Our Go-To WordPress Plugins

March 18, 2016

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen a huge spike in the number of attempts to compromise WordPress across a number of sites that we host. WordPress is a great platform, but its popularity makes it a fairly constant target for attacks.

Have no fear: the plugin architecture in WordPress provides an easy way to add extra features to your site – including extra security. Here are a few plugins we’ve been adding to many of the sites we host:

  • Jetpack: Created by the same company that built WordPress, Jetpack contains some really great additions for your site: visitor stats, contact forms, carousels, and more. It also includes some security features like preventing people from trying to force their way into your site.
  • Imsanity: Web sites don’t need all 20 megapixels of those images you take with your nice digital camera. Imsanity easily resizes images to make sure you’re not using too much space on the server.
  • WP Super Cache: For sites with a lot of traffic, caching speeds up the amount of time it takes to load the page and also allows more people to view the site at once.

If you decide to install plugins on your site, be careful and make sure they’re safe and secure before you add them. Plugins can have holes of their own that can be used by people looking to gain access your site or post spam comments on your blog!

Of course, we don’t want you to have to worry about this kind of thing – you’re busy enough running your own business, and you probably don’t have time to stay informed about the latest techniques and exploits for compromising a website. That’s fine! When you host your site with us, we stay on top of patches, updates, and techniques to keep your site safe. After all, we want to make managing your site or app as easy as possible so you can focus on your business!

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Justin is a web and mobile developer at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Permission To Land

March 11, 2016

There are many kinds of apps out there, apps that can perform all sorts of tasks – from keeping track of your daily “To-Dos,” letting you show off your vocabulary to your friends, to pushing a button and hearing any one of many silly sounds. Some apps, especially those which rely on physical hardware to perform these actions, require certain permissions to function fully and properly. In the past, the list of permissions an app needed to function was displayed during installation on Android devices. This is no longer true, as recent Android updates have reformed how apps in the mobile OS interact with phones.

screen1

Out With The Old

Previous versions of Android required apps to display a list of necessary permissions during app installation. This meant that, upon trying to install an app, you’d see a screen much like the one to the left. This screen gives you a breakdown of exactly what information to which the app will have access. This is important because whomever developed the app also have access to this information. We should all be careful when it comes to this data. It’s our data. While it is completely understandable that a GPS app would need access to your physical location via your phone, there are apps out there that request your location that don’t really need it.

In With The New

As of Android 6.0, playfully dubbed ‘Marshmallow,’ apps will now ask for permissions during runtime instead of during installation. For consumers, this is good news in more than one way. First, it really shortens the amount of time it takes to install applications. Rather than having a bunch of screens to click through, clicking install really just installs the app.

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Next, having the app ask for permission at runtime gives users a sense of when, and perhaps why, the software needs certain details. For instance, when loading a camera app, a screen may appear asking for permission to utilize the phone camera. This is expected, but the user can actually deny the app from accessing the camera at this screen. While in this example the app is rendered useless, this is not always the case. There’s a game called Alphabear, and during start-up, this screen is displayed:

While we realize that this feature is used to verify the identity of the phone should there be a purchase of an  in-app purchase, we may choose ‘deny’ for our own piece of mind. Spry Fox, the game creators, make some of our favorite mobile games, and though they proobably wouldn’t misuse the data, but it’s OUR personal information, and until a purchase is made in the game, we would continue to deny the app from accessing these files. And the game plays just as it should otherwise – and is quite fun!

 

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.

STILL Trying to Keep Your Employees OFF Facebook?

March 4, 2016

Many companies block Facebook and other Social applications from the companySTOP sign networks thinking that their employees spend company time “playing on Facebook” when they should be working.

While we are not giving anyone the “Seal of Approval” for goofing off while on the clock, we are aware of companies blocking access from employee workstations.  It is difficult, (if not impossible), to restrict someone from using their personal cell phones to check out Facebook, Twitter, etc.  And according to Time Magazine, Americans Check their Cell Phones 8 Billion times a day!

Work With It

Some companies involve their employees with their social efforts.  If you are not one of the them you may be missing the boat.  These businesses often ask employees to watch out for comments on feeds or alert them when they are being talked about.  Some employees offer (and provide) online reviews of the company and products.  Positive reviews are helpful in marketing your company/brand/product.  The shame is in the fact that many HAPPY customers don’t post reviews.  It is the unhappy ones that make the effort.

Positive reviews are helpful in marketing your company/brand/product.  The shame is in the fact that many happy customers don’t take the time out to post reviews.  It is the unhappy ones that make the effort.

2016 Trends

We are still in the first quarter of 2016 and video, text messaging and ads on social channels are leading the pack, according to a Fast Company post. By talking to your employees about how they can be involved, you might find a “budding” talent for video or marketing that has been unknown until you have asked them for their input.  Having your own guerrilla social team within your company can be a big morale booster as well as a profit maker!

 

 

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Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!

A look into the world of Wordsmithing – A series about crafting messages that engage and delight.

February 26, 2016

Simplicity: Use Small Words – Part I

“It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear” – Frank Luntz

When crafting a message for your business, it is important to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you were your own customer, how would you receive the message you are providing? People often craft a message in a way that *they* would like to read it, not taking into account their audience. In this series of blog posts, we will dive into what makes a message great, and look into the art of crafting messages.

Author Frank Luntz’s book, Words that Work outlines several core ideas in how to best make sure your message is heard, as you want it to be heard. Today, we are covering his first rule, “Simplicity.” and how you can use it in your day to day communications – with a focus on websites.

Using Buzzwords

When writing content for your website, don’t get bogged down by using jargon and complicated sounding “buzzwords”.  Simplicity is key.

To quote Luntz, “Using a long word when a short one would suffice tends to raise suspicions: What is this guy trying to sell me? Does he have an ulterior motive?” The most effective language clarifies rather than obscures.“

Remember, short words create credibility and are more memorable to the reader. Many words can be similar in “physical” length, but much shorter in “mental” length.

Consider the following terms:

  • Absolution
  • Audacious
  • Calisthenics
  • Clandestine
  • Prejudice
  • Miscellaneous

Now consider these alternatives for the above:

  • Forgiveness
  • Bold
  • Gymnastics
  • Secret
  • Bias
  • Mixed

Most people will agree that even some of the words in the second list are “physically” just as long, you identify much quicker with them and understand what they are trying to say without having to stop and think about the message. For example, for your e-Commerce site description, consider trying “A mixed selection” instead of “A miscellaneous assortment” when referring to a grab bag or mixed item product.

When writing copy, you might simply be unaware that a better word choice exists. We don’t expect every person to have memorized a Thesaurus. Luckily, several free resources exist online to aid you in crafting the right message. One of them is here. – where you can input the larger word and find a suitable smaller one.  This is another good resource (and where the previous examples come from) for when you run into a really complex sounding word and need to make it more accessible.

We hope this has been helpful in thinking about how you write about your company and products. The art of wordsmithing not only requires the ability to identify what words to use when, but also an understanding of human psychology and social context. Once the art is mastered, however, you will find it much easier to drive sales and acquire new customers.

Words that Work, can be found at any major retailer that sells books (ISBN 978-1401309299.)

Next post we will cover the second principle in Words that Work.

Using short sentences to craft a message.

Audience Participation is the new “Find Us on Facebook”

February 19, 2016

Perhaps you have asked your customers to LIKE your page on Facebook. Maybe you have even created some signage or printed it on your invoices?   Your Business Page gives them information about special offers and events in front of their eyes while they are on Facebook. Happy customers keep coming back because your business is great at what it does and they love how they are treated.

Reviews and Ratings3 stars

The impact of customer reviews of a product, a place or a service is huge. Almost every platform, Facebook, Google (Maps) Yelp etc. has the ability for a person to express their “love” for their favorite thing. Think of yourself, when you are in a new town, and you choose for a place for lunch, don’t you check out the Review?

Is the Old fashioned Testimonial Dead?

If you go to a business website and see the Testimonial tab – you probably are never shocked by the glowing reviews that the business itself posts. Trip Advisor, Travelocity, iTunes and Amazon are third party review sites where it is straight up customer comments without cajoling from the business, which one holds more value?

Take the Bull By The Horns

Right next to that “Like” us on Facebook sign ASK your customers to rate your services online.  Show them on “Google Maps” where they can do it at your counter.  If you are a professional office, like a medical practice, show them on your monitor which displays your happy patients where it would be helpful to post a review.  People are relying on reviews to make all ranges of decisions. From Pizza to Neonatal Care.

Talk to your fellow business owners at luncheons and breakfast meetings for a positive review and give their business one of your own.  It is a great way to build relationships within your business circle as well as provide some support for your community.

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And guess what?  It didn’t cost you a dime.

 

 

 

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Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!

Getting AMP’ed Up

February 12, 2016

If you’re a web developer, you’ve probably heard about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – the newest trend in lightweight pages for cleaner, faster mobile browsing. Perhaps you aren’t so familiar with them, though. What exactly is an AMP, and how do we make one? Furthermore, why is it important?
Google's Email Alert about AMP read more

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Gary is a team member at Sephone, helping to design, build and maintain websites. He is also a web design student at the New England School of Communications of Husson University.

HTML – Put it all together

February 8, 2016

Over the past year we have put together a bit of an intro course for you on the basics of HTML and CSS.  We have reviewed browsers and text editors, setting up your file architecture and HTML document head, and some of the general HTML and HTML5 tags and CSS that you will see when editing an HTML document.  Now that we have completed this course, you should be able to create a basic HTML page for display in a web browser.

read more

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Brady is the voice on the other end of the phone line when you call Sephone. He graduated from the New England School of Communications in 2009 and assists Sephone in building and maintaining our sites.

Crunching the Numbers – 5 Steps to Kicking 2016 Off Right

February 1, 2016

If we don’t know where we were, how do we know where we are going?

Computer Hands On KeyBoardSince 2015 is over and the holidays have ended, it is a great time to look at last year.  If you are or have done some efforts in social media let’s pull it together and see how we did.

  1. Make A List

    Make a list of the different sources that you used last year, your Facebook page, your newsletter, blog, twitter, pinterest whichever things you engaged in for your business,  make a list in a notebook, on a whiteboard on a spreadsheet.

  2. Count

    How much attention did each platform get in 2015?

    For example:

    • How many times did you posts on your blog were done?
    • How many Facebook posts?
    • How many Newsletters?
    • How many people are participating in our Instagram efforts?
    • etc.
  3. Goals are Helpful

    Did you have goals for each platform if you did, did you write them down and share them?  If you didn’t, you can change that for 2016, make goals now.  Clear and simple.  “We want to send out Newsletters quarterly.”  “We want to post weekly in our blog.”

  4. Do The Math

    Goal vs. Actual or just Actual if you didn’t have 2015 goals but set them for 2016.

  5. Plan for 2016

    We are well into 2016, but it isn’t too late.

    • Engage others in your efforts so it is “everyone” helping and “everyone’s” creativity along with everyone’s effort.
    • Track and Report numbers monthly or weekly to keep your social efforts top of mind and not in the rearview mirror.
    • Recognize people that help, encourage others that are squeamish.

Even though February starts next week – it’s not too late to look at last year and make adjustments or just start fresh on some goals for this year.

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Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) As a natural Community Builder, she loves to get people together, bring resources to the table and solve problems!