While working on an SEO update for one of my clients I realized that the new rules for the search engines doesn’t necessarily count more as better, and all the links to my clients’ websites being in the sidebar of my website wasn’t helping them as it once did. Therefore, this afternoon I am removing all my client links from the sidebar and placing them in this post until I can take the time to make a page for them. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience any visitors to my site! But the cost in search engine optimization for my clients makes it a worthwhile endeavor to me.
My clients know I’m always concerned about security for their websites. It’s an ongoing and fluid situation, with new threats being identified constantly. I have used the free version of the BulletProof Security plugin with great results, but it doesn’t cover everything, and a new threat to content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and others that was identified late last year is on the upswing, with millions of attacks cloaking even more attempts to discover user naems and passwords so they can log in to your website, install malware in the code, and then use it for malicious purposes. I’m recommending that all my clients and anyone else concerned about the security of their WordPress site now upgrade to the Pro version of Bulletproof Security. It’s only $69.95, and will save you more than that if your site is hacked even once! If you don’t know what to do after making a purchase, contact me and I will help you get it installed and configured properly. Learn more and buy Bulletproof Security Pro here:
On a related note, I install at least two security plugins on every website I build and/or maintain. All plugin developers work incredibly hard to create plugins that will enhance the functionality of your website, and the developers of security plugins deserve much more than mere kudos for their work. You may not know how effective their work is, because I insulate you from the day to day security notifications that come from some of these plugins, but believe me, I get hundreds of security notifications, alerts and warnings every single day. Most of them have an optional Donate button or link in the plugin’s admin area. Some of their plugin users actually make a monthly donation to them to reward their work and make it possible for them to continue improving their code, which you should consider doing as well. Even if you don’t want to step up to the plate with a monthly donation, however, PLEASE…the holidays are coming, and these guys need to know how much you value their efforts to keep your website safe! If you can’t make a donation to the developers of all the free plugins in use on your website, please send a generous gift to those who have created the security plugins that protect your website night and day!
Veronica was introduced to me by Boni de Laire, whose website I reconstructed in June 2014 and have maintained since then. Originally from South Africa, Veronica has lived in the States for the past 15 years. Since moving to Oregon she has been realizing her dream of becoming an artist, focusing on oil painting. When the opportunity to attend an exclusive painting workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona, arose, Veronica started looking for ways to earn some extra money to cover her travel expenses, and friends agreed to host an art salon at their home in mid-April. Mentor Boni insisted that a new website for Veronica Thomas was a must at this critical juncture, and that it be completed by the time the art salon took place so she would have an online promotional tool to work with. That’s where I entered the picture.
When the three of us sat down to discuss the project, I showed them the last site I had completed, www.michaelcarpenterart.com. Veronica liked it so much she went straight for a similar design using the same theme, Divi, by Elegant Themes. As with all my other clients, Veronica’s site was equipped with a full suite of plugins for search engine optimization, page loading speed, social sharing, and of course security to protect the website and its visitors.
One of the fun things we incorporated was a Google font with a special effect, accomplished with a css styling trick. Veronica wanted the headings to match the branding on the invitation mailers, flyers, and business cards that her daughter Chloe had developed for her. It wasn’t available as a Google font, but they wree able to find one that was so similar one can hardly tell it’s not the same. The other challenge was that Veronica wanted the header with the effect on the home page, but without the effect on all the other pages. Not only was I able to pull this off successfully, but the research and the execution went very quickly, so it wasn’t a spendy experiment either. I love how my clients push me to learn new things with their challenges! Another arrow in my quiver…
The one sticky part of the Divi theme seems to be the banner space. It’s a bit unpredictable how much of an image will appear in this space in a desktop browser, yet the entire image will show in a mobile browser. I can do quite a bit of customizing, but it’s still tricky. Chloe is proficient with image editing and social media, so she was a huge help in this regard. In the end, our collaboration again resulted in a new website for Veronica Thomas in which we all take a considerable amount of pride. It was completed and launched well before her deadline, Veronica sold enough paintings at her art salon to help cover her expenses during the workshop in Scottsdale, and she is now busily absorbing all the new information she possibly can in Arizona! We will be doing the first update on her site once she returns to indicate which paintings have been sold. Meanwhile, here are screenshots of Veronica’s new website as launched on April 17, 2015. You can click these to view larger versions, and there is a link to the live website in the paragraph below.
Please visit Veronica’s website and help it gain momentum with viewers online and the search engines. Her artwork is beautiful and, from children to wildlife and still life to plein air landscapes, she paints such a wide variety of subjects that it took eight portfolio categories to accommodate them all! Her site is another beautiful example of how the Divi theme can be customized for various purposes. If you would like to see examples of how I have used and customized Divi in other projects, click the links in the sidebar for fashion jewelry designer www.wendygell.com (including e-commerce shop), portfolio galleries of landscapes in oil at www.michaelcarpenterart.com, soft and lovely watercolor portfolios at www.judybuswell.com, presentations for harp strings and related products and information at markwoodstrings.com and the spectacular Mountain Glen Harps website, with one of the most amazing home pages I’ve made to date. This last one is a great way to see what’s possible with Divi.
If you like Divi’s flexibililty but would like to see an alternative, I have used a similar, and very popular, premium theme called Avada which I purchased at Theme Forest to create www.jacksonvillechiropracticclinic.com (very professional and takes advantage of numerous shortcodes in the design), and the gorgeous nonprofit ecommerce site www.missioncandles.com, probably the most beautiful site I’ve created yet. I enjoy working with both of these themes and though there are many themes out there I’d love to play with, I do hope to use the truly premium quality Avada again in the near future.
Friends take care of friends and extend the family. I’m so happy to have gotten to know Veronica and look forward to an ever-deepening friendship with her. Many grateful thanks to my dear friend and talented artist Boni dé Laire for referring Veronica to me! Please visit Boni’s website to see her amazing landscapes in oil. You will not be disappointed, they are truly spectacular and we will be adding a new painting soon!
One of the things I like about my work is that I’m often asked to update or create a new website for an artist who has just moved into my area. It’s a great way to make new friends and keep a finger on the pulse of the arts. Creating a new website for Michael Carpenter in March/April 2015 was one of those “welcoming committee” assignments. Michael Carpenter and his lovely wife lived in Portland for much of Michael’s professional career as a successful graphic designer. They have spent a good deal of time in California and New Mexico since he retired and began devoting his time to the fine art oil painting that fired his passion for art as a young man. They moved here recently, and decided it was time for Michael to establish a presence online. Many thanks to artist and plein air painter Norm Rossignol for referring Michael to me!
Michael is not an emerging artist. His experience, skill and diligent study as well as a very refined eye are evident in all his work, so building a new website for him was a real treat for an artist and art enthusiast like me. I prepared a total of 77 images for this project, 36 images of original oil paintings for the website and the rest, images of paintings that are now only available as prints for Michael’s promotional use. That was a LOT of eye candy to soften the technical end of the work for me! And it felt good to be protecting them with the addition of internal metadata and a visible copyright/website address to each image. A little cropping and adjusting to the images themselves was required, though not too much as they were in very good shape when they came to me. A total of about 15 minutes per image on average to make them fully web-worthy and ready to add.
On the technical end, Michael’s site was built with a complete suite of plugins chosen for various back end functionalities, including a complete security setup, search engine optimization, Google analytics, and caching for consistent performance and page loading speed. More too, but surely that is boring to most readers. What’s not boring at all are the three portfolio galleries of his paintings, displaying his work in Still Life, Landscapes and Waterscapes categories. His home page displays a few images from each category to give you an idea of what you will find as you continue to explore the site. These image galleries are presented in the new “masonry” style, which I’m very grateful for as it shows each image in its entirety—no unpredictable cropping that deprives visitors of a glance at each painting in its fullness before clicking to view and enlargement. A bio page to learn more about the artist, a customized CV page which includes his shows, distinctions and awards, and a contact page round out the presentation on Michael Carpenter’s new website.
Michael’s site received a fair amount of attention when it came to customizing the theme. By default a white background and very modular, the newer Divi theme by Elegant Themes is becoming very popular with my clients for its very nice portfolio layouts. These don’t come with the theme by default, but are available in a separate download if you look hard enough for it. Divi is also a responsive theme, so Michael would emerge on the internet ready for Mobilegeddon with a theme that looks fabulous on both desktop and mobile devices. Michael chose a deep green background with black banner areas and gold text, adding custom gold accents to the theme itself as well. What a great call! The site looks very elegant and refined, and quite masculine without being “strong.” An effective, subtle and understated setting for his wonderful paintings. We “lifted” his signature from a painting and turned it into a site logo and customized a number of additional elements throughout the theme.
Even the parallax site banner, which opens the site with an accompanying quote from the artist, got a lot of scrutiny and adjustments before it was just right. We had to make some compromises on this important detail due to the difference in how its displays on mobile and desktop browsers. No one really likes making that kind of compromise, but when we were finished Michael was satisfied that it looked the best it could across the range of device sizes. In the end our collaboration resulted in a beautiful new website for Michael Carpenter that we are both proud to present. Where’s the champagne?!
New website, new friends…without any further adieu, here’s a glimpse of Michael’s new website home page, and a few features that people interested in a new website might like to see. You can click therse for a larger image, but please take a little bit of time to visit the live site at www.michaelcarpenterart.com, enjoy all his paintings, and inspect the various features of the website. Who knows, you might find a painting you can’t live without! If you’re an artist, particularly if you paint en plein air, you will find much of interest in his work to be inspired by. Thanks so much for entrusting me with this project, Michael!
I’m very grateful to have been invited by the Southern Oregon Association of Artists (SOSA) to give a presentation at their February 2015 members meeting on Monday, February 23 at 7pm! I’m posting this presentation document, “Help Your Website Help You,” so those who attend can download it to their computers for reference.
I’m very grateful to have been invited by the Southern Oregon Association of Artists (SOSA) to give a presentation at their February 2015 members meeting on Monday! I will discuss ways to help your website help you, including ways to work with social media to promote your art, as well as website maintenance and security to protect your site and your visitors – all to improve your search engine visibility and bring more visitors to your website.
Just before the meeting, I will be posting a presentation document, “Help Your Website Help You,” so those who attend can download it to their computers for reference. Anyone who is interested or who couldn’t make the meeting is free to view and download this document, too. SOSA invites all artists to attend their monthly meetings, so I hope I will see you at the Medford Public Library this Monday, February 23, 2015. The meeting starts at 7pm and the library locks the doors at the same time, so be sure to arrive a few minutes early! If you have a mobile device, please bring it along.
The FCC will take its most important vote on internet on February 26. If you don’t want to be relegated to an internet slow lane while mega corporations get a fast lane reserved just for them and those who will pay extra for it, take action now!
It’s important to keep your copyright notice updated from year to year to protect your intellectual property and your reputation, and it’s that time of year. If you don’t know how to change the copyright notice on your website or just don’t have time to figure it out, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541.899.2012 to request this change. It’s quick and easy, so it’s inexpensive too. Happy New Year!!
Updates on Website Security and Free SSL
Securing your website is increasing in importance to the point that soon your site could be disregarded by Google and avoided by visitors if they don’t see the familiar “https://” with a tiny padlock icon at the beginning of your url. Last year Google announced that websites secured with Secure Socket Layer encryption, or SSL, are getting added favor from the search engine company, increasing their rankings in search result pages at google.com. A number of recent high-profile security breaches such as the one at Sony Pictures demonstrate the possibility that any site can be hacked and illustrate the business-halting disaster that the ensuing data loss can cause. The little understood hacker phenomenon, combined with our fascination with the idea of artificial intelligence, has inspired numerous movies on the subject since the birth of the internet, with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo released in 2011, The Hacker Wars released last year and Black Hat (Chris Hemsley) leading several new ones slated for release in 2015. Television writers have also explored the phenomenon in many shows, my own personal favorite being “Kill Switch,” one of the most thought-provoking episodes of The X-Files and possibly an inspiration for Transcendence (Johnny Depp). Such fascination reveals how little most of us actually know about what hackers do and how they do it, even the filmmakers, as most movies do not represent hacking with much accuracy. Nearly none of them show the ethical side of hacking — those we can thank for testing sites for vulnerabilities and helping design software to protect the rest of us from that shadowy threat we know nothing about aside from its existence. And of course there’s Anonymous, a group of hackers who seek social justice via computer-hacked threats. Most of us — that is, those of us who do not operate ecommerce websites that conduct credit card transactions online — have been able to get away without SSL up until now, but clearly that era is ending. As responsible citizens of the internet, we all need to step up to the plate and secure our websites to protect our investment in the site itself and any data it may contain, but also to give our visitors confidence by demonstrating our commitment to protecting them from “drive-by” malware infection. Taking these measures will help us retain (and hopefully boost) the search engine rankings we work so hard to gain.
My own website www.soartists.com (The Southern Oregon Artists Resource) was attacked by malware early in 2011. The entire site was taken down and its companion blog, Art Matters!, had to be reconstructed. Fortunately we did not receive any reports of massive spam attacks or anything else that indicated a loss of critical data for any of our listed artists or visitors to our site, but it was a painful wakeup call that directed my attention to the importance of internet security. As a result, all my clients with WordPress sites will see at least one and often three or more security plugins. I set these up to notify me when unauthorized attempts to gain access to the admin portion of their websites result in a “lockout.” This keeps my email inbox quite busy. For those clients who do not have WordPress sites, I recommend a security overhaul to install some basic code that will help protect their sites until they are able to purchase a SSL certificate that will encrypt all activity to, from and on their websites, making the “transactions” that include visitors’ activity invisible to hackers and ever-watchful malware bots looking for opportunities to inject malicious code on vulnerable websites.
So what has kept us all from investing in a SSL certificate that would protect our sites and their visitors? Most of us have a tendency toward complacency, clinging to naïve thoughts that justify inaction. One I hear often is “Why would hackers want anything from my website?” Trust me, it’s nothing personal. If you are not engaged in ecommerce, they probably do not want anything from your site itself, but like parasites they are always looking for “hosts” from which they can silently conduct their mischievous and often damaging activities. In early 2014, a client for whom I needed to create a website on a very restricted budget opted out of security measure “for now.” By Thanksgiving, her site had been blacklisted by Norton Safe Web and had to be cleaned of malware before it could be reinstated. I breathed a deep sigh of relief that we caught this before Google had blacklisted her, as their reinstatement procedure can be much more time-consuming. Still, the process wound up costing her an unexpected sum for cleaning and submitting her site for reconsideration as well as installing security measure that would prevent future infections—no fun for either of us, yet a relief once it was reinstated. For those who chose to look into a SSL certificate for their website, the dealbreaker has most often been the price. SSL certificates have been expensive, and the lineups of less expensive to most expensive types of SSL were not only confusing, but discouraging, making us feel that if we invested in a “minimal” (cheap) SSL certificate, it might not be effective and therefore a waste of money. But there is good news! A couple of days ago I received a little/big gift from one of the security companies whose plugins I use–a link to an article in my inbox with good news for 2015 – SSL will be free, and much easier to install, as of Q2 2015! Following is the source of the information reported in this excellent article. I strongly suggest you read both articles!!
The key principles behind Let’s Encrypt are:
- Free: Anyone who owns a domain can get a certificate validated for that domain at zero cost.
- Automatic: The entire enrollment process for certificates occurs painlessly during the server’s native installation or configuration process, while renewal occurs automatically in the background.
- Secure: Let’s Encrypt will serve as a platform for implementing modern security techniques and best practices.
- Transparent: All records of certificate issuance and revocation will be available to anyone who wishes to inspect them.
- Open: The automated issuance and renewal protocol will be an open standard and as much of the software as possible will be open source.
- Cooperative: Much like the underlying Internet protocols themselves, Let’s Encrypt is a joint effort to benefit the entire community, beyond the control of any one organization.
If your website needs attention to security or you want to get a SSL certificate and you’re not sure what to do, please contact me at email@example.com or call 541.899.2012 to discuss your needs and what I can do to help. One of the primary lines of defense is simply keeping your WordPress installation, theme and plugins updated, and backing up your website regularly so you can easily restore it if a disaster does happen. I know you’re busy and have other priorities on your mind and your schedule, so let’s talk about an inexpensive annual contract that will allow me to do that for you so you won’t have to!