Sharing Some TLC

planning

Build Your Website With A Plan: Think Ahead To Be Successful

When our team first meets a new client, the top priority is to make a plan for how we are going to build their website. You can read a detailed post about our development process here. We sometimes encounter people who are surprised by all the planning work that goes into a build, before a single line of code is created. There are lots of good reasons to formulate a highly detailed plan. We need to get to know your business. What product or service are you marketing and what is? What is the competition doing? What is unique to your business? All stakeholders need to talk these questions through so we’re all on the same page about our goals for the website. Learning to collaborate and communicate effectively is something else that happens in the initial planning stages before you build your website. We have our clients fill out a detailed survey, and we get them dialed in to the Google sheets and other tools we use to create timelines and track task completion. Having all of this information spelled out very clearly helps us throughout the entire site build. Every stakeholder is looking at the same information and…

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How To Share Large Files and Images

With cloud services like Google Drive and Dropbox, sharing files can be very easy. You can create folders in these storage platforms, and upload files and images and share the folders with others. We ask our clients to use Google Drive, which is our preferred platform for sharing website content and images, but we also use Dropbox. We created a short video describing how to share/upload images in Google Drive: There are times when you need to send multiple images or files via email. Instead of sending many emails with one or two images or files attached, in order to prevent the email size from being too large, you can try to “zip” your files or images into one compressed “zip” file that your recipient can click to open. To zip files on a Mac computer: Go to your Finder. Select the file you wish to compress. If you want to select multiple files, hold the “Command” key and click on the files you wish to compress. IF your files are already placed into a folder, you can just select the folder. Right click on your selected files or folder (or click “File” in the top menu) and click “Compress”…

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terminology

Website Terminology: Learn How To Speak The Language

As website professionals, we have our own “lingo,” or website terminology, which can sometimes be confusing for our clients and people who don’t make websites for a living. We realize that when we speak in our language, sometimes it may not make sense, and a key to a successful website project is clear communication. So, we have put together a guide to “Website Speak” to help ensure we are on the same page when it comes to website terminology. Top-level outline of the basic elements of a website: Header: The top part of your website that doesn’t change as you venture to different pages. The header usually displays your navigation bar and may incorporate items such as your logo/name, social media icons, your phone number, and a search bar. Sticky Header (also called a fixed header) is a website navigation bar that’s locked into place so that it doesn’t disappear when the user scrolls down the page. It is useful for its accessibility from anywhere on your website without having to scroll back up to the top of the page. Main Navigation/Menu (please don’t call them ‘Tabs’):  The navigational elements that appear on a website. While it primarily refers to…

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GDPR

What is GDPR Compliace and How Does It Affect Me?

You have probably been bombarded lately with GDPR Compliance emails asking you to review updated terms and conditions and privacy policies for websites and newsletters to which you are subscribed. We have, too! This is due to the upcoming implementation of the EU’s “GDPR” (General Data Protection Regulation) on May 25, 2018. We’ve got a lot of detail below, but we’ll cut to the chase if you don’t want the nitty gritty: If your website does not target an EU country/customer, the GDPR regulations most likely do not apply to your website. Some of the requirements for GDPR compliance will likely be implemented at some point in other countries, including the US At a minimum, having a Privacy Policy on your website is important, whether you are trying to comply with GDPR or not. Requesting user consent is also of growing importance on websites. If you collect any information, including collecting a user’s email on a contact form, or even having Google Analytics on your website which anonymously tracks user behavior on your website, you should include information about how this data is used and ask for website visitor’s consent if they use/browse your website. Design TLC can create a…

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How To Use the Yoast Meta Box to Make Your Website Stand Out in a "Google" Search

Using the Meta Box Snippet Editor in the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress, you can impact the three key elements of your Search Result: Title, Slug and Meta Description. If you want your website result to stand out, these three things should be well written to make users want to click through to your site.

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Screen Recording 2018-02-09 at 11.53 AM

New Redesigned Website for Culpepper Garden

We recently launched a new website for a local senior living facility. Culpepper Garden is an award-winning, nonprofit retirement community specifically designed to provide security, comfort and affordable, quality living for people age 62 and older in Arlington, Virginia. Over the past year, we worked with the management of Culpepper Garden to carefully and thoughtfully replace their very old website, which was not built on a content management system. They were not able to easily add content and updates to the website. It was not mobile responsive and was difficult to navigate. The text was small and the design was out of date. In addition, there were multiple donation platforms on the website, causing confusion and unnecessary extra fees. New Mobile Responsive Website We created a clean new design that is easy to navigate and clearly communicates the message that Culpepper Garden is a happy place that focuses on serving its residents with care and respect. As part of our process of getting to know our new client, I visited and volunteered at Culpepper Garden. I was fortunate to serve residents and their families at Thanksgiving time. It was clear during my time there that the residents love their home and…

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https

It's all about the "S": Google and its HTTPS Policy

Head S Up if you are not using https! Google has a policy regarding HTTPS on websites that you should know about. As a primary internet browser, dictates some best practices for website owners and developers. In the recent past, for example, Google started “requiring” websites to be mobile responsive in order to rank well in searches. The ultimate goal for Google is to make websites more user friendly – and they have the power to set standards and goals for website performance and design. Last year, Google announced that they would begin explicitly labelling http (vs. https) connections as insecure.Google also announced that they will be using HTTPS and SSL as a ranking factor in their search results. This means that using HTTPS and SSL will help improve your site’s SEO. While websites that have an SSL certificate (https) have had a green padlock and “Secure” message in the browser bar, it was not until recently that Google has started to roll out a process of marking non-SSL sites as “insecure” with a warning message like this: What is HTTPS? HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.  HTTP is the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that…

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An Effective Website Planning, Design and Development Process

Building an effective new website, like many things, cannot be done in a bubble and takes time and collaboration to be successful. We recently completed a website project that went very smoothly because the process was so well planned and organized and because the client participated in the process enthusiastically. Here is our Guide To An Effective Website Development Process: Initial Onboarding (1-2 Weeks) When a client hires us to help with their website, they sign a contract and pay a deposit. Following this, we send them some forms to help get started with strategy and development. These include: Client Survey: Ask about business in general, goals for website, target audience, competition Website Credentials Form: Acquire logins for relevant properties like Domain Registration, Website Hosting, CRM and Social Media URLs SEO Questionnaire: Competitor websites, Google Analytics, ask about any SEO development history, keywords and competition in order to do some initial keyword research for the new website Content Inventory: I use a Google Sheet and list all front-facing pages on the existing website (if there is an existing website to begin with), with a description of content and images on each page: Complete Content Inventory: In addition to the “manual”…

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Case Study – Grace Episcopal Day School

Design TLC recently launched a new site for Grace Episcopal Day School in Kensington, Maryland. Their old site was a Cold Fusion site built with the 3rd party school management system, Final Site. It was out of date, was not mobile responsive and was very hard for the school administration to update. The new website was created using WordPress and Beaver Builder. The result is a performant, clean and effective website that conveys the message and personality of the school, while also functioning well for users and administrators. This is the first of two blog posts about the new website. This post will review a few technical components of the website, specifically the Mega Menu and use of Beaver Themer for the Header and Footer of the website. A forthcoming post will describe the website development process from onboarding to launch. Old website from Final Site. New website by Design TLC. MEGA MENU One of the key features of this website is the “Mega Menu.” The Information Architecture for this site was fairly large, and to improve the user experience, a mega menu was a good option. Mega menus are often used on websites to make navigation easier and more…

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doors-logos

Revealing WordPress Hosting Review: It’s Your Lucky Day!

Recently I wrote about website speed and performance for WordPress websites. I found that the quality of hosting plays a big role in the performance of a website, and how fast it loads. As I mentioned in my previous post, testing tools can be inconsistent and different tools have different benchmarks and matrices. My preferred tool is Pingdom Speed Test (free), because it usually gives the most positive results and is fairly simplified. To get a good overview of the difference hosting can make, I tested the same website on 4 different hosts. The website has a very simple, small homepage, 13 plugins, one of which is an LMS. There are 173 Lessons/Posts in the LMS, so there is a fair amount of content. Disclaimer: Since this is a test site, it does not have any traffic, so this should be considered when reviewing the results, but the content of each site is exactly the same. Also, in full disclosure, affiliate links are included below. GO DADDY GoDaddy has a spotty reputation in the hosting world (that may be putting it a bit mildly). I only started using GoDaddy a couple of years ago, when they were “rebuilding” under new management. I…

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image Photo Credit Valerie Hinojosa via Creative Commons License

Down the Rabbit Hole: How to Tame the Site Speed Challenge

About a month ago, I suggested a client have an SEO analysis done of their site. The site gets a fair amount of traffic, and it had been a while since it had been checked for performance. If, like me, you have mostly small, local clients, you may not often pay much attention to website performance. Basic “brochure” sites are not reliant on lightning fast speed and most decent hosting companies do a good job of maintaining acceptable site speeds as long as the site is well made. I have actually never had a client complain about site speed. Yet, the perfectionist in me has started to wonder about how well the sites I have built are performing, and my curiosity led me to spend the past three weeks learning more about this by researching and testing. tl;dr Website speed and performance testing is not an exact science. Focus on: Making sure your site is on a good host Page speed is 2 seconds or less Images are optimized and sized to the space they are in Unused plugins are removed Use a caching plugin like WPRocket or Autoptimize Testing, monitoring and improving website speed and performance is time consuming….

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terminal

What is my Local Host File and How (and Why) Do I Edit It?

I am working on a big blog post about what I have learned over the past 3 weeks about website speed and performance. In the meantime, I wanted to share this quick tip. In my testing process I had a few versions of my site on different web hosts. I couldn’t make them all “live” on the same domain, and in one case didn’t want to put it on a temp/staging domain. In this case, it was still possible to see/edit this site by connecting to it via my local host file and the IP Address on the host server. The first time Site Ground told me to do this I thought, “Ack! That sounds complicated. I have to use the Command Line.” But, once I read the instructions I realized it wasn’t that hard. Now there are a couple of Command Line commands I use all the time, and this is one of them (actually it is a set). Pro Tip: If you use Text Expander, you can put these commands in a snippet and not even have to remember the details! Edit Your Host File: Log in to the web host account information or cpanel to determine the…

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broken-computer

Quick Fix: Object Cache Error

Sometimes a WordPress error looks really scary. A client recently contacted me when she saw this after logging in to her site via wp-admin. I have also seen this on the front end of some websites in recent weeks as well. Notice: Indirect modification of overload element of WP_HOOK has no effect in … /…/html/wp-content/object-cache.php on line 664 This message was repeated about a hundred times, filling the screen and preventing access to any part of the back end of the site. Luckily, I was able to solve this in about two minutes. Since I could not access the backend of the website, I immediately accessed the server via sftp. SFTP refers to Secure File Transfer Protocol. It is a network protocol that provides file access, file transfer, and file management over any reliable data stream. There is a special sftp login provided by your host (or you can create a new sftp user login on your hosting platform), and it can be accessed with an ftp/sftp client such as Filezilla. This website was hosted at GoDaddy, on one of their Managed WordPress hosting plans, which makes it very easy to find the credentials for sftp access. Once logged in…

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Screenshot 2016-12-17 20.33.17

Get over your fear! SVGs are not SCARY Vector Graphics

If you’re like me, there is never enough time to learn ALL the things you want to. I keep hearing about how amazing SVGs are, but have been scared to learn how to create them and work with them. Even more intimidating…. Adding animation! Why SVG? You might first wonder why you should use an svg image. We are getting into the habit of creating 2X size images that will look good on a retina display – isn’t that enough? “SVG” stands for “Scalable Vector Graphic,” an image format that allows an image to scale to almost any size without losing quality (and looks even better on retina displays). It is also a format that is a small file size and compresses well. How much smaller are the files, you might ask? Well, the “SCARY” image above as a png file is 16KB … as an SVG it is only 1KB!  And, it allows more design control without having to edit the image itself. I read some great instructions from Jackie D’Elia on using svg’s, but I was missing the all important … “how do I even get an svg to being with?!” step. Jackie’s post, while specific to one…

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food-green-green-peas-768090 Photo by R Khalil from Pexels

How To Use Pods For Simple & More Effective Custom Post Types

Pods  is a plugin for WordPress that creates Custom Post Types and custom fields. According to the website, “The Pods Framework allows an ordinary user or developer to easily create and extend custom post types, content types, taxonomies, users, media, or comments — helping you keep your content organized and speed up the development of your project.” What is a Custom Post Type? Pages, Posts, Attachments, Revisions and Nav Menus are the Post Types built into WordPress core – Post Types are then, essentially, types of content. Custom Post Types are post types that are created in addition to those bundled with WordPress core. When you realize that your website needs or could benefit from a content type that is different to the default types, a CPT is probably what you should use. What about Taxonomies and Custom Fields? In WordPress, a taxonomy is a means of classifying content. I find them helpful in organizing and grouping content. Custom Fields are metaboxes that are used to input metadata that is related to your post. When you add a new post in WordPress, you’ll see these draggable boxes which are used for to store information about your post. Examples are author and…

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uxdesign Photo from Pixabay

3 Practical Ways To Have Good UX AND “Cool” Design

I have recently been debating the conflict between creative, unique and “cool” website design and a good, effective user experience. As Steve Krug says in his book, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, “The Farmer and the Cowhand Can Be Friends” (shout out to my fellow fans of musical theater!). On a recent project, my super-talented design partner presented a cool interactive infographic that our client fell in love with. Once we began to flesh out how to make it work, I was faced not only with the challenge of how to develop/code this element, but also whether the interactivity would be 1) effective and 2) accessible. I did some research, including reaching out to some well-known UX “experts” for their general thoughts on the subject. Morten Rand-Hendriksen, of Lynda.com, often speaks about website interaction and user experience. He stresses the importance of clear communication to ensure the user knows how to interact with important elements on a website. A good user experience is aided by words to describe the desired action (e.g., “click here”). However, words alone cannot always accomplish a clear message, for there still must be some way of knowing what the…

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birds

A Little (Smushed) Bird Told Me: Regenerate Thumbnails Saves The Day

Have you ever had images “suddenly” look distorted on your WordPress website? The other day, I changed my theme to edit an image size in my functions.php file, as well as the corresponding style.css properties. When I did that, the images I was targeting were successfully cropped to the correct size, but some of them were distorted – the image looked “squished” in the image area box. After a moment’s thought, where I considered I was going to have to edit the css and troubleshoot, I remembered … REGENERATE THUMBNAILS! I remembered … REGENERATE THUMBNAILS! Click To Tweet And … voila! Like magic my problem was solved moments later and I felt like a rock star! The plugin Regenerate Thumbnails is a tool that I never paid much attention to. I used it occasionally when directed to by theme instructions. (Pretty Darn Cute Designs, a great place for really nice Genesis themes, is a theme shop I used to work with before designing my own themes. I believe it was when using their “Swank” theme that I first heard about the Regenerate Thumbnails plugin.) The plugin’s description sums it up: “This is very handy if you’ve changed any of your thumbnail dimensions…

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featured-image2-AFAC

Case Study: A Unique Way To Collect Donations on Your WordPress Website

I am excited to announce that I recently formed a joint venture called Nice Work, LLC with Evelyn Powers of Design Powers (a future blog post about that is coming!). Evelyn and I have kept our own successful businesses, but have also partnered to expand the scope of what we can offer to small and medium businesses. By collaborating and combining our skills we are able to provide more strategic digital branding, marketing and website services. Our collaboration was born out of exciting work we did together for a local non-profit, the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Here’s the story (Also shared last week on the Give website.) Hunger isn’t just a global issue. Facing the reality that children in U.S communities go hungry every day is difficult, at best. The Arlington Food Assistance Center in Arlington (AFAC), Virginia distributes groceries to more than 2,200 families every week to take on this challenge in their community. Over 35% of the people they serve everyday are children. Prior to working with us, AFAC was using a third-party donation software to collect online donations. This meant they were losing about 10% of each donation to fees. To make matters worse, as the third party collected donations from…

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valueproposition

Does your website or branding communicate your value proposition?

I am excited to share a post from Guest Blogger Jennifer Mulchandani of Arlington Strategy. Jennifer is a champion of small business and a community advocate. She is a veteran in advancing agendas, motivating stakeholders, and driving sales with high-impact strategic marketing and communications. Jennifer’s holistic approach to marketing includes understanding every client’s mission and value proposition along with its leaders’ motivations. Clients benefit from Jennifer’s goal oriented style and big picture vision. Jennifer’s experience has spanned multiple industries and sectors, providing knowledge and perspective across a breadth of business challenges. Jennifer lives and works in Arlington, VA with her husband and three children (all boys!).Can you succinctly say what your company’s value proposition is? Do you even know what ‘value proposition’ means? If you answered ‘no’ to any question, read on! Can you succinctly say what your company’s value proposition is? Click To Tweet Value proposition is marketing speak for “how are you special compared to others doing the same thing?” Knowing your value proposition is critically important in creating impactful communications to your customers, potential customer, investors, employees and brand ambassadors. Too often, websites and marketing collateral have generic headlines like: Our web designs look great. Ok, but…

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Clusterflunk stock photo. Startup Stock Photos

Creating mockup website images

I recently updated my website portfolio to add screenshots and links to new websites I have created for clients. I created a Photoshop template (click to download and use! yourself!) to make it easier to make a consistent and professional look and control the screenshot view. Since I had already started this process when I created my site a long time ago, this works well for me. However, there are now some great tools for creating mock ups on multiple devices directly from a url.  These are especially useful if you don’t use Photoshop or want more background/device options. As a bonus, these tools can be used to test your website layout on these devices as well. there are now some great tools for creating mock ups on multiple devices directly from a url. Click To Tweet Here are 3 mockup tools (all are free!) that are easy to use and produce a great image: Magic Mockups: You can either upload your website screenshot or let MagicMockups to capture with the URL or with an image you can upload. MagicMockups is free for both personal and commercial use. This tool allows you to select a single device on a variety of backgrounds….

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