Website Design

Google reCAPTCHA v3

Google reCAPTCHA v3 – Keeping Forms Safe From Bots

Today I upgraded all forms on my clients websites with Google reCAPTCHA v3. If you aren’t familiar with reCAPTCHA it’s a tool to help prevent form spam by either having users type displayed text into a box (reCAPTCHA v1), check a box (reCAPTCHA v2), or now with reCAPTCHA v3… NOTHING! reCAPTCHA v3 can detect abusive traffic on your website without user interaction by analyzing multiple factors to prevent malicious bots from spamming you with contact form emails. 

All of my clients know how big of a fan I am of Google. This is just another example of how Google remains on the forefront of technology and constantly strives to make the web easier to use while maintaining security. If you want to learn more about reCAPTCHA v3 check out the links below.

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Google Analytics

Google Analytics Basics

Google Analytics is a free tool offered by Google to help you analyze your website traffic. Google Analytics gives you a short piece of code to place on your website that records various activities of your users when they visit your website. Things such as age, gender, interests, which pages they visit, how long they stay on those pages and which website they were referred from are all provided by Google Analytics.

All of my clients have Google Analytics installed on their website. Below are a few resources you can use if you’re interested in learning more about Google Analytics and how to use it.

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Wordpress 5.0 Gutenberg Editor

WordPress 5.0 Update – The Gutenberg Editor – What You Need to Know

I don’t usually post about WordPress updates since they’re released a few times a year and are typically minor updates. However, WordPress 5.0 is the biggest update/change WordPress has released in a long time. Good news if you’re my client – I upgraded every website I manage within the first hour WordPress 5.0 was released! 

Most of my clients don’t touch the WordPress backend much. However, if you have a blog and make the posts yourself you will definitely notice some changes. The Gutenberg editor is quite a bit different than the previous text editor that came with WordPress. Each paragraph is defined as a “block”. In web design, we use blocks for everything. Responsive web design, specifically Bootstrap, relies on blocks to create responsive websites that respond (stack/resize) depending upon the device you’re using.

When writing using the Gutenberg editor things are a little different, but I feel most people who have used prior versions of WordPress should be able to figure it out fairly easily (or any text editor for that matter). One big change that I noticed was when you want to add an image, heading, gallery, list etc to the post you may be lost at first. In the top left-hand side of the page, you will find a + symbol. When you click on that symbol you will be given options for what type of block you want to add. There are many different elements you can add, very easily. 

There were many other technical changes with WordPress 5.0. If you would like to learn more about this update contact me today and I would be happy to walk you through all the new changes.

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Search Engine Optimization Considerations

Search Engine Optimization Considerations

While the content on your website plays a very large role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there are many parts to ranking well with Google and Bing. A business that has had a web presence for 15 years is going to have a big advantage over a new company with no web presence. One big reason is the number of legitimate websites linking to your website. The older your domain is the higher probability third party websites are linking to it. There are four major data aggregators on the Internet (Infogroup, Localeze, Acxiom and Factual) that distribute your business information to many smaller third party websites. In order to get your business indexed with them you have to use third party tools. Over the years I have helped many clients accomplish this task at a very reasonable cost.

Another commonly overlooked part of SEO is social media presence. Google has been giving increasing weight to companies with an active social media presence. I recommend my clients post once per week on multiple platforms. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the best to focus on. Posting to all three can be accomplished using third party software that allows you to post to all your social media platforms from one place.

Fresh content on your website is another important ranking factor. For most small businesses this is tough. Your services never change, so what do you do? The answer is a blog. I’ve built many blogs for clients that link to their social media platforms. You post to your WordPress blog and the post is automatically shared to all of your social media platforms.

Over the years SEO has changed. On-page SEO is and will always be the most important ranking factor, but the off-page SEO content is playing an increasing role in Google’s rankings. Contact me today for a customized plan for your business.

 

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Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from Brian Houdek Web Design

I want to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for each and every customer that has helped Brian Houdek Web Design grow over the years. I’m proud to offer personalized service for my clients and have helped many business become more profitable. Contact me today to learn more about how to improve your web presence and help your business prosper for years to come.

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SSL Certificates Now Included For All Clients

SSL Certificates Now Included For All Clients

I recently upgraded to a VPS Server with InMotion Hosting and secured every website I host with a basic SSL certificate. An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate establishes a secure, encrypted link between a web server and the browser. If you look at the top of your address bar on my website you will see a green lock symbol, indicating the presence of an SSL certificate. Previously SSL was only recommended for clients who had eCommerce websites, or any website that collects personal information, such as logins. If you’re entering information on a website without an SSL certificate everything you enter can be intercepted by unscrupulous hackers and potentially used for nefarious purposes.

Why do I need an SSL Certificate?

As previously mentioned encrypting your data is a great reason to have an SSL certificate.  However, the primary driving factor for me was that Google takes into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in their search ranking algorithms. Many times I can get a website to rank in the top 5 search results, but after that, the little things make a big difference. An SSL certificate can give your website a few extra points to hop over your competition. I always pride myself on creating visually appealing, responsive websites that rank well. After all, the best-looking website in the World means nothing if it can’t be found.

What does an SSL Certificate Cost?

For clients who use my website hosting, it costs them NOTHING for a BASIC SSL Certificate. This basic SSL certificate will give you the green lock symbol and satisfy Google’s SSL recommendation. However, if you have an eCommerce website this SSL Certificate is not sufficient. Yes, it will encrypt your data but there are higher levels of paid SSL certificates. A paid SSL certificate also gives you a warranty. For example, a Comodo EssentialSSL Certificate ($29/year) gives you a $10,000 warranty. A Comodo EV SSL ($88.88/year) gives a $1,750,000 warranty. A dedicated SSL certificate also requires a dedicated IP Address ($24/year).

Why Doesn’t Every Website use SSL?

Cost. Before moving to my new VPS server with InMotion I did not have the option to issue a self-assigned SSL certificate. Even if I did it would require a dedicated IP address, which costs an additional $24/year. One enormous benefit of my VPS server is that I can issue SSL certificates on one shared IP address. It costs me nothing, so it costs my clients nothing.

The Brian Houdek Web Design Advantage

As a freelance website and graphic designer, I’m always striving to differentiate myself from my competition. If I discover a way to give my clients an advantage I’m going to implement those changes for every customer. The server I used before moving to this VPS server was good. It was fast and stable. This VPS server is faster and more stable. I also backup all of my websites every two weeks to the Amazon S3 Cloud just in case something goes wrong. I charge nothing for that. I use WP Rocket, a caching plugin, that speeds up my WordPress websites. This would cost $39 per website if you bought it on your own. I charge nothing. I use professional stock images, which I pay for but don’t charge anything extra. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something I implement into EVERY website from the beginning. I monitor my websites search engine rankings and adjust to improve them. Most companies charge monthly for SEO services. To me, these are things my clients need for their website to stand out from the crowd. If you know someone who needs a professional website or graphic designer they can trust I’d love to show them the Brian Houdek Web Design advantage.

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Website Backups Using Amazon S3 Cloud Storage

Website Backups Using Amazon S3 Cloud Storage

Recently I have implemented another layer of protection for my clients websites, backing up everything with Amazon S3 Cloud storage. My hosting provider Namecheap has a 99.9% guaranteed uptime. The longest any of my websites has been down was roughly one hour over the past 5 years. In addition to this Namecheap has automated backups for all their customers data in nearly real-time. Although this is excellent I have to be prepared for the worst and can’t assume someone else will backup my customers data. In 2012 GoDaddy was attacked by hackers causing 52 million domains and 5 million websites to go down for over 12 hours. Fortunately GoDaddy was able to stop the attack and preserve their customers data, but it could have been much worse. To prevent loss of data I’ve implemented multiple layers of protection for all my clients websites.

Google Drive – First Layer of Protection

I have a Google Apps for Work account that gives me unlimited storage with Google Drive, which is another cloud backup platform. I use this to backup everything I have related to my clients websites, graphic design files, old website files, personal data and anything else they have ever sent me for their website. The problem is some websites are updated on a daily basis. Take an eCommerce website for example. They have orders, new products, price changes, and software updates constantly. This creates an issue if a website goes down and I don’t have a recent backup.

Server Backups – Second Layer of Protection

For quite a few years now I’ve been using a plugin for WordPress called UpDraftPlus. The great thing about UpDraftPlus is I can set automatic backups for my websites, as often as daily if needed. I used to store these files on the server I have with Namecheap. This allowed me to have a recent backup without having to lift a finger. For my static websites (not using a CMS platform like WordPress) I would manually backup the files using Google Drive. A potential issue could arise if Namecheap were to come under an attack, or somehow the files were compromised on the server. I could theoretically lose the website AND the backups. Not good. I needed a better solution.

Amazon S3 Cloud Storage – The Ultimate Layer of Protection

This is where Amazon S3 Cloud storage became essential. UpDraftPlus is able to automatically send backup files to my Amazon S3 Cloud server rather than saving them on my server. In a worst case scenario if all Namecheap servers went down for an extended period of time like GoDaddy did, I have everything ready to be transferred to another server immediately. Using two cloud backup solutions prepares me for that worst case scenario I discussed.

Is Your Website Safe, Secure and Backed Up?

I take pride in every website I develop or manage for my clients. My clients expect that their data is safe, secure and backed up. Some may call me paranoid, but I look at it more as prepared. My experience as a Firefighter and Paramedic has cemented this mentality. You should ask your web developer how often and where your files are backed up. Hopefully they’re prepared for the worst. If you need reliable hosting or a new website make sure to contact me today.

 

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Elan Creations Website

ElanCreationsPainter.com – My Latest Website Project

Michael F. Frain is a painter in Naperville, IL and the owner of Elan Creations. Michael and his wife Patti approached me looking to start a business. I designed their logo, created business cards and designed a great eCommerce website for them. The website is based on the WooCommerce platform. The front page of the website has two full screen images that alternate in a slider with text overlayed. The menu is on the left, leaving plenty of room to view his great paintings and easily navigate the website. The blog page automatically posts to their Facebook and Twitter pages. I was able to teach Patti how to navigate the backend to add products, fulfill orders and create new blog posts. She previously had no experience with running an eCommerce website and is excelling with Elan Creations. It’s a great feeling to help out such wonderful people and I encourage you to view Michael’s paintings – they’re amazing and very affordable.

Visit their website at www.ElanCreationsPainter.com

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What is a Favicon

What is a Favicon?

Do you know what a Favicon is? If you Google this search phrase Google will say “an icon associated with a URL that is variously displayed, as in a browser’s address bar or next to the site name in a bookmark list.” That sounds confusing but it’s really simple. Depending on the browser you’re using look up at the current tab and you’ll see my Favicon, which is a green globe. Every website I make for my clients has a custom Favicon. It really annoys me when a company doesn’t have a Favicon, or their web designer uses a default Favicon.

Why does this matter you might ask? If your website doesn’t have a Favicon it shows a lack of creative talent, or worse basic knowledge by the developer. Creating a favicon isn’t the most difficult thing in the world but I have some tips that help make it much easier.

The Noun Project

One of my favorite websites for icons of any type is the Noun Project. The Noun Project has thousands of basic icons in black and white. Their goal is to simplify communication, across borders and around the world using visual communications. You can visit their site and type in literally anything to find numerous icons for your search term. I HAPPILY pay $9.99/mo to use their icons ROYALTY FREE. This means I can use them in logos, Favicons, print design projects, website design or anything else my heart desires!

Favic-O-Matic Favicon Generator

Once I find an icon that I like, a tool that does a great job of creating Favicons of numerous sizes is Favic-O-Matic, The Ultimate Favicon Generator. Back when Favicon’s started there was one size. Tiny. Used in the browser bar and that was all. Now Favicons are shown as bookmark icons for various devices in various sizes. Apple devices use 10 different sizes depending on the device.  The beauty of Favic-O-Matic is you can upload one Favicon image (they recommend at least 32 x 32 px – I usually create mine 400 x 400 px) and it will return every darn size you’ll ever need. You don’t have to use every single one but I love the option.

Company Logo Favicon

Sometimes I’ll use a company logo as a Favicon, but I have to warn you if there’s a lot going on in the logo it will just look like a blob on the page tab. I like to either use one part of the logo, or use a simple icon from The Noun Project and change the color to match the company’s logo colors.

If you need a custom icon for your company or simply found this article interesting please share it. Thanks and have a great one!

 

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Brian Houdek Web Design Slide 1 Image

Welcome to Brian Houdek Web Design 2.0

I would like to thank all of my clients that have helped me grow Brian Houdek Web Design over the years. My website and graphic design skills have grown immensely since I started Brian Houdek Web Design, so I needed to redesign my website to reflect that. Welcome to Brian Houdek Web Design 2.0. Many of my clients’ commented on how much better their websites were than my own, so this was a necessity. It’s kind of like a mechanic who tries to avoid working on his own cars at all costs (my father is THAT mechanic). I’ve been blessed with consistent work coming my way since day one. Working on my own website without getting paid was not much of a priority. Eventually I just couldn’t take it anymore.

My intention with the Brian Houdek Web Design Blog is to provide information that will not only be beneficial to my existing clients, but also become a resource for other website designers, business owners and pretty much anyone who is interested in similar things to me. I will cover topics that will range the full spectrum of my abilities. Website Design, Graphic Design, eCommerce Websites (Including Magento and WooCommerce), Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Advertising and Statistics are a few of those topics I’ll cover. I’ll try to keep things basic so anyone can understand, but sometimes it’s impossible because I work on a lot of very complicated things.

Not anyone can be a website designer, but anyone can get a basic understanding of how website design affects their business. If you have any questions that you would like me to address on this blog please let me know and I’ll do my best to post on that topic.

Thanks again for visiting my website and blog. I look forward to helping you learn a little bit more about what I do.

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