Website Design

Google Fonts - Great Free and Open Source Fonts

Google Fonts – Great Free and Open Source Fonts

Google Fonts says their goal is to make "the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography." They certainly have done that and their selection of fonts continues to grow. Every Google Font is free and open source, meaning that you don't have to worry about licensing issues. At the time of this article there are 915 to choose from.

I have been using Google Fonts on my websites for years. However, even if you're not a web designer you can download the fonts to your computer and use them in any document. To the right of each font you'll see a + symbol. Once you press that Google "adds" it to your downloads (a popup menu that appears in the bottom right after adding the font). If you click on the downloads (it will say # Family Selected) you will notice a download icon on the top right. To download the entire font family with different font weights and italic styles click on "Customize". On this screen you can select the entire font family if you want. Once you have everything selected, download the fonts and install them on your computer.

Do you have a website that needs better use of fonts? Interested in learning more about Google Fonts? Contact Me today and I'd be happy to show you how Google Fonts can improve your website.

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Buffer Makes Multi-Channel Social Media Posting Easy

Buffer Makes Multi-Platform Social Media Posting Easy

It has been proven that a business who is active in social media ranks higher. It's part of Google's ranking algorithm. Another important part of Google's ranking algorithm is having fresh content on your website (ie a blog). How nice would it be to make a blog post on your website and have it automatically go to multiple social media platforms... That's what Buffer can do (with some plugins).

Buffer by itself allows you to schedule posts, analyze performance, and manage all your social media accounts in one place. Supported platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can link to three social media platforms for free. If you want to post to them all (highly recommended) they currently charge $144/year. You can create posts within Buffer's website, schedule posts and very easily post to a single social media platform, or all at once.

The real power of Buffer is revealed when you integrate your WordPress blog with it. Wordpress to Buffer Pro is an awesome tool that allows your WordPress blog to connect to Buffer. You can choose to either send the posts to Buffer and review them there before posting, or just automatically post the article to ALL your social media platforms at once. That's what I do and I LOVE it. It saves me a ton of time.

I have implemented this solution for numerous clients and they have reaped the benefits by ranking higher. As I've mentioned before, SEO is not one or two things. It's many things that have to be followed in order to improve your ranking. This solution not only satisfies Google's need for fresh content on your website, but it also satisfies the social media aspect of SEO. If you're interested in implementing this solution on your website, contact me today.

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Keeping WordPress Secure

Keeping WordPress Secure

Occasionally I'll get a question from a client asking if WordPress is secure. If properly maintained and monitored, WordPress is one of the most secure CMS (Content Management System) platforms available. With that being said, if not properly maintained and monitored WordPress is currently the most popular target for hackers. WordPress powers over 30% of the ENTIRE internet and 60% of CMS powered websites use WordPress. For hackers it's simply a game of numbers.

WordPress MUST be Updated on a Regular Basis

If you don't update your WordPress website on a regular basis, or monitor its security, there's a good chance it will get hacked. I update my clients WordPress plugins on a daily basis. A little tool called MainWP makes that an easy task for me since I manage a lot of WordPress websites. I'm able to login to one place, scan my managed websites and update everything with the click of a button. Plugins are a source of many security vulnerabilities within WordPress installations. WordPress plugin updates often contain security-related fixes. When a plugin developer discovers a security flaw and pushes an update to fix it, the hackers take note. Hackers use scripts that are constantly scanning the internet for known vulnerabilities.

WordPress Security Monitoring

My favorite tool for monitoring the security of my WordPress websites is Wordfence. Wordfence is a great firewall with a ton of options and also has a malware scanner. I always like to show my clients their "Live Traffic" feature that shows every single IP address that tries to access your website, what they were trying to access and where their IP address is located. In the past 24 hours, I had IP addresses from the Philipines, Hong Kong, Russia, France, Turkey and India try to probe my website for various vulnerabilities. This happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The WordPress Login Page is the Most Popular Target

The WordPress login page located at /wp-login.php is the most popular target for hackers. There are numerous ways to combat this. Wordfence allows you to limit the number of login attempts before blocking an IP address. I set that number to 2. They also allow you to immediately block any login attempt with an invalid username. It's important to create a username that can't be easily guessed (and NEVER use admin). Once a hacker has your username they will use a brute force attack that will keep trying to login to WordPress with different passwords. In addition to using Wordfence, I limit access to the /wp-login.php page by IP address. If your IP address doesn't belong to me or my client, it will get blocked. This can cause some issues when trying to login from a new place, but I've found that minor inconvenience is overshadowed by the high level of security it provides.

Is Your WordPress Website Secure?

Is your head spinning yet? I just touched on the basics of WordPress security. If your website is not being properly managed or maintained contact me today and I can get you back on the right track.

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Background Image Generator By SiteOrigin

Background Image Generator by SiteOrigin

Small repeating images that create a background pattern are something I use in every website I design. Background Image Generator by SiteOrigin is my favorite tool for creating these patterns. They give users the ability to use ANY hex color (There are 16,777,216 hex colors) to change the color of their simple background patterns. Their customizable background images come from another great website, Subtle Patterns. They have hundreds to choose from. You can also add filters, change the intensity of the pattern and add noise to the background image. The patterns are well optimized so they load fast on websites.

There are other background image generators out there, but none with the great features Background Image Generator provides. It's also free so you can't beat that! Check out my portfolio to see the many different patterns I've used on clients websites or contact me today to learn more.

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Bulk Resize Photos - My Favorite Resizing Tool

Bulk Resize Photos – My Favorite Resizing Tool

Often times I have to resize a TON of images for image galleries and they have to have some consistency. Ideally, I try to keep the image width consistent. Bulk Resize Photos makes the process so much easier than it used to be. They claim to be able to process 150 photos in under 60 seconds and I can attest... it's fast! Their website makes it extremely easy to set the parameters for resizing your photos with a sufficient amount of options (Scale, Longest Side, Width, Height, Exact Size or even add a watermark). Before you know it all your photos are the same size and downloaded to your computer. Too easy...

I have clients with hundreds of photos in their gallery and Bulk Resize Photos has saved me a tremendous amount of time. If you're interested in creating a beautiful image gallery with consistently sized photos, contact me today.

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DepositPhotos - My Preferred Stock Photo Website

DepositPhotos – My Preferred Stock Photo Website

Professional stock photos are great for websites, blogs, social media or graphic design projects. Stock photo providers allow you to purchase a license to use their photos commercially. The cost of stock photos varies greatly but over the years my favorite has been DepositPhotos. On their website, they have over 100 million stock photos (and vector files).

I pay DepositPhotos $25/month for up to 25 downloads per month. This is under their Flexible Plan. Unused downloads rollover, which is great. The minimum package you can purchase is 10 images for $49. To put things in perspective Getty Images charges $500 for one image.

There are times DepositPhotos does not have an image I need. In that case, I usually visit Photodune (pay per image $5 - $10 ea), 123RF (Similar price structure), Adobe Stock (expensive) or Shutterstock (expensive).

At the end of the day, over 100 million great stock photos to choose from is sufficient for my needs. Their quality is great and I've never had any issues with them. If you're looking for great stock photos I recommend you check out DepositPhotos.

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Noun Project

Noun Project – My Favorite Source for Icons

For me, Website Design and Graphic Design go hand in hand. I'm always searching for design elements to use on websites, logos, print materials etc. These design elements can come in many forms, but the most basic is the ICON. My favorite place to get icons is a website called Noun Project. I have had a premium subscription with them for years (The cost is currently $39.99/year).

Noun Project provides access to OVER 1 MILLION icons. The best part is their icons come in PNG (transparent background) and SVG (A vector format). This allows users to bring the file into Photoshop or Illustrator and easily manipulate it. I've used their icons on websites, logos, flyers, brochures and the list goes on. A simple search for the word "rain" in Noun Project produces over 9,000 search results.

If you're looking for stock icons for a project be sure to consider Noun Project.

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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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