Monday, April 24, 2017

What's this 'Responsive Design' Thing Anyway?

RDIf you have read anything about web design in the past year and a half most likely you have seen the term 'Responsive Design' mentioned. And if you haven't read any of those articles you're probably wondering, “What's all the fuss about?”

Well, there aren't many design movements that come along and change an entire industry in such a short amount of time, but 'RD' has. To put it in a nutshell: responsive design is a way of structuring a website so that it can flow and change to fit any number of display devices (your laptop, your tablet, your phone...) without having to create either multiple versions of the content or multiple versions of the display frameworks (the HTML & style sheets).

With the explosion of phones and tablets in the past few years more and more people are spending the majority of their time interacting NOT with their desktop, but with their mobile devices, and that's a huge change in the way 'all things computing' are done. People may still use a desktop for work, and at home, but with a smart phone or tablet in their pocket, backpack or purse they go to those devices more and more.

Read more: What's this 'Responsive Design' Thing Anyway?

Blogs - Do you 'NEED' them?

blank pagesWhat's the deal with 'Blogs?' Do you need one as a small business? Is it going to get you anything? Anywhere? Anyhow.....

No seriously, a blog is a good tool, but like any tool you have in your toolbox, it's nice to have, but if you don't know how to use it, or NEVER use it, what good is it? Knowing what it can do and how you can benefit from it is the first place to start.

You may read article after article online about “Why You NEED a Blog!” or “5 Reasons You Should Have a Blog” and on and on. These articles will generally say things like: it increases traffic to your site, it builds credibility, it builds a community around your business, it helps position you in search results, it makes you an 'expert'.... And indeed, a blog can do all those things, but like I said above, only if you use it. And that's the tricky part. Like social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) a blog can be time consuming, and/or a tremendous annoyance to your day. “Having to do” something like a chore is never fun, and if you don't enjoy using any of the social media tools, a blog being in that category, your results will show that disinterest. And who wants to read an uninteresting blog? Or worse yet - a blog with no entries.

Read more: Blogs - Do you 'NEED' them?

Can I Use That Image? - Copyright 101

copyrightThere is often a great deal of confusion or misunderstanding about the use of images for web publishing. Obviously when presenting a site the use of pictures and graphics is vital, otherwise you might as well simply publish sheet after sheet of boring text. (A truly great designer can find ways around this though) That being said, there are many pitfalls to simply collecting images and re-purposing them for your own site's use.

Copyright is a hot topic these days, as the age of self publishing has changed the way information now flows, and flies, across the world. Understanding the basics of image use is a good thing, as it can potentially save you headaches in the form of cease/desist orders or worse... actual law suits.

It's very easy to simply download an image off a website, most of the time right-clicking will allow you do so. The nature of web publishing has changed the way copyright laws now treat 'publishing' or 'display' … traditionally tied to physical publishing, which made it much harder to actually copy an image.

It may not be obvious to some people, but if you didn't originally take the picture, you probably don't own the rights to the image. Copyright begins for digital images from the moment the image is stored on an SD card, and extends under current law for 70 years after the author's death. (For works made for hire, that period is longer: 120 years from the date of creation, or 95 years from the date of first publication) Suffice it to say that any image you see out there is probably copy-written in some way, either directly owned and controlled, or licensed out in a limited way for use and distribution.  BUT there is a third case:  they can also be in the public domain – free for everyone to use.

Read more: Can I Use That Image? - Copyright 101

SEO: How Can I 'Optimize' My Site Best?

'SEO' is one of those things you hear people talking about... a LOT.  You have to 'optimize' your site and its content in order to get the BEST results from the Search engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.  

Well, that's partially true.  Your site is only half the battle, your CONTENT is what you fight it with.

There are many ways you can approach the task of 'optimizing.'  You *could* hire a fancy tech/PR firm to do it all for you.  You *could* pay someone gobs of cash to tweak your words, your message, your personality in just the right way so you appear slightly ahead of all those other guys listed on the page next to you.  (Although that's no guarantee of anything.)

You *could* worry about this night and day, giving yourself an ulcer thinking, "MY GOD! WHAT ABOUT MY SEARCH ENGINE PLACEMENT!?"

You could do all of the above, but it's not necessary.  And it's probably not going to do you any good in the long run anyway.

Read more: SEO: How Can I 'Optimize' My Site Best?

Do I Need to Have Facebook/Twitter/etc?

There is no doubt that the large social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. have moved the 'mark' of where attention lies today on the internet. You hear people constantly referring to tweets, facebooking, posting, commenting....and basically living their lives on-line through the myriad of services available to them. The flow of information is constantly changing and widening. So does that make your website irrelevant? That's a good question, and one that you need to think about very carefully.

The simplest answer is 'No.' Your website is still your best marketing tool. It's the first thing people will want to see when they look you up and it's the first and best way for you to make an impression on people connecting with you digitally. Your site is under your direct control (or the control of the company you contract with to present it) and therefore can take any form, shape or design direction you choose, as opposed to the rigid formats of say.... Facebook. What all the social networks out there DO provide you with however is another avenue to connect with people, and you can't afford to pass that up.

Read more: Do I Need to Have Facebook/Twitter/etc?

How To Pick A Good Domain Name

251px-Domain-Names-11.)  Understand what a domain name is. A domain name is the unique URL or address of a particular website that defines itself from every other website on the World Wide Web. For example, a site's name may be a combination of it's name but it has to all be one word:

2.)  Learn about domain name and site association. When choosing the right domain name you should always keep it and your website's name as close to each other as possible. You do not want to confuse visitors because your domain name seems to be totally different from your website name, especially if you are running an e-commerce website.

3.)  Don't get fancy with it. Choose a name that is not too long and is not too confusing so that visitors don't have a hard time remembering it. In most situations, the shorter your domain name is, the better off you will be. This is because people will remember the URL and they will continue to visit your site in the future. Also always try to avoid using acronyms, dashes or other symbols as they may also confuse potential visitors for the first time.

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Why Joomla is a Great Choice for Small Business Websites


by Kevin McLeod,

I think it's obvious to anyone that has read my blog or knows me that Joomla is my preferred content management system.  But when a classmate asked me about what they should use for their business (Joomla or Drupal), I realized that there's a pretty sound argument in favour of Joomla for the vast majority of small business websites.  I wasn't able to share with him all of my points but I think I convinced him nonetheless.  What I will say is that my argument is based on tangible factors that small businesses understand such as cost, time, quality, flexibility and control.  These need not be conflicting idioms when you have the right designer working with you to achieve your business goals:

Cost: Small business owners should be concerned with two kinds of costs.  The first cost is the most obvious and it's the question that I get asked by all of my prospects.  How much will this website cost?  Joomla comes fully-loaded with a slew of features and extensions are easy to add on.  But what puts Joomla ahead of cms's like Drupal is the highly evolved templates that incorporate many feature-rich extensions.  For example, you can get all of the Rockettheme templates for only $90 a year.  The best Drupal template provider I could find was TopNotch Themes which sells individual themes starting at over $200.  $90 a year for an entire inventory or over $200 for a single  With a few tweaks to a Rockettheme template, a Joomla site can be up and running in as little as a day, assuming the content is ready to go.  The second cost is maintenance.  You need to empower your clients as much as possible and Joomla is the platform that we prefer to train on since it has a well organized front and back-end user interface.  This means that our clients can do all of the minor maintenance and changes themselves leaving just the heavy lifting to us.

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OpenStretch Consulting
Web Design & Programming

New Orleans, LA
T (504) 345 8990


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