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Google’s Mobile-Friendly Ranking Algorithm

Have you heard about the changes that Google has slated for search algorithms starting April 21st?

As a growing number of web-enabled devices are handheld, Google has made an effort to place higher value on websites which bring you the information you seek in a format that will be easier to access that same information on a smaller screen.

Basically the search engine giant is classifying websites as “Mobile Friendly” or “Not Mobile Friendly”, and it will affect search results accordingly.

While this does seem very black and white, the good news is that Google has given plenty of forewarning on the subject and they have made it very easy for you to determine whether you fall in the one category, or the other.

With one quick link, their analysis will provide instantaneous feedback on simple fixes that you can make which can help your ranking.

Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. (it’s free, and quick!)

And if you are using WordPress (a fairly universal Content Management System which is open source, and therefore freely available to all users), there are a multitude of professionally designed themes which immediately fall into the “Mobile Friendly” category.

What’s more, these templates are optimized so that your website will look its best whether viewed on a laptop, monitor or handheld device (i.e., smart phone or tablet).

Now if you find your site is not “Mobile Friendly”, fear not.

There are still three weeks until the changes come into effect, and even after April 21st, page rankings will still be updated in real time.

And you’re not alone. I tested several major sites including Wikipedia.com and Weather.com, and Google’s analytics finds issues with both. (That said, I would be surprised because of the immense site traffic that either one will see any noticeable drop in search rankings!)

What specifically are some of the common issues?

As was the case with Weather.com:

Page appears not mobile-friendly

• Text too small to read
• Mobile viewport not set
• Links too close together
• Content wider than screen

(In other words, most users on a phone or tablet will have to scroll left to right, in addition to scrolling from top to bottom.)

These issues are quite easily fixed with the vast majority of mobile-responsive WordPress templates. Some content may have to be adjusted to display optimally, but for your average website these adjustments may be a worthwhile undertaking for a higher Google ranking.

Learn more here: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/

If you’d be interested in an initial consultation or website review, I’d be happy to speak with you prior to April 21st or anytime thereafter. Feel free to contact me today!

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Running with the Mountain Lions (Mac OS 10.8)

Some people are afraid of change.

Especially when it threatens to affect their livelihood.

My world these days is rather tied to this computer and the amazing things which it is able to help me accomplish (for fun and for profit), and there are a few specific software programs on which I depend in order to make this happen… Day in and day out.

For over 20 years, I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop and pretty much anyone should be able to figure out a thing or two given that amount of time. But I use it every day for adjusting dimly lit photos which are sent to me for marketing materials, or to create concept renderings (what would that wall look like with a 9′ x 9′ framed backlit display on it, for example?) or to resize images for websites with overlaid text… there are so many examples and great uses.

I have several customers who call on me every day with the expectation that I can quickly deliver something that they cannot or do not have time to tackle themselves, whether it’s a change to their website or an update to a series of documents I routinely maintain for them.

The entire Creative Suite package from Adobe is fairly indispensable to modern graphic designers, among which I find myself included. Adobe Illustrator is essential for logo design and vector graphics, while Adobe’s InDesign is the premiere for multi-page layouts and bringing together paragraphs of beautifully set type.

Periodically Adobe will release a new version with even more robust features which make possible new creative directions or streamline workflow so that I’m able to work more quickly, or update a series of documents simply. And each new release typically requires hundreds of dollars in addition to an already considerable initial investment.

And for the last 10 years at least, I’ve been running these programs on a Mac.

Not always the case mind you, but I am familiar enough with so many versions both on Mac and PC, spanning back to the first time I used Photoshop 2.0 to set up a student magazine back in high school… and let’s just say this past weekend that marked a reunion for a graduation day long ago passed!

Periodically systems need to be upgraded, and I’m generally happy to reinvest in my company and my skill set with a new machine, the latest release of Adobe Creative Suite (now in version CS 6.0+), or the next generation of operating system (Mountain Lion, or Mac OS 10.8) from those developers at Apple, Inc.

But, there is an understandable amount of anxiety in my trade when the developer throws a new wrinkle into the mix… before I had this laptop, for example, I had a previous machine which had been upgraded as far as it could go.  Without the new Intel Duo-Core, it wasn’t possible to upgrade past Adobe CS 2.0.  And given that there were newer versions on the market, I was going to have to reinvest in a new computer eventually, so the developers forced my hand.  Eventually.

Now since that purchase, I had been running a very stable Mac 10.6, but once again found myself in a situation where certain programs were requiring the more modern operating system.

The question for me becomes do I stay with the reliable, though antiquated version or take the leap of faith and upgrade to the current release (10.8)?  After all, it’s only $20 for the new operating system.  Though I did my homework, read a plethora of reviews both positive and some extremely negative, and I asked every designer and I.T. professional that I know.

One colleague in particular convinced me, as he always does, when he said that many developers (including anti-virus software manufacturers and eventually Apple themselves) would no longer be “supporting” the old operating system, which I was running.

So I backed up my entire hard drive to an external source, began downloading the 4.4 gigabyte update and crossed my fingers that everything would go smoothly. I spent several hours on Saturday going back to check on progress, and eventually the whole bundle was ready. One quick restart, and I would be in business…

Happy to report that the Mountain Lion (10.8) runs like a beast, and issues have been virtually non-existant.  I seem to be getting better battery life, and a few of the tweaks are genuinely improvements from what I was running before.

That said, my old versions of Microsoft Office became officially obsolete (question marks appeared over the program icons, and would not fire up when clicked), but that is the cost of doing business these days, apparently.

Now another upgrade is in order, and another reinvestment in the company, for another software developer…

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Give Me a (Spring) Break

Ah, yes… “Spring Break.”

Back in the day, it meant taking a week off from school and your family might pack up for vacation in a sunnier climate.  The phrase Spring Break conjures images for some of college students in the ’80s taking road trips to Fort Lauderdale for cheap drink specials and general rowdiness.  Even when I was a senior in high school, I remember friends of mine who traveled as far as Jamaica for a weekend of wild fun or underage drinking in Cancun.

Not for me that year, though, as my parents might see to it.  Instead, a few friends of mine and I loaded up my mom and dad’s van and hightailed it down to Mammoth Caves, Kentucky.  Pretty mild by comparison, but it was affordable and a unique experience, warmer than home and a chance to get away for a short time.

And when I was a senior in college, I remember not traveling to Florida or Mexico for Spring Break.  This time, I spent it reading James Joyce’s “Ulysses” for English class, and drinking Guinness by the fireplace back at home for the week.  It remains the greatest book I have ever read, and prepared me for my graduation two months later and a student work exchange program that would take me to Dublin that summer.

Fast forward 20 years later… These days, “Spring Break” means (at work) that everybody we know with kids leaves town while we cover for them at the office.  Generally we are operating with half our usual staff, and the week passes quietly and fairly quickly.

Spring Break is that wonderful time of year when it’s still only 30 degrees in Michigan, and opening day for Major League Baseball is only 2 weeks away.  St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, and the March Madness college basketball tournament is underway.  It’s cold.  It’s dark, your brackets are busted, and there’s nothing you want more than to see the foot of dirty snow start to melt away.

My wife and I thought about taking a Spring Getaway ourselves this year, but now there is the consideration of our dog (read more on the day we brought Laika home, almost a year ago now) but the family who usually watches her while we are gone had a full kennel.  (On account of everyone leaving town for Spring Break, I would imagine?)

So even if we aren’t leaving town this Spring Break, sunnier weather is on the horizon.  We have an trip plans for Chicago to consider, summer weather and baseball games, Italian dinners and jazz at Andy’s.

Hope you all have a great Spring Break… whether at home or abroad!

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It’s the Eve of the World Series

I’ve been up since 4:30am.  Not strictly out of excitement for tonight’s game, though I will admit that it certainly adds a dynamic to this day that I haven’t felt in many years.  This is the morning of the day of the opening game between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants.  The 2012 World Series is about to commence, and the Tigers are looking strong.

Now I must clarify, I’m a working adult who has far more meaningful engagements personally to attend to first.  The senior vice president of a major customer is paying our company a visit today, and  a potential job candidate is interviewing with us this afternoon.  Both of these events matter significantly.  But baseball continues to be a welcome distraction at the end of the day.

Back in April, I wrote a few words about the season that was about to get under way.  Hard to believe that was over half a year ago, but at the start of the season and over 162 summer games played, it seemed as if all eyes were in fact on the Tigers and they might be early favorites to be in contention for the league lead.  There were ups and downs in the long contest, and key wins against inner division rivals to put them ahead for good going down the final stretch, and in the end they clawed their way into the playoffs.

It’s really anyone’s guess how events will play out and who ultimately will be 2012’s Major League Baseball Champions.  Could this again be the Year of the Tiger?  We will see.

The marketing campaign asks, “Who’s Your Tiger?”  For me, it’s got to be the winner of baseball’s first Triple Crown in  over 50 years, the mighty Miguel Cabrera.  He beat out all other American League batters with the most home runs (44 HRs), highest batting average (.330 AVG, almost a hit for every three appearances at the plate), and a dominating number of runs batted in (139 RBIs).  I double-checked the statistics on ESPN.com just to be sure, but I’m pretty certain these numbers will be etched into my brain for years.  I’ve probably told you before that I’m an absolute freak for baseball stats.

I also was asked to join a Fantasy Baseball league this year for the first time, and having Miggy on my team made it even more special to watch my favorite Tiger hit the ball with such power and alarming consistency.  I’ve watched enough games this season to realize just how much of an individual accomplishment that is, and how much it contributed to the overall success of the team.

Tonight though, it will be Justin Verlander on the mound to start things out for the Tigers.  As if I needed any more reason to focus on this wonderful distraction, watching JV burn through the opposition’s line up and pitch late into games makes each victory all the sweeter.

One last thing… You might also have heard about a controversy over the closing pitcher.  Should they allow Jose Valverde to come in at the end of a close game to protect the lead?  Or has Phil Coke proven his stuff in that role lately?  The answer as far as I see it is this: it’s best to keep the other team guessing.  Tigers Manager Jim Leyland has done a fine job of keeping the right guys in at the right time, and when they’re ready is when it’s right for them to go in.

May the best team win, and GO GET ‘EM, TIGERS!!

(And for an update on that Fantasy Baseball effort, I was tied for first place until the end of very last night of that 162-game campaign, until a certain Washington Nationals batter smacked an RBI in the rain on a Sunday night to knock me into second place, in his final at bat, before the game was called on account of rain.  Still good for $120 and great satisfaction… and my wife will be going wherever she wants for dinner… very, very soon!)

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All Eyes on Detroit

Tonight was the eve of the Major League opener, another summer of baseball and 162 games of regular season baseball finally beginning to commence again.

Last season’s champs, the St. Louis Cardinals, took on a relocated team playing in a brand new ballpark, Miami’s Marlins Field. A fresh start for all of us, and yet time-honored tradition and nostalgia filled the Florida air.

The game started and the visiting team took the early lead, playing the game within a game that I have grown to love. Long summer nights were spent in Algonac, Michigan, where my mother was raised and where we would visit my grandparents, many weekends in my youth spent reeling in perch and bluegill by day and personally retreating to close of the weekend game, overhearing the revelry of my elders by night, as they would sit around the dining room table taking turns dealing cards in another game that I barely knew and never mastered; they call it Pinochle, and to this day the fundamentals of its scoring and strategy elude me.  But those evening baseball scores captivated me entirely.

And in 1984, we were blessed that summer with a truly tremendous team in the Detroit Tigers.  I can still recall with absolute clarity the opening sequence against the San Diego Padres, and Kirk Gibson’s inside-the-park home run, racing to third base on a ball hit into the corner, and an errant throw which sent him rounding the plate to home plate.

But tonight, the familiar chorus of baseball and the fresh start of a new season drew me home.  Not entirely focused on the play by play action, mind you.  I knew the opening game of the 2012 season was in progress and for the first hour I was preoccupied from turning my full attention to it.  I turned the game on to find out the Cardinals were ahead 3-0.  Sufficient for an update, but later and seven full innings into the first game of the season, the visiting pitcher had kept the home team from connecting for its first hit?  Now suddenly this was captivating.  Was it possible that a pitcher throw a no-hitter on opening day?  And had this ever happened in the hundred plus years of baseball tradition?  My imagination was preoccupied all over again with statistics and years of historical hardball legend.

Mind you, I read a book one summer on baseball trivia, and my life was possibly never the same.  And only one pitcher before had ever thrown the fabled no-hitter on opening day.

Do you remember your first your “dream job”?  The vocation which would never feel like a day of work, because you were living every day as if it were a constant joy, with none of the daily chore we so often find ourselves tasked?

For me growing up, my earliest dream was to be a baseball statistician.  And I mean that with utmost seriousness.  I entertained no goals of becoming a left-handed starting pitcher or the ace reliever for the Tigers, and short stop was always out of the question for a lefty like me.  No, there was really no question for a mathematically able yet athletically challenged kid like myself, statistician was the gift of my calling.

With my weekly allowance, I would bike down to our local 7-11 convenience store and buy packs of Topps and Dunlop baseball cards, hoping to unwrap a favorite player.  Several of which I have photographed here, including none other than Sparky Anderson, the manager of that ’84 Tigers team, and their ace reliever, Willy Hernandez.

This season, I was invited to participate in a league of fantasy baseball (my first foray into the world of fantasy sports).  The departure of a previous fantasy manager afforded me the #1 overall draft pick, and try as I might to resist, the allure of Miguel Cabrera was simply too great.

Could it be that 2012 will once again be the Year of the Tiger?  God willing, I’ll be watching tomorrow at 1pm as Detroit takes on the Boston Red Sox, and what will hopefully be the first win of another Dream Season.

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Her Name is Laika

Yesterday we brought home a beautiful, sweet girl named Adele.

She’s a German Shepherd, with hints of Malamute ears and a blue tongue like an Akita.  We know she had puppies almost 4 months ago, and she is a little shy of 4 years old, herself.

She comes running when we call her or simply snap our fingers, but we’re not completely sure she recognizes the name Adele any more than Laika, which we’ve both taken to calling her.

Regardless of the name, her disposition won us over.  My wife has been patiently waiting to bring home such a creature ever since we lost her dog, Duncan, a few months ago.  That dog she found roaming freely in a park called Duncan Woods, and lived by that name for the ten years that they shared together.

Personally, this is the first time that I’ve signed papers and adopted a dog.  And while apprehension would have kept me second guessing any decision until non-decision ultimately won out, my wife’s determination prevailed in the end.

There will never be perfect timing.

We were planning a trip downstate for Dad’s birthday next weekend, knowing full well that any dog would be well matched by their three-pack of cats (themselves a rescue litter found days old in a woodpile built by my grandparents at their house, years ago).

And later next month, a week-long trip to Asheville, NC with dear friends who know that part of the country well.  Marilyn and I have not taken a week away from work since our honeymoon last June, so understandably there’s concern over kenneling a dog or leaving her with friends or relatives so soon after making her a part of our lives.

Or the fact that we’re both working parents who will leave her home 5 days a week, returning to her patiently waiting to chase the ball or drag us around the neighborhood as we have so many times already since bringing her home, just yesterday.

Last night both the dog and I slept like dogs, worn out from our first day together.  We learned she is strong enough to pull a sleigh by herself (thus the malamute blood, and what about those ears!) and she is no stranger to chasing a ball.

Nor is she afraid to get into a car with a stranger.  But she is here to stay, and we look forward to many long walks to come and new adventures together.

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Before the Internet…

March came in like a lion this year. Last Friday night we all waited for a storm to blow through which before it was over would dump over a foot of wet, heavy snow onto the surrounding trees, which in turn would break and drop several large pine boughs onto and through the mess of life lines connected to our home. Power inevitably returned, but it would be a few days before the cable company could reconnect the line running from the telephone pole out back, spanning over a hundred feet to our house.

It was the last major storm of the season, we all hope around here. But with downed power lines and our heat having been knocked out, my wife and I began thinking about the projects we could accomplish in the meanwhile.

I used to spend so many evenings writing in an unlined journal for months overseas, before returning home and the World Wide Web really became so much a part of my every day life, and it dawned on me (without an internet connection) that it was time to bring them both together, and to use this wonderful WordPress technology to get back in the habit of writing.

Which is why I hope to begin using this platform as an excuse, somewhat ironically, to write more.

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