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Help with images & content. Training & maintenance services.

Using images

Using quality images can define & complement your site. How and where images are used and displayed will depend on your particular site.

For example, this site uses a theme which uses ‘header images’ as a background (with a semi-transparent overlay) for the page titles and menus.

It also defines where and which size image appears in various other locations around the site. (A theme is software which is a collection of (mostly) text files written in various coding languages which defines the appearance of the site)

A photography website will have very different needs to someone writing about building websites, or product photos for an e-store, though there are some constants.

Good images do not happen by accident, at least not on a consistent basis, and writing about producing them could run into a library of books.

Good images do not happen by accident, at least not on a consistent basis, and writing about producing them could run into a library of books.

If required, I can supply images for your site, especially those feature images and logo which help set up a site. I can also help out with basic guidelines to help with your photos.

I use Photoshop extensively, though there is other very good software available which may suit your needs.

The real constant for websites and using images is optimizing them so they do not slow your website to a crawl. Only photography and some other niche websites would need to have large, hi-res images.

Showing how to optimize images for the web, or setting up your site so this is automated is a key part of my services.

Writing good content

You have a brand new website, with everything set up, with the usual pages in place (Welcome/Home, About, Contact, Privacy, Blog etc.).

You have some good images on hand you would like to use, but those pages & posts are empty! This can be daunting for many new website owners.

Building a website for an individual, business, community or organisation means getting to know quite a bit about the client, so it is possible I can help draft content.

In the end the thing that will attract people to your website is well written, fresh content with good structure.

This requires research, planning and time. Much can be learnt from reading other well presented sites. I like to get several people to review content before taking a new site live, even if it is just to check grammar.

Searching for “copy writer” or “content writing” will show a plethora of ad’s from people who do this type of work. That is not my offer. Helping to write your own good content is my aim. I can give some pointers and help which will enable you to write good content.

Here are a few examples, which come from knowing that people who read on the web tend to skim articles first before deciding to read in depth.

  • Use shorter sentences than normal in print.
  • Use short, concise paragraphs.
  • Learn to use the least number of words – limit the verbage.
  • Address your reader directly
  • Ask a question or invite readers to do something
  • intersperse your content with headings, block-quotes, italics, images, lists and tables etc.

Training

I supply written quotes to build a website. This usually includes a set number of hours instruction in using the back end of the site, and hands on help using the editor.

I also set out my availability for ongoing telephone and desktop support, and provide a high quality “How to” manual for ongoing reference.

Maintenance

The software that runs websites needs maintenance.

Mechenic with wrench
Not this type, but maintenance just the same.

I generally use WordPress, which is fast becoming the main CMS on the web. It is updated and improved regularly, as are the themes and plugins used to extend it.

This is a very robust system, however very occasionally things can go wrong. A ‘white screen’ or a cryptic error message after an update can be a worry.

Knowing what to do and getting things back online quickly is the key to my maintenance services. Essential in this process is having good backups running onsite, on an automatic schedule, & stored off site.

An essential part of any maintenance service is testing that the backups are viable.

There are free very high quality backup plugins available. I can do manual restores from these but prefer to use a more robust system offered from ‘Pro’ (read paid commercial) level plugins to ease this process.

In a belts and buckles approach, I also implement a second backup system which runs almost entirely off site as part of my maintenance service.

person practicing first aid chest compression on a dummy

If your site is hacked, which , considering high level government agencies get hacked, is a possibility, you may need this type of aid for your website.

Again, this is where having good backups in place is essential to doing a good cleanup. I can and have cleaned up after a site has been hacked, but have only needed to do so once in the last fifteen years. That is also part of my maintenance packages.

That said, on some occasions it could be necessary to hire a professional firm to root out the most insidious hack.

I build quality websites backed with valuable after build services, talk to me to get yours started.

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chain and lock above world

Steps towards a secure, easily found, well equipped website

Website Security

Today’s internet can be a hostile environment. Bad bots and evil perpetrators abound. While government sites (with experts working to protect them) are hacked regularly, we know that no site is completely impervious.monitor with cyber criminal eyes

There are several prudent steps to take regarding your website security.

The host providing your server space needs to implement best practices. That is one of the reasons I use SiteGround.

Your site also needs to have good inbuilt protection for its files. I implement a combination of plugins and server level protection by writing .htaccess files. As the name suggests (hypertext access) this is a fast and strong method of controlling access to your files.

Keeping good backups is one of the most important things done in running a website. If something goes wrong, this will help save the day. A variety of methods are available for this depending on your requirements.

chain and lock above worldBackups can be created onsite, and then sent offsite for storage, or there are companies which provide an entirely offsite service, and can be very good. They place very little load on your website resources.

Very good free backup plugins are available, and if you have the necessary knowledge, are adequate to restore a site from a backup. Generally, free plugins do not implement restoration, rather a premium version is required.

I offer maintenance and backup packages as an after site build service.

Today there is really no reason for any site not to use TLS.

Once, just about the only sites using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) were banks and e-commerce sites. SSL has been superceded by TLS (Transport Layer Security), with both often referred to as SSL. They are used to encrypt the connection for data sent over the internet.

When a site has TLS implemented, the link to the site in the browser address has a green padlock icon, and is preceded by https (hypertext transfer protocol secure) (Hypertext, very simply put, is structured text which contains links to other text).

https ensures the authentication of the visited website with protection, privacy and integrity of exchanged data.

https ensures the authentication of the visited website with protection, privacy and integrity of exchanged data.

There are several advantages, including secure use of passwords across the internet.

Google uses it as a ranking signal when assessing your sites placement in its search listing.

https enables the use of http/2, a new protocol which can greatly improve your site performance.

A problem with enabling TLS for your site used to be cost. Today, free authentic certificates are available from Lets Encrypt, and are suitable for many websites.  I implement TLS on all sites built.

Easily found websites: good SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. There are so many websites it is easy to be never found. Search engines use algorithms to assess and rank your site, placing sites that rank well at the top of search lists.

There are companies who specialize in this field. They can be expensive, and in the past some employed ‘black hat’ measures, which in the end cost their clients dearly. The search engines constantly modify their algorithms and penalize those it catches out.

Fortunately there are some basic things which are easily implemented, and the key is having good, fresh, relevant, usable content on your site.

WordPress lends itself to creating well structured content.

Your site content needs to be well structured. Your readers & search engines will appreciate it.

WordPress lends itself to creating well structured content. It also has good plugins (software that integrates with WordPress) to help with the technical side of SEO.

If required, I install these on your site, and have support packages which offer guidelines for good content creation.

The need for speed

Page loading time is an important part of a website’s user experience, and plays a significant part in search engine rankings.

The starting point is the equipment your web host provides. Large sites run on dedicated servers, which can be very fast. Many (most?) sites run on shared hosting, and dearer plans should provide more resources per site.

Caching can be thought of as the temporary storage of compressed web pages for fast delivery.

red racing car at start lights

Some hosts provide shared hosting plans with inbuilt server caching generally only found on dedicated server plans.  This is one of the main reasons I recommend Siteground.

In an earlier post I referred to the use of plugins and themes. Choosing well coded plugins & themes not only improves site speed, but is crucial to guard against various attacks.

As part of the workflow in building a website, I ensure all the files (stylesheets and javascript etc.) used by the site are minified and gzipped to improve page load speed, as well as other methods from Google’s Webmaster Tools.

Images are an important part of nearly all websites. Images with a large file size will drag most sites to a crawl. I provide advice and links to tools to ensure images used are optimized for the web as part of handing over your site.

WordPress, as part of its core functions, sends correctly sized (width & pixel density from your optimized image) images to match screen sizes, so people using small (phone) screens are not downloading images for wide screens.

Tools for a well equipped website

I recommend using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) (read about what a CDN does) such as Cloudflare. Their free plan is adequate for many sites, and has speed and security benefits. If required I set this up as part of building your site.

spanner holding bolt head

No, not that type of tool, but it is the right tool for the job

WordPress provides thousands of plugins, (software that plugs into WordPress) both free and paid. These provide a wide choice of tools to improve you site. Just which ones you choose will be guided by your requirements. I can help choosing the right tools for the job.

Earlier in the post, I spoke about caching. If your host or plan does not provide server caching, there are very good caching plugins.

You may require a good gallery plugin and a light-box to display images, or perhaps a slider would be better.

Perhaps you want a membership site with a private area or an e-commerce store? Need you site to send and receive email & newsletters well?

There are plugins for that, and almost any task you can think of. The trick can be knowing which ones to choose, and how to leverage the best to your advantage.

Part of my job in building your site is to pick and use the best available based on my experience. If required, I can build, or have plugins built specifically for your particular needs.

Sound secure websites don’t happen by accident, get in touch to get yours started, or browse more information

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The next things you will need for a website

A plan to design and build a website.

Building a website which meets your goals requires a few steps. Each will need to be tailored to suit your purposes and budget. The first step is consultation which will provide me with the necessary information to develop a plan for your site.

Wrapped around that plan will be the need for your site to:-

  1. look great & work well across all devices
  2. be easy to use, maintain & update
  3. be secure and fast
  4. be found easily by search engines

Monomeath Web Solutions facilitates this process.

Designing a Website

Photoshop can be great for this, and there are a multitude of other tools to produce wire frames etc. However, I often find the best tool is simply a pencil, and conversation. Together, we can produce a preliminary layout of your design.

Depending on the scope of your requirements and budget this very important stage of the project could require specialists in UX (User experience design) and UI (User Interface design).

If required I can engage some of the best in the business for this work. However, as a freelance website builder, I can provide the experience and knowledge required for many projects.

A quick analogy for UX & UI

Cattle producers (often called cow-cockies in Australian vernacular) need cattle yards to work their cattle.

The overall user experience for our cow-cockie will be decided by how well the yards function & look (design), with the result measured by how well the cattle flow through the yards.

The yards are in fact the user interface (UI). Cattle could flow through the yards easily, but be constructed with old or red white faced cattle in yardspoor materials. They could be built with the best materials using the best tools, but if the design is poor, the user experience (UX) will also be poor.

So, on the web, the User Experience design will combine with the User Interface design in a balanced way to produce sites that look great & work well across all devices.

Responsive Web Design

Today, your site can be accessed via devices with a multitude of different screen sizes, pixel densities, orientation and platforms (operating systems) combined with a choice of several different browsers.

It is essential that your website design works well across all these devices. An integral part of my workflow is ensuring that this is so.

Building a website

A website can be built using a variety of tools or coded by hand.

The first site I had anything to do with was coded by hand using html, css and a little php. After a couple of years of maintaining this site, we ported it to WordPress for ease of management. The site’s appearance was remarkably similar after the change.

Today, WordPress is my tool of choice for building & managing websites, with very occasional use of Dreamweaver.

A website can be built entirely within WordPress without any coding knowledge. However, getting the best out of WordPress requires experience & knowledge of its functions & structure.Getting the best out of WordPress requires experience & knowledge of its functions & structure.

Extending WordPress is achieved using software referred to as plugins & themes. Thousands of free or paid plugins and themes are available.

With my knowledge of html, css and php, I can extend and modify plugins & themes, or build plugins for specific tasks.

Ongoing study, reading to stay up to date, and having professional advice from one of the best WordPress guru’s/coders on hand, all helps enhance the knowledge necessary for a freelance website builder.

Some projects require that the theme and/or plugins for a WordPress site be produced completely from scratch, involving writing extensive, complex code. In those cases I find it more efficient to engage a web developer.

However, for a great many sites, it is my job to build within a smaller budget.

This requires the knowledge & experience to utilize & modify the best of free or professionally produced generic themes and plugins to my clients’ advantage.

Adapting the software to suit your particular needs personalizes the site, and produces the planned layout and features.

In the following post, read how to I build sites to be secure and easily found by search engines.

You can browse more information or, when you are ready, get in touch and we will get the ball rolling for your new site.

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The first things you will need for a website

Your website needs a goal and purpose.

Basic? – Yes. Thinking about and defining exactly what it is you want to achieve with a website will help you decide the things you need.

If you are reading this, it is probably fair to say you need a sound, secure website that you control fully; a site that is well stocked with the tools you need; is easy to operate and will be found by search engines.

On the other hand, you may have an existing site that doesn’t quite do these things. In either case, I can help.

To start, there are 2 things every site must have.

Domain Name and Hosting

You will need to register your site name, or domain, and decide on a host for your site. Most hosting companies offer some sort of deal such as ‘free’ for domain name registration. They are often a re-seller, or don’t offer a full range of domain names.

The best way to keep control of one of your most important assets (your name) is to own it independently.

The best way to keep control of one of your most important assets (your name) is to own it independently.

I recommend registering your domain name with a registrar separate to your hosting company.

That way, if you decide to move from your hosting company, you can do so with full control over your domain.

Your domain name is your website address or url (uniform resource locator) on the internet and gives you an online identity or brand.

When picking a website domain, it’s best to go with a name that:-

  • represents your business, brand or personality
  • is easy to remember, pronounce and spell
  • is short and unique.

Here is a list of Australian registrars. You can register a domain name with companies from around the world, but I consider it prudent for Australian citizens to use an Australian based company.

You will see prices range from as cheap as $1 p.a. up to McScrooge levels. $20 p.a. with a reputable provider is about the amount you should expect to pay. .au domains are generally more expensive and are subject to eligibility criteria.

These days .com domains (which once were taken to suggest a commercial site) are accepted for pretty well universal use. I have used Netregistry for over fifteen years without a problem.

DNS (Domain Name System)

DNS is a system that catalogs every domain and IP address on the internet. It is a database hosted on a massive network of servers around the world, including 13 root servers.

If you access the internet, you have an IP address. Every website has an IP address. It consists of numbers like this: 123.456.789.134.

That is easy for a computer to read, less so for humans. The domain name system matches your domain name to this number so that site visitors can easily remember and return to the address.

It could be said to be the internets equivalent of a phone book. Your web host will provide you with the IP address of your site/server for you to provide to your domain name registrar, who facilitates ‘pointing’ your domain to the hosting server.

This information is then propagated around the world to that network of servers.

Hosting companies.

Hosts, simply put, provide the computers where your site resides and the necessary network connections to the internet.

It is possible to host a site from your home computer

It is possible to host a site from your home computer, however it is a specialized field, starting with the quality of the hardware and (especially) the quality of support services.

Very cheap hosting is available, (possibly running on a home computer?) I really wouldn’t know what to expect for $10 p.a. so avoid it.

I have experience with about a dozen hosting companies over the years, and from that experience, have decided that the best companies are medium sized and growing.

I changed to SiteGround a couple of years ago, and have found them to be excellent in all areas.

Here are links to a couple of surveys about hosting companies. The first is fairly small, but I believe to be honest, as with the second which has about 500 respondents.

The respondents are from people using WordPress to run their websites, which is one of my ‘go to’ tools when building a site. Here’s a quote from their conclusions:

For the top overall solution, we have to give it to SiteGround. They have the highest number of survey entries, and they’re in the top 3 rating-wise. They also look really solid across all the other metrics we checked. If I haven’t missed anything crucial here, there are no significant chinks in SiteGround’s armor

Browse more information or, when you are ready, just drop me a line and I’ll be in touch to have a chat about how I can help with your website, which will be designed and built to suit your purposes and meet your goal.

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bright yellow flowering wattle trees with green surrounds

Welcome to Monomeath Web Solutions

This post is the last job in setting up this website. I’ve been a bit like the carpenter who never quite finishes building his own house. However, here it is. Most of the things that need doing are done.

No doubt, over time, things will be added and changed, but for the moment it’s fine.

Word of mouth has been the best way to grow this business so far, however, Monomeath Web Solutions will be a good way for people who need a hand on the web to get in touch.

It is a fine Autumn day in Central Queensland. The air is still a bit muggy after a week of good rain following the hottest, driest summer on record.

There is a strong sweet scent in the air, and looking out my office door I can see wattle trees in massive bloom. The grass has done its usual trick after rain and gone from dead brown a few days ago, to emerald green.

O.K. back to the keyboard. This post will be categorized under ‘Ramblings’, a category I will probably only use occasionally.
The main aim of this blog will be to share some thoughts and ideas about owning, operating and improving websites.

The main aim of this blog will be to share some thoughts and ideas about owning, operating and improving websites.

I enjoy building websites; however, I can tend to forget just how foreign the world of operating a website can be for newbies.

I will try to present information that will help people starting out, as well information for the more experienced.

I remember teaching my parents to use a computer. They were well on in years, but with gentle steps, and full explanation of the basics, they soon became fairly proficient.

Running a website is a similar process. There are some basic things you need to know, and as things move along it becomes second nature. It all starts with a well built, easy to run website with good security.

Of course, your website may be a business site, with trained staff running it, but sites can always be improved.

I have helped businesses that had good looking sites but they were not getting much traffic.

A website can be like a billboard, as large and attractive as you like, unseen if it is in a shed, with the painted side against the wall.

 

Do you need a personal blog, a site for a not-for-profit organization or business, or need things done to improve your present site. If so, contact me or browse more information

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