Welcome to our Blog

What follows is a collection of tips and ideas about web sites,  photography, writing for blogs and every once in awhile, some sillyness. If you are considering a web site for your business, this information may help you.  If you have any questions please contact us.

You have got to be kidding – goats that is.

A few years ago a client called and asked me to build a website for them. No surprise there, I do that for a living. However, this one was a bit different.

This lady wanted to sell goats over the Internet. OK, I wondered, how is she planning to do that? How is UPS or the Post Office going to ship a live goat? After she stopped laughing, she told me that she breeds a particular kind of goat and that buyers would travel to purchase them, if they could find her.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical about this project, but the old business rule kicked in: The Customer is Always Right. So, I built her a website.

This goat farmer wanted to be able to edit and add images and text to her site herself and was willing to take the time to learn how to do it. It was a struggle at first; I think she would be the first to admit that a lot of mistakes were made along the way.

She never got discouraged. Month by month she added content to her site, learned a bit SEO writing techniques, promoted her site with business cards and posted messages on other farm related sites. Soon, her site appeared on the first page of a Google search. All well and good, but was she selling goats?

Yes she is! At first, just one or two goats were sold via the site. Recently, she told me that she sold 80% of her new kids (young goats, not children) over the Internet. Buyers are driving hundreds of miles to purchase her animals.

I don’t mean to imply that her website is responsible for the success of her farm; she breeds top quality, healthy, goats and the farm has a sterling reputation. However, having a website that shows off her herd vastly increases the pool of potential buyers.

By the way, if you are in the market for a Champion Boer Goat, visit her website:

www.KandKLivestock.com

Will a website help your business? Of course it will. No matter what service you provide or what you have to sell, the Internet will help boost your business.

Call us today to get your site up and making money for you. No kidding!

Plug it in, Plug it in – Not so Fast

For those of you using WordPress, you may be aware of the thousands of Plugins available to make your website do just about anything you can imagine. WordPress plugins are actually php code that modifies or adds to, WordPress. While this is a very strong feature, adding a plugin that is not compatible with your installation of WordPress can be catastrophic. By catastrophic, I mean it can, in a worst case scenario, completely ruin your site.

Don’t let this scare you; with a bit of care and some understanding, you can use this powerful feature to make WordPress do much more.

Where do you find WordPress plugins? How do you install them into your WordPress site? Keep on reading…

Probably the most used source of WordPress plugins is here. The plugins listed are all free of charge. You can search for a plugin based on what you want it to do for you, or search using any word that you think may help find your solution. For instance, say I would like a plugin to add social media buttons and links to my site posts and/or pages.  I typed in “Social media buttons” in the search field and quite a large number of plugins were displayed.  Next, I tried just entering “Facebook” into the search field. Again, loads of plugins were suggested, over 125 pages of them!

How do you choose? WordPress.org gives you the tools

After the description of the plugin, there are a few important pieces of information that will help you choose the one that will do what you wish.  A version number is first, really not that much help. Next, the date the plugin was last updated is listed. Why is this important? WordPress is updated on a frequent basis, if a plugin author does not update the plugin, it may not be compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

After the date, the number of times the plugin has been downloaded is displayed. Then a rating of one to five stars. These are an indication of the popularity of a plugin, but not a guarantee.

From the hundreds of listed plugins, I choose “Slick Social Share Buttons” and clicked on the link. The resulting page offers much more information about the plugin. The first place on the page you should look at is the version of WordPress the plugin requires. In this case, it is version 3.0 or higher. It also states that it is compatible up to version 3.3.2.  A bit down the right side shows another compatibility rating by those who have tried the plugin.

OK, how do you know what version of WordPress (WP) you are using?

When you login to your site, you are taken to the dashboard. If you have not made any changes to the way the info is presented, your version of WP is displayed at the bottom of the “Right Now” block.  In some installations of WP, clicking the W on the dashboard page will show the version.

At the top of the Dashboard page is usually a display stating that a newer version of WP is available and a link to “Please update now”.  Hold on there, don’t update without some serious thought. Some themes are not compatible with a newer version of WP; some currently installed plugins may not be compatible as well. You need to check all of the versions and how they work with one another before you add a new plugin.

I know this is not easy; momma never said life would be easy. Hang in there.

Back to our plugin, “Slick Social Share Buttons”; there is much to read about this plugin, as is the case with most others. Take the time to go over all of the material. It will help you decide if this is the one you want. Often there will be a link to the plugin author’s website that will give even more information. These links are usually in the description or the FAQ sections. This plugin even gives a link for a demo.

So, I decide that I want to add this plugin to my site, what’s next?

See the next post for installing a plugin.

How to install a WordPress Plugin

In the last post, we covered searching for, and determining if a plugin is right for your site. We decided that “Slick Social Share Buttons” plugin would suit our needs. You will notice a large Download button, click that and the plugin will be saved to your computer. Note that the file is a zip compressed file. What do you do with the file now? How does it get to your website?

You need to ftp (method of uploading files to your web host)  the file to your web site and place it in the sub-directory specified in the Installation instructions. All WP plugins resided in the folder: /wp-content/plugins/.

Wow that sounds complicated, it really isn’t, but there is a much easier way.

Please read this post to the end before doing the following steps. There are some important cautions to be considered.

In your WordPress menu down the left side, click on the Plugins button.

  1. At the top of the page next to Plugins, click on the Add New button.
  2. Enter “Slick Social Share Buttons” into the search field and click Search Plugins
  3. Click Install Now under the plugin you wish to install.
  4. A popup window asks if you want to install the plugin, OK
  5. The plugin will be installed
  6. Click Activate

Your plugin is now installed.

You may not yet be finished. Some plugins, this one in particular, require you to enter additional information in order for the plugin to function.  This plugin adds a menu item called Social Buttons to the menu on the left side of the screen. Click on that and you are presented with several options. Enter your Twitter username, Facebook data, etc. Be sure to click Save Changes before you leave the page.

That’s it. Our new plugin is installed and working.

If you decide that this plugin does not do the exact thing you had in mind, it is simple to remove the plugin. Go back to the Plugin page, Click Deactivate, after that click Delete to remove the files the plugin added to your site.

Caution

Some plugins will not play well with other plugins. In fact, they may cause your site to have some minor or even major problems. The safest thing to do is to backup your entire site before you add any new plugins. Yes, there are several backup plugins available to do that.

Why be so careful when adding a new plugin? Simply put, some plugins actually modify the way Wordpress functions. There is no universal checking system to be certain one plugin will not hamper another. Some plugins make changes to the WP database and when deleted leave traces of themselves there. There is potential for problems, so plan accordingly.

Plugins are a powerful tool for your website, don’t be afraid of using them, just be cautious.

If you have problems finding, installing, or configuring a plugin, we can do it for you. Our fees are quite reasonable. We can even test the plugin on one of our installations to make sure it will be compatible with your website.

Call us for a quote. 800-598-4008

What are those funny looking squares?

Short answer: QR Codes or 2D Barcodes.

Long answer:  A QR code is a new kind of barcode (matrix type) that has a pattern of dots, shapes and other patterns that represent data.  Information in these barcodes is contained in both the horizontal and vertical directions, thus the 2D name. The QR stands for Quick Response.

Why a new barcode?

The QR Codes hold much more data than the old straight line barcodes; up to 7,089 characters can be encoded in one symbol. In addition, they are able to be read in any direction in 360 degrees, even if it is dirty or damaged.

It is now possible to have a link to a website, email address or an online video, contained in a printed advertisement. With one scan of the QR Code with a Smartphone, your customer can immediately view any of your online content.

 Imagine the possibilities; a code can take a prospect to:

  • A personal video of you describing your product or service
  • Any section of your website that you choose
  • A form to sign up participants to an event
  • A virtual tour of a home
  • A demonstration of your product in action..

You will be seeing more and more of these codes in magazine ads, billboards, and TV.

This exciting new technology has great potential for small businesses.

Call us today at 800-598-4008 for a FREE consultation. Let’s discuss how you can integrate QR Codes into your marketing. ­

Where do you start?

You know you need a website, you really mean to get one up. Where do you start? We have created a worksheet for you to get started. Nothing fancy, just a way to start gathering the information you need to have a site made for you.

You can download a free copy by clicking here. Print out the worksheet add as much information as you can, and give us a call. We can discuss you plans and needs, all at no cost or obligation.

We can get your site started NOW. Call us Toll Free at 800-598-4008

When a blog is not a blog

Blog, what the heck is it and what is it good for.

First a bit of history. The term blog started out to designate a type of website that was a personal journal. Each posting to the website was an entry in that journal.

This was a leap forward for people wishing to have an outlet on the Internet. Blogging sites were easier to setup and add content to, than traditional websites.  Blogging remains very popular today.

What does a blog have to do with a business website? A blog does not have to be named a blog. OK, so this is just double talk, right? Stay with me, this will all makes perfect sense.

A blog creates a system for arranging the post, or entries to the blog. In fact, a blog also uses a system for sorting the entries by the category you assign to each entry.  The category can be used to search for, or list, various entries or posts to the blog.

If we create a website for your business and add a blog, but instead of calling the area that lists the entries to the site a  blog, we call that section “News” or “Tips” or “Testimonials” or any other name you like.  Then, as a news item or a new testimonial is is added to the site, the entries are displayed in order down the page. In addition, we can configure specific pages on your site to hold just one type of entry or post. So you could have a page of news items as well as a page of testimonials on the site.

We can train you, or a staff member, how to add these types of entries to the site. You can then have a website that stay up to date and interesting for visitors and keeps them coming back for more.

Call us today for a FREE Consultation – even the call is FREE – 800-598-4008

Mother, PLEASE! I’d rather do it myself!

Mother PleaseThat line was from a commercial in the 60’s for Anacin. It was followed by “Sure you have a headache, but don’t take it out on your mother”.

I often get calls from clients who would like the ability to make changes to their website themselves. Sounds like a reasonable idea, right? Maybe, but it can lead to some headaches.

Contrary to what everyone thinks, making changes to a site is not as easy as 1-2-3. It takes some time to learn a system, there are rules that must be followed and thousands of options that can be used.

On average,  it takes about two hours of introduction and then several more hours of fine tuning for most people to start changing their own websites.  I am happy to take the time needed to teach a new user how to edit their site and I think my fees are very reasonable to do so.  However, is that really the best use of  a business owner’s time?

Once the novelty of making your own changes fades, the harsh reality of keeping the site updated and fresh becomes a dreaded chore. If a site owner does not make frequent changes, he or she often forgets how to do it.  So, some research will be needed before anything gets done. Or, worse yet, it just gets put off until the site is full of out-dated, stale items. We all have visited sites where the last update was years ago.

Before you jump to the conclusion that you want to maintain your own website, consider the time involved to do so. Your business may be better served hiring us to make the changes as needed.

Call us to discuss this or any other website needs. Of course the consultation is FREE and so is the call at 800-598-4008.

Contents???

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

Web hosting’s biggest secret revealed

What your web designer doesn’t want you to know. This is the most important piece of information you will find about websites and hosting. Registering your domain name.

The domain name is how visitors will get to your site. For example, the domain name for this site is www.ontraxweb.com. Each site must have a unique name.  If you permit a web designer or hosting company or any third party to register your domain for you and you have no access to the account, you could be in for big problems. If the third party goes out of business, files for bankruptcy, gets seriously ill or even dies, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to move your site to another service. Keep reading to learn how this all works.

In order to direct visitors to the site when the domain name is typed into a browser (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, etc.) the directions to where the site is stored on the Internet is held at Domain Name Servers or DNS. When a user types in a domain name as in http://www.ontraxweb.com the information is passed on to a DNS and the request is sent to your site.

There are several options in purchasing a domain name. Some cost more than others. It is relatively simple to register a domain but can be a bit confusing if you have never done it before. So, many web designers or hosting companies offer to register the domain for you. Wow, that seems nice. No it is not!

The domain registration information is the keys to the castle. If a third party holds the key, you can end up being held hostage to a service you no longer wish to use. Imagine if you decide that you would like to change the hosting service to one that offers more features or any other reason. The first step is to notify the DNS where the new site will be hosted. Where do you do that? It is in n the control panel of the hosting company. If you did not set up the service you most likely do not have access to that control panel. So, you will need to tell the current company that you want to leave them and go elsewhere. How do you think they are going to react? Do you think your request will be at the top of a to-do list? Probably not. I know of some sites that have taken years to get their domain names moved.

The solution: Register your domain name yourself, no matter who is hosting the site. At the very least, if you have someone else register the domain for you; make certain that they give you the user name and the password to access the account. Do not let them talk you out of this.

THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!

Ontrax Web Design is happy to either set up an account for you or to talk you through setting up your own account to register your domain name. Either way, you will have complete control of you domain.

Call us for a FREE Consultation. Yes, it actually is free. Call 800-598-4008.

Winter – just around the corner

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?