Author Archives: Patrice

Types of websites defined

There are 5 basic types of website design structures: Fixed Width, Adaptive, Responsive, screensParallax, and Mobile. In a world rapidly moving toward being able to access any information on any device, a discussion of each follows.

Fixed Width – traditional web design where the website is created as a fixed width and is designed to start at the edge of a user’s browser or float to the middle of the browser window, assuming the browser window is larger than the fixed width of the website. Most fixed width sites are designed to view properly on monitors that have a screen resolution of 1024 pixel width or larger. This would include most desktop, laptop, and tablet computers. For most mobile devices, these sites display as a smaller image of the site and can be difficult to read and interact with.

Adaptive – Fixed Width sites with mobile optimized pages, typically are called Adaptive design. These sites provide a separate mobile user experience than that of tablet, laptop, and desktop users. Many people believe that an Adaptive site provides the best of both worlds. Due to limitations on mobile bandwidth and various data plans, Adaptive sites serve different content to the mobile user in a greatly reduced design format reducing the load time of the pages and providing just the information that a typical mobile user is looking for. Since a mobile searcher is more likely to take immediate action mobile page design and function is critical to the success of the Adaptive mobile experience. A good Adaptive website application will create your mobile page content directly from your desktop content, but will allow the site administrator to modify the mobile content separately from the desktop pages if and when it makes sense to do so. Most Adaptive designs start with the desktop design and adapt the content to fit the smaller screens. Our ProFusion Solution with Mobisponsive, would be considered an adaptive solution.

Responsive – A responsive site is designed to optimize the viewer experience across any device. It responds to the screen size of the device and arranges content based on the device screen size. In order to function properly the website is created in a grid format with rules on how to manage the division layout on various screen sizes. Typically these sites are designed optimally for a specific screen size (i.e. 960, 1200, 1280 pixel width and then divided into a 12 or 16 equally sized grid layout with padding of 10 pixels on the left and right of each grid section), at 100% and then the content is increased or decreased as a percentage based on device. The smallest device size may be displayed at 50% of the original size and arranged based on sizes of the content blocks to be displayed beneath or eliminated altogether. Larger display sizes can be increased as a percentage of the total to better fit the larger screen size. Responsive designs typically start with a design for the mobile device and scale up the design for the desktop displays. To truly optimize the site for a small screen images should be created in various sizes and be loaded based on the device. Responsive designs can be complex and time consuming to do properly and for this reason, many Responsive Designs simply scale the existing desktop site to a smaller screen. The WordPress and Simbus One solutions that we implement tend to use responsive themes.

Parallax – Parallax site design uses techniques in which the background of the website moves at a different speed than the rest of the page for an impressive visual effect. Many times parallax sites consist of a single page.  Parallax sites potentially can have a slower load time, but are very fast moving down the page which can be done by scrolling down. The upside to a parallax designed site include a “Wow” effect with site depth and animation, keeping visitors on a page for longer periods of time, and directing visitors to calls to action. The downside is that SEO can take a hit due to single page meta data, H1 tag relevance, no internal linking and single URL. Parallax sites are best used to tell a story and lead a visitor to take an action.

Mobile Site – these are typically mobile only platforms for creating a mobile version of your website. The actual mobile version is served from a separate location/application than your standard site. When a mobile user comes to your site, there is code on the site that redirects the user to the mobile version of your site. This solution requires maintaining 2 versions of your website: your mobile application and your desktop application.

Mobile sites are frequently confused with Mobile Apps or mobile applications. Apps are small programs that are downloaded to your mobile device and reside on your mobile device. A Mobile website is accessed via your mobile browser.

A mobile site can be a stand-alone site created specifically for mobile devices. These can also be viewed on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer but typically display in a small screen format on all devices.

Which site design type is right for your company depends on your audience, the message you are trying to communicate and what actions you wish to have visitors take. One thing is clear, however: if your site is more than 3 years old and does not take into consideration the large and growing population of mobile users you are missing a lot of potential business.

Need help implementing a mobile strategy? Contact us today to discuss what solution would be best for your business!

What the April 21st Google Update Means to Your Business

Google has been rolling out lots of changes to apps, Google Play and the presentation of mobile search engine results all in preparation for a larger algorithm release that is scheduled to be released on or around April 21st.  As we learned from past Google algorithm changes (Penguin and Panda), these updates can greatly impact where your site ranks in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The update set to be released on April 21st is focused on providing a better search experience for mobile users. To accomplish this, Google will be “expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.” So what does that mean to business owners? If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your mobile search engine rankings could take a hit.

In an email sent to Webmasters, Google has indicated that they are looking at the following factors when determining if your website is mobile friendly or not.

  1. Content not sized to viewport – This means that the content of your website is not resizing to match the width of the viewer’s screen. This will result in text that is challenging for user to read and may cause a horizontal scroll bar making site navigation a challenge for the user.
  2. Touch elements too close – links and buttons that are clickable on a mobile device need to be approximately 12-20 pixels apart to make for easy touching on a smaller screen. Having your buttons, links or other touch elements too close together will cause a usability issue and will  make your site not mobile friendly in Google’s algorithm.
  3. Flash usage – Most mobile browsers do not render Flash-based content. Therefore, mobile visitors will not be able to use a page that relies on Flash in order to display content, animations, or navigation.

The first thing you should do if you are concerned about this update, is run your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly). If you get the following message, you are good to go.

awesome

 

 

 

However, if you get a message that looks something like the one below, then you’ll want to take immediate action.
notfriendly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nice thing about this update, is that Google is giving webmasters exact tasks they can do to make sure their websites are not negatively affected. If your website turns up a not mobile-friendly message, here are the actions you can take to course correct and avoid a decrease in mobile ranking after April 21st.

  1. Check with your webmaster – it’s possible that your website just needs a few tweaks to make it mobile friendly.  Make sure to get a couple examples from your webmaster and run them through the Google Test above. If they pass, there is a good chance your provider can help make your website mobile friendly as well.
  2. Find a new provider – if your current provider cannot create a mobile or responsive site for you, it’s time to start seeking out a new vendor. If you are looking for a new provider, make sure you find one who is well versed in Search Engine Optimization. You don’t want to create a new site with a mobile solution only to jeopardize existing desktop rankings with non-optimized titles and a changing URL structure.
  3. Test and test again – once you have a mobile solution in place it’s important to check every page of your site to make sure all links work and that pages are loading properly.

Though it may seem reactive and hurried, website owners are going to have to adapt to the new mobile-centric digital marketing universe. Since Google is the industry leader, when they give a command, it behooves business owners to follow.

What is your plan for the Google Mobile-Friendly Update? Let us know in the comments below.

Twitter Branding – Forced compliance?

Most people would recognize the icons above. Most associate the cute little bird and the lowercase blue “t” with Twitter. For a company that has done little advertising the world seems to know and recognize the Twitter brand; even when it is contorted, stretched or incorporated into another image. Part of the fun with Twitter is that you can add your own personality. Your twitter feed is about you and your reactions to the world. Well, Twitter is finally starting to reign in the creativity when it comes to their logo use. I received the following email this morning:

You may have noticed that our marks have changed.  It seems that you are using an outdated version of the Twitter marks.   Please update using the guidelines and images available at www.twitter.com/logo.

If you have any questions about the use of the Twitter brand or trademarks, please let us know at trademarks@twitter.com.”

A couple thoughts went through my head when I read this email; the first was good luck. If you do a Google Image search for Twitter Icon, you’ll get 428,000,000 search results. All different takes on the Twitter logo that both professional and novice designers have created for personal or business use. Forcing compliance on 300 Million + users will be a full time gig for an entire department at Twitter. Becuase I happen to like using the lowercase “t” instead of the bird to promote our twitter account (@nsna or @pcvalentine for those interested) I inquired as to what the consequences would be if we decided not to update the Twitter logo across our websites, email signatures and blogs. The response I got only indicated that the update was “mandatory”.

I get that Twitter is trying to enforce their brand. I am sure for consistency and legal purposes it makes sense for them to do so. How can they battle someone in court over copyright infringement if they haven’t attempted to force compliance? So I get it Twitter, and I will (reluctantly) update our icons, as for the other trillion websites… good luck.

If you need the updated Twitter icon to use in your email signature or on your website, we have provided them here for you to download. Get the latest Twitter icon.

Adding social media icons to Hotmail Signature

Adding social media icons to Hotmail Signature
Hotmail is a little trickier than the other signature files. Follow these step-by-step instructions to add a facebook, twitter and LinkedIn icon to your hotmail email signature.

1. Login to Hotmail

2. From the upper right hand corner click on the drop down arrow next to your account name

3. Click on Options

4. Then click on the mail tab on the left hand side

5. Under “Writing Email” click on Message Font and Signature

6. In the Personal Signature box, follow these instructions.

  1. Change the editor type from “Rich Text” to “Edit in HTML” from the drop down on the right hand side. If there is text in the editor, go ahead and clear it out at this point so you are starting with a blank slate.
  2. Type in your name and contact information – the font will not look like the one you selected above, and that is ok. When you are done typing and adding in the icons, you can change from HTML to text mode and change the fonts if you want.
  3. Place the cursor below the contact information where you want the icons to appear.
    1. Facebook – For the Facebook Icon, type in the code from the image below. Sorry you can’t copy and paste it, if you need to copy and paste – download the PDF of these instructions and copy the code from the PDF.
    2. Twitter: For the Twitter Icon, type in the code from the image below.
    3. LinkedIn:  For the LinedIn Icon, type in the code from the image below.

Note: Due to WordPress thinking it’s smarter than me, you have to download the pdf: Adding social media icons to Hotmail Signature if you want to actually copy and paste the code. If you don’t mind retyping it, just type carefully the code you see above..

Note (again): the icons may have a blue or purple line around them. I have tested this and the lines show up in your signature when you send an email, but the email recipient does not see these lines. Please also remember to change the page URLs for each of the accounts. You’ll want to put in your actual facebook account URL into the code.

When you are done entering in the information, it should look something like this…

7. You can now use the drop down to switch back from HTML mode to Rich Text Mode to see the work you just did and format the text to look the way you want it to. You may have to enter in line breaks now.

8. Then click save. The next time you send an email, this signature will appear!

Adding Social Media Icons to your Gmail Signature

We have had so many good questions and posts on our blog about adding social media icons to your Outlook Signature, that we figured we’d create a similar instruction set for Gmail. To add the Twitter and Facebook Icons to your Gmail Signature, follow these instructions:

1. Login to Gmail
2. Next to your email address in the upper right hand corner, click on the Options button, then select Mail Settings
3. On the General Settings tab, scroll down to the signature settings.
4. Type in your name, address and other contact information.
5. To add the Facebook Icon, click on the image button (looks like this Insert Facebook Icon in Google Signature Then copy and paste this image link into the Image URL Field: http://www.snoitulosten.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/facebook-small.jpg then click ok
6. Repeat this step for Twitter using this image link: http://www.snoitulosten.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/twitter-small.jpg (BTW – here is the link for Linkedin if you want it: http://www.snoitulosten.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/linked.jpg )
7. Now that you have the images inserted, you need to hyperlink them. To do this, first click on the image you want to link to highlight it, then click on the hyperlink button (looks like this: create a hyperlink in Gmail Signature
8. After you click on the link, a dialog box will open. Copy and paste your Facebook or Twitter link into the Web Address field, then click ok.
9. Do this for all images in your signature.

Here is the video instruction set if you’d rather see it in person:

Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the screen and save your changes. Then send yourself a test message (or send me one patrice@netsolutionsna.com) and we can verify that the links go to the right place!

We’ll post more image options in the near future so you can add in YouTube, Linkedin, etc.

domain registration scam

There are so many unsavory people out there… occasionally we get a call from a client wondering if an email or letter is legit. When we get one ourselves, we try to post them here so you know to be on the look out – Here is an email we got a couple days ago:

Dear CEO,

We are a domain name registrar centre in HongKong which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally, we have an important issue to confirm with you.

1. On the July 14,We received a formal application from a company named ” Honor Overseas, Inc. ” who are applying to register ” netsolutionsna” as domain names and Internet keyword.

2. During our preliminary investigation, we found that these Domain Names’ keyword is identical with your Trade Mark, this is why we inform you.

3. I wonder whether did you consigned ” Honor Overseas, Inc.” to register these Domain Names and Internet Keyword with us? Or is “Honor Overseas, Inc.” your business partner?

4. If you do not have any relationship with this applicant, we assume that they have other purposes to obtain these Domain Names and Internet Keyword.

Currently, we have already postponed this company’s application temporarily. Pls let the relevant principal make a confirmation with me ASAP.

Thanks & Regards,

JoJo Wang

If you get something like this, don’t respond, just trash it. It is a scam. More info on relevant scams can be seen on this blog- http://www.cyveillanceblog.com/domains-icann/domain-registration-scam-picks-up-in-volume

Servers down…

Our Data Center performed a physical move of our servers last night. The maintenance window was to be from 11 PM Pacific until 1 AM Pacific. With an expected down time of 20-30 minutes. Had all gone as planned this window is the lowest traffic window for our servers.

Unfortunately, all did not go well. And one the Windows Apps server did not reboot. Technicians are working on the problem but I do not yet have an ETA for the servers to be back on line. The contingency plan is to install a new server but that will take time to bring on line as all of the sites will need to be restored from backup.

We will let you know as soon as we figure out the failure point.

Sorry for the inconvenience this is causing you.

Please check back here as I will be posting as more information is available.

Is “Live” phone support the next big thing?

NSNA CEO Bob Reynolds and I recently traveled to Nashville to take part in the CPrint Sales Summit. (Read the Press Release) We were pitching our ProFusion Dealer Program to these CPrinters which would essentially allow them to sell a technical product (websites, hosting, email marketing, etc.) to a non-technical audience. The printing industry has been hurting over the past several years with more and more companies opting not to print brochures and with more of them moving items they would traditionally print, to the web. So we saw the print industry as a natural fit to be resellers of our Web Services. 90% of them have graphic artists in house which makes them well suited to sell the ProFusion line of products.

So we went to Nashville, we made our pitch, and now we are in the follow up stage. We do have some competition in this marketplace. A little company called Adobe has a product that they call “Business Catalyst”. They were also at the Summit pitching their reseller program to the CPrinters. After speaking directly with over 50 of the CPrinters, and outlining all the Pros and Cons of both programs, it appears that the biggest difference between the two products in the resellers minds is that we (ProFusion) offer telephone support, while Adobe does not. Now trust me, there are many other major differences between the two applications, however, this seems to be the biggest pain point with the resellers. They want to know that if they have a problem or needs some sales advice that we are just a phone call away. Seems simple enough, but phone support is one place that a lot of companies cut out when their budget gets tight.

I was doing a little research to see if phone support was a big deal in other industries and came across this website http://gethuman.com. It is a site dedicated to telling consumers how to reach a live person when calling some of the major corporations out there. I think this is awesome. 🙂 If a little company like Net Solutions can provide phone support for their customers, why can’t the big guys? Furthermore, why do we tolerate the big companies not having phone support? My customers would raise hell if I said that we are operating on email support only, however, the larger corporations get away with it all the time.

That’s my rant for the day. Call me if you want to discuss it 🙂 360.738.8188

Family owned and operated

I was listening to talk radio yesterday morning (like I do every morning) and heard 2 separate ads that made all the standard claims “best quality, lowest price, etc.” but then they both ended with “Family owned and operated for XX years.”.

I wondered if anyone cared about this anymore? If all things were equal and you were making a purchase, would you opt to go with the product that was manufactured by the Family Owned and Operated Company? Does family owned and operated somehow equate to good service and tangible value? I’m not sure it does.

I think the 5 seconds wasted on saying “family owned and operated” could have been better spent on making an actual claim on why you are better/different from your competition. Lean economic times means business owners need to get smarter and their advertising messages need to hit their consumer right in the pain points. Telling me that you are family owned and operated does not help me make a buying decision.

If you disagree with me, and doing business with a family owned and operated company is #1 on your list, then you will be happy to know that Net Solutions is a family owned and operated business. 🙂

Useful tools for PC users

People often ask me what tools I use to make my life on a PC easier… well here is a list of some of my favs.

1. PixResizer (http://bluefive.pair.com/pixresizer.htm) easily allows you to resize one or multiple images. Please, please use this or http://profusionproducts.com/resizer/ to resize your images before you load them onto your website.

2. TweetDeck – I manage a few Twitter and FaceBook accounts and TweetDeck makes this simple from one interface

3. Pixie – (http://www.nattyware.com/pixie.php) ever wonder what the hex, RGB, or CMYK value of the color on your favorite website is? Well wonder no more, Pixie is a great little tool that will tell you the codes for any color on any website, document or image.

4. PowerPoint – I am a PowerPoint junkie. I don’t just use it for presentations, I use it to do rough schematics and rough mock-ups. I can do amazing things in PowerPoint. Many website designs have started with me and a client sitting down and mocking something up it PowerPoint. I am sure other web designers will laugh, but this works and my clients are happy.

5. I had been using GoTo Webinar for our online training sessions and have been relatively happy with them. They are somewhat pricey ($99/mo). My biggest complaint is that the recordings are not very high quality. I have posted many of them on the NSNA website and they are hard to read. I have been trying out Camtasia and Screencast.com for a couple quick responses to clients (see http://www.screencast.com/t/YTIwZDMzMTkt as an example) but I have not used it enough to make a full review. I’ll let you know.

6. We use IM (instant messenger) like crazy to communicate quickly. Call me lazy, but there are many times I will IM the CEO of our company even if he is sitting in the office right next to me. For me, I like having a written answer to my question. If gives me something to go back and read if I ever forget the answer (which I do a lot… prego brain). I still have two accounts, Yahoo and MSN, and use both messengers. I know there are tools that allow you to consolidate to one IM, but I like having both. Sue me.

7. CutePDF – again, PC users need a free way to make PDFs too. See my earlier post on how to do this.

8. Pandora.com – For me, I work much better with good tunes. Since I can’t hire DJ Maynard to spin in my office all day, I listen to Pandora.

What am I missing? What can’t you live/work without?