Tag - Chicago

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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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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Mailchimp - The Best Email Marketing Platform

Mailchimp – The Best Email Marketing Platform

If you're considering email marketing, Mailchimp is the king. The best part of Mailchimp is that for most customers it's free. You can have up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month before you have to pay a dime. Their platform has a great user interface, isn't terribly difficult to use and has many advanced features which make it quite powerful.

Email Marketing Considerations and SPAM

Before starting a Mailchimp campaign I ALWAYS stress to my customers that there are very strict rules with Email Marketing. Spam is a HUGE problem. Over the years there have been more and more restrictions on email due to spammers. The NUMBER ONE rule is NEVER add ANYONE to your email list without their permission. This rule can't be broken.

Every email sent with Mailchimp is required to have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of it. While unsubscribing the user is asked why, and one of the options is that they never asked for the email in the first place. Get a few of those and your account gets suspended. After writing an email to Mailchimp explaining you made a mistake and will play by the rules might buy you some time, but if they continue to see users report they never signed up for your list, your account gets banned.

How to Properly Use Mailchimp

Only add people to your mailing list with their permission. It's pretty simple. You can add a form to your website (like I have in my footer), a link in your email signature or get people to signup in person. I always recommend navigating to Mailchimp's Opt-In settings and enabling "Double Opt-In". When you enable this feature each person added to the list will receive an email asking if they want to join the list. It's an extra step for the customer, but it prevents issues down the road.

Want to Setup a Mailchimp Account?

I have setup Mailchimp accounts for many customers and have experience building email lists and templates. If you're interested in getting a list setup but need some assistance, contact me today.

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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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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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