Put the phone down. Now.

ct-web-design-blog-phone-downIt may seem odd to have a tech person preach the value of getting away from our electronic gear, and ironically it is right now an early Saturday morning, and birds are calling me outside… It is cold, however. When I’m done here, I’ll head outside for a walk.

I heard recently that a public school is now offering a course in “human interaction.” While on one side I am glad to hear that someone in the education system recognizes this need, it points out something we are missing – to the point that we apparently need to teach it as a basic course of study, like arithmetic or spelling.

Take it a step further to a Chicago 5th grade class that is teaching, exercising, and role-playing emotional discussion. Yes, 5th graders are learning, in a classroom, how to listen to each other’s problems, to express empathy and provide emotional support. Wow! (Here’s a link to that story: click here)

So, what are we missing by emailing instead of calling, by texting instead of going out, by tweeting instead of meeting?

We are missing the body language that people sorely need when communicating: the handshake, the smile, the millions of variations of facial expression that connect people. We are also missing the many moments that God provides us every day: the blue of the sky, the call of the birds, the fact that here in Connecticut one can travel less than a mile and be in relative wilderness, surrounded by beauty.

I dare you: commit to less face time with your phone, and more face time with people and places. Don’t miss it!

(Photo courtesy Cool Design, freedigitalphotos.net)

Why Custom Design Is Still Important

Rosie_s LaundryI recently read a forum argument about the custom design vs. template design, and was surprised at how heated the conversation got.

Cheap vs. Good… This was the basic premise behind the argument. Many naysayers held to the position of “Why pay for something new when there are so many good designs out there?”

Yes, it’s true, WordPress has the benefit of being part of a giant community, and there are many, many, many free templates available. Many of them look quite good, and are suitable for some types of businesses. But there are a number of downsides:

  • Stock templates rarely have everything you need. “Why can’t I put my logo there?” “Where’s the sidebar?” are questions we often encounter with our template clients. Because there is no consistency of coding in these themes, it often takes more time and money than expected to get the theme looking they way you want it.
  • Bait and switch is real and happens often. The sample image of pre-designed WP templates are often made up in photoshop, and are not an accurate representation of what the site will look like with your actual content in place. That’s disappointing.
  • It still looks like a WordPress site. Most businesses invest in a website to stand out from the crowd, and very few of the template themes do that.

Here is a great article with some more thoughts on template sites: Click here.

Custom design gives you the opportunity to design a site that is truly representative of your amazing business. You need to be proudly unique and different, because you were just crazy enough to go out on your own and start a business, right? Look at apple.com, fastcompany.com, or ballarddesigns.com. No templates here, also no frills, nothing extraneous, just a bold statement of who they are.

You can have that, too, for your business that truly deserves it! Contact us today to get started.

New Site Release: Integrity Credit Service

ct-collections-websiteThis week we released another great template-themed WordPress site for Thomas Brahm at Integrity Credit Service, LLC. Tom runs a unique business: Instead of being the typical collections company (he’s not the repo man), his business takes a sensitive approach to this not-fun but necessary part of the business world. Need a trustworthy guy to help you collect the money you are owed? Tom’s the guy to talk to.

He writes about his work with us:

Scott went out of his way to meet me on my terms to help me with all my web site needs. I am a picky customer and Scott was patient with me until I had the desired look I wanted. I recommend North Forty Road for any startup or established business looking to enhance their look.

Thank you, Tom! Check out his new site at www.integritycreditservice.com.

You must believe… in you.

ct-abundance-projectAbundance project #3 was about belief. When it comes to the Law of Attraction and Abundance: Do you believe? Did you believe yesterday? This morning? Ten minutes ago?

What stops belief?

I have come to realize that the biggest roadblock to the success I crave is me. Despite constant exposure to Abundant thinking, exercises, tools, people, we are human, and doubt can be very strong.

As innocent children, we see the world around us as play, as fun, as full of possibility. Upbringing, parents, teachers, and life later tell us that play is for kids only, and “don’t expect your dreams to work out.” And those voices are loud! For some reason, the brain latches on to them first, because they are easier and more “normal.”

But, if we can find that pivot point in our thinking, where we take steps to remove negative thought, remove judgement, keep just 51% of our thought on the positive side, life changes completely.

Am I there? No, not at all. It takes constant work. It takes constant reminders that the universe is immense and possibilities are endless. One of our group members said to remember that we are on a ball that is spinning through space. Just spending a few moments a day remembering that “little” miracle can help change your perspective.

So, believe, and believe blindly. You don’t need to have the answers, the how or where, just the goal. Speak it out loud, write it down – your belief becomes infinitely more powerful when you put it to words. And live and feel the joy of achieving it, with gratitude. Be as a child, and create a new normal!

I know that if I can change that one little neuron that says “no,” all that I’m striving for will come rolling to the shore in an endless sea of abundance. I can, and I am. You can, too!

This week’s assignment: Make a resolution about believing, and use your words to cement it. Write down your experiences, and share them here as comments.

Thank you!

The Central Connecticut Abundance Project meets in Bristol, CT, on the first Friday of the month at 9:30 a.m. You can benefit from joining the MeetUp group, even if you are from far away, and participate virtually. Check it out at www.meetup.com/ctabundance.

What is Responsive Mobile Design, and why do I need it?

Is your website responsive? In other words, does it respond to the shape of the screen on which it is being displayed?

With the use of mobile devices – tablets and hand-held phones – for website viewing now exceeding the use of desktop computers, it is critical to consider how your website looks and functions on all platforms.

A couple of years ago, it was OK to just have a “mobile version” of your website to cover the iPhone and Android phones that would display full web pages. Now, practically all devices display websites, and display them accurately, and look at the number of screen sizes and shapes that are out there! Big tablets, small tablets, phones that look like you’re holding a TV up to your head….  It’s a daunting prospect for web developers to match our sites up to all of those options.

Enter the responsive design… and the best way to describe it is to show you.

This blog is a responsive site, and depending on where you’re reading this you’ll see a couple of hallmarks:

  • Layout: This is a two-column site, with a content area and sidebar. You’re reading the content area right now, and the sidebar is over on the right on a computer. In a small device, the sidebar jumps to the bottom, so you can scroll to read it.  This is the most important feature of responsive design – the text scales to be comfortably read in all devices.
  • Menu: If you are on a computer, the menu is on the top right, and shows a few items and drop-down sub menus. This is often hard to navigate in a mobile device. When viewing on a smaller device, the menu converts to a single button that opens out into easy to touch menu items.

If you are reading on your computer, you can see these changes actually happen by grabbing the right side of the browser window and slowly dragging it to the left, essentially squeezing your site into a column. It’s pretty cool to watch it adjust itself!

Check out some images below, a Connecticut custom responsive WordPress site that we built and maintain. And… are you ready to make the jump to responsive, and want to learn more? Contact us for details – advice is on the house!

Click to enlarge:

New Site Release: L&S Automotive

ct-wordpress-web-designThis week, we were proud to launch a new template-based WordPress site for L&S Automotive, in Enfield, CT. A family-owned business for almost 30 years, L&S is a trusted auto repair shop, specializing in (but not limited to) high-end vehicles of every type. Plus, they are just plain fun to work with! Check out their site to learn more.

L&S made good use of our start-up special with custom header, a great way to get started online. Over time, the website will be able to grow with them, as they add content, blog, and add additional images. If you’d like to learn more about a start-up website for your own business, contact us today!

4 Practical Ways to Think Abundantly

ct-abundance-projectI’ve started the Abundance Project because Abundance thinking is the #1 path to success, and though I experience abundance every day, I often have trouble actually believing in it.  Sometimes the negative thoughts that surround us creep in, take over, and carry more weight than the positive ones, and we need to dig deep to stay positive. Even though we know this with our minds, the other noise is often too loud. It takes every ounce of willpower we have to do what we know deep down is good, successful, and even more – fun – and that is to think abundantly.

So, we must practice, and the monthly Abundance Project meeting, selfishly, is a big part of that for me. I’m also a big believer in sharing knowledge and bringing people together, and there is much we can accomplish in our own thinking by sharing that process.

We had a great discussion last month about practical ways to bring Abundance into your life. With eight open-minded people sharing their own stories, this was a safe, positive environment to share some actual paths to abundant thought, with no outside judgement or negativity. Here are just a few we shared:

  • Gratitude Journal. Several of us had a routine, and it was interesting to see the differences. My routine is to write 4-5 things each morning that I am grateful for. That process always helps me to begin the day with a smile and the right attitude to attract Abundance. Others do a similar process before going to bed at night. I’m thinking, maybe both!
  • Morning Routine. I’ve learned that how I start the day has a huge effect on how I think throughout the rest of it, and sticking to this simple order of events most often helps me stay on the Abundant thought wavelength.  See How Do You Wake Up? for details.
  • Avoid Negative Energy. Ever walk into a room and just feel in your gut that the energy is not good? Or, the opposite: Have you walked into a room and immediately felt a strong goodness? That’s real! Trust your instincts and go where the energy is good.
  • Speak Positively. Avoid words like “but” or even “try”, and really say things that help you and others grow. “This is a beautiful day but it’s going to snow tomorrow.” becomes “…and there’s a good chance we’ll see even more beauty when it snows tomorrow.” Subtle but important difference! And don’t forget how Yoda helped us understand manifesting your desires through words: “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

The discussion was very powerful and uplifting, and we were reminded also that there are days we will not believe this stuff works. I’ve noticed while working on the Abundance Project that there are more and more of “us” out there who believe in, and have seen actual evidence of, Abundance Thinking at work. Your faith is strengthened by that collective power.

Join us online! Even if you’re far away and can’t attend our monthly meeting, you’ll benefit from the online discussions at www.meetup.com/ctabundance.

 

Don’t Make A Talking Head Hostage Video: Video Production Tip

ct-video-marketingOnline video is a big deal these days.  Aside from the fact that YouTube is the #2 search engine behind Google, and the younger generation is spending lots of time on sites like Instagram (pictures & videos) and Vine (videos) – consumers just expect companies to have videos on their website.  When someone recommends a restaurant, we want to check it out before we go (watch a video).  If looking to hire a contractor, accountant, or consultant, we want to get to know that person a little (watch video) before we meet.  If it’s widget or software that we need to buy, we may want to watch review, testimonial, and FAQ videos.

I’m a big believer in having a real person from the company appear on camera (talking head video).  It can go a long way to build credibility and trust, especially if it’s the business owner or founder.  You can still have other images, graphics, animations, powerpoint, etc edited into the video to make things more interesting – but it’s nice having the personal touch.

The biggest challenge with this making sure to come off as “real”.  Even the most charismatic people seem to clam up in front of a camera – or they’re just not themselves.  This happens mostly when they read from a script.  Either their eyes are moving back and forth, or they just sound monotone and fake.  Even if they use a teleprompter, it can come off badly if they’re not used to doing it.  It’s NOT as easy as it looks!

(Click here if you can’t see the video.)

I hope I made the point well enough in the video above – whatever you do, don’t make a hostage video – where it looks like someone put hot lights on you and forced you to read something at gun point (which is precisely what many taping sessions probably feel like to someone who’s not used to doing it – but, the experiences our clients have are much different – we pride ourselves on making it easy and enjoyable).

Whether you do it yourself or hire someone like us, there are basically two solutions I recommend:

1. Take the script one segment at a time, memorizing one line or section at a time, and looking right into the camera.  Just deliver as much as you can remember.  In editing, we can piece things together, using other images to cover up the cuts.  The best part about this approach – since people tend to speak differently than how we write, what ultimately comes out with the approach will be better and more conversational – more real – than what would happen if the script was read out loud verbatim.

2. Don’t look at the camera at all.  Talk to someone who’s off to the side – I call this interview style.  You still don’t want to read off a script or telemprompter.  Either have that person ask you questions that lead you to say what you want to say, or have them feed you one line or section at a time, just like I explained in solution #1.

By far, the easiest way to handle this is to have a good interviewer stand next to the camera leading the conversation – talk for a while and then pull out the best parts in editing.

Mike Liebensohn is a producer and the owner of VideoActive, a video production and marketing company that helps service based businesses, professionals, consultants, experts, entrepreneurs, coaches, and job seekers build credibility online, one video at a time.  They are experts in making the taping process easy and enjoyable. Look up the Shower & Showup™ package on their website, VideoActivePro.com

WordPress: To Update or Not To Update?

CT WordPress Web Design Updates

One of the most important features of WordPress is the built-in security and self-protection against hackers and malware. While the truth remains that every website is vulnerable to hackers, because somehow malicious people seem to stay a step ahead of above-board programmers, WordPress provides the best security in the business, with many hundreds of people contributing to its backbone of software.

First a little “look under the hood” at your WordPress site with a couple of quick definitions:

WordPress Core: This is the large body of files and the database that “makes WordPress go.” Many, many volunteer developers write this code and keep it updated with better ideas and better security, and these updates are available regularly.

WordPress Theme: These files determine the look and feel of your site. In a custom design, we create the theme from scratch using our client’s ideas, logo and graphics. In a template-based design, we use one of the many readily-available themes that have been pre-designed and built.

WordPress Plugins: These are add-on software  chunks that add functionality that is not built into the WordPress core. If you have a WordPress site, you likely are running 10 or more plugins for various tasks – Contact Form 7, All in One SEO, NextGen Gallery, Simple Shopping Cart, and Better WordPress Security are just a few that we include with our regular WordPress installation. Each plugin is written by independent developers, and they sometimes do and sometimes don’t keep their code updated.

Keeping your website up-to-date and protected presents a challenge and a catch-22. In order to keep your site the most safe, it is recommended that you update your WordPress core files and plugins regularly, keeping your site running with the most current security patches.

However, the challenge comes in compatibility. If I update the core today, will my theme’s code work with the core’s new code? Will the plugins I’m using get updated by their respective developers to work with the new core? Sometimes plugins that we know and love become “abandoned” by their developers and eventually stop working as the rest of WordPress moves on.

A good analogy might be your car: Think of the WordPress core as the car itself, the theme is the car’s paint job, and the plugins are replaceable things like the tires, brakes, alternator, etc. If you buy a new car, your old tires, brakes, and even paint job may or may not work, even if you get the same exact car model a year later. If you put a 2013 Ford alternator into a 2014 Ford, it either may work fine, may not work well, or not work at all.

So, what do you do? We recommend that once a year (like going to the doctor), you have a professional go through your site, back up the files, and perform all of these updates for you. While WordPress is designed to be a DIY tool, there are times like this that a regular check-up is important. Most often, things go well, but occasionally a plugin replacement is needed. But, in the end, your site is updated and as safe as can be. You may elect to do this yourself, but please be sure to take a full back up of your WordPress site first, in case something goes wrong and you need it restored to the previous version.

As always, we’re here to help! Contact us for advice on your specific site, and you can trust that we’ll steer you in the right direction.