Upload Images First

dead image

Avoid dead images!

Always upload all of your new images FIRST before uploading the HTML files.

If you upload the HTML files BEFORE the images, you run the risk of having images not appear on your webpage — albeit during a brief period of time (hopefully).

If you upload the HTML files first, there can be a significant amount of time during which the images will not show up (until they are uploaded). That period of time can become long if some sort of glitch occurs immediately after you have uploaded the HTML files, preventing you from being able to upload the images immediately after.

Remember: the uploading of files to your website server should be performed in a specific order (images first) so as to avoid dead links that show up live on the webpage before you have a chance to remedy the situation.

Questions?  Contact Chicago web designer Christopher Merrill.

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What Goes in the Footer?

  • footer2Your full address
  • Your zip code
  • Your contact phone numbers
  • Your contact email(s)
  • Copyright information
  • Trademarks
  • Small verion of your logo
  • Sitemap
  • Repetition of main links
  • Link to contact us page
  • Terms of service
  • Privacy guidelines
  • Disclaimer
  • Site search

Redundancy is a good thing in websites. Just because the contact information is posted on your contact us page doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be posted in the footer (and other places as well). Perhaps the most common novice web designer mistake is to bury the contact information in a contact us page.

Remember, web users (myself included) will search your footer for links if their cursor is closer to the footer than to the header on your web page.

Every web page should have a footer, no matter how “artsy” the design.

If you want your website to look like “something no one has ever seen,” chances are, your users won’t be able to find their way around. There’s a reason why many websites look formulaic: because the formula works.

For more information, check out Freelance Web Designer Christopher Merrill.

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Why Does the Image Get Fuzzy When I Enlarge It?

blurry images

Why do images get blurry after you enlarge them?

It is simple to reduce the dimensions of an image: open any image-editing program (Photoshop, Gimp, etc.) and reduce the height and the width of the image, making sure that the proportions are “locked.”

However, it doesn’t work the other way around: you can’t increase the dimensions of an image without causing the enlarged image to appear blurry.

This is because unnecessary details have been extracted from the original image before it has been posted. This is called “image optimization.” The file size in kilobytes has been reduced. Without optimization, the file would take much longer to downloadThis is why it is important when you purchase images to select a file size that is large enough for use on your site.

So when you enlarge an optimized image, the details become fuzzy. There are not enough  details there for the image to be crisp at the larger size.

To avoid this, make sure the original image is high-definition.

A word of advice: don’t overwrite the original large image with a smaller one. Once you have optimized an image and saved it under the same name, you won’t be able to go back to the original size.

A common mistake is to use many small images on the home page rather than displaying one strong image that represents your services.

See other web design mistakes.





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Don’t Use Line Breaks to Adjust Alignment

Don't Use  for AlignmentIt is tempting to use a line break (<br />) to “clean up” alignment.

The trouble is, different browsers will insert line breaks at different places. So if you manually insert a line break to “even out” things, the results might look good on some browsers, and not so good, or even disastrous, on other browsers.

You could get something that looks like this:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog a few minutes before the
appeared on the horizon with rifle in hand.

Remember, working in html is not like working in Word: what you see on the screen is only an approximation of what will be seen across various browsers. Results vary under different conditions, especially when it comes to word wrapping.

It’s best to allow the words to wrap where they may, even if the results are not ideal on some browsers.

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Should I Buy a Second Computer Screen?

screens2The answer is YES.

With two screens connected to your computer you can move your cursor easily back and forth from one screen to the next.

Just think of the amount of time you spend switching between tabs on your computer.  Having two screens will make your life easier.  Think of the amount of time you spend switching between tabs on your computer, and think of the time you spend hunting for the tab you want.

With two screens you can view a web page and its source code at the same time.  You can even view two separate parts of the same page at the same time.  It’s a breeze.

Sure, having a second screen is an expense; and yes, you’ll need to make more room for it on your work surface, but the time (and aggravation) you will save will be well worth it.

Questions? Contact Chicago Web Designer Christopher Merrill.

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Websites Get a Good Reputation by Providing Useful Information

inform2Here’s something I hear a lot:  “I want my website to be something like they’ve never seen before.”  A lofty goal, and when you are talking about what the website does, a noble one.  However, more often than not, when a client says this, they are talking about the site design – they want the site to look different from all the other ones.  The problem: When a site looks different from all the others, the user can easily become lost, not knowing where to look or how to navigate.  The result is a website that is not user friendly.  When a site is not user friendly, users will leave immediately.  They are not likely to hang around simply because your site looks “cool.”

Think about it.  When you hear your friends talk about a great website that they have found, they are most likely talking about the information the site provides – not how it looks.

Sure, visuals are important, but not when they replace information.  Take a look at the major players like Yahoo, CNN, The New York Times and Time Magazine.  Their main pages are filled with links to information.  They figured out long ago that users don’t want to see beautiful images on their main page, they want facts.

Need web writing? Contact Christopher Merrill.

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Healthcare.gov: Wishful Thinking on a Grand Scale

healthcaregovThe failure of Healthcare.gov is no surprise. It is, after all, a website, just like any other website.

I come across this same thing almost daily with my clients. They want what they call “a website” by a certain date, but wait till the last minute to provide me with (1) the specifications of what they want, (2) the information that they need posted, or (3) the functionality they require. Then they wonder why the deadline can’t be met; or they wonder why the deadline was met, but the site doesn’t work properly.

When a site designer agrees to honor a deadline over which they essentially have only limited control, we have what I call the WISHFUL THINKING SYNDROME. They hope everything will work  before being able to test completely, since, to them, it looks like it should work.

When the site doesn’t work (after it is launched), everything goes to pot, because it takes weeks and months to uncover and resolve all the problems. Quality control is needed to ensure that the site will operate effectively under all conditions. Meanwhile users become angry because their time has been wasted trying to make a nonworking website work. And they have a right to be angry. It feels like a fraud; and frankly, it is.

Throw in government bureaucracy and you have a recipe for disaster with all the trimmings. After several delays before the bill was finally law–especially after the government didn’t know for quite some time whether the law would be struck down (until the Supreme Court ruling resolved that issue)–there was no time left.

You can’t set a deadline until you have a reasonable understanding of what is involved in making and testing a website, and you can’t honor a deadline over which you have only limited control.

Healthcare.gov site was doomed from the start. There is no precedent that I know of for a site built on this scale in so short a time, and it was naive for all to hope that it would.

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Use WordPress Mobile Templates to Boost Your Audience

Wordpress cellphone templatesPlugins can be used to create optimized versions of your site for cell phone. Users will see a condensed version of your site on their small screen. This makes is easier for them to navigate and to read your text.

Your text will appear larger on the screen when viewed on a mobile device, and it will wraparound appropriately, whether or not you hold your cell phone in a vertical or a horizontal position. The important thing here is that users will not have to zoom in to read your text and then, once the text is enlarged, have to scroll left and right on each line to read its entirety!

Users who know that your website is optimized for cellphones and tablets will be more likely to consult your site on the go. These repeat visits will boost your rankings, and add to your integrity as well.

Many large sites are choosing not to provide mobile-friendly versions so as to encourage users to download their apps. Apps are poised to take over cell phone browsing completely in time.

Dreamweaver provides template options for mobile devices. These as well as the WordPress plugins will detect when a user is on a mobile device and adapt the design appropriately. Some templates allow the user a choice to navigate between the full version and the mobile-device version.

Confused? Contact Chicago Web Designer Christopher Merrill for help.


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All WordPress Plugins Are Not Created Equal

Research plugins first before implementing them

Research plugins first before implementing them.

WordPress plugins can be a marvelous things, or they can be a curse.

I recently had a problem when a client started to receive about 1,000 emails a day from an unidentified source after I had installed and tested several form mail plugins on their website.

I deactivated all the plugins, but that still wasn’t enough: the offending emails continued to appear every morning in their inbox. So I deleted all of the plugins completely, and that did the trick.

The lesson here is that some plugins can be better than others — much better, in fact. Beware of the plugin that seems dubious; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Keep a record of which plugins work well — through time — for you, and which don’t.

Be sure to keep all plugins updated, so as to avoid problems down the line. Back up your blog regularly, especially if your hosting company cannot be trusted to provide backups.

Finally, don’t hesitate to rate the plugins that you use so that other users can benefit from your experience.

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Hashtag Your Way to the Top Ten


Hashtags are another way to target your audience.

Hashtagging topics related to what you do is an excellent way to build your audience, and your rankings as well.

Start by searching Twitter for topics that are connected with your business. For examples:


Warning: some of the best topics may be counterintuitive. Use your imagination, and your professional experience, to find keyword combinations that will attract potential users of your product or services.

Include a link to your website (internal links are fine) in your Twitter posting, and accompany the tag with keyword-rich, provocative text. “Stirring the pot” by posting something that is likely to elicit debate can be effective, as long as you don’t go too far over the edge.

It’s that simple. The finesse comes in when you fine-tune your keyword combinations.

Of course, you can use hashtags on your Facebook as well.

Questions? Contact Christopher Merrill, Chicago Web Designer for answers.



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