Thursday, September 21, 2017

PPP Launches new website for

Exstream Landscaping, LLC is Portland, Gresham, Clackamas & Lake Oswego, Oregon's full-service Landscaping solution since 1997!  From design to installation, Exstream Landscaping, LLC DOES IT ALL, delivering the custom landscape YOU WANT, on-time and on-budget.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Website Captcha -- The Humanoid Must Not Escape or Are you an evil robot?

This is a Captcha. Does it Captcha your imagination?
This NOT a real captcha. Please don't click it. Thank you.

Captcha. Not the best defense. Before I launch into my diatribe about website captcha, I need to fill you in on some of the picky details about what they are and why it they are used...then discuss what you can do INSTEAD of captcha.

First. If you are going to have a website, you want to connect with customers via a web form. Users have to be able send you their information in order to make a purchase, right? Or they need to ask questions or whatever. Right? Yes. Absolutely.

In Web Design, the only option to have users communicate with you is to use the HTML input boxes or other user editable elements and some sort of send button. These somehow (there are lots of ways) connect to a web server via a script. This is called a FormToMail script or app, which can collect and prepare the input data from a site, store it for use later and often email that input to you the website owner.

Just to catch you up....

A web server is a program that runs on an internet-connected computer that receives requests for information from clients (web browsers, apps whatever) and outputs the requested information for the client in a format that the web designer intended (we hope). This is really how the web works and hasn't changed much in over 25 years.

This system is a great party and everyone is invited!

But. That's the problem. Insert Dramatic Music here!  Done, done da!

Not everyone who comes to the party wants to play nice.

Evil doers know that all sorts of fun information is now stored on computers that are connected to the internet. Information like social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts, personal addresses and email addresses. This is information that Evil Doers can use to make money by selling it to even more Evil Doers, send spam, steal your money, influence federal elections...all sorts of horrible and terrible things...and many others of which we haven't even thought of yet.

Hackers spent enormous effort figuring out ways into web servers. They can try to crack the password, crack the firewall, exploit code or they can try to get in by hiding malicious code inside a FormToMail script. Many FormToMail scripts are not written very well or are easily fooled into sending out spam and sometimes can even allow a hacker access to the server itself. Sheesh.

Hackers create Evil Web robot programs that are endlessly scouring the internet, looking for poorly written FormToMails to exploit....and this is where Captcha comes in...

Captcha's were created as a means to prevent bots from executing FormToMail scripts. Basically, they are a way to "prove" that the user completing the web form is a human being.

The idea is ok. But for the web user, IT SUCKS because it is an annoying extra step to completing a web form. Like the new chips in your debit card, they slow down the transaction and offer very little extra security. If you've completed a web form before, perhaps you've been asked to click a button that says, "I am not a robot" or you've been asked to input the answer to 2 + 2. Or input some random list of hard to read characters. Annoying.

This about it. As a website owner, you've spent enormous amounts of money to bring users to your site so that they will connect with you to make a purchase, ask a question or get information. Now you're going to ask them what 2 + 2 is? Or to enter some obscure numbers or how many squares contain a bike? Please. Not on my watch.

The idea of Captcha is quite naive in that assumes all human beings that are using a web form have good intentions. This cannot be further from the truth. And while Captcha does prevent Bots, it doesn't prevent them all.

There are some very great methods available to Web Designers and Web Programmers that can accomplish everything that Captcha can do but in the background and away from the user, where it should be. Ask your Web Consultant if there are alternatives to Captcha and what those are. Ask me. I would be very happy to discuss the many creative alternatives to Captcha.

Which classic 80's arcade game uses,
"The Humanoid Must Not Escape"?
Berserk, of course!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The mystery of the PURPLE Square & other Web Design Trends - As told by a Vancouver, WA Web Developer/Designer

This friends is a PURPLE square. Don't fall for this Web Design
Purple Square

Wow. Look at the PURPLE square! Isn't it exciting? So sleek, so informative, so unique. What an attention grabber. I'm gonna sell more because I have a purple square and no one else does! Look at me!


One of the benefits of being a Web Designer in Vancouver, Washington for over 22 years is that I get to see some interesting trends come and go. The Purple Square is one of them. I don't necessarily mean EXACTLY a purple square, what I mean is the idea of one.

Example. Let's say you're in the business to sell widgets. You want to sell more widgets than your competition, so you decide to set up a website and hire a Web Developer like me to create a site.

One of the first things we do is sit down look at 10 other websites that sell what you sell.

Let's say you only recognize 5 out of the 10 as competitors. Then you notice that the 3 most popular sites (according to their position on Google) all have PURPLE squares on them. Then you notice that you personally know one of the competitors and you know for a fact that he's driving a brand new he must be selling lots of widgets. Hmm. You think. His product is just like mine, so it must be the fact that his site has a purple square.

Maybe you think you'll sell more widgets if you too have a PURPLE square on your site, because, after all, you want to drive a Porsche too! So you tell to your Web Designer that you require a PURPLE square on your site. Some Web Designers might question you and ask Why? But many will so OK, it's your party and onto your site a PURPLE square goes.

Happens all the time. Too many times...unfortunately. This is how Web Design trends get started. Someone, somewhere (probably some elite designer in New York) decided that a PURPLE square would attract more customers.

But you say. "Hey, the PURPLE square works. I mean look, I'm selling tons of widgets!" Next thing you know within two months everyone in your market has a PURPLE square on their site. Then, you notice sales are down. Then you notice the number one site on Google now has a GREEN Circle on their site and their sales are BOOMING! So you inform your Web Designer. "OK the PURPLE square doesn't work anymore. Now I need a GREEN Circle too."

The cycle continues on and on and on! Yikes.

"Yeah? - A lot of people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some."

One of my favorite lines from the movie "O, Brother where art thou?"

Let's get back to basics here with Web Marketing 101.

Think about it. People are not buying your product because of the PURPLE square or the GREEN circle. They buy your product because it is good and they like it or they hear they might like it and they want to try it. Advertisers who create labels for products in the grocery store would argue differently but for websites... what always sells is a GOOD product at a GOOD price and one with good reviews.

Don't get me wrong. Deciding to make a website that uses modern design is an absolute must. First impressions are very important and a site that looks "dated" can hurt you in many ways. If today's modern design requires a PURPLE square or a GREEN circle just beware that these are not going to sell you more product in the long run. Common sense wins every time.

Check out out our Web Design Page for more examples about how to create a great web site ... or continue to watch this space!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Wordpress is a Blogging Tool ONLY

WordPress Logo for people who do not know this

Don't get me wrong. I love WordPress. For Blogging. And News Articles. Absolutely! But for managing a, not so much. Here's why...

As soon as WordPress hit the scene, just about every Tom, Jane and Jerry Web designer took up building WordPress sites. Thousands. Millions of these sites sprang up almost overnight. And YES, they are easy to use. Yes, they are no brainer CMS tools for clients to use. But. Yikes. If you want a fast or secure website. Well, good luck with that.

Of course, every developer who ever sold their soul to Wordpress with refute me (politely, I hope!)

But think about it. Wordpress is a Blogging tool. Nothing more. Nothing less. Everything you do to add ability to manage your website with Wordpress is a some other developer.

Wordpress doesn't create these "tack-ons" other developers do. Do you pay them money to make sure your site is safe? Do you trust them? I hope so.

Ever heard of a Wordpress site getting hacked? Happens all the time. Why? because WP is Open Source Software. That means everyone (even the bad guys) know how your site works. They also can figure out how to hack you because your wp-admin is low hanging fruit. That's a huge risk to be taking with a website.

Tack-ons also create server bloat. Server Bloat slows down your site. And since Google now gives SEO preference to faster loading website...well non-WP sites will always get higher SEO.

Then to make managing a website even more fun, guess what? Wordpress updates about every 6 weeks. The updates are known to break all those add-ons and plug-ins. So you have to update them regularly. Yuck.

So, if you've figured out how to keep your WordPress up-to-date, bot free, secure and free from bloat, well GOOD FOR YOU! All that time you have to spend maintaining WordPress for all your sites could be spent doing more useful things...but I digress...

Just some thoughts from your friendly neighborhood Vancouver Web Developer who has been there and done that! Wanna know which CMS tools I do recommend? Watch this space for more articles.

1995, a brand new Web Designer & Web Consultant sets up shop in Vancouver Washington

Vancouver Washington Clock Tower. This is a free image.
Wow, what a journey! Hi there. I'm James Barber. Hard to believe that I've been designing and building websites in Vancouver, Washington since 1995. But it's true. Lots has changed in Vancouver since then. Downtown Vancouver was very old school. Not much to see and do. Some might say that I was one of the first professional web developers in Vancouver, Washington. I am sure there were others but not many. And very few of them are still working in Vancouver today.

I can remember trudging through the rain trying to sell websites to people who had NO clue what I was talking about. None. Zilch. Nada. Most people thought I worked for AOL but I was able to convince a few early clients to make the web work. Internet was completely dial up or Frame Relay. And the web was Netscape on either a Mac or a PC.

Realty Exchangers, Inc, comes to mind. Back in 1995, they were really my first official client. Jim Maxwell, realized back then that there would be an enormous land rush to the web and his site was one of my first in Vancouver, Washington. Al Raines, then owner of Vancouver Business Journal, launched his first site in 1996 as did the Southwest Washington Private Industry Council. By 1999, I was working with Kevin Wann to develop his site for Pacific Lifestyle Homes, a relationship that I maintained for 15 years.

Changes and more changes. Who would have thought that Esther Short Park became the place to hang out on Thursday nights in the summer to enjoy some great music. It has also become home to some fantastic festivals and don't forget Saturday mornings for our Famous Farmer's market. Who would have thought even 10 years ago that there would be so many tap houses, breweries and cocktail bars throughout downtown. Simply amazing!

Watch this space for more posts as we discuss Vancouver, great web design, design trends, programming features and more!