Bill’s Blog

Website banner photo: Professional tips

Here are six things to consider when snapping a website banner photo, because you want to greet visitors with a look that says, “Wow!” You have only one opportunity to make a good first impression, so your landing page needs to be attractive and memorable. That’s why an impressive website banner is so important. Visitors can quickly scan the banner image to learn about your website and your business. Colorful photos work great as website banners. They engage viewers and draw attention to your brand.

Example of cropping for website banner photo
When posing a photo for a website banner, it’s best to position your subject to the right or left side to allow room for a Call to Action button. Take a high resolution, wide angle photo that you can crop to 437 pixels tall and 1,750 pixels wide.

So let’s take a look at what makes a good website banner photo, because snapping the right photo takes some planning.

1. Extra wide image

• Think of a website banner as a long sign stretched across a wide area.

• Most banners are three to four times longer than they are tall, 437 pixels tall and 1,750 pixels wide.

• Take a banner photo by holding your camera in the landscape position, not vertical.

2. Cropping a Banner Photo

The digital photos you snap will undoubtedly be square, not rectangular, which means you’ll need to crop the top and bottom of the photo so you’re left with a long, narrow rectangular image that serves as a website banner photo. To do this, begin with the end in mind. You know you’ll need a wide image, so when you pose the photo, think about how the image will look after it is cropped. Here are some tips:

• Remember that at least a third of the top and/or bottom of the photo will be cropped away, so place your subject appropriately.

• Position your subject to the right or left side, so that once the image is made into a banner, text can be overlaid on the banner without covering up the subject.

• Use a high resolution camera in order to maintain the clarity you need once you crop your photo.

3. Background

Put some thought into how the background looks when posing your subject.

• Avoid busy or distracting backgrounds that will take interest away from your main subject.

• Stand far from your subject (or stand closer but zoom out) so you have background on both the right and left sides of your subject.

4. Composition

• Rather than centering your main subject in the photo, offset the subject one-third of the way into the photo. This composition will increase interest and provide space to overlay a call to action box.

5. Go Panoramic

Consider using a panoramic setting on your camera or Smartphone to capture a wide screen image.

• Keep your camera as level as possible as you pan across your subject.

• Move the camera, not your body, when taking panoramic shots.• Avoid panoramic photography of moving objects. The blurriness might ruin your photo.

6. Start experimenting

• To capture the best wide screen image for a website banner, take lots of images.

• Move around as you snap photos to experiment with different angles

• Move forward and backward to photograph subjects at varying distances from your subject

• Try different poses.

• Avoid harsh shadows.

Have fun creating the images that show off your brand, because website banners that “pop” will encourage visitors to more fully interact with your website.

SSL, HTTPS and Secure sites are the New Normal

At Packerland Websites we take privacy and security very seriously. We believe your website should be protected from hackers and eavesdroppers, and one way to ensure this is to transfer data along a secure connection. This secure connection is represented by the letters HTTPS in the URL of a website.

HTTP is short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which describes the way data is sent over the Internet. In comparison, HTTPS adds an S for Secure, which means the data is encrypted to protect it more fully. The final S shows that the data on a website is transferred over a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection. To get your website hosted on this secure connection, an SSL certificate is needed.

I know this is a bit technical, but there’s a really good reason to understand what HTTPS means, especially after Oct. 27 because Google Chrome updated to a new version and websites beginning with HTTP instead of HTTPS are now flagged as “unsecure.”

SSL Green Padlock on HTTPS Packerland Websites pageWhen someone visits an HTTPS website, a green lock icon will be displayed to indicate the website has an extra layer of protection. When someone visits an HTTP website, a warning message will say the website is not secure. Customers who see this message might be afraid to interact with the website, thinking that their data might be more accessible to hackers.

Here’s how one Google article explains the new policy: “Passwords and credit cards are not the only types of data that should be private. Any type of data that users type into websites should not be accessible to others on the network, so starting in version 62, Chrome will show the ‘Not secure’ warning when users type data into HTTP sites.”

If Packerland Websites installed an online store on your website — no worries. You already have the SSL certificate and HTTPS connection you need for privacy and protection. We made sure of that.

For the rest of our clients, we recommend you upgrade to HTTPS. The SSL certificate once was optional, but now is the norm. You want to make your website as safe as possible for yourself and your visitors.

As an added benefit, switching to an HTTPS website should improve your Google ranking because Google considers SSL as a ranking signal.

Packerland Websites is investing over $14,000 in its hosting system over the next 15 months in order to provide clients with the most superior and secure hosting system. We encourage you to transfer to our newest system.

Everyone knows you can save money by buying in bulk. Because of the number of websites Packerland Websites hosts, we have reached a volume which results in savings for our clients. You can upgrade your entire hosting system for less than the cost of what you’re likely to spend if you purchase an SSL independently. We take care of the entire process, and your website will be changed to HTTPS by mid-December.

Now is the time to purchase the SSL certificate at a savings. To be eligible for the savings, current customers need to act by Dec. 1. Contact Us to get the process started. If you are a new client of Packerland Websites, HTTPS is now standard practice for our hosting system, so no action is necessary.

If you’d like to know more about the “Not secure” label, we invite you to read https://www.ecwid.com/blog/https-how-to-increase-search-engines-and-peoples-trust.html

How to Turn a Real Estate Website into a Sales Tool

Don’t you love it when things come together? We had the perfect melding of developer and client recently at Packerland Websites when our developer, Diane, was looking to buy property, and our client, Lisa Hanson, was looking to update the Hanson Realty website, Hanson-Realty.com. Real estate website for Hanson Realty

Key features of

a real estate website

Right off the bat, Diane knew what she liked in a real estate website.

  • Immediate access to a search bar to look for properties.
  • A large number of listings on a search results page.
  • Freedom to search the website without being required to create an account.
  • Quickly visible stats for square footage, acreage, number of bedrooms, etc.
  • A simple way to save a property to look at later
  • An email notification for property updates, like price reductions
  • Easy-to-find phone numbers for real estate agents

“If a site isn’t easy to search and appealing to me, I don’t want to stay on that site,” Diane says.

Searching the real estate website is easy

With multiple MLS feeds linked directly to the website, home and property buyers can scan through the properties on the market or narrow their search in several different ways. Maps show the locations of the properties for sale, and clickable markers provide a nugget of information about each property. Buyers can schedule showings online and use the Mortgage Calculator to determine how much the property might cost over time.

For parents of school-aged children, the school pages list the schools in the district and their Great Schools rating, plus images from the community and descriptions of the area.All this, and mobile friendly to boot!

Benefits for the real estate agents

The real estate website becomes a sales tool for Realtors. Agents may have their own accounts and can track the clients they’re working with and manage their own leads. They can change their profiles or add new listings. They can see who viewed their listings or saved a search and know if this individual is an active client. Emails from their clients go directly to them, not to a general mailbox where a message might be forwarded to the wrong agent.

To evaluate how the real estate website is working, analytics are built into the dashboard to measure traffic, emails, and other types of engagement.

The power (and simplicity) of managing your own website

WordPress is the website creation tool used by Packerland Websites. A great thing about WordPress is that it’s a content management system that’s user friendly and allows room for creativity.

What does this mean for you? It means that you get a great-looking and highly functional website built by Packerland Websites to specifically meet your business objectives. It also means that you have the ability to manage the content on your website yourself to keep it up-to-date and fresh.

Basic functions come naturally.
If you’re familiar with word processing software, then doing the basic functions in WordPress will come naturally. You don’t need a background in computer coding or technical knowledge to make adjustments.

Want to change your business hours or add a photo to your website? No need to call us! You’ve got the power at your fingertips to make the change.
We’ll even teach you how to wield this new and amazing power through a one-on-one training session. Plus, we’ll provide ongoing support if you get stuck.

Updating your website shouldn’t take a lot of your time, leaving you more time to concentrate on your business. Plus, you can share the responsibility of updates among multiple users.

Here’s a cool tool!
We’ve created an ingenious tool for you to use when you’re learning the ropes. We call it a Website Update Tutorial, or “WUT” for short, as in “WUT’s up?” “WUT’s happening?” and “WUT do think of me now?” But I digress…

The purpose of the WUT is to provide a starting point for routine changes. Under the “Our Services” tab of our website you’ll find the WUT, listing step-by-step instructions to make website updating easy. On our website you can watch a video or download a PDF of the WUT, or scroll through the instructions and visualize the process by looking at screen shots of the WUT.

Download the PDF of the WUT or visit https://packerlandwebsites.com/website-update-tutorial/ to see it online or watch the video tutorial.

You’re in the driver’s seat.
We created different formats of the WUT, but each format contains the same easy-to-follow guide. Use whichever tutorial suits you best. The important thing is that you feel comfortable updating your website in order to keep your message accurate and fresh.

We like to make things easy for our clients, and this tutorial is a great example of that philosophy. When you partner with Packerland Websites for a website, you’re getting a website built by Packerland; managed by you.

 

 

Why trust WordPress as the platform of choice

Website building WordPress platform

At Packerland Websites, we think it makes a ton of sense to use WordPress as our platform for websites. And guess what, we’re not alone. WordPress makes up more than 20% of all websites on the Internet. There’s a good reason. The platform offers the flexibility we love, because no two websites are alike.

WordPress also encourages creativity because of its ability to be customized, mobile friendly, and owner managed to help you obtain your Internet goals. Plus, WordPress is easy to use, because we teach you how to use some WordPress basics. Check out our custom website update tutorial to see just how easy it is.

Previously WordPress was accused of having a bad rap from some developers who claim the content management system is too easy to hack, and nobody wants their website hacked. Believe me, nobody! Of course, those developers were promoting other platforms as well.

The No. 1 cause of website hacking is a lack of personal security regarding computer use and protective passwords. Other causes are phishing schemes, theft of your personal data, and third party access via outdated theme or plugins which can be vulnerable when a site is not maintained properly.

So how can you keep your WordPress website safe and secure? One of the best protections is to have secure access to your website. Don’t use “Admin” for a login name or “password” for your password. Be wary of suspicious looking emails. Before you click, look at who sent them, where any links may be taking you, and any suspicious downloads.

You also want to keep current with the updates to software and plug-ins. Performing regular checks and updates improves both the security and site functionality.

That’s where we come in. At Packerland Websites, we include basic maintenance updates for our clients as part of our hosting. While we cannot control your passwords and emails, Packerland Websites can take care of the regular maintenance updates that website require. We feel this is so important we automatically include this maintenance in our hosting package, for your security and ours.

There are additional levels of security that can be added to your website. To learn more, check out this article.

 

What Municipalities Need to Know About Upcoming ADA Compliance

ADA Compliance on WebsitesMarketing scare tactics are often used to get people to buy something, and what makes them even more effective is when they have some truth woven into their message.

A current website sales tactic targets entities in the public sector, like school districts and municipalities, and promotes compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their sale pitch hinges on the premise that ADA compliance is inevitable and gives the impression you are already late.

The fear is that ADA compliance may become unreasonably expensive, technically difficult, and a real pain!

The scary truth is that accessibility to online content presented by public entities is in the process of being treated like accessibility to buildings. See https://www.ada.gov/websites2.htm

Here’s some background. ADA Title II requires that the programs, services and activities of public entities be accessible to people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing Title II and is also responsible for clarifying the rules surrounding accessible websites.

We believe that accessibility is important, and we predict that ADA compliance will become a mandate as time goes on. When this occurs, the requirements for handicapped accessible websites will be more strictly enforced.

The good news is this: An existing website, similar to an existing building, will be given more leeway in getting its accessibility up-to-date. One proposal granted municipalities two years in which to comply with the accessibility requirements.

More good news is that accessible design does not necessarily mean a lot of additional cost for the website owner. It’s possible that only small changes in color contrast or behind-the-scenes coding will be necessary to bring a website into compliance.

The third piece of good news is that the accessibility rules have not been formally adopted, so immediate compliance is unnecessary. Public entities have the opportunity to monitor the rule-making process of the USDOJ, watch for any new requirements and the exemptions that go with them, and note any deadlines set for ADA compliance.

A big challenge will be to find a website developer that you can get to know and trust. You will need someone to do the work with competence and timeliness, without a big price tag.

Packerland Websites is that developer. We have built websites for the local school district and for a number of municipalities. You can bet we’ll keep our eye on these compliance rulings and will be a trusted source for ADA compliance for your website, should the need arise.

In the meantime, don’t be swept away by the scare tactics of our competitors. It’s not worth it!

Robo-Call You have not updated your free Google listing

Robotic telemarketer calling about Google listingI received a call from (608) 719-4895 in Stoughton WI. It was not a number I recognized, but I answered the call. A recorded message stated:
“You have not updated your free Google listing. Please press 1 if you are interested in doing so.” I was interested in doing so for a couple reasons. I provide search engine optimization (SEO) services, including directory listing management, not only for Google, but also for an additional 60 other directories. All of the listings are claimed and verified. The data is up-to-date, identical across all directories and creates an incoming link back to them.

Even if I am only building a website for a client and not providing SEO services, I will create or claim the Google pages for my customers. By creating or claiming a Google listing, I help customers rank higher on listings, and I help them avoid calls like these.

I decided to play along

So, in the interest of hearing what the caller had to say, I played along. I pressed 1 to speak to a representative.

The person answered and asked:
Is your business Packerland Websites?
That is correct
Are you located in Green Bay?
Yes, I am
Are you at Zip Code 54303?
Yes, I am
– Long Pause
Your listing is up to date- Hung up on me

I guess they didn’t like my answers

Obviously, the robot call did not check to see if I was up-to-date before dialing my phone number.

Often, these callers may claim to be from Google. If they do this, ask them directly if they work for Google. They will most likely give you the run-around.

Unfortunately, they prey on business owners that are great with their business, but maybe not as tech savvy as they could be. That is why many are using my services.

I get regular emails from customers double checking if the calls and emails they receive are legitimately something to be concerned about. That is OK. Most of the time I confirm that customers are being spammed and/or solicited, and it’s not legit.

We’ve got answers to your questions

Do yourself a favor and have a good relationship with your website developer. We work with this stuff all the time. Make sure your Google listing is up-to-date, and you can confidently hang up on these solicitors and delete these types of suspicious emails. Contact Packerland Websites today for help with your business’ directory listings.

Want to know how your business appears on the Internet? Scan your business for free!

Converting your expertise into content

Struggling to find time to write content Business owners sometimes struggle to find the time to write content for their business website. Although they are experts in their field, they’re not necessarily experts at writing. And even if they are skillful writers and great storytellers, their time may be better spent on other facets of their business, including the tasks they alone can handle.

Writer to the Rescue, the content writing division of Packerland Websites, can help. By working with Joan Koehne, the Wonder Writer, businesses save time and energy and come away with effective content written specifically to meet their business objectives.

The process starts by having clients review a questionnaire, http://writertotherescue.com/website-content/questionnaire-for-website-content/, which is a good starting point for Joan to learn about their business and formulate website content that’s well-written and meaningful to the target audience.

Compelling content has many advantages:

• Reduces bounce rates

• Keeps visitors engaged longer

• Makes audience more likely to act in the way you envision to meet your business objectives

• Helps you build your authority in the field

• Grows your reputation as an industry leader

• Customizes your brand image

• Presents a tone and voice that reflect your vision and mission

• Helps your website rank higher on search engine result pages.

Whether you’re creating a new website or rebuilding a current one, Joan can work with you to create original content that accurately and professionally tells your story. Trust the Wonder Writer to convert your expertise into effective content. Contact her today at 920-639-1865 or Joan@WriterToTheRescue.com.

Packerland Websites is growing

Packerland Websites Moving day
Moving to 2140 Velp Avenue Green Bay, Wisconsin

When I first opened Packerland Websites, I took pride in telling people I was a full-time web developer, unlike so many other developers who built websites on the side. Fast forward to today, and I have an even more exciting story to tell. Packerland Websites has grown from a business managed by a single owner/operator to a team of four full-time web professionals, each with our own strengths.

Our two full-time website designers are competent in all aspects of web design. They love to tackle projects of any size or complexity. They thrive on the challenge of staying current with the ever-evolving world of website design, and most importantly, they know that satisfying clients is their No. 1 goal.

Diane Markovich has been designing websites since 2006 and earned an Associate degree in web design in 2017. She previously earned certificates in applied graphics for model design and small business bookkeeping. A small business owner herself, Diane knows the importance of building websites that meet your business objectives.

Jessica Pitttman earned a college degree in animal science and then decided to pursue a career in photography. From there, she branched into website design and has been working professionally since 2013. A self-taught designer, she’s eager to learn more about how to build websites that get noticed.

My wife, Joan Koehne, a seasoned journalist, anchors the content writing division of Packerland Websites. She enjoys using her interviewing and writing skills to develop original website content that entertains, informs and prompts people to act. She’s an active blogger and a content marketing specialist. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and an Associate degree in social media marketing.

In addition to this impressive team, Packerland Websites is supported by a talented and experienced group of contributors. Our graphic designers, social media marketing specialists, and search engine optimization professionals give you the breadth of services necessary to build and maintain a vibrant online presence for your business or organization.

I believe we stand out in the crowd of website developers because of our strong team. Packerland Websites is small enough to offer the personalized service you deserve and large enough to successfully complete projects of all varieties. At Packerland Websites, we take a business/marketing approach to website building. A solid return on investment and successful web results are our goals.

My Website Got Hacked! Who Is Responsible?

Hacked word imageThe words “My website got hacked!” send shivers down people’s spines, even more so, web developers’. Why? Because the question often comes down to who is responsible. Simply put, the hacker is responsible. No one asked for this.

The real question is this: Who is responsible for cleaning things up? It is a good question. Much of the answer depends upon how your website is built. If it is an all HTML site, this is going to place a greater burden upon the developer. If this a CMS, content managed system site, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, then the answer is: It depends.

WordPress is free, open source software, and its terms of service states that the software is licensed under the GNU General Public License. The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a widely used, free software license which guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. There is no guarantee for performance or anything else. Unfortunately, it is also the system hackers like to target because the software is free for them to view as well.

Over 74,000,000 or 25% of the web is powered by WordPress. This makes WordPress a popular target for hackers to look at as well, because a single virus has many places to check out. Good website developers do their best to have a website built properly to make it more difficult to have hackers break in.
However, that still does not answer the question of who’s responsible for fixing the website once it’s hacked.

Here are a few items to consider.

• Whose website is it?- Do you own your website?- Do you lease your website (essentially renting a website versus purchasing)?
• How did the hack occur?- Was it password compromised? If so, through whose password?- Was the virus or hack accidentally or uploaded and by whom?- Was it a vulnerability that snuck in between updates? (If you ever wonder why there are so many updates, it is usually because of added features or fixed bugs including those that hackers have exploited.)
• Is there a security agreement in place?- Security is different than hosting, different than maintenance and different than management- Are there disclaimers or limits within the security agreement?

Essentially, without some type of security agreement in place, the burden of fixing the website will land on the owner of the website, unless the owner can show negligence by the hosting service or developer.

A hacked website is similar to a flat tire on a car. Without some type of roadside warranty on your tire, you need to show negligence in order to prove someone else is at fault. Otherwise, the owner of the car is stuck taking care of a flat tire, even if it is a brand new set of tires.

We certainly would not want to leave this on such a dismal note, so here are some suggestions to consider.

• Have a regular maintenance schedule- Although this is no guarantee against hacking, it offers a huge layer of protection. Many updates are put in place AFTER hacks and vulnerabilities are discovered.- Auto updates are a tool to consider as well
• Secure passwords- This is one of your No. 1 defenses and helps to ensure your site is protected.
• Limited access to users- Editor hacks would be less severe than an admin hack
• Good hosting, which allows for regular backups- If the hack is discovered early enough, sometimes it can be fixed simply by rolling the site back to some point in the last thirty days. Note, a review of all systems, plugins, software and theme updates should be done as part of the rollback process.
• Monitor plugins
• Site-wide backup of source files
• SSL Certificate, which are files that allow secure connections between a web server and browser
• Consider third party solutions when collecting sensitive information like credit card data or personal information.
• Site Lock Plans- Daily malware scanning and removal (manual removal may cost extra)
• Have a security agreement in place- This does not guarantee your website won’t be hacked. It is more like insurance. If your site is hacked, you have insurance to help take care of the problem.

Even with all the above efforts, hackers are still trying to get in. If Target and Home Depot websites can get hacked with the security these corporations have in place, there is no 100% guarantee you can prevent it from happening to you. Unfortunately, there is not one perfect cure-all.

How does a security agreement work? Essentially, the people supplying the plan are most likely taking many, if not all, of the suggestions above and putting them into use. On top of that, they are factoring in time to take care of the hacks that still get through, because they know that a percentage of websites, even with protections, still have the possibility of issues.

Unless the hackers themselves are nabbed, the question is not so much who is responsible, but what allowed the hack to occur and how is it going to be fixed? Hopefully, if you do not have a security agreement, you were fortunate to choose a web developer willing to work with you to remedy the problem.