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Category Archives: Software




I’m Obsessed with the New Instagram Update

Instagram has had a very similar UI since it was created. The tired old brown icon has occupied a space on the grid of my phone screen(s) for almost six years, but I’ve been using it less frequently over time. Simply put, I just got bored of it. The content became less interesting (blaming the friends I follow for that one) and the stagnant, dated UI didn’t compel me to check this drab feed of selfies and memes. Luckily, the update I got this morning for Instagram caught my attention immediately, and may have breathed new life into the application entirely.

Instagram ditched the brown and beige icon for a very eye catching gradient. The app itself has lost most of its color, opting for almost entirely black and white UI with a pink color for elements like notifications. It looks very “Apple”, and we’re expecting a similar look coming to Apple Music soon, which won’t matter to Android/Windows users, but there is definitely something that can be taken away from this update and the effect its having on users.

Instagram UI Update

Through exploring, I have found very few new features in the newest Instagram update, so it’s safe to say this is solely a UI update, and I’m so excited to use it again. As a developer or business owner, it would be worthwhile to take this into consideration for the systems your customers use. If adding new features or services isn’t having the effect you expected, or just isn’t something you’re doing right now, a new look can be enough to trigger more engagement.

Keeping your UI up to the current trends is critical to maintain and expand your user base. Unless you’re offering a highly specialized product, chances are there’s a competitor out there whose website or app has a cleaner, more user-friendly design. Users will gravitate towards interfaces that look simple, make it obvious where they should navigate to get their desired result. Using familiar elements to your design will make the user feel like they know what they’re doing, even if they’re seeing it for the first time.

Have You Updated to WordPress 4.5?

The newest core version of WordPress is 4.5.1, but a staggering 80.9% of users are on versions 4.4 and lower. Along with the advantage of having up-to-date security and bug fixes, WordPress 4.5 arrived with a variety of new features to make editing, moderating, and managing your site easier.
This article will detail some of the big features of the new update, so read on if you’re unsure about updating!

Note: to update WordPress, you can do so through Softaculous in cPanel (if you’re on a Linux plan and installed WordPress through Softaculous). You can also download WordPress 4.5.1 and install it manually here.

Theme Logo Support

Some WordPress themes have allowed users to import their logo, and the theme handled placement and sizing etc. In WordPress 4.5, this is a core feature and instead of paying for a premium theme, users will be able to import their logos through the theme customizer.
Logo Support
Themes still need to support logos, but having this as a core feature will likely encourage theme developers to include it in their themes. Bringing your logo over across themes will be easier as well, as they’re saved in WordPress’s menu rather than the folder that the theme uses.

Improvements to Visual Editor

WordPress’ new features in the visual editor streamline the writing process. There have been some new shortcuts and improvements to existing shortcuts to make creating content even more enjoyable.

Inline Link Editor

The CTRL+K shortcut allows you to create a hyperlink on the text your cursor is currently on. With the 4.5 update, the window that used to pop up to edit the hyperlink is being replaced with an inline link editor. This makes the experience less abrasive and, from my observations, a bit faster.

Old Link Editor:
WordPress Link Editor Old
New Link Editor:
WordPress Link Editor New

Improved Comment Moderation

Filtering through spam comments is just one of the many joys that WordPress users experience when they post content to their blogs/sites. When you receive a comment on WordPress (pre-4.5), you receive an email with a link that takes you to a screen that lets you see the comment details and either approve or reject the comment from being posted. The screen is rather unsightly, showing html formatting as the actual code rather than the formatted text.

 

Moderate Comment 4.4 and 4.5

The 4.5 fixes this with support for formatted text in the moderation screen. You may also edit comments if you’re concerned about a comment containing contact information, language, or links that you might not want displayed on your site.

 

Responsive Previews

With the world moving towards mobile devices, responsive design is becoming increasingly prevalent across all of the internet. WordPress 4.5 gives you the ability to preview your site’s design on 3 different devices while working in the customizer. You can switch between the (general) aspect ratio and screen size of a desktop, tablet, and smartphone with a single click.

Responsive Preview WordPress 4.5

Responsive Image Scaling Improvements

WordPress has had built in image scaling (for scaling a picture from desktop screens to mobile without reducing quality) since 4.4. The 4.5 update improves upon this feature by allowing images to be scaled to as little as 50% of the original image size without any noticeable loss in quality

Why Linux?

If you’ve been dealing with websites or servers for Awesome-Tuxa substantial amount of time, you probably know which operating system you prefer. You know whether you should order Windows or Linux for various types of websites and applications, and you know the advantages of each. Unfortunately this level of knowledge can take years to accumulate and not everybody can spend the amount of time it takes to learn two server operating systems enough to know when to use which. Linux is the preferred environment for many developers, hosts, resellers, and businesses, and with good reason.

Languages

Linux allows developers to use PHP, Python, CGI and Pearl when building websites and applications. These are all very popular and will run better in Linux than in Windows. While a Windows environment allows for more exclusive programs such as ASP.NET, people generally prefer PHP based systems for sheer simplicity. WordPress, for example, is PHP based and uses a MySQL database. While WordPress can run in Windows, people can generally expect better performance out of a Linux environment.

Diversity

Linux is open source, which means the source code can be downloaded, modified, and published by anyone. This means people all over the world are able to build variations of Linux to suit different needs. Ubuntu, Red Hat, CentOS and SUE are some of the more popular distributions, which have very active communities supporting their users.

Security

Linux has always been known for being more secure than Windows. For people doing ecommerce, HIPAA compliant hosting, or anything that requires security (which, let’s face it, should be any website), Linux is the preferred OS almost universally.

Performance

Linux generally has lower system requirements, so there is more headroom to run the programs you want. If you’re running a dedicated server or VPS, this means you can get away with lower cost by saving on CPU and RAM. In a shared environment, Linux plans can come with better allocations and perform smoother than Windows systems.

If you’re unsure whether Linux is right for you, call a specialist or a developer to go over your site and see if you would benefit from making the switch. Our support and sales teams are always happy to answer your questions and make sure you’re on the ideal system for your hosted technology.

 

Adobe Experience Design CC Preview

Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications are a mainstay for designers and developers around the world. Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Illustrator help people create and publish graphics and websites, but there hasn’t ever been a product that focuses on user experience in the Creative Cloud. Project Comet was the codename for Adobe’s entry into the UX design world, and it now has an official title and preview available for Mac OS X. Say hello to Adobe Experience Design CC.
Adobe Experience Design Marquee
Experience Design (abbreviated as XD) is for creating a unique and powerful user experience in your site or application. While design is important for UX, a tool like Experience Design will focus more on the actual interaction with your design. XD comes with tools focusing on gestures, transitions, and elements for your app or website.

In the preview there are two tabs to work in: Design and Prototype. Adobe Experience Design IndexDesign is about building the pages, galleries, and content that your finished product will use. Prototype allows you to map out the navigation of your app. You can then share a live preview with anyone to try out your project, making it easy to get feedback.

Experience Design is in preview right now on Mac OS X, with a Windows preview coming soon. All of the features that will be in the final version are not available in the preview, but the roadmap on Adobe’s site is looking very promising. To keep up with new features or to get your preview of Experience Design CC, head to Adobe’s website.

Outlook’s Impressive Update

2016-02-18 11_09_40-Outlook takes on Gmail with huge new update _ Webdesigner DepotOutlook’s webmail recently got a fresh visual update as well as some great new features to keep up with Google’s Gmail.
While the first updates you will notice are the design changes, which include themes and emoji support, there are much more practical features in the new interface including a one-click-away Skype powered chat, the ability to tag people in email bodies and integrated Yelp data to help with organize events.

This is the full list of new features, from Microsoft’s blog:

• Built-in Office document editing
• Dropbox and Box integration
• Add-ins from GIPHY, Yelp, Wunderlist, Uber, Paypal, Evernote and Boomerang
• @Mentions (tagging users)
• Skype chat integration
• Inline (quick) reply
• Emoji support
• Image editing
• Pins, Likes, other extended prioritization tools

Check out the video from Microsoft below and if you’re currently an Office365 or Outlook.com user, let us know what you think of the new update in the comments.

Major Android Security Hack Uncovered

android-devil-malware-100247149-carousel.idgeAttention Android Users!

With just a simple receipt of a text message, your Android can be hacked. This is likely the biggest smartphone flaw ever discovered, CNN reports that, “it affects an estimated 950 million phones worldwide.” The issue is rooted in the way in which Androids are programmed to analyze incoming text messages, even before they have been opened. For instance, with Google’s Hangouts app, any media file that you receive (pictures, videos, audio) is automatically processed as soon as it is received. Because of this, “a malware-laden file can start infecting the phone before it’s even opened.”

The hacker needs only to send a text with a malicious media file to your phone to potentially gain complete control of your Android device. With that, he or she will be able to wipe out your device, access apps, open and review sensitive information on your phone, or even turn your camera on without you knowing.

Google, owner and operator of the Android OS, has acknowledged the vulnerability. In fact, they were made aware of the hack – and even provided with a potential fix – as early as April 9 by cybersecurity firm Zimperium. Google has assured that a patch would be made available for all customers, but according to Zimperium, a fix still isn’t largely available.

Although Google has likely developed a patch to this vulnerability, due to Android’s dependence on carriers and phone manufacturers, the company can’t simply push the fix directly to user’s devices, as main rival Apple has the luxury to do. The fix must be coordinated with disparate manufacturer platforms (Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc.) and then disseminated through the carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint – just to name a few…). Google claims they have delivered a solution to its carriers, but it is still unclear whether or not the solution has been passed along to their users.

Until security firms like Zimperium declare this issue clear, Android users can disable auto-fetching of multi-media messages by accessing the Settings menu within their default messaging app. Tap Settings -> Advanced -> (deselect) Auto-retrieve MMS messages.

Users can find detailed instructions here.

5 Essential Security Tips for Small Businesses

security | blueGiven the increasing frequency and sophistication of modern cyber attacks, it is more important than ever for small businesses to understand the dramatic effects of a data breach. Small businesses can protect their customers and themselves by staying educated and understanding solutions and best practices that are available to reduce the likelihood of a costly security breach.

  1. Safeguard Valuable Documents and Equipment – Make sure all digital devices used for business are protected with antivirus and antispyware software that is regularly updated. All computer servers and sensitive paperwork need to be stored safely and securely, with a limit to the number of people with keys and/or access codes. Research off-premise data center or cloud computer solutions to ensure the safety of your information.
  2. Use a Password Manager – In theory, we all know we should be using different passwords for each website but very few people actually follow this practice. For convenience, most users routinely use the same or similar passwords for multiple web services. Luckily, there are now many tools to help us manage our passwords correctly.
  3. Control Access – Don’t let unauthorized individuals use business computers or equipment and limit physical access to your systems. Even employees should be given access only to specific data systems they need to do their jobs. Make it is standard procedures that all employees seek permission before installing any software.
  4. Update POS Systems – The responsibility to cover losses born from fraud will shift from credit cards/banks to the merchant later this year. For this reason, all merchants with outdated POS systems should move to embrace EMV technology as soon as possible. EMV cards contain embedded microchips and are much more secure than cards that rely on a magnetic strip. While adopting new technology always presents a challenge for small business owners, merchants can’t afford to not take this step.
  5. Encrypt and Tokenize – Implement full-disk encryption on each company-issued computer and mobile device. System passwords alone offer little defense against off-site hacking attempts. By layering encryption and tokenization with EMV and POS compatible systems, merchants can minimize security weaknesses and address authorization vulnerabilities. During the transaction process, data is most vulnerable immediately before and immediately after authorization. Encryption and tokenization protects against this. Further, encrypted and tokenized data holds no value; it is just a random, unusable string of numbers/characters.

Start Planning Now: Support for Windows Server 2003 is ending on July 14, 2015

HomelandSecurity-WinServ2003-blogThe US Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning about the consequences of not upgrading Windows Server 2003 systems by July 14, 2015.

This is the date Microsoft will stop providing software updates for the aging platform, meaning new exploits will not be fixed.

Homeland Security stresses that consequences could mean exposure to cybersecurity threats, which may lead to malicious attacks or electronic data loss.

Newtek Is Here To Help

If you have self-hosted or on-premise systems running Server 2003, now is the time to consider upgrading and moving your servers to a secure data center. Benefits of this include:

  • Avoiding the high upfront costs of buying new server hardware
  • Keeping your servers in a hyper-secure Newtek data center
  • Having a 24/7/365 team available to address issues immediately

If your organization has Server 2003 systems hosted at another provider, now is time to reassess your solution:

  • Newtek regularly beats competitor pricing on server hosting, and we are currently offering special incentives for Server 2003 upgrades
  • Our server operations team can assist with your upgrade to a newer platform, along with the migration to our data center
  • We offer both virtual and dedicated solutions that can meet your organization’s specific needs.

If you’re currently hosting a Newtek Dedicated Server running Server 2003, now is the time to start planning your upgrade.

  • We can help you with your upgrade and migration
  • With both dedicated and virtual server options available (running Windows Server 2012), we may be able to reduce your currently monthly costs
  • We are heavily experienced upgrading Windows 2003 systems to Windows 2012

Newtek Solution Architects are also available to review any of needs at no cost or obligation. Contact us today to get started.

NOTE: Newtek Shared Web Hosting Customers do not need to take any action regarding this alert. Newtek has already upgraded most of its legacy shared hosting servers that are running Windows Server 2003, with remaining systems scheduled for an upgrade well before the July 14, 2015 deadline. 

WordPress Updates, Do I Need a Developer?

WP ProfessionalThe short answer: most likely. Unless you are yourself a developer, a web professional, or a highly technical person – you should at very least seek out a little assistance with updating your business website.

Why? Because we hear this phrase everyday: “I tried to update my WordPress site and now it is broken.”

The first rule of WordPress is to always run the latest version of WordPress. No matter what platform your website is built on, you need to do updates to make sure your site is functioning correctly. Think of it this way: over time, you need to preform periodic upgrades on your car in order to keep things working properly, your website is no different in this regard.

When you have a WordPress Content Management System, it is especially important to make sure your site is updated when the system prompts you to perform updates. One of the things that make WordPress such a popular blogging platform and website platform is the ability to add in plugins to make the system as robust as possible. When you are adding those many plugins to your WordPress site, all of those plugins need to communicate together and when they do not, your site does not function correctly.

So what do you do when you need to update your WordPress site?

WordPress has two methods for updating, the easiest being the one-click update, which in theory should work for most sites. The WordPress directions for a one-click update are listed here and seem simple enough: http://codex.wordpress.org/Updating_WordPress

What they do not explain is that this is dependent on the update being compatible with your current WordPress theme and all of your plugins to that theme and this is where you will typically encounter problems. In our experience, we see over 90% of the time there are compatibility issues when you attempt to update WordPress.

Your WordPress version needs to be compatible with your current WordPress theme otherwise it could break your whole theme and your blog/site could go down. You will also encounter compatibility and functionality issues within your WordPress plugins. This is best done in a development environment what areas of the site are not functioning correctly from the upgrade. This is where we recommend calling an experienced WordPress Developer to do this for you. The second method WordPress has for updating is manual. As you get into the manual functions of updating your site and plugins, it can get extremely complicated and tricky to do this correctly. The hours you spend attempting to do this yourself only to realize your site is not functioning correctly is not worth the money you will save by hiring an experienced developer to do this for you.

If you are in need of a developer to help you perform updates on your WordPress site, Newtek Web Services is here to help. Please call us at 866.820.8910 today!

Elements of Organic Search 2014

organic searchOrganic search elements change often. To stay ahead of your competition, your company and/or digital marketing firm should be staying on top of the newest search guidelines set forth by the search engines.  These guidelines provide you with “best practices” you should adopt right now to increase and improve your visibility within search engines.  Here are the latest elements search engines are targeting; the inclusion of the following (or lack thereof) will have considerable impact on search ranking positions. These elements will also continue to be important moving into 2015.

Page architecture, or the organization of your page content, has been very important in search for 2014. Using an On-Page optimization tool, you can analyze the existing structure of your webpage and see your website’s data as a search engine’s spider sees it, allowing for better web page optimization. On-Page coding allows search engines to crawl your website affectively and directs end users to what each page of your site is about. While there are several different elements of On-Page coding, for 2014, your URLTitle Tags, and Meta Descriptions are considered by many industry experts to have the most direct impact on search results.

Title Tags

The Title Tag appears on the results pages just above the URL and also appears at the top of a browser. It defines the title of the page.

 Best Practices for Title Tags:

  • Depending on the font you use, each title tag should be no more than 56 characters long.
  • Title tags should be written with descriptive characters, unique to every page of your site.
  • Utilize important keywords towards the front of the title tag.
  • Google recommends title tags contain your brand name at beginning or end of each title.

Meta Descriptions

Meta Descriptions appear in the search results under the title tag and URL. The meta descriptions provide concise explanations of the content of the web page.

 Best Practices for Meta Descriptions:

  • Accurate meta descriptions, along with title tags, improve your click through rate
  • A meta description should target a unique keyword for that page, only appearing once in the description.
  • You should think of your meta description as a sales pitch for that page.
  • Your descriptions should engage visitors and encourage them to click through to that page.
  • Meta descriptions should include a strong call to action.

URL

A ‘SEO Friendly URL’ is a term often used by SEO analysts and marketing firms to define a URL that provides a good end user experience. You want your URL’s to please both the search engine bots crawling the site, as well as web users who are visiting the site.  Your URL should be relevant, engaging, accurate, and descriptive; but it should also be as brief as possible.

 Example URL’s:

  • http://www.newtekwebservices.com/digital-marketing/ – We like to think this is a great example of a ‘SEO friendly’ URL. This address is static – meaning the contents of the web page stay the same unless the changes are hard-coded into the HTML -and contains keywords that a web user seeking digital marketing or technology services would be searching for. You can figure out what the page is about just by looking at the URL.
  • http://www.companyname.com/jp=578432  – This is an example of a dynamic URL. A dynamic URL is a page address that results from the search of a database-driven web site or the URL of a web site that runs a script. This URL can be crawled by the search engines, however, does not offer the end user ease of use that a static URL offers.

Example from Search Results (Google):

Newtek Google Results

Further Considerations:

  • Rich SnippetsRich Snippets are the full lines of text under every search result. According to Google, they are designed to summarize the content of a page in a way that makes it even easier for users to understand what the page is about in our search results.
    • Examples of rich snippets in search results include ratings, reviews count, and price range. Utilizing calls to actions such as “see our hard to beat prices” as the call to action, encourages you to take a look at those prices resulting in a click through of the search result.
  • Video OptimizationYouTube is the number two search engine owned by the largest, Google.  Incorporating video into your website helps freshen up the content and helps increase the chance of user engagement.
  • Content Optimization  – Content is king was the most used Digital Marketing phrase of 2014.  Adding or updating your website with relevant fresh content will help it build or continue to grow your site’s authority within the search engines.  Utilizing a blog is a great way to do that. Having a blog installed on your website and blogging at a minimum once a week gives you an opportunity to create more fresh content, while at the same time educating your potential clients about your brand and your knowledge in your industry.  Context-based approach is crucial for content quality has been a huge element of search in 2014.
  • Social Signals – There is an ongoing debate as to whether search engines utilize data from social accounts to determine ranking for your website. With that being said, what we do know is social media pages are treated like any other page in the search results, if the search engines can crawl it then they can return it in search results.  Social Media platforms also have a direct correlation to the number of visitors to your website. By distributing content or sharing important information about your business via your social media platforms, you have the potential to drive more traffic to your website. Using social platforms is also another great way to put out and share more content about your business.
  • Back Linking – A well-defined SEO strategy should include researching and capturing qualified relevant back-links for your site.  The more relevant the link is to your industry, the more value it will pass to your website.

Sound Technically Overwhelming?

Call 866-820-8910 today for a FREE digital marketing consultation with the experts here at Newtek Web Services. We will be glad to review your website and provide you with a competitor analysis to give you a better understanding your business’ digital landscape. We’d also be glad to discuss or answer any questions that you may have about any of our online marketing services. Contact us today and let our digital marketing team take your business to the next level.

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