SOSA Presentation 2-23-15

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.

Help Your Website Help You

Help Your Website Help You - thumbnail image for document for 2-233-2015 SOSA presentationI’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.

New Year’s Reminder: Update your Website’s Copyright!

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 webmistress@hannahwestdesign.com or call 541.899.2012 to request this change. It’s quick and easy, so it’s inexpensive too. Happy New Year!!

Looking forward to Free SSL!

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!!

Let’s Encrypt: Delivering SSL/TLS Everywhere

Vital personal and business information flows over the Internet more frequently than ever, and we don’t always know when it’s happening. It’s clear at this point that encrypting is something all of us should be doing. Then why don’t we use TLS (the successor to SSL) everywhere? Every browser in every device supports it. Every server in every data center supports it. Why don’t we just flip the switch?The challenge is server certificates. The anchor for any TLS-protected communication is a public-key certificate which demonstrates that the server you’re actually talking to is the server you intended to talk to. For many server operators, getting even a basic server certificate is just too much of a hassle. The application process can be confusing. It usually costs money. It’s tricky to install correctly. It’s a pain to update.Let’s Encrypt is a new free certificate authority, built on a foundation of cooperation and openness, that lets everyone be up and running with basic server certificates for their domains through a simple one-click process.Mozilla Corporation, Cisco Systems, Inc., Akamai Technologies, Electronic Frontier Foundation, IdenTrust, Inc., and researchers at the University of Michigan are working through the Internet Security Research Group (“ISRG”), a California public benefit corporation, to deliver this much-needed infrastructure in Q2 2015. The ISRG welcomes other organizations dedicated to the same ideal of ubiquitous, open Internet security.

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 webmistress@hannahwestdesign.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!

Website Update for BesteArt.net!

Irish Spring, abstract painting by Patrick Beste, besteart.net

Irish Spring, abstract painting by Patrick Beste, besteart.net

I am delighted to welcome abstract artist Patrick Beste of Ashland, Oregon to the group of clients I help with website maintenance and updates! We just did a rather substantial update to Patrick’s website besteart.net, making a few modifications to the site itself, updating the information in his Home, About and Exhibitions pages, and adding several new paintings to his Art Work Galleries. Please visit Patrick’s site to see his new works!

New Website Launch! WendyGell.com

I am delighted to announce a new website launch for renowned fashion jewelry designer Wendy Gell at wendygell.com!

Wendy’s previous website was beautiful, but the infrastructure needed updating and she wanted a fresh new look that was unpretentious, yet highlighted her past accomplishments, with modern ecommerce features that would enable her to sell her incredibly sparkling and beautiful fashion jewelry designs. We began by streamlining her email newsletter and creating temporary pages with several new pieces of jewelry not previously seen on her website. Then, behind the scenes, we created a new site on the WordPress platform, using the flexible and responsive Divi theme by Elegant Themes so it would display nicely on mobile devices. Then we added a WooCommerce shopping cart with PayPal as the primary payment gateway. Optimized the site and products using the highly respected SEO for WordPress plugin by Yoast and added BulletProof Security to protect her investment in the site and to protect her visitors from malware. Once all the products were added to the shop and everything was ready to go, we migrated the development site to its permanent home at wendygell.com.

What we wound up with is a beautiful site that highlights Wendy’s fashion, bridal, and holiday jewelry designs (along with some gorgeous tiaras for princesses big and little!) as well as her fabulous Gelastic Art, with a beautiful shop that displays subcategories nicely with the modestly priced Nested Categories extension by WooThemes. She made a sale almost immediately! We also included features that will help her continue to grow her following, with social follow and sharing tools by AddThis and a newsletter signup form.

We invite you to visit Wendy’s site and feast your eyes on glittering pop art fashion jewelry to your heart’s desire! Wendy plans to continue adding to her new online shop, so there will be new jewelry items and artwork to see on a regular basis, and there is much to learn about this talented designer whose jewelry has appeared on the Oprah show, been worn & collected by household name movie, television and pop art culture celebrities – even royalty! – and featured in fashion magazines around the world for decades. I am so honored to be working with this amazing woman and her enduring talent, and equally proud of her new website. See how beautifully we can display the items you want to offer for sale online and contact us to discuss what we can do to help you accomplish your own online business objectives.

New Website Completed for Judy Marshall!

"Lilacs", one of Judy's most popular paintings. ©Judy Buswell. All Rights Reserved.

“Lilacs”, one of Judy’s most popular paintings. ©Judy Buswell. All Rights Reserved.

I am delighted to announce a new website completed for Judy Marshall, who paints in watercolor under the name Judy Buswell. Her former site needed a complete revamp, and we converted it to WordPress so she and her husband can manage it themselves. Judy’s work is so lovely, the majority of her pieces being delicate watercolors of flowers and gardens, and it was a joy to work with the images while creating her new site. Why wait to read my writing? Visit www.judybuswell.com today! You can always come back to see what I have to say after feasting your eyes on her watercolor paintings.

Judy offers greeting cards and prints of her paintings, as well as some original paintings on her website, with a simple purchasing strategy – email the artist to order. I think this is wonderful as it requires personal contact between artist and art lover, something many artists don’t realize is an exciting part of buying art for those who love it. There is a contact form on each of the pages with items you can purchase, and the images are large and…gorgeous…particularly those of her more recent paintings. Visit www.judybuswell.com and order some of her pretty Christmas cards today!

Today Judy came to my office for a coaching session on blogging. She will be posting new works on her new blog, and posting about her daily artistic activities when she goes to visit family for a few months next year. I think this is an exciting development, as Judy loves to write almost as much as she loves to paint, and her followers and those discovering her for the first time will be able to learn more about her passion for painting and see works in progress. She wasn’t hugely confident in her ability to do this, but I found her to be a quick study and was not at all surprised when she called me a couple of hours later to tell me she had already been playing with the text in a couple of posts. She sent me some very kind words later…

“Thank you, Hannah. You are a very good teacher, and an even better web designer.”

Among the back end features of Judy’s new art website are search engine optimization, Google Analytics and WordPress site stats, security, backup and restore functionality, social sharing, and copyright protection via Digiprove. I always set up Webmaster tools with Google and Bing after finishing a website, submitting sitemaps generated by the SEO plugin, a highly respected piece of work by Yoast. On the front end is a magnificent presentation of Judy’s artwork with a beautiful premium WordPress theme, specially formatted pages with special galleries to showcase her artwork, a blog, and a visible copyright protection notice in the footer from Digiprove. The sentimental quality of Judy’s paintings does the rest better than I could…

Thanks to the attentiveness of Judy and her husband, this only took a month to complete, even with a number of other projects requiring my attention at the same time and they taking a couple of trips out of the area. Thank you so much for entrusting the renewed online presentation of your paintings to me, Judy!

MissionCandles.com Online Shop is Open!

Rainbow Cheerlites® candles are a Mission Candles exclusive!

Rainbow Cheerlites® candles are a Mission Candles exclusive!

Just in time for the holidays, we have finalized the shopping cart and the missioncandles.com Online Shop is open and ready for your holiday candle orders!

Many heartfelt thanks to Laura O’Bryon, Executive Director of Community Works, the nonprofit parent organization of Mission Candles and the Lithia Springs Program of which Mission Candles is a part, Jim Posey, Director of Education and Residential Treatment Services, and Jason Fauble, the Mission Candles Production Coordinator, for entrusting me with the renewal of the Mission Candles website and online shop.

I can’t say enough about how much I believe in this program. The testimonials of youth who have graduated the program tell the story of how effective it is at helping Ashland, Oregon youth who have experienced debilitating problems of one kind or another and educating them, providing work experience and other essential services, teaching appropriate and effective relationship skills, and turning out young men and women who are ready to become valuable members of the community. The Mission Candles component of the program is financially self-sustaining and a crucial part of the healing, empowering experience that the Lithia Springs Program provides.

I am equally excited about the candles that Mission Candles produces! They make 9″ tapers in a variety of colors to match just about any décor scheme and an exclusive rainbow taper for a lively look. Perfect for candelabra, menorah, wall sconces, candlesticks, and more. Gorgeous. Then there are the Cheerlites®. These “birthday” candles take the cake! These come in 3″ and 8″ lengths (have you ever heard of 8″ cake candles? Their existence was news to me…), in a wide variety of colors to suit any occasion (including Mission Candles’ exclusive rainbow, and metallic gold and silver!), and can be used for holiday centerpieces and other décor applications beyond the kitchen. Not only do they come in a dizzying array of beautiful colors, but you can also opt for one of four different glitter finishes (something I had not seen before and fell in love with) – multicolor glitter, gold or silver glitter, and opal glitter – a subtle and beautiful accent that adds extra sparkle to the table and the eyes of those around it. I am enticed by the thought of delicately sky blue candles with opal glitter to send our daughters for their sons and grandsons’ birthdays, red candles with gold glitter for my mom, elegant metallic gold candles for decorating, and who can live without the royal touch of purple somewhere in their home? The prices are reasonable for such lovely and versatile options, and to celebrate their website’s launch they are offering FREE SHIPPING from now through January 1! I’ll be ordering some myself, and you should too!

Please visit missioncandles.com today and support this important social program with a purchase of candles…for birthdays, holiday decorating, gifts and stocking stuffers. Your friends and family will love them, and you will want them in your own home all year ’round!

MissionCandles.com Online Shop is Open!