Web Design Blog

Building optimized sites has always been a major part of our strategy: they are easier to maintain, easier to upgrade, and they load more quickly.  I have never built a site using only Flash, and have always built sites using HTML-and-CSS based navigation menus.  They are search engine friendly and easy to expand or rearrange.

With that in mind, I have recently come up with a few other ways to speed things up.  A faster site will generally rank better in the search engines, plus it will have less people abandoning the site while waiting for it to load.

A Discussion Drupal vs Joomla Theming

I think this might be my first post specifically about Drupal.  I’ve been using Drupal for a few years now, but as many know, I’ve been a Joomla guy for a lot longer.  One of the nice things about Drupal’s theming structure is their “content” is rendered as a regular block.  So, when you’re managing blocks in the admin panel, you can assign a contact form block to the content area block area, and it shows up right below it.  No need to tweak the template files create a new block area (in Joomla speak, a module position).

First, a bit of clarification because my clients frequently ask this question: what’s the difference between "social icons" and "social sharing icons”?  Social icons are links to your company’s social pages, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN.  On these pages, people can directly engage with your organization by posting photos, asking questions, and the like.  

Social SHARING icons are visually similar as well, they will typically include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+, Pinterest… these are used for sharing content from your company’s website on your site visitors’ social media accounts (newsfeeds, or pages).  When your site’s visitors share your content throughout their social circles, it translates into free exposure for your content.  Assuming that you are producing relevant, high-quality content, this should translate into increased revenues, profits, and market share for your organization.

Before we begin, yes, K2 does have its own, built-in comment functionality.  And yes, there are plugins already built and available for this.  The reason I like this solution is twofold:

  1. K2's comment functionality, while has many useful features (Captcha anti-spam, email notifications, admin approval process), people seem to like using Disqus because it supports logins from multiple accounts (Disqus, Facebook, Google, Twitter).  K2's inbuilt commenting feature can be set up to allow comments from anonymous visitors, which opens up your site to comment spam.
  2. I don't like installing an entire plugin just to accomplish one little thing.  While I'm sure the plugin works, you have more customization / control when you handle the actual code.  This is similar to the plugins that allow you to add Google Analytics to your site - maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine - but I'd rather edit a (single, easy) file than install a new extension, which is a potential security risk.

I've been a Photoshop user for almost 10 years now, and it's slightly embarrassing to say that I've finally figured out how to create a keyboard shortcut for "crop."  I've been using keyboard shortcuts the entire time, for things like copy, cut, paste... but I always felt like I was losing valuable time to reach for the mouse, go to the Image menu, then down to Crop.  

Do you have a mobile or responsive site? If not, on April 21 you may find it harder to rank in Google’s mobile search results.

Google announced algorithm updates that will have a “significant impact” on mobile search results worldwide for mobile searchers. The update improves rankings for sites that provide a mobile-friendly experience to searchers on mobile devices, and, by association, demotes sites that do not.

I noticed that the XMap for Joomla plugins are no longer available so I am posting them here.  

Just received a call from "Windows Support Tech" and the guy tried to pull one of these Support Scams referenced here and here.  It's surprising that they are still trying this scam, years later.

This guy called from "Suzan Champagne" - number 1-450-623-7415

Hello again, Nate here… I realized I haven’t sent out an e-newsletter since 2012, so hopefully you’re ready for my next one by now.

Important: USPS Shipping Calculations

You're probably aware that the changes UPS and FedEx introduced to their rates at the end of the year now take into account "dimensional weight" instead of just actual weight. Most merchants will be receiving their first invoices under the new rating in the next few weeks and some will be in for a bit of a shock. At the very least, you’ll want to test your eCommerce checkout process to make sure that USPS shipping rates are still working. As with any software update, things may go wrong, so it’s best to check for yourself.

Important: Sites Not Sending Email

We’ve noticed that some hosting companies are making changes to their servers’ configuration that relates to sending email. Most of our clients have not been affected by this, but occasionally, these server changes prevent a site from sending out email messages. This applies to sites that have contact forms, member/client/employee login systems, and eCommerce stores. Since the server-setting change only affects email, your site will appear to be functioning, but messages will be undelivered. Please check your own site by sending yourself a message through it and confirm that the email notifications are sending (and receiving) properly. Note that submissions are also generally stored in a database, so we can typically recover any data that would have been missed.

One of the most difficult things about being self-employed is taking a vacation.  It requires much effort to strike a healthy work-life balance.  Many of my clients rely on my fast turn-around time for making changes to their websites, and are frequently adding time-sensitive special offers and the like.

Every year, I manage to take a few long weekends and sometimes an entire week... below are some of my practices for handling such an event:

I want to take a brief moment to write up some important points to consider when dealing with securing digital communications.

Many of these items have come to light after Edward Snowden (bravely) came forward and contradicted what Obama told Leno: “We don’t have a domestic spying program.”  As you are (hopefully) well aware, this is 100% false.

Further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden#Global_surveillance_disclosures

With all of this in mind, I am compiling a list of 4 things that anyone, not just industry-professionals, can do to protect themselves against such spying:

Nate Covington, owner of Covington Creations, LLC, will present:

Free Marketing & Technology Seminar
Greater Pocono Chamber of Commerce

Important:  This seminar is for Chamber Members only!  If you are not a member, join today!

Background:
In order to allow for safer electronic communication, I've finally set up my own PGP encryption for sending email. 

Don't ask for your privacy. Take it back.
"Mass surveillance is illegitimate. I'm taking steps to take my freedoms back and I expect governments and corporations to follow in my footsteps and take steps to stop all mass government surveillance."

Below is my PGP Key...

Website
First and foremost, your website needs to be up to snuff.  Is it search engine friendly?  Does it look presentable?  Is it up to date?  Does it work on iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices?  

All of the following services are going to link back to your website so put your best foot forward.  

“Now, people are calling and saying they found my site through an internet search.”
- Chris Pip, owner of CP Construction

We recently rebuilt this website for a local contractor and wanted to share the results.  

We are pleased to announce that we offer financing through PayPal's "Bill Me Later" service - details:

To get started please contact us and use the Payments page to make a payment using PayPal.  During checkout, use the "Bill me Later" option.

In the 7-10 days after Hurricane Sandy hit our area (Northeast PA), we were entirely without electricity and cable service.  As a web developer, this would have assumedly resulted in a general lack of productivity.  Luckily, we had just switched from AT&T to Verizon a few months prior, so tethering is included with our data plan.  And, just last summer, we had our generator hard-wired into the house.  So, unlike most of my clients and colleagues who were waiting for services to be restored, I was able to keep plugging away.  I certainly wouldn't want to work off of my cell phone's data plan on a regular basis, but in a pinch, it works great.  Now, if only Verizon would let me talk on the phone and tether at the same time (cough cough)...

I've written previously about the importance of maintaining control over your website and wanted to post this follow-up.  In addition to having your site's domain registration in your company's name and billing, you also want to have your hosting account in your company's name and billing.  The reason?  You are able to choose who works on your site without moving your site to a different server.  Have a falling out with your web guy?  Or he/she simply fell off the face of the earth?  No problem, you have control over the hosting account.  Change the password and find a new consultant to work with.  Give them your new password.

As much as I personally despise the growing popularity of social services like Facebook and Twitter, they are excellent mediums for a 'normal consumer' to be heard by large corporations.  In the past, a single consumer would only be able to make phone calls and write letters, short of funding their own advertising to publicly shame a company.  With today's popularity of Facebook and Twitter, and the equally growing pressure for corporations to engage with their customers, it offers a lot of incentive for companies to resolve issues with customers.  Here are some of my own personal tips for getting good customer service.

With a "responsive" mobile-friendly template, we are able to use a standard CMS-driven site, and by using additional style sheets (CSS), re-flow your site onto smaller screen sizes.

Benefits:

  • SEO Friendly: Google's officially recommended method for building mobile sites, won't harm rankings with duplicate URL issues 
  • Easy to maintain: mobile site is integrated into existing control panels, no separate mobile-specific site to build or update
  • Not device-dependent - adapts to mobile devices based on screen size, not device make & model (future proof)

For more information, or to get an estimate for building "responsive" technology into your existing site, contact us today!

Latest Comments

Nate Covington posted a comment in Download XMap for Joomla - All Versions Joomla
Hi, I stopped using Xmap years ago. Not sure about your particular error with Hikashop. I suggest ...
Jonathan Brain posted a comment in Download XMap for Joomla - All Versions Joomla
Got these errors with your copy of XMap for Joomla 3.0.x download when upgrading a Joomla / Hikashop...
@giucas - No, this is a "PayPal" thing. Most likely there IS a way for a user to pay with a guest a...
Joy Lewis posted a comment in Beware of Fraud: Web Design Scam
I had the same issue today, I'm glad I didn't respond it seemed really fishy. Thanks for getting i...
Thanks for this code! The paypal form doesn't allow guest payment (with credit card) but only via pa...

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