Author Archives: Heather Goff

Spotlite Radio Scam?

Several weeks ago my phone rang and it was a representative of Spotlite Radio. Apparently they had found my website and wanted to interview me about my business on their radio station. It would be for 8 minutes, a producer would call me ahead of time to go over the questions. It sounded like it might be a good experience, and it was free, so I said yes.

heather-on-phoneI am not good at public speaking, or at articulating on the fly. I was a little bit worried because I knew that my radio spot was likely to be filled with long pauses and too many UMMS. Sure enough, when the time arrived, and the announcer started asking questions,
it. was. horrible.
There were gaping silences, unfocused responses and it was, over all, very very awkward. It was with great relief that I hung up the phone 8 minutes later and decided to drive to the post office to clear my head before getting back to work.

It hadn’t been five minutes when my cell phone rang. It was a “producer” from Spot lite radio, (although there was a quiet hum of other voices talking into phones in the background, similar to those calls we get soliciting donations to support the local police or sherif’s office). I am going to paraphrase what he said to me, after insisting that I pull over to listen to him and take notes.

“Do you have a background in radio? You were fantastic. Usually our speakers have rankings (between 1 and 10),  averaging around 3.1, 3.2 – however, your rankings were around 6.7. It was an amazing response from our listeners. People are calling in and asking “Why didn’t we give her more time”. They want to hear more. We have dozens of calls already asking for your contact information. The response has been so great that we want to offer you three 1/2 hour feature slots”… and he lists everything that they do to promote the featured interviews, the great exposure etc.. for only $1,500.

Now, I appreciate more than most people the importance of exposing your business over multiple platforms. I think doing a radio spot, having a YouTube video made of it, getting a press release in major publications is a very good thing, and I might have considered it if he hadn’t been so obviously lying to me. He was so over the top in his praise of the interview that, I knew, had completely bombed, that it made everything he was promising me suspect, and he kept pushing me to agree to a package before I hung up the phone. He had gone down to one half hour slot for $400 when I convinced him that I wasn’t going to decide right that minute, sitting in Reliable Market’s parking lot in my car.

I felt a little bit let down that the whole thing had been a scam. They hadn’t seen me as a leader in my field, being in business doing website design and programming for 17 years. They saw me as a gullible small business owner who may be desperate to do anything to drive more traffic to my website. The next day I went to their website to see if my interview had been posted. I listened to about 2 minutes of the awkward gaps between my responses and the interviewer’s questions, to my stilted and unfocused answers and had to click the pause button. It was truly as bad as I remembered. There was no way that anyone would want to listen to 1/2 hour of that.

The thing is, if someone had called me after the interview and said, “how did you feel about that? It was a little rough around the edges but with coaching, it could be a great tool for promoting your business, here is how..” I might have listened and actually considered it. However, to tell me I was a star performer in order to sell me $1500 worth of advertising when I knew that the interview was a disaster, put the legitimacy of their whole business in question.

The interview was a good experience. The next time I sign up for one, I am going to definitely get the real list of questions before hand and I’m going to practice. I want my answers to be useful information and interesting to listeners, and, if the radio spot costs money, I am going to thoroughly research the station before hand and make sure it is one that people and most especially my clients, are actually listening to.

So, I guess what I want to communicate is that if someone approaches you with a sales pitch riddled with what they think you want to hear instead of the truth, be careful. And if you are in sales and pitching a radio spot to me, don’t lie.  I wouldn’t be successful in my business if I wasn’t able to look at my work with constructive criticism in order to improve it, and the same goes for my public speaking.

Link to my interview here: spotlightradio

 

Looking at popular web building platforms with an eye to SEO

Alison Shaw and Sue Dawson asked Kathleen Forsythe and me to give a presentation at one of the weekend retreats offered by their mentorship program. Kathleen designed their site, alisonshaw.com and I programmed it with a custom content management system, so they immediately thought of us when looking for speakers who could address the subject of website design.

Sue asked me specifically to address some of the popular web building platforms with an eye to how friendly they are to the search engines. After my presentation, Kathleen spoke from a graphic designer’s perspective on custom website design.

For my research, I looked at different websites built on squarespace, weebly, wix, smugmug and foliolink with seo-browser.com to see how they appear to the search engines. On the left of each slide is a screen shot of the page, and on the right is what a search engine bot would see.

What concerns me is whether each page has a unique title tag and description and whether alt tags can be added to the images on a page. This would indicate if their content management system actually allows you to optimize for the search engines or not.

Below are the slides from my presentation. Please click on the images for a larger view.

I program custom content management systems and also create WordPress sites for my clients. I have not had the opportunity to use weebly, wix, squarespace, foliolink or smugmug, so my research is entirely extrapolated from what I could view with seo-browser.com.

Useful Tips

I found a list of over 30 useful tips about “what are common activities people do wrong every day but don’t know it” on quora.com at this link:
http://www.quora.com/Tips-and-Hacks-for-Everyday-Life/What-are-common-activities-people-do-wrong-every-day-but-dont-know-it

They don’t have anything to do with web design, or social media, or programming, but I’m going to share some of them anyway in this blog because of the user experience that I had when going to view them on quora, (so I guess this is somewhat website related).

At quora.com they want you to log in to view their content, and that annoys me. I’d love to share these, but don’t want to force people to sign in to a website with google or facebook in order to read them. When a website wants to extract my facebook or google login so that I can read its content, I get suspicious. I just don’t like it, no matter its marketing value.

That is the reason why I’m lifting some of my favorites to put in a blog post, to share without solicitation or extraction of login data.. because just the other day I was trying to get seeds out of a pomegranate, and just this morning I actually tried to fold fitted sheets to no avail. So these video tips really struck a chord with me. If you want to see the full list, and I’m sure it has been added to since I’ve read it, please use the link above. In the meantime, these were my favorites.

(It might take a moment for the videos to load.)

Food Related

Because I love to cook : )

EGGS

How to crack an egg:
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How to scramble an egg:
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How to boil an egg, and shell it (this is pretty amazing):
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OTHER FOOD TIPS

How to peel a banana (who knew!); I’ve been doing it wrong for years!
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How to get seeds out of pomegranate:
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How to peel a potato:
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How to boil water:
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How to reheat leftover pizza:
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HOW TO EAT SOME FOODS

How to eat chicken wings:
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How to eat a cupcake, like a gentleman:
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How to eat a lobster (I found this one on my own; the chicken wings made me think of it.)
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Non Food Topics

How to throw a football:
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How to take your shirt off, (though I’m not sure how this method would work with a different figure):
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I’m leaving out the over 5 minute video on how to properly pop a pimple because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it, so you’ll need to go to the quora link for that one.

How to coil chords:
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How to position your car’s side mirrors:
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How to tie a tie:
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How to beat box:
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For the Eco Conscious

How to resharpen reusable razor blades:
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How to dry your hands (using only 1 paper towel):
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For those of us who lack (some) domestic skills

These last three are like magic to me. My fitted sheets are wadded up on my linen shelf from my attempts to organize them this morning; I am going to have to re-watch the video below and put things right. And who else among us has tried shoving a duvet in to its cover? am I the only one?

How to put on your duvet cover:
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How to fold a fitted sheet:
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How to fold a t-shirt:
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Here  ends the selection of useful videos that I lifted from the quora.com article – that I felt obliged to re-create for you because of their website trying to force me to log in to view them. I didn’t want to subject all of you to the same user experience. There is a way around it, but maybe you wouldn’t have seen it and would have given them your facebook or google login, and I just don’t trust that. Even better, because I posted them in my own article, I was able to re-organize them, add new ones and make my own comments.

If you are moving your website, be sure not to forget!

Two things, which are very important, and are often overlooked when companies are moving or redesigning their websites are email accounts and search engine links.

I have new clients every year who have existing websites and either want them redesigned or to have a content management system put in, and I am very conscientious about both making sure their email will still work after the migration and/or updates take place, and that I set up a server script to redirect all of their old site’s URLs to the new site’s corresponding pages. This ensures that when people google them, they end up on a valid page and don’t get a “page not found” error.

One site that I was hired to reprogram last year had several hundred pages on their old site, and I redirected every one to the corresponding page in the new design with a .htaccess script using 301 redirects. When a sites’ page links are drastically changed, with the URL redirection your search engine placement might dip temporarily, but without the 301 redirects, it will plummet. Plus, it isn’t professional if someone querying your site ends up with “page not found” errors.

I have found that not all design firms look out for their new client’s transitions. Many industry based website platforms don’t offer email accounts at all, and very often the support person assigned to a client doesn’t have the programming background to know how to ensure that the old site URLs will redirect to the new.

I had three clients who  migrated from my hosting to other website platforms that specialize in their industry last year, and in two cases, the way I found out that the transition had gone through, was by them calling me in confusion because their email wasn’t working any more, and/or that when they googled their site, they ended up with a bunch of broken links.

So please, if you are migrating your site to a new platform or server, or having it redesigned in such a way that the site links will change, make sure to ask your designer/programmer about helping you both migrate your email accounts, and set up 301 redirects on the new server to seamlessly redirect the old site links to the new site. This will ensure neither your search engine traffic or your communications are interrupted.

Artist WordPress Template

I decided at the beginning of February to create a drawing a day. I put up a quick blog to post them. Then, I started playing with the blog template to see if I could get different layouts for the images. I have been wanting to create an online portfolio in WordPress that would work for artists, and this gave me a site to play with.

My “doodle a day” WordPress site  has given me the perfect platform to develop custom WordPress portfolio layouts for artists.

I am building on a theme created by Organic Themes. The theme already came with three portfolio page layouts, a one column, two column and three column layout, but I wanted to arrange the artwork in a more traditional arrangement.

This morning I figured out how to use a jquery code that I found on codrops (view code here) and adapted it to work in WordPress.

I am pulling the photos attached to posts of specific categories (passing the category parameter to the page) and ordering them randomly. When the page first loads, you get a grid of all the images in a specific post category. If you mouse over the thumbnails they highlight.

And when you click on a thumbnail, it zooms larger, and you can paginate through them.

I am very excited to have figured out how to adapt this code to work in WordPress.

Here is the example of the image grid gallery on my “doodle a day” blog.

First I had to figure out how to retrieve just the URL of the specific image size attached to a post. I used a variation on the code found here.

Now I have three different custom layouts I’ve created for artists.

This one I call the standard portfolio layout. I have the default category page displaying this way.

This standard art portfolio layout displays the number of posts you set in your reading settings in the dashboard.

And then yesterday, I figured out how to pass the category parameter to a slide show page, that loops between the images and shows the title of the image.

I modified the jquery code that I found here.

Here is how the standard artist portfolio layout pulling from wordpress posts looks on the site.

For other post categories, I need to create specific page templates that target them. For example, news, press, exhibitions. However this is fairly simple to do and can be customized for each artist depending upon their needs.

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun combining the drawing with the programming in this site.

blog broken? look first to your plugins

One of the best things about working in WordPress is all of the fantastic free plugins that are available. When I first started developing WordPress websites, I felt like a kid in a candy store, who’d been told that she could have as much as she wanted, and it was all free! I installed every single plugin that looked the least bit interesting or useful.

The problem, as with candy, is that not everything you put in your site works together, and often a blog belly ache can result. If your blog breaks, it is often a plugin that is the culprit.

Today I had a client call me and all of their blog posts and pages had disappeared. The first thing I do when that happens is check the database and run a repair on the database tables. That usually fixes the problem. Not in this case. I could see the posts in the database, but nothing was showing up on the website.

I then upgraded their WordPress to the latest version and ran a database upgrade. Still no content.

I changed their theme from the custom one they had, to the WordPress classic theme, to make sure that it wasn’t a theme bug. Still no content.

Finally, it occurred to me to rename their plugin folder on the server, to quickly de-activate all of their plugins. Voila! All of the content came back again.

I judiciously added back the minimum of plugins, testing after the addition of each one to make sure the site worked.

The take away on this article is to only add plugins to your wordpress site that are integral to its functionality. Quality over quantity.

Whenever you run a WordPress upgrade or a plugin upgrade, test your site. If something breaks, it most likely is a plugin conflict. Try de-activating plugins and testing after each to see if the problem goes away. If you can’t get into  your admin after the upgrade, change the name of the plugin folder on the server to see if things start working again.