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!

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.

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.

Website Colors

Color line
Choosing colors for web sites can sometimes be a daunting task. A web designer can spend hours in getting the right look to a banner and the basic colors.

Some helpful hints are to look at past advertisements that you may have run. Do you like the look and color layout? What are the colors in your logo?

Another great idea is to take a photograph or image that represents what you want. Individual colors can be drawn from that image. These can be used in background, text color and more.

When communicating with someone, especially a website designer about color choices, a challenge arises. There are so many variants of colors that green is not simply just green anymore. Having to adjust colors takes time and can be a drawn out process.

The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow. Secondary colors are purple, green and orange. From there it keeps breaking down into many more combinations.

Color choice can affect someone’s thoughts and moods. They may also be a determining factor on how longs someone remains on your site.

Men and women typically have a different color preference Men lean towards blue and orange to red and yellow, while women prefer red to blue and yellow to orange. Women can perceive considerably more colors than men can. In other words, while men may find peach, teal or peacock as mere notions, women associate these things with colors.

Culture can have an effect also. White represents a color of purity in western cultures but may be bad luck in eastern cultures.

Color choice may depend on if you want to be soothing, dramatic, exciting or informational. Red is dramatic and exciting, while blue may be soothing and relaxing. Red may be better for food and blue for business.

You want to avoid having too many colors. It will create eye fatigue and eventually make your website look jumbled and confusing. Typically, three colors are suggested. A couple more complimenting may not hurt, but it is a judgment call.

color wheelPrimary Colors are the root colors Red, Blue and Yellow. From the primary colors other colors can be developed.

Secondary Colors come from the midpoints of combining any two adjacent primary colors which are Violet, Green and Orange.

Tertiary Colors are a third generation color that come between the secondary colors: yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.

Complementary Colors are colors that are opposite of each other as shown on the wheel. Some complementing colors are red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple.

Analogous Colors provides a harmony and blending of the colors. They would be three adjacent colors such as blue, green and yellow. They give a comfortable feeling as found in nature.

Color spectrumThe RGB color model shows colors in which red, green and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of color The name of the model comes from the initials of the three colors, red, green, and blue.

The values vary from 0 to 255.

(0, 0, 0) is Black
(255, 255, 255) is White
(255, 0, 0) is Red
(0, 255, 0) is Green
(0, 0, 255) is Blue
(255, 255, 0) is Yellow
(0, 255, 255) is Cyan
(255, 0, 255) is Magenta

color vendiagram

When selecting colors with your website designer, a great resource is Wikipedia, which gives many colors and their RGB color codes. Use the following links to make sure you and your designer are on the same page.

For more ideas on colors, you can also read about color strategies.

WikiupediaWikipedia gives a good review of web colors

Wikipedia gives a list of colors to choose from

Color Strategies

colorsColor Strategies

color vendiagramWhen selecting colors with your website designer, a great resource is Wikipedia which gives many colors and their RGB color codes.

Colors affect our primary sense of vision and therefore can stir different feelings within a visitor. The culture in which someone lives in and their personal experiences will impact how they may mentally interpret a particular color.

An absolute statement on what impression a particular color makes is impossible. However, if understand some of the concepts of our western culture it will help us to see how varying a color and combining with others will create different moods and impacts.

Here is a chart that shows different connotations often associated with different colors.

Clean, innocent, pure
Strong, brave, passionate
Happy, friendly, optimistic
Warm, earthy, mature
Natural, tranquil, relaxing
Strong, trustworthy
Cold, empty, sterile
Dangerous, aggressive
Cowardly, annoying, brash
Dirty, sad, cheap
Jealous, inexperienced
Cold, depressing, gloomy

These are not absolutes. Check out sites similar to the one you want to have built and see which color gives you a feeling that you would like to instill in visitors to your site. Although your site will be unique in its own way, it will help to give you some ideas.

These are not absolutes. Check out sites similar to the one you want to have built and see which color gives you a feeling that you would like to instill in visitors to your site. Although your site will be unique in its own way, it will help to give you some ideas.

Color Example colors
Color Example


When selecting colors with your website designer. A great resource is Wikipedia which gives many colors and their RGB color codes. Use the following links to make sure you and your designer are on the same page.

WikiupediaWikipedia gives a good review of web colors

Wikipedia gives a list of colors to choose from

Website Information

Website TypesPaint Brush Stroke

There are as many website designs as you can imagine. Many contain similar elements.

When designing a site, a person must keep in mind, “What is the goal and what needs to be accomplished?”

Do you want a quick, easy and affordable page to ensure some type of web exposure? An info site normally made up of 1 or 2 pages acts as a colored flyer. It allows people to find you on the web. Even more important, it gives them a way to get in contact with you.

Do you have a product you want to sell like real estate or basic services? Then you may want a mini site, which is a little larger than, the info site but maybe has a page for photos and or maps.

Are you looking for a basic business site that is clean, professional and attracts customers to you without breaking the bank? We can design a website from nearly twenty web site templates that we have recently worked with and designed.

Are you looking for a custom site that matches your company colors and other marketing tools? For not much more cost, you can have a basic site that meets your need similar to the basic site, but one that is a custom design.

Finally, we can pretty much create whatever size and type of site you want. The sites listed are the most common sites that many small businesses are looking for while trying to stay within a tight budget. We would be happy to work directly with you in determining what would be the best solution for you

From here the possibilities go on. There is virtually no limit to the size of website that you can build.

To learn about the importance of the colors you choose for your website, click here.

Website Directions

confusedAs I do more web and technology work, I sometimes see myself becoming the techno geek guy that takes things literally. It makes more sense now why. Sometimes a single missing semi colon can mess with an entire page. But, it is not just the technical stuff, but how we communicate.

A good reason to be specific with your website directions and requests can be seen in this short story.
The programmers wife tells him, “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.” The programmer returns later with 12 loaves of bread.

When I ask for a color preference, I sometimes get answers like; warm, rich, hot, high-end and attention getting. These are not colors. One could translate them as orange, gold, red, diamonds and flashing lights. I won’t even get started on the feelings being colors.

I was once asked to place a gold border around a web page. I did so and people thought it was to orange. Gold in a developers eye is and RGB or hexadecimal color as defined as what truly represents the color gold. Do you know how many greens there are? Many more then light, dark, forest and Kermit the frog. Oh, and technically, there is still a green.

Another area is editing text. When asking to have a word change, it would be courteious to reference the page and paragraph instead of saying there is a word that was spelled wrong (despite that it is generally copied and pasted from text supplied) to remove this reference from the website. It is what helps to keep minor maintenance minor.

When we ask for text we are asking for actual text. This is not photo copies, photos, pdfs, faxes or hand written notes. Text is something that can be copied and pasted into a word format. This is important as it helps to assure it is written and spell checked before receiving as well as timely for placing in the website.

Plus, Google reads text. Human beings can read letters printed on paper or shown on photos, but not Google. Search engines are our friends, so let’s keep them happy.

We really want to avoid the statement, “What I really meant…” Try and be concise and you will actually get a better product. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And please, do not be offended if it sounds like you are being asked the same question twice because it probably means the first answer did not computer or register in a techno brained person’s mind.

Because, good enough is not good enough.

Mobile Design

Mobile Design, often called responsive design is something new and so it does pull some hype. I think a lot of it is driven from people working with WordPress and since that is database, it is easy for a new person to work with it. However, it makes your creative design very limited. BUT, it does not mean that it is something new, cool and the direction future websites may go.

The question is if it is time to jump into one.

Every time I build a website, I try to create a vision statement and purpose the website is suppose to accomplish. Some websites like http://betsyshrift.com/ benefit with mobile response in the properties area because they can add QR codes to the for sale signs which are designed for mobile devices.

Other websites like a restaurant or storefront may benefit if people are looking for a number or address on their mobile device. Northwood Distillery puts a QR code on Heath Rum posters that take them to the mobile recipes page. But again these are QR driven and make more sense to have a website that is mobile friendly.

One solution is an automatic mobile redirect. It is more devices specific and still allows the user to go to the main site if they wish. Here is a couple that I did:
http://www.abramsspotlightproductions.com/Mobile_Home.html (you can buy tickets via mobile also)

The bottom line comes down to, how many of your desired visitors are going to use a mobile device and why? I think I sell a lot of sites because I approach it as a marketing solution. I charge my client a one-time cost of $150 for this and since it is part of the main website, there is no additional hosting.

Responsive may be the best option for you and is something Packerland Websites offers. More importantly is determining what Internet marketing strategy will achieve the best return on investment and serve the purpose it is intended.

Scam Domain Name Renewals

I received a “solicitation that was cleverly disguised as a domain name renewal that gave the impression that my renewal was due. They added other time of the essence language such as,” Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.”

They did have my name and address that is on public records and used it to craft an official looking notice. Since they were asking for a faxed renewal it was easy to raise a red flag o this type of scam. Since I was aware that there was 6 month left on my domain name it added more to the ‘not right’ feeling.

Their renewal fee was $75 for a year. That is nearly five times a typical renewal cost.

Maybe my eyes are getting older, but I had to cut, copy paste their disclaimer at the bottom of the email where it states, “By accepting this offer, you agree not to hold DS liable for any part.” And “You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated unless you accept this offer.”

Normally, I delete these types of emails. But this one got me riled when they gave an opt out address to a website URL that hid their identity and was obviously not who they are. With a little digging and some complaint letters filed, we were able to determine the registrar.

Did they break a law? Probably not. Are what they are doing unethical? I’ll leave it up to you and ICANN to judge.

My larger concern is that someone who does not relize that there are companies out there would fall prey to them.

Always make sure your renewal is coming from the company you registered with. You can often times check with your web delevloper for confirmation. I would always invite and of my clients to question these things and check with me first to confirm.

Do not let these companies make you a victim.

I am testing out a WordPress plug-in called Google XML Sitemaps.

I am testing out a WordPress plug-in called Google XML Sitemaps that will cover both the blog and my website.

The reason for choosing this plug-in over others is that it was easy to add them main sites web pages as well as the blog itself. There are some great sitemap tools out there.

My favorite is the one built into my website building software. This is because it allows you to select which pages you want in your sitemap and those you don’t. It even goes a step further where you can add to the page robot text to stop the spiders from crawling.

When you have a blog as part of your website, some of the dynamics change. Each new post in the blog should have a description on the sitemap as well in order to increase your search engine optimization as well as make it easier to have your content found.

I will have a separate discussion on sitemaps themselves. For now, I want to get this post uploaded and test out the results as the sitemap being created, including the added website pages and determine where it puts it.

I’ll post back with the results