT&T to let you know that I am not going to call back again about this.  You can feel free to keep mailing me paper bills, at your expense, I just don't care any more.

It shouldn't be this difficult to help the environment.

Facebook has recently launched a new application that allows people to post comments using their Facebook accounts to 3rd-party sites.

commentsbox

This means two things:

  1. People that leave comments with their account are more likely to leave honest, legitimate comments on your site, as it will be linked directly to their Facebook profile.
  2. During periods of heavy traffic, your own web server is not handling all of the traffic, as all of the comments and user logins will run from Facebook's server instead.

Please contact us if you are interested in adding this functionality to your site!

Covington Creations is featured in the upcoming CBCC W4 Magazine! Click here to see the article. (pdf)

(Yes, this is the same testimonial that I featured in this case study)

Note: The software demonstrated below can be adapted to power any existing Web site or customized to specification. For more information, contact us.

I just made a bunch of these nifty tutorial videos to show how easy it can be to update your own web site without any programming skills.  To see the rest of them, click here.

Schlosser Steel Buildings came to us with an existing web site and wanted to know about making updates, sprucing it up, and reorganizing the content. We started by converting the site from a standard HTML site to a content management system. We proceeded to fine-tune and build content. Then, we made the overall page wider to better fit today's larger wide-screens.

ssb-banda.png

a.  Case Studies, not Projects
Originally, all of the featured projects were contained under "Projects."  Each project had a few pictures, and you would need to visit 5 or 6 different pages just to see all of the projects.  During the site renovation, we changed "Projects" to "Case Studies."  A slight tweak in the menu makes a big change in overall perception.

ssb-case-studies-tabs.png

b.  Tabbed Content
For the "Case Studies" and "Products" sections, we added a nifty feature called "AJAX Tabs" to help organize and present the content.  These tabs allowed us to add lots of content without making you scroll 3 or 4 miles down the page to see it all.  Nice!

c.  Search & Site Map
Let's make it as easy as possible for people to navigate the site.  For those who can't manage the newly simplified navigation menu, let's add a quick and easy site search function.  Studies show that half of all web surfers use Search instead of menus - is your site this easy to navigate?

ssb-search-login.png

d.  Client Login
We also added a "Client Login" capability to the site.  For starters, having a client login on your site will impress people.  Even if it's not functional.  However, the SS Buildings client login IS functional, and it's a great tool for collaborating with clients and partners - sharing files, information, and more.   A small investment in your company's technology can improve productivity and deliver a great ROI.

 

View Site:

www.ssbuildings.com


"It was time for the Lambertville House to update its web site. After listening to a presentation by Nate Covington at the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, I decided to break with tradition and work with a new web builder. My objectives were quite clear, I wanted to streamline the site and increase search engine optimization. After meeting with Nate I was confident that he was going to work hard to understand what was needed to communicate our message to our customers. Nate was a patient listener and it was obvious from the start of the project that he wanted to make sure the finished product would exceed my expectations. The professionalism, attention to detail and overall quality of work has been a pleasure. Nate has provided guidance and useful tools to enhance and promote our site in an easy to understand format. I highly recommend Covington Creations and Nate who is reliable and creative. We look forward to a long standing working relationship."
- Mary Ellen Mason, Proprietor, Lambertville House


We felt the first thing that had to go was the daunting navigation menu because was too long and wordy to let people make easy choices.

Before:

lvh-old-nav.jpg

After:

lambertville-house.png

We wanted to keep the existing look & feel, but made a few changes:

a.  Breadcrumbs
We added "breadcrumbs" to the top of every page; that way, visitors have a quick and simple way to navigate the site.  Plus, it gives plenty of extra text links for the search engines to enjoy.  Best of all, the breadcrumb menu is automatically generated by the custom-tailored content management system that powers the site.

lvh-breadcrumbs.png

b.  Lightbox (Thumbnails)
Throughout the site, there are small thumbnails that enlarge to show a full-size picture.  The best part?  They're also automatically generated by our fancy control panel.  Want to swap out the pictures?  Just upload new ones to a folder on the web server and, bang.  Done.

lvh-thumbnails.png

c.  Blog.  RSS Feeds.  Social Bookmarking.
We added an Announcements section to the Lambertville House site and equipped it with all of the latest goodies.  First, adding content regularly to the site will feed Google wonderful content to chew up and help gain exposure for the site.  Second, social bookmarking links on all of the new articles allow viewers to share the articles through services like Facebook, Digg, Technorati, and Del.icio.us.  The best part?  You guessed it.  Automatically generated by the CMS software.

lvh-blog.png

d.  Search, Site Map
Let's make it as easy as possible for people to navigate the site.  For those who can't manage the newly simplified navigation menu, let's add a quick and easy site search function.  Studies show that half of all web surfers use Search instead of menus.  Also, the site map gives visitors a hierarchal view of the content while feeding Google some more links.

View Site:
www.lambertvillehouse.com