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Mixed Content Blocked by Google starting December 2019

Wtf?! Omg! Oh no! Young man with sad grimace looks at screen of device, while sitting at workstation, gesturing in frustrations with palms in the air.

Google will Block Mixed Content

Mixed content will be blocked by Google and other browsers as they continue to improve security. This is the a continuation of the improvements to security begun in 2018. That is when Google started marking sites that use HTTP vs. HTTPS as “Not Secure.”  They even confirmed that security was a signal used in Search Engine Rankings (SEO.)

However, mixed content was allowed to load.  While the HTTPS prevented the web page from being tampered with it did NOT prevent a malicious script, image or iframe from being pulled in via the insecure content.

Now Google is taking the next step in helping create a more secure internet.  Starting in December 2019 some websites may stop functioning as desired as Google recently announced they will block mixed content.  You can read their official announcement here:   No More Mixed Messages About HTTPS https://blog.chromium.org/2019/10/no-more-mixed-messages-about-https.html

This is a continuation of Google’s push to provide a secure, optimized experience for its users.  And it’s not just Google.  Mozilla’s Firefox and other browser are also blocking insecure content. 

In order to ensure your content is viewable and your website functions as desired it is necessary to address mixed content issues.

What is Mixed Content    

Mixed content occurs when a website is loaded over a secure HTTPS connection, but parts of the website (images, videos, stylesheet or scripts for example) are loaded over an insecure HTTP connection.  Because both secure and insecure content is being loaded on the same page it is called Mixed Content. 

Currently a browser will display this as a warning so the visitor to the website is aware that some part of the connection is not secure.

Browser Security Warning showing the web page is not secure due to mixed content

The timeline for blocking mixed content begins in December, 2019 with the release of Chrome 79.  Users will get new settings to unblock mixed content.  When Chrome 80 is released in January, 2020 audio and video that fails to load over HTTPS will be blocked.  Finally, in February, 2020 with the release of Chrome 81 images that do not load over HTTPS will also be blocked.

Google Chrome: "Not Secure" warning and explanation

Find Mixed Content on Your Website

Now that you know about the dangers of mixed content how can you check if your site is affected?

First, you can check your browser bar.  If you see the following, the page contains insecure content:

Shield in right corner of browser bar indicating Insecure Content Blocked

Next, you can look at the info icon in the browser bar.  It should show a padlock in the upper left corner.  If you do not see the padlock, your page is not fully secure.

Browser bar alert: Your connection to this site is not fully secure.

When you discover a page with mixed content you just need to right-click on the page then select the Inspect Element->Console to view what content is showing as mixed.

Elements section of the Inspect Console showing Mixed Content

Google has provided a great step-by-step process for finding and fixing mixed content on your pages.  It can be found here:  https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/security/prevent-mixed-content/what-is-mixed-content

For larger websites, you may want to use a tool to assist with this.  Here are a few to check out:

JitBit https://www.jitbit.com/sslcheck/ is a free tool that will crawl up to 400 pages.

HTTPS Checker https://httpschecker.net/ will check up to 500 pages for free.  Plans are available if you need to check more pages.

Missing Padlock https://www.missingpadlock.com/  will crawl up to 5,000 pages with limitations.

How to Fix Mixed Content

Now that we have found the mixed content, how do we fix it?  Well we have to rewrite the HTTP content to HTTPS.  There are several options to accomplish this:

Manually Update Content

You can manually update the content by doing one of the following:

  • Include the resource from a different host, if one is available.
  • Download and host the content on your site directly, if you are legally allowed to do so.
  • Exclude the resource from your site altogether.

The above link to the Google documentation provides step-by-step instructions on how to perform these changes.  Keep in my mind this process works best if you only have a small amount of content to update.

Implement a Content Security Policy

Another option would be to implement a Content Security Policy (CSP).  This requires adding a <meta> tag in the <head> section of every page on your website.  One drawback to this option is it assumes the site you are referencing supports HTTPS.  If it does not, then the content you are referencing will not load.

Ask Your Hosting Provider for Help

You can also contact your hosting provider.  Many providers offer tools to help find and replace mixed content. For example, our hosting provider, Siteground, has a tool that forces HTTPS functionality.

WordPress Plugins

If you have a WordPress site here are a few plugins that can help:

SSL Insecure Content Fixer https://wordpress.org/plugins/ssl-insecure-content-fixer/ .  This plugin is really easy to use and is recommended for beginners.  However, it may add a few milliseconds to how fast your page loads.

Better Search and Replace https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-search-replace/ .  While this plugin requires a little more knowledge to use, you need to know the URL of the content you want to replace; it is still quite easy to use. 

I installed and activated the Better Search and Replace plugin on a website I manage that only had a few mixed content images that needed updating.  Worked like a charm.  When I was done, the site showed a padlock in the browser bar like you see below. 🙂

Broswer bar displaying a padlock indicating the web page is secure.

Now that the non-HTTP files have been fixed this site no longer has mixed content blocked by Google.

Conclusion

While fixing mixed content may be time consuming, Google plans to implement the changes gradually.  So this will give you time to address any issues.  You may want to dedicate a few hours over the next few months to check your site for any mixed content issues.

And, keep in mind, Google isn’t the only browser blocking insecure content.  Firefox currently blocks insecure content.  Edge, Opera and Safari show secure and not secure warnings in their browser bars and if they are not currently blocking content they will most likely follow Google’s example.

If you are struggling with how to fix mixed content or even how to install an SSL certificate on your website to secure it, feel free to give us a shout, we may be able to help.  Every site we develop and hosting set up complete are HTTPS by default.

Do You Offer Search Engine Optimization?

hands typing on laptop

One of the questions I am asked a lot is do we offer Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services? The answer is: sort of.

SEO is an important part of a website. However, it can be confusing to understand and navigate.

When we look at SEO we see two types. The first is more of the “technical” part. It has to do with the setups in the back end of the site. That service is standard with every site we build.

However, there is another part of SEO that focuses more on monitoring and analysis. This is the part that is more focused on the overall digital marketing strategy.

Some companies have very active digital marketing campaigns. In these cases they are monitoring the site performance and looking for ways to increase rankings. For example, they may propose blog topics, add a landing page or change the existing content. The ongoing monitoring and analysis is the part of SEO I don’t do.

When you work with a digital marketer you may be given a list of suggestions that may improve your SEO rankings. I can help implement them and make sure that the back end setups reflect those changes.

We also offer Site Audits. Included in the Site Audit is an analysis of your website’s SEO along with suggestions to improve it. We recommend that you perform this service annually. Think of it like going to the doctor for your annual check up. Having an annual site audit will help make sure your site is healthy and catch any issues before they can become catastrophic.

Check out this video on Search Engine Optimization and learn more about our SEO services. Then go to our Services to learn more about our Site Audit services.

I hope you found this information helpful. And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to chat!

Online Website Booking Increase Revenues and Decrease Workloads

Would you like to increase your business by 25%?  And decrease your workload? Then you should consider adding an online booking tool to your website.

Doing so can increase the number of appointments booked and reduce no-shows by 80%.

Hand writing in an appointment book surrounded by financial icons showing why online booking should be added to a website.

Online booking can increase your business.

When a visitor lands on your website, they are checking you out.  Because your website was so great, they have decided to book an appointment.  Except, you don’t have online booking.  Maybe they will call or send a message.  Or maybe they will go to a competitor who does have online booking.

Studies show that 35% of customers prefer to book online.  In fact, 25% of the 18-34 year old demographic book online exclusively.

Did you know that over a third of all people looking to make an appointment are doing so while office hours are closed?  Online booking makes it easy for them to do business with you.

Built in payment processing tools takes the risk out of being paid.  So if you offer an online or remote service, there is no wishing and hoping you will get paid.  You can even use it to enforce cancellation fees.

How many times has a client not shown up only to hear some variation of “I forgot.”   Online bookings have automated reminders that can significantly reduce “I forgot” which will increase revenue.

Reduce your workload by implementing online bookings

Keeping a paper booking or even trying to manage an online calendar doesn’t scale.  It can be even more complicated and time consuming if your business has multiple practitioners.  You spend a lot of time entering data and then more time trying to manually sync everything up

With an online booking app the client does the data entry.  You just have to verify and confirm.  Plus, your calendar will be automatically synced.

Online bookings means less having to answer the phone or respond to email just to book an appointment.  No more going back and forth to schedule, then reschedule, and then reschedule again. That means more time working on your business.

What happens when a customer needs to change an appointment?  They have to call.  Find out what time works for you.  With an online calendar, they can see what times are available and reschedule with just a few clicks. 

Automate your processes.  You can collect data such as “Is this your first appointment?” when they book.  Do you have an intake form or some other on-boarding package? Those forms can be set up so key data is collected before an appointment.  No more having to remember to send them out separately.

These are just a few of the main benefits to setting up online booking for your website.

Who can benefit from online booking?

Some of the industries that can benefit most from online booking include:

  • Health and Wellness (Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Counseling);
  • Healthcare (Medical Offices, Dentists, Chiropractors);
  • Fitness and Recreation (Health Clubs and Gyms, Personal Training);
  • Salon and Beauty (Hair Salons, Medical Spas, Day Spas);
  • Professional Services (Photographers, Business Coaches, Financial Advisors, Pet Services).

Are you ready to add online booking to your website?  There are many options available to fit any budget or business. 

Give us a call and we can help you integrate a solution that will help you grow your business and reduce your workload.

3 Free Tools for Creating a Color Palette

Paint brushes on a canvas painted in red hues.

Website color schemes have come a long way from the text on white background of the first website.  Modern websites have a wide range of colors and hues available to them.  Today we see a wider range of colors and patterns emerging on websites as they try to engage visitors.

Selecting a palette can be a somewhat daunting task.  Sometimes the color on your business card doesn’t look right on your website.  Or maybe you are not sure what secondary colors you should use. Fortunately, there are free color palette generators available on the web.  Here are three of my favorites.

  • Coolors – https://coolors.co/   This site has a cool tool where you can just hit the space bar and a new color palette appears.  See a color your like?  Lock it and continue using the space bar to find other colors to go with it.

It can also pick colors from an image and you can save palettes you like.  Clicking the Explore feature will bring up thousands of pre-configured palettes to help get your creative juices going.

But, the feature I like best is the color blindness tool.  Click on the ‘eye’ and you can test your palette for eight different forms of color blindness. 

  • Colormind – http://colormind.io/   Like Coolors you can have a palette auto generate, browse palettes that have been created or upload an image to use in creating a palette. 

What it does a little differently is gives guidance on how to use the colors in a palette.  Click on Website Colors, scroll down it describes each of the colors and how best to use them on a website. 

You can upload an image, explore color palettes or use their color wheel to customize a palette.  Once you have a palette in Canva, you can use it to create a graphic. 

Color is such a fun thing to play with.  I hope that you will find these sites helpful when trying to come up with color schemes for all your digital projects.

10 Websites for FREE Professional Images

Finding free images for your website can save money.

Images are really important to a website. They can convey a mood and help reinforce your message. But what to do when you are on a budget.

High quality photos can be expensive. But you don’t want photos on your site to make it look old, dated or even worse – cheesy.

You’re in luck. Here is a list of 10 websites where you can get quality images for free. Yup, that’s right – gratis. These images can be used for websites, blogs and other online projects.

  1. Unsplash – https://unsplash.com/
  2. Burst – https://burst.shopify.com/
  3. PicJumbo – https://picjumbo.com/
  4. Pixabay – https://pixabay.tumblr.com/
  5. Representation Matters – http://representationmatters.me/index.php
  6. New Old Stock – https://nos.twnsnd.co/
  7. ISO Republic – https://isorepublic.com/
  8. Gratisography – https://gratisography.com/
  9. Splitshire – https://www.splitshire.com/
  10. Kaboompics – https://www.kaboompics.com/

These sites operate under different licensing rules, so please be sure to read the fine print.

3 Keys to Writing for the Web

Why Writing for the Web Differs

There are several reasons why writing for the web differs from traditional print.

First, we don’t really read on the web. Most people will scan. And because we scan, we don’t spend a lot of time on a page.

In fact, you probably have about 11 seconds or less to convince a visitor to stay on your site.

Because of these reasons we must create content in way that makes it easier for a visitor to use a website and convince them to stay.

Writing techniques for online content don’t just apply to your static web content. These tips can be used for your blog, social media posts and other online articles.

Benefits to Good Web Writing Practices

Now that we know why writing online content is different let’s look at some of the benefits to these tips and techniques.

It Can Improve Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Rankings

Search engines will look at Titles and Sub-titles to understand what your content is about. Well written content makes it easier for the search engine spiders to crawl and catalog thereby improving the chances your website will appear in search results.

Improves Accessibility

Well structured content can make it easier for visitors who have visual impairments or rely on screen readers to use your site. And there are other benefits to improved accessibility. Accessible websites make it easier for all visitors not just the impaired.

For more information on website accessibility check out this article: https://www.newedgewebservices.com/blog/10-tips-to-help-make-your-website-is-accessible/

Enhances Your Credibility

Good writing and graphics infers you have a strong grasp of the subject matter. This can lead to increased visitor trust.

Visitors are more likely to become customers of people they trust.

Here are 3 Ways to Improve Your Website Content

Use the Inverted Pyramid Technique

Identify your main points. When developing content anticipate questions your may have and be sure you answer them.

What is the most important fact your readers should know if they only read a one sentence of paragraph.  Basically this is the summary and the information that follows will support the summary.

Rank the rest of your information and prioritize it based on what is going to be most important to your audience.

Because you don’t know when a reader will stop reading by following this flow it will help make sure the key parts of your message is delivered.

Write well and keep it concise. Again, people scan so keeping it short and sweet is more likely to be successful.

Front-load each section with the most important information. Again, you never know when they will stop reading and you want to be sure the key message is delivered.

Finally, consider adding a summary or bullet list of important highlights. This will make it easier for the visitor to scan the information and find what they are looking for.

Chunk Information for Readability

Breaking up information into meaningful chunks makes it easier for readers to understand and remember the information. So how do we do this?

First, be sure to use headings and subheadings that contrast with the rest of the text. Make them bolder and larger. This will provide a clear visual clue of the different sections,

Highlight keywords by using bold, italics etc. By highlighting keywords you will draw the readers eye to the most important parts of the content.

However, avoid underlines – unless linking to other content. Underlined content is usually a link to other information. If can confuse a user if they click on underlined content and it doesn’t lead anywhere. They may assume it’s a broken link and that can diminish the site’s credibility in their eyes.

Consider presenting information in bulleted or numbered lists. This can make it easier to digest and comprehend.

Add a short summary paragraph for longer text sections.

Use Plain Language

Writing in plain language communicates information easily and efficiently. Therefore readers can quickly understand your message without having to decipher complicated sentences and vague jargon.

Even experts appreciate plain language.

There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to write in plain language. The first one is to know your audience. Understand how they communicate and try to write in a similar fashion.

Write for a single persona. The more you know about your user the better you can target your writing for them. This will help your writing find a voice. Remember when you write for everyone, you write for no one.

Choose words familiar to your audience. Try to avoid using overly technical language when a more common term will work.

Keep to one idea per paragraph. And use short sentences and paragraphs. It’s okay to have 1-2 sentence paragraphs. Remember we want to keep our writing concise.

Aim for the right reading level. You should tailor your writing for your audience and topic. Here are some guidelines to help.

General Audiences – 6th – 8th grade reading level.

Writing for experts and scholars – 10th – 12th grade level is good

With the ever increasing consumption of content online it is critical to write in a way that supports how we use the web. Using these tips will provide lasting benefits to your website and your business.

10 Tips to Help Make Your Website is Accessible

Web Accessibility GIF

I was on my phone looking up some information recently.  I clicked on the page that had the information I needed and then I cringed.  The page had a black background with a grey font.  Not a light grey either.  The contrast was so bad, the text was barely visible on the screen.

It left me so frustrated! I thought I had found the information I needed, but couldn’t see it.  So I did what any reasonable person would do.  No, I did not throw the phone at the wall in frustration.  Nope.  I moved on to another site.

The second website had the information I needed, but without the barriers that made it impossible to see!

Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more articles on web accessibility.  It’s about time. I’m someone who is passionate about building websites that provide great user experiences.  And a great user experience means making sure a site is also accessible to everyone.

According to the Census Bureau 1 in 5 Americans have some form of disability. That is just people who self-identify as disabled.  Then there are the folks who don’t identify as disabled. They may wear glasses, have issues with color blindness, are sensitive to motion or just experiencing a temporary impairment from a broken bone. Once you add them in, the number of web users that may have trouble with a website increases greatly.

Ignoring accessibility features in web design is foolish at best.  After all it doesn’t make sense to ignore 20% or more of your customer base.

The good news is most accessibility challenges are not difficult to address in your website.

So how do you ensure your website will function for everyone?  By planning for accessibility when designing and coding websites. While you may not be able to plan for every scenario here are 10 steps to help get you started on making your site more accessible.

Web Accessibility GIF

Use ALT Tags for all Images.

Alt text should be provided for all images.  Screen readers use this text to understand the message an image is trying to convey.  The only exception to this rule is when an image is used purely for decorative purposes.

When creating the ALT tag, use text that is meaningful and descriptive to someone who can’t see.  For example instead of “Boy riding a bike”  try “Young boy riding a mountain bike on a sunny day in the park.” The goal is to define the image for your readers.   A good rule of thumb is to create ALT tags that are between 5 and 15 words total.

Provide Subtitles or Transcriptions of Videos.

Videos are cool. In fact, some SEO experts recommend adding video to your site to help improve your search engine rankings.  But what if you have a hearing impairment? That cool video may be less meaningful.

If your site is using videos, try to provide subtitles.  Making a transcription of the video available online is also very helpful for users who may be viewing your video in a coffee shop or office cubicle where they cannot easily listen to the audio. 

 

Video hosting sites like YouTube have tools to assist with these tasks.

Use a Navigation System that is NOT Mouse Dependent

You may have a user who is suffering from a mobility issue such as a repetitive stress injury and are unable to use a mouse. The user should be able to traverse the page and forms with only a keyboard in a logical manner.

Avoid navigation that can only be activated when a user hovers over them with a mouse.  Break up long content areas with anchor links.  These make it easier for keyboard-only users to skip to the most important portions of the page.

Make Clickable Areas as Large as Possible

It can be difficult to hit the bullseye when the target is small.  Some users may have difficulty seeing where to click.  For others, it can be physically challenging to hit the button just right.

When it comes to clickable areas on a page, make sure the area has a wide range.  Bigger buttons are easier to click than tiny boxes.

Allow Users to Control When and How Animations and Videos Play

For users who are sensitive to visual or audio interactions, those cool animations that automatically play can trigger migraines or waves of nausea.  It’s best to allow users to decide which features load and change by providing controls over animation and video features.

Divide Content in Sections with Headings

Modern screen readers have a lot of features to help make reading a web page more pleasant.  One of these is to read out the heading sections to users.  Having headings helps the software do this.

Use your headings to help organize the structure of your content.  And be sure to use the heading types (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>) correctly. Doing so helps all users of your site comprehend the content being presented.

Finally, be sure the headings are meaningful and add to understanding the content.

Color Caution

Color is important to a websites mood and feel.  In fact, good use of color can aid users with learning disabilities. However, some users may have a form of color blindness that prevents them from understanding the message color is supposed to convey.

Be sure to select color palettes and page text that have sufficient contrast to aid uses with low vision or varying levels of color blindness.   Include other visual indicators such as asterisks or question marks and use a visual separation such as borders or white space to distinguish blocks of content.

That Font is Cool Looking.  But What Does it Say?

There is a wide, wide world of fonts. Unfortunately many are difficult to read.  Pick readable fonts such Arial, Courier, and Verdana.

What’s a SCHNOO? Use Periods When Abbreviating or Using Acronyms.

Using abbreviations or acronyms, can save time and space but may cause problems for some screen readers. Common acronyms are usually easily translated. For example, AAA would be read as “Triple A.”  However, SNHU (the abbreviation for Southern New Hampshire University) could come out sounding like Schnoo.  (Gesundheit!)

Needless to say, someone using a screen reader may become confused about what you are trying to say.  Use periods in your abbreviations.  That way S.N.H.U. will come out sounding like “S” “N” “H” “U”.

Avoid using PDFs.

PDFs are only accessible if you make them that way using a not so easy, multi-step process.  Even then, not all screen readers can read the accessibility tags.

Plus, they are nearly impossible to see on a mobile device.  Considering that more and more, we are accessing the web via a mobile device making content available using HTML is more important than ever.

Learn More

If you would like to learn more WC3, the World Wide Web Consortium where web standards are developed has loads of data in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview section https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag.php.

Another good resource is the Assistive Technology Industry Association (https://www.atia.org/at-resources/what-is-at/).  Here you can learn more about how assistive technologies such as keyboards, screen readers and other items work with the web.

Or you can contact me at New Edge Web Services to schedule a consultation to discuss how to make sure your website is accessible for all visitors.