Archive for the ‘resources’ Category

Your websites roommates are the worst

By Matt Adams on September 13th, 2016

What Goldilocks and the three bears can teach us about hosting

You know how the story goes. A little girl lost in the woods, stumbles into a world she doesn’t belong in, and tries all the options for herself. She learns from her mistakes along the way, but really doesn’t enjoy the process. Cold soup, broken chairs, beds too soft. Eventually she pisses off some bears and depending which version of the story you subscribe to, they either run her off and tell her never to come back, or they eat her.

Your website is the little lost Goldilocks here, and the cabin in the woods is the internet. You need a place for your precious site to live. You venture out there on your own, trying a few things, finding that different hosts have different levels of soup, I mean support. And their pricing is just as all over the place as the beds. Sure you can try them all, or even just a few, but like Goldilocks, you won’t like the results, and neither will your site visitors.

Cold soup, is like bad server support. 

It’s safe for me to assume you likely know little, or probably nothing about server administration. Is the DNS zone file right? What about the max script execution time? You need support to lean on when you get in over your head. Factor1 hosts most the sites we build. To date thats about 250 sites. While we feel pretty well equipped to handle the day to day, we still have an amazing support team to call up when things get strange.

Good questions to ask for server support

  • How fast is the average ticket response?
  • Can I chat, call and email for support?
  • Does the support cover installed tools like WordPress, or other content management systems that may need trouble shooting?
  • What about backups and recovery, are they onsite or off?
  • What won’t support cover?

What about the environment? Are you sharing your bed with bears?

The cheaper the hosting, the more likely you are to be sharing a server with hundreds if not thousands of other accounts. Think about your computer, the more apps you have open and running at one time, the harder your computer starts to work. I know when I get multi-tasking like a crazy person, things get toasty and the fans kick on. What about when you are streaming a movie and surfing the web at the same time, maybe while others in your house or office are doing the same. Things get slow fast.

Well the more accounts per server, the more load, the more demand, and the more issues. Think of it like wifi hogging roommates at your house, except you have no idea who they are, and you have no say in them being there. We have seen time and time again, servers crashing, crawling at peak times, all because the site you are on is sharing resources with other big resource sites. It’s not all bad, just be aware that these resources come at a cost. So the less you pay for hosting, the more people there are to share the bill. Servers aren’t cheap, and “unlimited disk space” is a marketing bullet with an asterisk, not a reality.

What to look out for in shared hosting.

  • What are the policies in place for resource hogs?
  • What preventative measures are in place for malware?
  • What about sites that host explicit content–Do they allow that? You may not want to be there if it contradicts your brand.
  • How many accounts share an average server?
  • Bonus tip, you can check your site now with this tool: http://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/web-sites-on-web-server/
    I just ran that on a clients site that I know is slow but they won’t leave their GoDaddy $5 hosting because its “too good of a price”. The result, 997 other sites. 32 of which were pornography or other graphic content related. Not good for this family based non-profit site.

SEO and Malware concerns on shared hosts

Too often we find sites that are hurting with SEO or flagged for malware, but the reality is that it’s not even their site, but another account on the server. This can be a disaster to deal with since it’s not an account you have any control over. Google Malware tools will flag the entire server for malware. Meaning that every site on the server will display a big, ugly, red warning screen to all visitors that the site is not safe to visit. 99.9% of visitors will close and not continue. Lost visitors = lost opportunities every time.

Heavy shared hosts, like the site above that has 997 sites on their server, are often slow. The server has a slow response time and each page is a bit sluggish to respond. What If I told you that users will not return to slow sites, and google negatively ranks slow sites. Scary right. What If I told you that “slow” is anything longer than 6 seconds to load. Crazy that we live in such a high tech, high speed world that 6 seconds is slow, when at the turn of the century more than half the internet access was 56k dialup.

So when I say ‘sharing your bed with bears’, I’m really not that far off. Some of these hosts can be flooded with bad sites. Usually cost is a key factor. $5 hosting vs $20 hosting is a big difference in the quality of accounts.

How much should good hosting cost? 

So let’s say you found a host that has great answers to the above key questions, and has great support. What would that cost. I can tell you, it’s not $5. It’s not $10 either. on average, a good host with all the right levels of support, security and accounts per server is probably in the $20 – $50 a month range. I can hear your groans, yes that’s a lot of money when you used to pay $10. But think of this like your businesses location. There are shanty offices and shady strip malls, and there are newer, well balanced, well maintained buildings. They don’t cost the same thing.

What makes a good host.

  • 30 minute or less support response. They may not have it fixed, but they responded to the ticket and begin investigating.
  • Support you can call, email, or chat with. Thats critical.
  • Support that is willing to dive into other issues besides hardware only.
  • They have daily backups, onsite AND off
  • They have daily malware and security scans.
  • They have a firewall.
  • They offer VPS (Virtual Private Servers) with dedicated IP addresses (Protects against the bad bear roommates).
  • They limit the number of accounts per server (We run our dedicated servers under 150 accounts per server, compared to go daddy with the 997)
  • They have transparency with uptime. We have a portal to check at anytime with history of any outages.

Hosting recommendations

So we normally host many of our own sites on our dedicated servers. These servers are not in our closet at the Factor1 office, they are hosted and managed by LiquidWeb. They have been amazing for support, and we have been with them for 8 – 9 years at this point.

Other server companies we like, respect, and have a good track record with.

  • Cloudways
  • Flywheel (WordPress only)
  • WPengine (WordPress only)
  • Digital Ocean  (A little more tech oriented)
  • RackSpace

Domain scams to watch out for

By Matt Adams on September 10th, 2016

I own a lot of domain names. Not just for Factor1 projects, but for some client work as well. So basically my name is the public owner of more domains than I care to admit. Daily, i get 25+ emails and about 2x a week I get physical mail spam (is that still spam?) about my domain names, but rarely legit.

First off, I only have domains registered 2 places, GoDaddy and NameCheap. I have reasons for the 2 but that’s not what this post is about. I share that I only have domains 2 places, because I know and expect communication from them, but anything else I know is a scam.

Domain Scam #1: Early renewal. 

I just got this the other day. A physical mailing about my domain name needing renewed from IDNS for the low low price of $45 a year.


They demanded I act fast. I looked more, and what’s odd, is they wanted me to renew my URL by mid October. I know this domain well (factor1studios.com) and I KNOW it renews in January.  I follow a pro tip from our last post and set domains on my calendar as birthdays. Also that price. Sheesh thats about 3x the cost I actually pay for a .com.

Pro tip: Domains usually only cost $10 – $20 a year. Yes, some vanity domains, like .io or .ninja (never buy this unless you are actually a ninja) can cost $50 – $99 a year.

Domain Scam #2: Verifying country codes on behalf of a potential buyer.

This is a little trickier to explain. Basically, you will get a call or email from a domain verification company (Not a real thing) telling you that someone in their country (usually China, but sometimes Canada, or Australia) is trying to buy global rights to YOUR domain name in 15 – 20 other country codes (.ca, .cn. .aus, etc). They are following the “law” (There is no such law) and verifying with you that you release them to this other company.

Don’t worry, you can “protest” the purchase, by simply buying all these domains conveniently through the person contacting you. So you can spend hundreds of dollars “securing” these country codes. The scam is that they have no other buyer, there is no due diligence required, and they are only selling you domains you don’t need. Personally, I say they can have factor1studios.cn in China if someone wants it.

Domain Scam #3: SEO submission service renewal. 

This is usually mailed, but sometimes emailed. It’s an invoice for “Search Engine Listing” service. And without this $69 – $99 a year service, your domain won’t be in hundreds of search engine directories. Fun game–name more than 3 search engines (no Lycos and Altavista no longer count). Search engines rank on content, and index the web constantly. They don’t want or need you to submit your site to them, and if they did, it would be free.

The trick with all these, is that they look legit, have a real internet sounding name, Under $99 and have an urgent call to action. Their goal, is that your business will have some accounts payable person just pay it and never question it. There are similar scams for all kids of business related things like copier toner.

If in doubt, google it, you will find tons of scam alerts on that that company name. They change names often, so always know who you actually do business with for this stuff. If you are big enough for an accounts payable department, have a policy that no new vendors get paid without approval, no matter what the cost.

Be safe out there, too many people are trying to make a buck anyway they can.

WordPress and SSL images in WPv4.4

By Matt Adams on March 29th, 2016

Responsive images became the new standard in WordPress 4.4, released in December 2015. One major issue is sites that run SSL full time. Having that green secure lock in the browser bar is important. It’s good for security, required for online transactions, and adds a great deal of credibility to the site.

With WP 4.4 out of the box, you may find your site looking like it has a lot of broken images. Turns out that featured images in WP 4.4 still load as HTTP. With out the https, the users browser will block any resource that is unsecured.

So we have a small patch for this.

Using the following code in your functions file.

add_filter('wp_get_attachment_image_attributes', function($attr) {
    if (isset($attr['sizes'])) unset($attr['sizes']);
    if (isset($attr['srcset'])) unset($attr['srcset']);
    return $attr;
add_filter('wp_calculate_image_sizes', '__return_false', PHP_INT_MAX);
add_filter('wp_calculate_image_srcset', '__return_false', PHP_INT_MAX);
remove_filter('the_content', 'wp_make_content_images_responsive');

Okay so the code above actually disables WP 4.4 responsive images feature from running. So while yes you wont have that new 4.4 feature, a site built to be responsive will still load fine.

This should be fixed in WP 4.4.2, but we are still seeing a few sites with the issue, so for now this is the best fix to keep your WordPress site running in full SSL mode.

Hackers Point Large Botnet At WordPress Sites

By Matt Adams on April 15th, 2013

Are you using wordpress for your website content management system or blogging platform? If so you need to read this.

In recent news over the last few days, hackers have been targeting and sucessfully gaining access to wordpress admin panels by brute force. The most common issue is out of date plugins / wordpress files, and simple dictionary based passwords.

So what do you do?

4 easy steps to keep your site secure

  1. Stop using ADMIN as the username.
    If you are using admin, login, create a new user with full admin rights. Then logout as admin, and in as your new user. Delete the old admin username, and assign all posts, content and pages to your new user.
  2. Use secure passwords
    8 – 12 characters long, with upper, lower case letters as well as a number. Using names, birthdays and uniqe spellings can help. Like Thom@s1198 would be secure.
  3. Keep WP and all plugins up to date.
    WP makes this process pretty easy. Regular updates should not take long, and are usually pretty painless. In your apperence > Plugins screen you will see which plugins need updated. And WP core can be updated from the dashboard home screen. Be sure you have a recent database backup before doing these updates.
  4. Avoid using too many plugins.
    Yes, there is always an app for that. There are 100k+ plugins for wordpress. Anyone can write a plugin. Often plugins can leave security holes and cause a drain on the server. Remove any and all unused plugins, and always check the plugin reviews before installing.

Need Assistance?

Factor1 members: We’ll do this for you automatically. We do these checks often, but will make a special effort this week to keep your site secure.

Not a member? We can perform a full site security scan, which includes a database back up, run all WP core and plugin updates, evaluate all user logins, and remove any and all issues we find. We have a one time fee of $50.

5 tips to planning a website that works

By Matt Adams on August 1st, 2012

Planning a website can be a big task. All the content, users, ideas, and don’t forget the SEO and images.

Pretend your friend Tom just remodeled his house. An amazing kitchen, knocked out down wall and turned a spare bedroom into space for the master bathroom and closet.

Now you see how happy they are, and you want the same thing! Great, you tell your contractor to copy it, and you will be happy. So now you are done, but you remember you don’t need that much closet space, and now you no longer have a home office. And since you would rather just eat out, this bigger kitchen makes coffee and pours a mean bowl of cereal, but thats all it gets used for.

Sure the construction and materials may be top notch, but if the function doesn’t meet your needs who cares, you needed your own solution. It could be made with the finest materials in the world, it still won’t work any better for you.

So don’t approach your website with the same approach. Let’s start with some fresh thinking.

Who uses this site?
Silly question maybe, but really ask WHO. What are your visitors here for? Checking through your site traffic logs may identify key pages and where people spend their time. Maybe it’s research on a product or service, maybe it’s finding your locations, or maybe its to browse and buy your product directly online. Identify the top functions your site must do and do well.

Whats wrong with the old site.
By stepping back and identifying the issues, the pitfalls and things you need changed will help identify HOW they get addressed on the new site. Is it hard to manage? Are the gaps in content and shopping experience? Maybe it’s just out dated and dying.

Knowing the wrong will help identify the right fix.

How should your site work?
Don’t worry about the technical details. How do you think a user should find your site, navigate, and walk away with? Now look at your best customers, what did they do? Did they buy 5 products because the related product widget suggested it? Or did they view your entire portfolio before calling you? This is a harder questions because you may not have specific data to back it up, but knowing what worked for a good customer vs the way you think it should work is key.

How can you simplify?
No one wants to make something more complicated. Adding functions and features often leads to complexity. So in what ways can you expedite the site to fully meet the users needs with less clicks, less searching and less confusion?

Where can we be the best?
Not where can we do what that other site is doing, but where can you be the leader? So often we are asked to simply do what the other guy is doing. This rarely works out well. Recently we had a project for an organization here in Tempe, and they really broke down how their site would be the best site for their mission, vision and audience. They had clear answers on where their site would be the easiest and best communication tool for their organization. This was refreshing. The site is still in development and will be live soon, but its already a great site because they wanted to be the best they could be.

Now that you have some of the first 5 things to work on, you are on your way to crafting a better website.

Want to talk about these questions with a pro? We are here to help.

Your business does not need a phone app

By Matt Adams on October 21st, 2011

You heard me. Your business does not need a phone app in the apple or android app stores. More than likely.

Last week, a client of ours was super excited to tell me all about this new web app they are “creating”. By creating I mean they paid some phone app company a set up fee (usually $250 – 500) and $50 a month for. When I asked what the app would do, they rattled off all the amazing features. Features like a home page, news, about us, contact, directions, and product info. So I asked to clarify, that this is indeed an “app”, Yes, they proclaimed! It will be free in the apple and android app stores.

Here is my giant issue. Please hear me very clearly here.

If your app is no more than basic content found on your site, its a waste of time, money and your efforts.

Yes apps are all the rage. All the cool kids are talking about apps. Trust me, no one is going to be browsing the app store, and think to themselves, “sweet! a company I have never heard of has an app about their company / service / product, and its free!”. No, no one will think that.

Save your money, time and app lust. I have a fix for you. Build a site that is mobile friendly. We have a few ways of doing this. One is responsive. Take our site for example. Resize your browser window smaller. Bam! It re-organizes itself to fit the screen size. Navigations get touch friendly, fonts remain clear and readable. Another alternative is a seperate mobile site with the core info, that we have an auto detect script set up on. Basically if the visitor screen size is less than 640px wide, send them to the mobile site. Give them an option back to the main full site. Yes, you can still use a QR barcode to direct people to your mobile site. They can call you, map your location, and learn more all from the mobile web, with no need for an app.

You may have a need for an app. If your idea is functional, helps a user, provides them a beneficial resource for planning, searching, researching, or tracking something. Great, go for it! Verizon has a great app to track my minutes used on my iPhone.  Starbucks has a store locator, with info on menus, amenities, and wifi. E-trade has an app to search, research and watch over your trades. Catch my drift here?

Make it useful, keep it relevant, and make it a benefit to your users (not just you). Or dont do it at all.

iPad accounts for 97 percent of US tablet web browsing

By Matt Adams on June 24th, 2011

So we all know I am a geek, and love all things apple. I still give a lot of respect to the others out there. When chatting about tablets, it’s hard NOT to talk about the ipad, but there are plenty of others. A few great android tablets and the HP & Blackberry are pretty solid competitors as well.

So I assumed that the iPad would lose some market share. But per comScore’s May 2011 report, the apple iPad is 97% of tablet web traffic. 97%!!!!! Thats great. I love my ipad, and i know i love surfing on it. But I was really shocked to see the numbers where they are.

So as we push forward with sites we develop, more and more are 100% iPad friendly. Of course we still want to make the others can play nice too, but for sure reaching 97% of the tablet web surfers is our goal.

Is your website tablet friendly? Anyone out there use a non ipad tablet?

Placing value on quality

By Matt Adams on August 30th, 2010

Where do you stand where quality counts?

Oxford suits is the only company left in america today that still makes its suits by hand. Seriously by hand. No machines. Can you imagine the hours to sew a single suit?

Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlX9pcBOqT0

Quality, attention to detail, pride in your work. they all matter.

using html5 for video

By Matt Adams on June 24th, 2010

HTML5 is going to be the new norm here soon. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, dont worry about it too much. Its the background structure / protocol running web pages. Firefox, Safari, Opera & Google Chrome are all HTML5 ready on some level. IE 6, 7, 8 are not. Rumor is the IE 9 will be. But I’m not holding my breath.

One of the big new laws in html 5 is the way a website can interact with video. We can now use a more native video format, that streams better on browsers and mobile devices. YES ipad & iphone (and other mobiles) can use the new HTML5 video.

HTML5 video will eliminate the need for flash on most devices.

So lets create a smooth video splash page for a product or service promotion. We’ll start with a simple design, and then move onto the video part.


Sticking with a simple design. We want to center our video, and give it a nice frame.

The Base Html:

  HTML5 Video Player



Video Demo

Enter site

and our basic css:

body {
	margin: 0; 
	padding: 0; 
	font-family: Helvetica, Arial, Sans-serif; 
	background: url(bg_body.jpg) repeat-x #111; 
	color: #ccc;}
#wrapper {
	margin: 0 auto; 
	padding: 20px;
	text-align: center;}
#video {
	width: 640px;
	height: 300px;
a, a:visited {
	color: #22daff;}
a:hover {
	color: #d1d1d1;}
	h1 {text-shadow: 1px 2px 1px #111; color: #eee; font-size: 4em;}

Video conversion

Here is my biggest gripe against html5 video. Each browser has their own video type. Safari: mp4, Firefox, OGV, and Chrome: WebM. Kind of a pain to convert your video to 3 formats, but in general it is a better experience for the end user right? so we’ll suck it up and deal with it.

So whats the easiest way to convert to these file types? I have tried a few ways, and thus far has been Miro Video Converter. Works on both mac and PC. mirovideoconverter.com. And best of all, its free. I used this to convert all of my videos.

Video player options

Sure html5 can take the new video symantic tag. But it doesnt leave the most consistent user experience. Then what about those lowly IE users? we can’t ignore them. We may want to, but we can’t.

There are a handful of opensource javascript and css players. They players make it nice and easy to auto detect the browser type, and deliver the best video possible. Some even offer a flash drop out for the worst case IE users.

Some options include:
Video for everybody: http://camendesign.com/code/video_for_everybody
Video JS: http://videojs.com
Sublime: http://jilion.com/sublime/video
Projekktor: http://www.projekktor.com/

Each essentially adds a layer of functionality and style to the html5 video tag. I liked Video JS for this use.

Prepping you server for the video

This is a super important step. Not all servers will recognize the mime types of videos. Using a simple htaccess file, we can add these three simple lines to indicate the file mime types.

AddType video/ogg .ogv
AddType video/mp4 .mp4
AddType video/webm .webm

Pulling it together

1. Download the Video JS codes, and upload the files to your server.
2. Insert the necessary codes for the CSS and JS into your files head tag.
3. insert their player codes into your video div
4. Modify the file paths to your videos for each file type.
5. update the flash var source for the back up video, making sure you use a absolute full url.

Save and test!

Here is my final result, http://proofs.factor1studios.com/mediasalt/video/ with the videos playing in native formats for Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, with IE dropping to a flash swf fall back.

So now you don’t have an excuse to not be producing great video splash pages or video on your site, with full support for all browsers, and mobile devises.

the premium product

By Matt Adams on June 24th, 2010

In almost every industry you will find a premium product, and several tiers of brands or services falling in rank there after. Their order doesn’t matter. What matters is the premium, and the non premium.

Here is what I like. Premium sets the bar, the gold standard, and the price. The market and industry of that premium product depends on these factors, for the smaller fish to survive.

But here is the catch. You can’t expect to compete with the big dogs, yet offer value on one of the key factors (quality, price, service, etc). An amazing car, but at sacrifice on service wont work. Ask the 1996 Car and Driver best luxury car of the year Mazda Millennia. Rated better than the lexus, mercedes and BMW in the class, but failed to deliver the customer service. And it did poor in sales. Mazda stunk at pampering its customers.

There are other similar stories I’m sure, but here is my point. If you cant compete on all levels, and win at the expectations placed on the premium, then dont. Find a way to better compete with the smaller fish.

Nothing wrong with being the biggest medium fish possible. Let the big fish pay for infrastructure, R&D, market research, and so on. You keep up, push the limits where you can, and focus on the ways you are different. There are a lot of cars sold in the middle to low range. Far more volume than the top cars.