Sep 06 2018

Choosing a Web Host

There are a lot of moving parts working together to make your website look awesome on the web.  As a website owner, you’ll want to have at least a basic idea of what’s going on under the hood of this beautiful machine, so that you can feel confident about making decisions in the initial set up, and empowered when an issue arises.

One of the key pieces that’s often overlooked — or left until the last minute before site launch — is your web host.

What’s a Web Host, you ask?

Websites may seem like a bunch of intangible 1s and 0s, on a basic level, but you do still need a physical home for all of the code and data that comprise it. Your web host provides that home, so that visitors can see view and interact with your website at anytime, from anywhere.

Essentially, a web host sells space on their server for all of your website files. They keep this server connected for the public 24/7, so it can deliver your website to the visitor’s web browser when they visit your URL.

Hosts vary in security, load speed, customer service, and ancillary services, such as software updates and frequent backups. They may also only support certain website platforms. For example, while many web hosts support WordPress installations, there are a few that don’t–which is particularly important to us and our clients.

Your Selection Criteria May Vary

Whether you’re choosing your first web host, or are dissatisfied with one you have, it’s a good idea for you  to research and understand your options, and define and rank your priorities.

How important are these factors to you?

  • annual fees
  • automatic software updates
  • bundled services, such as domain registration and email hosting
  • comprehensive support documentation
  • customer support
  • ease of use and user interface
  • site load speeds
  • regular data backups

We Picked Flywheel

cute dog in a party hat web hosting
This dog is celebrating their making a great web host selection!
Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash.

Upswept Creative is a proud agency partner with Flywheel, and with their help, we offer managed hosting for WordPress websites. Flywheel automatically updates WordPress core software, ensuring our clients are always running the most secure, fully-featured, and up-to-date software. Flywheel features quick load time and nightly backups, so if there is a data loss we always have yesterday’s website to restore today, not the backup from six months ago.

And maybe best of all, when you host your website with Upswept and Flywheel, we handle the set up and support, saving you time and mental energy so you can do more of what you do, while we do what we do.

Don’t love your WordPress host? Send us a message right now to start the conversation about hosting your website with us.

Contact Us »


Aug 20 2018

Secure Your Website with SSL

The web is a go-to place for your audience to learn about–and buy from!–your business. As the online market grows, security is becoming more important, both for you and your customers. A secure site means that the people who visit you online feel safer, and are more likely to stick around.

Website security matters even more when your customers browse through mobile.

That’s why, beginning this summer, Google Chrome and other major web browsers has started labeling all websites without SSL (secure socket layer) encryption (that is, http sites) as “not secure.” You may even have heard from your web host about enhancing your security to avoid losing website visitors–but what does it mean?

SSL Keeps Your Information Private

You’ll often see an HTTPS when you shop online. Seeing an HTTPS in that address bar lets you know that the website you’re using has an SSL certificate, and that your information is protected.

SSL is the standard in website security: it creates an encrypted link between your website and your customer’s web browser. That encryption ensures that any sensitive information that’s passed between their browser and your website stays private.

But Why Does My Website Need SSL?

Activities like e-commerce and online banking always use SSL, but there are also reasons why an HTTPS website with SSL-security is a good idea for the rest of us:

  1. Keeping sensitive information safe. SSL encrypts any information you send through the Internet, so the only people who can read it are the ones you want to see it.

  2. Protecting you (and your customers!) from info theft. Hackers look for weaknesses in your web presence, and encrypting details that are sent through your website (like credit card numbers!) will keep both you and your customers safe.

  3. Building trust with new customers. New people who come to your website will see that your website is secured with SSL. That helps them feel safer when contacting or buying from you, and gives your business an added boost of credibility.

If you’d like to enable SSL security for your domain, we’re here to help! In most cases, it only takes an hour or two to enable SSL and replace internal HTTP links on your site to HTTPS.

If you’d like to help protect your customers and add SSL encryption to your website–or even if you just have questions about it–drop us a line and we’ll fill you in on what’s needed.

Contact Us »


Aug 06 2018

Communication is Collaboration

Last month one of our team members moved out of Portland, all the way to another state! Social Media Maven Josselyn Haldeman now calls Olympia, Washington home. We couldn’t be happier for her, but working  remotely can present unique challenges.

As a company, we value the personal connection and efficient brainstorming that can come with in-person meetings. It’s one of the reasons that we make an effort to have initial consultations with new clients before we even write their project proposals. In a typical week, though, we may not see each other’s radiant faces in person. We’re busy making marketing magic at Upswept HQ, in coffee shops and home offices, or anywhere we find ourselves with a speedy internet connection and a job to do.

We felt confident we could meet these remote working challenges head-on, mostly due to our strong communication. To that end, we’re continually refining our process of internal communication. We use a handful of tools to help keep us all connected and knowledgeable about the work.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

If you’re looking for a task management system, we’re big fans of Freedcamp. Slack is great for multi-channel workplace chatter. Zoom Communications allows us to make eye contact over any distance, and share the documents we’re working on as easily as passing them across a table. We’re also big fans of the Google suite of apps that allow us to collaborate directly all in the same document. With all of these tools at our disposal, long-distance collaboration becomes much easier. Not to say that there hasn’t been a learning curve.

The best way for a team to use a tool or service effectively is to, well, use it! You’ll never know if the tool is right for your team if you don’t get everyone on board. On Team Upswept, we talk a lot about different protocols for setting up tasks and refining processes. This helps us all stay on the same page for how the service is meant to be used, and thus helps us use it more effectively.

 

We know that we can continue to collaborate with Josselyn because we already have an effective system of communication in place. Across town or across state lines, not a lot has to change. We credit the success of our communication plan first to a common dedication to openly collaborating and operating as a team. This is one of our core philosophies, both in working with each other and with our clients. So if you’re looking for more than an impersonal client/firm relationship, reach out to us and let’s get collaborating!


Jul 12 2018

Congratulations! Your Website is Live!

Your Website is a Living Thing

Congratulations, your new website is out into the world, ready to be discovered by wonderful people far and wide! This isn’t the end of your journey, however: to get the most out of the investment you’ve made on your website, you’ll need to update and maintain it.

Like a newborn person, your website is all hope and potential and investment come to fruition. Unlike a newborn — thankfully! — there are no diapers or rough nights.  Your website might not need daily attention, but it’s too important to let it go without adult supervision indefinitely. Unless you’re investing in ongoing professional website support, that Adult-in-Charge is you. Don’t fret, though. You’ve got this.

What to Expect When You’re Launching a Website

A few tips to help make launching your website as hassle-free as possible:

  • While it’s still in development, visit your website on all of your devices and in multiple browsers if you can. Ask some friends to do so as well, because fresh eyes can be valuable in finding errors that others might miss. If you find something that seems broken or is not working as expected, give your web team as much information as you can about it. Device and browser information is very helpful, as are screenshots.
  • Read your website content again now that it’s framed by beautiful design. Now is not the time to re-write your website copy, but it is the perfect time to correct copy-level errors. If you have business hours, double-check them. If you have a staff page, make sure everyone’s name matches their photo and bio.
  • Avoid adding new features or functionality near launch. Feature creep is particularly dangerous now, because it is distracting and can negatively impact your timeline. Your developer should be focused on methodical finishing touches, not brand new ideas. If something comes up that you can’t launch without, be prepared to delay your launch date as the project scope is redefined.
  • Get to know the dashboard. If you plan to blog, know how to create a new post before you want to publish your first new entry. If you’re running an e-commerce website, get in there and dial in your shop settings before you make your first sale. Your web team can help you get acquainted, and be ready to explore the support documentation as well.
  • Consider a soft launch before you shout your new website from actual or metaphorical rooftops. A soft launch extends your Quality Assurance period a bit, under real-life conditions. You can test the load speed on your web host, double-check that your security is dialed in, and that everything got put back together correctly after flying over our heads in a million pieces.

    Look! He's up there over our head in a million pieces!
    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

(Website) Parenthood is Forever

The heavy-lifting of the design, content creation, and development of your website may be over, but the work isn’t done. Now that you have the keys to your finished website, you’re in charge of updating and maintaining it so it can keep working its magic.

Content Updates!

We’ve said before that Content is Queen on the web, and your website was designed to show it off. There’s no firm rule about how often your website content will need a refresh, but it should always be current and accurate.

Read your website copy periodically — does it still reflect who you are and what you do? Has your understanding of your audience or market shifted since your copy was written? If so, it might be time for an update so that your website remains true and authentic.

Software Updates!

Keeping your software up-to-date goes a long way in maintaining the stability and security of your website. This is a great time to backup your database in case your web host experiences an outage — you’ll be able to restore from a recent copy of the site without too much downtime.

After you update your website CMS and any plugins, it’s a good idea to tour through the front end of your site to ensure that everything still looks and works as expected after the update.

You’ve gone on quite the journey to get to this point. Your website is ready to launch. You should definitely feel proud! But you should also feel prepared to handle everything that comes after launch, so you don’t have a meltdown if any issues occur. I hope this blog post helps you feel courageous as you get comfortable managing your new website. If you’d like to seek more of our help, we’d be delighted! Reach out to us today to learn more about our website support options.


Feb 20 2018

Social Media Trends 2018

One of the biggest challenges of social media is that it’s always changing. Old platforms switch up their interface, lose users, or disappear entirely. New, confusing platforms pop up to fill the gap. Even the old stalwarts go through massive changes over the course of a year (installed the new Snapchat update yet?). Social media is an ever-evolving landscape, and 2018 will be no exception. As a social media marketer, it’s my job to research, anticipate, and prepare for possible trends on the horizon.  Here are the trends I see having an impact on social media marketing in the coming year.

New Tech = New Trends

Technology evolves rapidly, and the tech companies that run social media platforms need to implement and cater to them in order to stay relevant. Digital hangout platforms like Houseparty became hugely popular with young people in 2017. This is a good indicator that larger social media platforms will eventually incorporate some of the key functions of hangout apps into their own platform. Facebook tends to do this by purchasing an up-and-coming app, and folding that app’s functionality into their own system updates.

While new functionality can be intimidating, I think of instances like this as an opportunity. Many brands will be experimenting with new ideas. Nothing is set in stone. Explore the new technologies as they appear, and take the chance to do some experimenting yourself. You may end up setting the standard for how brands use that function to market!

Rearranging Chairs in the Twitterverse

Believe it or not, Twitter is starting to show signs of decline. For the first time, Twitter failed to increase it’s active users for the entire second half of 2017. The first sign of a dying platform is seeing a halt in active user growth. While it won’t happen as fast or be as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic, this slowdown is worth keeping an eye on in 2018.

We can expect Twitter to throw some curveballs this year, similar to their decision to increase the character count of tweets near the end of last year. They might even try some outlandish things to stay afloat, which will affect existing marketing strategies. Keep an eye out for changes so you, too, can adapt and keep your market efforts effective.

The (Facebook) Sky is Falling!

Facebook Live is an example of a feature from another app folded into the system. Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

One of the most dramatic changes in the social media marketing landscape happened at the end of 2017: Facebook changed the algorithm that determines how a user’s feed is populated. The changes are intended to prioritize posts from family and friends, and reduce “spam” from business pages. While this change has been live since November 2017, social media marketers are still adjusting.

So far, we’ve learned that the new algorithm punishes pages that use “baiting” strategies to boost engagement. This blog post goes into detail on what the algorithm will flag as bait, and how using those strategies will actually hurt the reach and engagement for future posts. As we approach the end of Q1 with these changes, updated strategies that take the new algorithm into account will solidify. Experiment yourself, and pay attention to what other brands in your field are doing differently.

Change is Scary, but We Got This!

The ever-changing landscape of social media makes marketing in these spaces a unique challenge. But if you stay engaged and up-to-date, you will be better prepared to make the necessary adjustments, and keep your online marketing relevant, engaging, and successful.

Of course, your real challenge may simply be that you don’t have enough time to stay on the cutting edge of social media marketing. That’s where we come in. Upswept Creative offers social media management packages designed specifically for each client. We will meet you where you’re at in terms of expertise, budget, and brand voice. Reach out to our Social Media Maven today to schedule your free consultation.


Mar 17 2017

Code is Poetry: Why We <3 WordPress

There are so many options for website management and building these days, it can be overwhelming. Customization, flexibility and ease-of-use are all important to consider when choosing a platform. With these qualities in mind, Team Upswept chooses WordPress as the platform for nearly all of our clients’ website redesign needs. Here’s why:

WordPress HeartEase of Use

The WordPress Dashboard makes it easy to manage and update your own copy and images so that your website is always current and can evolve as your business evolves. The Dashboard is clean and easy to use, and there’s lots of support documentation if you have questions — making it simple and painless to  see and edit your content, view traffic statistics, and manage your e-commerce.

Mature Software & Blogging Capabilities

 WordPress is a mature and stable product, which has focused on elegant user experience and responsible web standards. Launched way back in 2003 by Matt Mullenwig and Mike Little, WordPress began as a personal blogging platform. Blogging capabilities are dialed-in and rock solid making it easy to maintain a business blog and get more eyeballs on your site.

Infinite Extensibility

 There are almost fifty-thousand plugins for WordPress, allowing us to add simple features to your semi-custom website quickly, and affording us huge advantages in building fully-custom sites as well.

Three plugins we love to keep in our pockets

Contact Forms 7  is a great example of a quick plug-in to create a contact form.
Advanced Custom Fields lets us customize and simplify how you manage your content.
WooCommerce is a great comprehensive plug-in for E-Commerce needs.

Search-Engine Magic

WordPress is great with search engines, and a lot of SEO-friendly code structure is built right into the platform. This gives us a leg-up in driving search-engine traffic to when your website is new.

WordPress Heart Logo
WordPress Heart by Foomandoonian

Seriously, we love working with WordPress. The customizability through plug-ins and access to back-end organization is a dream to work with. The platform’s user-friendly layouts and interfaces also allow us to be confident when we hand over the management of a site to our clients after the site goes live.

Want to get started on your website redesign with WordPress? Schedule a consultation with us to find out how we can bring this magic to your business!


Feb 17 2017

Climb the Google Ranks with SEO

WHAT IS SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of building your website in a way that makes it easier for a search engine to find it, and give it a high-ranking in search results. Think of it as improving your website’s communication with search engines. I’m not going to lie, implementing good SEO can be technical and tedious. That’s why I’ve written this simple guide for some SEO basics. Besides, good SEO principles overlap with qualities of a user-friendly website.

PAGE TITLES

Most search engines utilize tools that transpose key information from your web page into readable, user-friendly search engine results. For example, a page’s title tag will often appear in the first line of a result if the content matches the user’s inquiry. This is a great place to have additional information about your business. Try to think of what someone might search online when looking for a service or product you provide. This might include the name of your business, a quick summary of what your company does, or some services you offer.

 

 

EASY URLS

A good URL often means one that a human being can easily recite from memory without confusing anyone. Most people keep this in mind when choosing their URL, but page titles are just as important! URLs are included in search results, so you have another opportunity to include relevant terms people searching out your business might search.

Many web hosts make this easy to achieve by letting users define static URLs for individual pages. In WordPress, for example, you can find this feature by logging in as an Admin, navigating to Settings > Permalinks. This will display your options for how to structure your website’s URLs.

GOOD CONTENT

It seems obvious, but having good content on your website is an essential first in enticing the right people to visit. Everything else I’ve talked about in this guide won’t be as successful as it could be if your web content falls flat. Make sure your subject matter is directly related to your business and brand goals, and use good web-design principles. Now that’s good content!

Good design is what Upswept Creative does. We’re offering a new packages, all centered around helping you build your brand with elegant design:

  • Brand Essence to design your perfect look and authentic brand message
  • Online Smarts to infuse your online presence with beautiful branding
  • Empire Builder to tailor your web site to YOUR specific goals, so you can step up your business game!

 


Aug 02 2016

Two Photo Apps for Your Phone That Pro Photographers Swear By

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Make your smartphone camera smarter.

An important part of the Product Photos Made Simple mission is sharing techniques that can help you get better photos, even if you don’t own a real camera! And, that means using your smartphone in a way that’s, well, smarter. So, I’m going to share two smartphone apps that even pro photographers like myself swear by:

cameraplusCamera+

When your phone camera gives you ho-hum results, Camera+ can help you fix it. Camera+ gives you control over how your phone camera behaves with features like selecting your focus point, exposure control, image stabilization, even a macro mode for those close-up details! (if you don’t know what these things mean, don’t worry! We’ll cover it in Product Photos Made Simple!)

The app purchase is $2.99, which is honestly completely worth it compared to the value of how much more control you’ll get over your photos. You’re bound to save endless amounts of time and headache with this one, tiny purchase.

Camera+ is available for iPhone and iPad. Looking for an Android equivalent? Camera Zoom FX has a similar set of features for Android users, and for the same price as Camera+.

snapseedSnapseed

When a phone camera photo doesn’t turn out quite the way you’d like, you don’t have to learn Photoshop to fix it–Snapseed is a sweet app that will let you make edits to your photos right on your smartphone.

Snapseed lets you make adjustments to brightness, contrast, color temperature, and more, with just a swipe of your finger. You can also crop and straighten your images, *and* it also includes a variety of Instagram-like filters and effects that you can adjust! (a personal favorite of mine, because default Instagram filters are too heavy for my taste!)

The best part? Snapseed is now completely FREE, and is available for both iPhone andAndroid devices. So, it’s definitely worth trying out!

Want in-depth tips on how to use these apps? There’s only THREE DAYS LEFT to get it!

Some of you are already supporting Product Photos Made Simple on IndieGogo, but for those who haven’t, time is running out! Back the campaign to get the guide at a one-time price, or get a boost for your business with one of our HUGE discounts on fashion and product shoots, especially for our backers!

If someone you know needs a professional photoshoot, share this with them–we can even shoot product that’s shipped to us!

Ready to DIY smarter? Click the button below to start taking better photos:

Learn how to take better product photos, even if you don’t own a real camera!

Get Product Photos Made Simple! »

Got an extra Second? Share this with your people.

Your help getting the word out is valuable beyond words! So, share our e-mail tips with others who might benefit, encourage folks you know to check out the IndieGogo campaign, and share it on social media. The more who jump on board, the faster you’ll get this guide delivered straight to you!

Jun 06 2016

Use Your Web Site to Make Your Business Findable

Summer is upon us in Portland, and that means tourism! People from all over come here for vacations, explore our city, and fall in love with it. You might be making special plans to get ready for the buzz of tourists, especially if you have a storefront or tourism-based business, but there’s one thing you might be missing: is your business findable online?

If you have a web site, take a moment to make sure your web site is ready for summer: here are just a few ways to make sure people can find your business and buy into the amazing things you’re offering!

Include your address on your web site, somewhere.

If you’re looking for walk-in customers, it’s hugely important that your physical address be on your web site, and that it’s easy-to-find. Just one example of why: a recent technology study revealed that 64% of smartphone users convert their search for a restaurant into an actual visit by the end of the day!

Having a mobile-responsive is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.
Having a mobile-responsive web site is critical, especially if you get a lot of customers from out-of-town.

It’s common for people to search for your location on your web site while they’re on-the-go, so it’s absolutely to your benefit to make it easier for them to find you! Make sure your address exists somewhere on your web site Homepage, even if it’s just in the footer.

Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Speaking of customers who search on-the-go, a web site that isn’t easy to use on a mobile device? That can really sink your business. This is doubly true if you depend on tourist business and out-of-town visitors, like Random Order Pie Bar does! Tourists are much more likely to look at your web site on a mobile device, so giving them the best possible experience will help them find you, and become your newest customer.

An added bonus: when your web site is mobile-friendly, it also ranks higher in mobile searches. So, having a mobile-responsive web site will also give you a nice boost in search engine rankings!

Does your web site need a mobile facelift, but you’re not sure where to start? If so, it might be time to hire a creative team to refresh your web site, and make it look its absolute best on every device.

Use prominent call-to-action links.

Whether you’re a walk-up business or an online shop, a prominent call-to-action does a lot of the work for you–an eye-catching message with a clickable button makes it easy for customers to buy in. One great example is Beer Quest PDX–there’s a “Sign Up” link built right into the top of the web site, so customers know exactly where to click to buy in, and sign up for a beer tour adventure.

What do your customers need to buy into what you offer? Make it easy for them to buy in: design your web site with an appealing call-to-action, and put it in a prominent place, so they can make that purchase the instant they decide to choose your offering.

Just Say No to PDFs.

Have you ever visited a web site and clicked on the link to their menu or rate sheet, only to be faced with a PDF that’s hard to read online? That can get pretty frustrating, right?

Imagine doing that on a mobile device? Even worse! The print is surely too small to read, and you have to clumsily swipe and scroll and search for the information you want.

Again, this is about making it easy for people to want what you’re offering, and to learn more about it. Using a PDF instead of a standard web page may seem easier for you, but is that worth hindering your potential customers?

I’ll admit, “No PDFs” isn’t the most hard-and-fast rule–PDFs can have their place on a web site, especially if you’re selling a e-books, or if your content is the product. But, for simple information that your customers and clients will want to access quickly, create a standard web page for that content.

What else can you do to make your web site do the work for you?

There are awesome brand and design strategies that can be built right into your web site, so you spend less time worrying about marketing, and more time doing what you love. But, that means getting more specific, and building a web experience that’s a perfect fit for your business. If you’re ready for a refreshed web site that does the work for you, just click on the button below and tell us a little more about your business. We’d love to hear from you!

Tell us more about you! »


Jan 27 2016

A Pie-Filled Peek at Smarsh Week 2016

We were pretty pleased to return for Smarsh Week this year, to capture some of the happenings during their activity-filled multi-day event! Employees from the many global offices of this tech company converge in Portland every year, to engage in a variety of events and mixers in and around their Downtown PDX headquarters.

A special treat on the Smarsh Week 2016 agenda was a pie smashing event, done to support fundraising for the Movember Foundation, to help them in their continuing fight against cancer. A dozen-or-so employees offered themselves up as tribute–including several members of their Leadership Team–and together raised over $1000 for the Foundation.

We couldn’t resist this incredibly GIF-able moment featuring CEO Steve Marsh, braving his pie-in-the-face like a champ. Big ups to everyone at Smarsh for being all-around lovely people, and for doing good in the community!

Smarsh CEO supporting Movember fundraising efforts by getting pied in the face.
Smarsh CEO supporting Movember fundraising efforts by getting pied in the face.