Blog

Brian Houdek Web Design Has Moved

Brian Houdek Web Design Has Moved

As a freelance website designer, graphic designer, and marketing professional I have the ability to work out of my home. I lived in Naperville for about 7 years but as my family grew I needed more space. I currently have 3 daughters (Bianca - 6, Natalie - 4, Evelyn - Almost 2) AND another baby on the way. We ended up buying a home in Batavia and we absolutely love everything about the town. My new address is:

1629 Derby Dr
Batavia, IL 60510

I have a lot of clients in the Naperville area, so, fortunately, I didn't move too far. I look forward to working with more clients throughout the Tri-Cities (Geneva, Batavia, Saint Charles) and beyond. I have clients throughout the United States from New York to California, so for those clients, nothing has changed.

One fun thing about moving your business is updating your business listings online. As I've posted previously, your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency on the internet is crucial. I have to make sure my address gets changed EVERYWHERE. Below are the important places I had to update my listings:

In addition to these, there are MANY other databases and websites with my company information. To update those I like to use a tool called Citation Builder by BrightLocal. BrightLocal is a service that goes out and corrects inaccurate information or adds your business information if it's missing, to many of the largest online databases. I plan on writing an article about them in the future, but in the meantime definitely check them out. If you need a reliable, trustworthy web or print guy, contact me today.

Read more...
BuiltWith - A Great Tool to Figure Out What Technology a Website Uses

BuiltWith – A Great Tool to Figure Out What Technology a Website Uses

Ever visit a website and think... that's pretty cool. It happens to me all the time and I always turn to the best tool out there to figure out what technology a website is using. BuiltWith is an unbelievable tool that can show you everything there is to know about a website. Not only can you figure out which CMS (Content Management System) they're using, but you can even figure out which plugins they're using (and the technology those plugins use sometimes). For example, if you look up my website you'll not only discover that I use WordPress as a CMS, but it also shows that I use the theme Porto. You can figure out every single plugin I have installed on my website very quickly.

I always tell clients if you've seen it on another website, you can have it on yours. BuiltWith is how I quickly determine what technology was used so I can recreate it and put my own twist on it. If you need a new website, need to improve your existing website or have a graphic design project, contact me today and I'd be happy to discuss how I can help.

Read more...
Adobe Color - A Great Color Palette Generator

Adobe Color – A Great Color Palette Generator

Whenever I design a website one of the first considerations is the color palette that will be used. Colors are typically pulled from an existing logo or based on customer preference. Considering there are 16,777,216 hex colors to choose from, selecting colors can be extremely subjective. Occasionally a client will want a certain color, only to say "a bit lighter" or "a bit darker". The solution to this problem is a tool from Adobe called Adobe Color.

What I like about Adobe Color is the simple interface and the ability to easily create complimentary colors for the colors you select. The various options on the left give you a quick twist on the shade of the color you selected. Click on the Explore tab at the top, and see popular color pallets and randomly generated color palettes that may inspire your creativity. The hex code (looks like #ababab) is what web designers need to use the color within a design element. Whenever I lack natural creativity this tool help spark my creative flare.

If you're looking for a website or graphic designer, contact me today for a free estimate.

Read more...
Uptime Robot - Know When Your Website Goes Down

Uptime Robot – Know When Your Website Goes Down

Web servers are not perfect and they crash. I use InMotion Hosting for my web servers and they guarantee a 99.9% uptime... it's not 100%. Yesterday InMotion was having some data center issues and I knew about it within a minute of the servers going down because of a great tool from Uptime Robot. Their free plan will ping your website every 5 minutes and you can add up to 50 websites. If you need more monitors or want them to ping your website more often, they offer very competitive pricing.

If you have a website you should use Uptime Robot. Knowing there's a problem is step one to fixing it. If you need website, graphic design or marketing services, please contact me today.

Read more...
How to Login to Gmail Using Your Domain Email Address

How to Login to Gmail Using Your Domain Email Address

I host email for the majority of my clients and forward their domain email (@yourdomain.com) to a Gmail address. The reason I do this is the convenience and functionality of Gmail. Also, most business clients have multiple email addresses and don't want to login multiple different places to check their email. Forwarding email to a Gmail address and using Gmail's 'Send Mail As' feature gives my clients the ability to send and receive their domain email from Gmail. I will write an article on that process in the future, but for now, see this article on how to do that.

Being able to sign into Gmail using your domain email address is another way to streamline the entire process. Follow these steps to allow that feature:

  1. Login to Gmail
  2. Click on your profile photo on the top right and select 'Google Account' below your name
  3. Click on the 'Personal Info' tab on the left
  4. Under 'Contact Info' click on 'Email'
  5. Click on the Advanced dropdown, then under 'Alternate Emails' select 'Add Alternate Email'
  6. Once you've added an 'Alternate Email' you will be able to sign into your Gmail account using the domain email address you entered in this field.

If you have the money to spend, another option is using GSuite, in which Google actually hosts your email and allows you to manage multiple users. GSuite costs $6/user/month for 30GB of Google Drive storage, or $12/user/month for unlimited storage. Many of my clients don't want to spend that money when they can forward their domain email to Gmail and use this login feature to get a very similar product for FREE. If you want to learn more about this topic contact me today and I'd be happy to walk you through everything.

Read more...
Signs Direct - Quality Signs at a Great Price

Signs Direct – Quality Signs at a Great Price

Today I want to share with you a great company that I use for all types of sign printing. Signs Direct is a company based in Bloomington, IL that offers yard signs, sidewalk signs, freestanding signs, lighted signs, sign hardware and much, much more. I do a lot of research before I work with a print company and I assure you that for the price you can't find a better deal. They even have stock signs for common things such as indoor and outdoor safety signs and road / parking signs.

The most common product I order from Signs Direct is their yard signs. Their production and shipping is always incredibly fast and I've always been happy with their quality. I am a bit partial because they're not only based in the US, but my home state of Illinois. If you don't live in Illinois they don't charge sales tax. If you live in Illinois... well you know.

If you need signs designed for printing through Signs Direct contact me today. I'd love to help you out.

Read more...
RemotePC - Remote Access From Anywhere

RemotePC – Remote Access From Anywhere

RemotePC is a tool that is used to remotely access and control computers from anywhere 24/7. There are quite a few different tools that perform a similar function to RemotePC, but none better for the cost. You can use RemotePC for free, but you can only leave one computer in an 'always on' state for remote access. If you only need one then you're good to go! The most popular package that RemotePC sells is their 'Consumer/SOHO' plan which allows up to 10 computers to have unlimited remote access for $52.12 for one year or $104.25 for 2 years (pricing as of 5/23/2019).

I've been using RemotePC for a while now after switching from a MUCH more expensive competitor. Having the ability to remotely access home or business computers when you're not in your home or business is invaluable. The setup is really simple and their interface is easy to use. If you want to learn more about RemotePC be sure to contact me today.

Read more...
How to Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics and Schedule Emailed Reports

How to Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics and Schedule Emailed Reports

Google Analytics is the best way to see who is visiting your website, where they came from, what they did on your website and more details on their overall interactions with your website. I install Google Analytics on every website I build, but very few of my clients actually monitor the statistics it provides. While Google Analytics can seem overwhelming due to the wealth of information it provides, I'm going to show you how to create a custom report that will simplify these statistics. Even better, Google Analytics allows the ability to schedule this report to be emailed on a scheduled basis (once, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly).

To create a custom dashboard on Google Analytics first pull up your websites Google Analytics page and click on 'Customizations' beneath 'Home', then select 'Dashboard'. When you click the Create button you will be given the option to create a blank dashboard or use their starter dashboard, which has some of the most common widgets all ready to go. You can add up to 12 widgets. How you choose to set up your dashboard is entirely up to you. Widgets pull information stored in Google Analytics and display that information as a number, graph, map, table, pie chart or bar graph. Some common examples are Users (Total Visits), % New Sessions (New Visitors), Users By Source (If a user clicked a link to visit your website rather than typing in the URL, where did they click that link), Sessions by City (Where do your visitors live), Sessions by Keyword (What term did they search for to find your website) and the list goes on and on.

Lucky for you, I have created a pretty great custom dashboard that you can easily import into your Google Analytics account by simply clicking this link. The widgets I created give a pretty good overview of how many people visited your website over a 1 week period, new vs returning visitors, most popular days of the week, what they searched for, where they came from, how much time they spent on your website, what browser they were using and the type of traffic (paid/organic/direct/referral).

Who wants to login to Google Analytics every day and stare at numbers? I certainly don't, so I setup reports to be emailed out on a weekly basis in PDF format. All you have to do after you create your custom report is click on the email button above the report. You can choose who you want to send the report to (you can add multiple emails by separating them with a comma), write a subject, message and decide how often you want the report to go out (once, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). After that sit back and let your reports come to you!

I highly recommend if you have a website with Google Analytics you click through all the different options you have. You can do a lot more than creating reports. If you want to learn more about the power of Google Analytics and how to use the information gathered to improve your business, please contact me today. I'd love to help you out.

Read more...
The Top Social Media Platforms For Your Business

The Top Social Media Platforms For Your Business

Google has been giving more and more SEO weight to companies that actively use social media. I recommend that all of my clients post on social media as often as possible, ideally once per week. While I know that's a challenge, it's becoming increasingly important to help your search engine rankings. Buffer is a great tool that allows you to post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest at the same time, from one place. I would currently consider those the top social media platforms for businesses ranked:

  1. Facebook - 2.23 billion monthly active users
  2. Instagram - 1 billion monthly active users
  3. Twitter - 335 million monthly active users
  4. LinkedIn - 294 million monthly active users
  5. Pinterest - 250 million monthly active users

In addition to these 5 social media platforms, I can't understate the importance of YouTube (1.9 billion monthly active users) and Google My Business posts. YouTube can be tough if you don't like being on camera, but even short videos carry weight. YouTube is a Google product... Google likes when you use their products. Speaking of which, within the last year Google has started allowing companies to post on their Google My Business listing. These posts show up on your Google business profile and show for one week... another indicator Google wants you to post every week. Unfortunately, there's no way to currently post to Google My Business through Buffer or similar tools, but I'm sure that will change.

Optimizing your use of hashtags and posting weekly on as many social media platforms as possible is the key to success. Posts can be as simple as a picture with a sentence, or an entire blog post. I integrate Wordpress with Buffer so you can create a blog post and automatically have it sent out to your social media platforms. That way you're getting SEO benefits from creating content on your website while also getting credit for the social media aspect.

If you would like to learn more about posting on social media, or are interested in getting pricing to have me post for you, contact me today.

Read more...
Google Hangouts Meet - Video Conference From Anywhere

Google Hangouts Meet – Video Conference From Anywhere

Google Hangouts Meet is one of the best free video conferencing tools out there. If you have a Gmail account you already have access to Google Meet. Like most things Google creates, Google Meet is easy to use, easy to get started and works great. The feature I use most on Google Meet is their screen share feature. I regularly use this feature to review websites with clients and make live changes. During most calls, I don't even use the video feature.

Google Meet allows up to 25 people to join your video conference. They also have a feature to allow people to join by phone and just listen in. Of course, Google Meet is also fully integrated with Google's other products such as Calendar. When you create an event in Google Calendar you have an option to also create a meeting. That way when you share the event with your guests not only will they be able to add it to their Google Calendar, but you've already sent them the link to join the meeting.

If you want to learn more about Google Hangouts Meet or any other Google products, contact me today. I have a lot of experience working with Google's suite of apps and teaching clients how to use them.

Read more...