Tackling Your Website’s ADA Compliance Checklist

Making your website ADA compliant is a tricky and complicated task that’s recently become a hotly debated issue, but we here at IT Decisions are ready to help you get started and up to code!

What exactly is ADA Compliance and why do websites need it?

In a nutshell, ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance is working through a general checklist of tasks and guidelines to make sure your website can be easily and freely accessed by visitors who are differently-abled, such as blind users who use audio narration software to read websites to them or deaf users who need closed captions because they can’t hear the embedded audio in videos. The goal is to ensure that anyone who comes to your site won’t be blocked from accessing any of the content or information by means of good, thoughtful design or alternative methods of accessing the content.

Do all websites have to be ADA compliant?

While the ADA guidelines are vague when it comes to website accessibility it’s become a “better safe than sorry” situation that every site owner should consider, especially if your site is for a government organization or a public service. If a lawsuit is filed that your website is not accessible, you can be accused of discrimination and held liable to the tune of thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees.

Don’t let the threat of a lawsuit make you think accessibility isn’t important on its own! An open and accessible internet for everyone is something all site owners and developers should strive for. When we build a site we make sure that many of these items are cleared right out of the box, like making sure that all images have alt text and every page has a clear heading.

ADA Compliant design is good design!

One of the best things about making your site ADA compliant is that it also results in a clean, usable site for everyone. It can even help boost your SEO rankings! Many of the tasks required to make a site ADA compliant overlap with the ones to make a site user and SEO-friendly, like adding helpful alt text to every important image and using headings to make your site more readable. Getting your site compliant with ADA would work hand in hand with a larger SEO strategy designed to make your site more usable and visible to Google and other search engines.

ITD Interactive has the tools needed to make your site ADA compliant

If your site is a little older it wouldn’t hurt to have it scanned to see what needs to be improved to make your site ADA compliant. Many of the guidelines are common to newer sites, like including closed captions in videos, but if your site was built before video content was common then that’s just one thing that will likely need to be addressed.

ITD Interactive specializes in making websites ADA compliant and we can help make sure your site is both safe from litigation but more importantly accessible to anyone who wants to check out your content.

We’re a local business in Johnson City, Tennessee, but we can scan and improve sites anywhere around the country since these guidelines are so universal.

Contact ITD Interactive today if you’d like us to look at your site to see what it would take to make your website fully ADA compliant.

 

ITD Interactive - Inbound Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and Web Design

Web Design vs. Web Development – What’s the Difference?

As an entrepreneur, sometimes you’ll have a really great idea that won’t quite fit into the boundaries of a traditional WordPress or eCommerce site. There are many plugins and extensions available for each platform that can help make your ideas work but in some cases something more custom-made is better suited for your needs.

So…Web Design or Web Development?

The terms are often used interchangeably, but for the sake of clarity in this article we’re going to differentiate between the two. Web design typically refers to creating the layout and overall look of your site. Web development refers to the actual nitty-gritty of building a site or app like writing code and making major changes to established frameworks.

At ITD Interactive we primarily do our work on two platforms: WordPress for “normal” websites and Magento for eCommerce sites. Both are open source, secure solutions with a rich support network that make building sites for local businesses efficient and cost-effective. If you’ve got a more complicated idea than a standard WordPress or Magento site, custom development may be a better option.

Web Development Work is Customized for You

Since every client is different, our custom development work is a whole new piece of work for each client. One website might need a custom-made price calculator while another might need a color picker to help customers design buildings.

The great thing about WordPress and Magento is they’re easily adaptable with all kinds of available resources, meaning we have everything we need to make your idea work without breaking your budget.

Custom Web Development is Secure and Efficient

WordPress and Magento are open-source platforms, meaning anyone is free to build “plugins” or “extensions” that add new features to a website. Plugins can be useful to quickly make a site come to life but using too many of them can quickly bog your site down with unnecessary functions. Many plugins can be old and out of date with many vulnerabilities that leave your site open to malicious hackers. Other plugins can be full of added features you don’t even need.

Opting for a custom-built website or plugin means you get only what you need out of your website without any bloated unnecessary features that make your site slower and easier for hackers to break into. When you choose to go the custom development route you get only what you pay for — not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Custom Web Development Gives You Complete Control

Since you’re basically starting from scratch, every single facet of your project is totally up to you from the general look and feel of the site to how it reacts to input from users. We’ll work with you to make sure your site looks just the way you want it and works in a way that will keep your users coming back.

This level of customizability gives you an added benefit in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) because we’ll be able to precisely fine-tune it to get you the best results possible without any of the filler that comes in cookie-cutter website templates.

Maybe Web Design is All You Need!

If this all sounds overwhelming and you just need a simple, basic website or eCommerce store, we can certainly help you out with that too! Visit our Web Design services page or read more on our web design and marketing blog for more information.

Your ITD Interactive Project is Yours

Once your site or app is finished by ITD Interactive, it gets turned over to you as the owner whether you’re a web design or full development customer. We don’t retain the rights or hold your site hostage if you decide to move your it to another hosting or maintenance service in the future. Many one-size-fits-all website solutions leave you tied to a contract that means if you stop paying you no longer have a website and have to start from scratch.

With your ideas and our expertise, we can build something together that will make building your brand and business easier than ever before. Ask us how to get started today!

Why Does My Website Say ‘Not Secure’?

If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might have noticed your updated browser is now telling you that some sites are “Not Secure” in big red letters. If you’re a business owner with your own website that’s being flagged this might be even more concerning to you. If you’re wondering what this means and how you can fix it, read on for the full story about SSL and You!

Dealing with Not Secure Website Warnings?Google announced in early 2018 that starting in July their Chrome browser, the most-used desktop browser by a wide margin, would start flagging unsecure sites that aren’t using HTTPS encryption. HTTPS in plain English is the secure version of HTTP, which is one of the basic ways websites are accessed on the internet. HTTPS normally uses SSL for encryption, one type of security certificate that keeps private information transmitted on your site safe from snooping middlemen.

Think about it this way: imagine HTTP is the front door of your business and it has a standard doorknob with a regular old lock on it that you keep locked after hours just in case. HTTPS is that same door but with extra deadbolts added on to beef up your security and keep criminals out.

That’s not to say that any site without HTTPS encryption is automatically in danger of door-kicking hackers! If your site isn’t using outdated contact forms to send private information such as Social Security Numbers, financial information, etc., your site and its users probably aren’t in any real immediate danger without an SSL certificate protecting your site. The reason Google is enforcing this new rule is to encourage site owners to make the switch to HTTPS to create a more secure web with secure and encrypted sites being the default, not the other way around. It’s a great idea in theory, but the only problem with that is many security certificates can be expensive and difficult to install and maintain, many requiring yearly renewals.

If you’re a small business owner who needs a website and you’re scratching your head about all of this, that’s where ITD Interactive comes in! Our standard hosting package for WordPress sites includes a 100% free SSL certificate that we install and maintain for you. You’ll be automatically upgraded to an HTTPS site without any hassle or yearly renewal fees. Your site will be more secure and your users who visit your site in Google Chrome won’t get that annoying message that implies that your site is not safe to visit.  We can also offer more heavyweight worry-free SSL certificates for eCommerce and medical websites that need added protection for an added cost.

If you’ve already got a website you’re happy with, you can still take advantage of this offer. Switch to ITD Interactive hosting and we’ll move an exact copy of your WordPress site to our ultra-secure servers and get your free SSL certificate up and running in minutes. Click here for pricing and more information.

Low-Cost Hubspot Alternatives We Use Everyday

Low Cost Hubspot Alternatives for Marketing AutomationUnless you are new to the world of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation – you have no doubt heard of Hubspot.  You might have even seen a demo or viewed a webinar.  Speaking from personal experience as former Certified Partners, Hubspot is the cream of the crop.  They offer an incredible array of features and insight into your visitors.  There’s just one problem – not everyone can afford the price tag!  The entry level packages start at $200/month, but in order to get the most popular features, you are looking at $800-$1000/mo for a minimum number of contacts.  One of the main reasons Hubspot is so expensive is that they cover so many things on their platform.  Email, Contact Lists, Lead scoring, Content Management, Social Publishing, SEO Analysis, etc.

So What are some Hubspot Alternatives?

One thing we found when we used Hubspot was that being a WordPress user, we weren’t taking advantage of a lot of Hubspots features – but we were sure paying for them!.  So, as much as we loved Hubspot, we decided to take the time to find alternatives that would cost much less, while offering the same results.  We get a lot of questions about hubspot alternatives and decided to write this post to cover some of our favorites.   We hope you will find them useful as well!

Hatchbuck – Marketing Automation

Hatchbuck - Marketing AutomationHatchbuck, which starts at $99/mo, is the most full-featured of the products we chose to facilitate our marketing automation.  Hatchbuck’s standard features include: contact management, lead scoring, form generation & conversion tracking, CRM, email creation. and mass-email service.  In a nutshell – Hatchbuck serves as the core of our marketing automation system.  It handles our marketing emails, automated drip email campaigns, and more.  Hatchbuck keeps track of each visitors activities on our site and wraps it all up in an easy to use contact management interface.  All in all – we couldn’t be happier with Hatchbuck.

WordPress – Content Management

Wordpress for Inbound MarketingOne big criticism many have of Hubspot is their content management system.  It isn’t that their CMS is bad, to the contrary, it is a very robust CMS.  The bigger issue is that there are so many great CMSs out there – why would you want to reinvent the wheel?  There is also the risk of something happening to Hubspot, and your site data is locked in a proprietary CMS that you do not host.  We have long been fans of WordPress for its ease of use and for the fact we can make a WordPress site look any way we wish.  It is a great platform for Content Marketing and is very SEO friendly.  Best of all – WordPress is absolutely free!  Wordpress is by far the most popular CMS out there (in terms of installations, not personal opinion here).  It is also completely open-source and non-proprietary, meaning you can take your site anywhere.

Gravity Forms – Lead Generation

Gravity Forms - Best Form Builder for WordPressFirst of all, Hatchbuck lets you build forms and embed them in WordPress.  However, there are times we would rather control that process entirely on the website.  Gravity Forms makes it quite easy to set up a landing page form with downloadable content hidden behind a form.  Gravity forms is inexpensive ($39 for a single site license), and allows the user to create practically any type of form imaginable.  With their free addons, there is virtually no limit to what you can build.  Order forms, surveys, quizes, and of course – general contact forms.  One of the best things about Gravity Forms is the flexible confirmation and notification options.  You can develop custom notifications based on conditional logic.  For instance – you might have the user choose “general contact” or “technical support” when they fill out the form, and you could display a custom notification based on the choices they make.  These notifications can be used to deliver whitepapers, ebooks, etc.

Lead In – Lead Intelligence

Lead-In - Lead Intelligence for WordPressLead-in is a plugin for WordPress that was actually developed by Hubspot.  The idea was simple – to bring Hubspot-level visitor intelligence to WordPress, and NOT charge for it.  Lead In is a free plugin that offers a lot of additional functionality through “Power-Ups”.  Power-Ups include specialty stats, connectors for popular email services, pop-up forms and more.  Out of the box, Lead In pulls in a good bit of detail about a visitor, once they have filled out a form.  It tracks return visits, gives you detailed drill-down paths so you can study their behavior, and much more.  Lead In can often get the users company name and information, size and even social profiles, making it easy to get some background information on a lead before you reach out to them.

Mailchimp – Email Marketing

Mailchimp - Email Marketing & AutomationPersonally, we route all of our email through Hatchbuck.  However, we have a lot of clients that don’t need that level of marketing automation such as drip campaigns, etc.  For those situations, it is hard to beat Mailchimp.  For the record, you can actually set up drip campaigns in Mailchimp – however, if you plan on doing that a lot, you need to look at a system designed for that sort of activity.  At its core, Mailchimp provides a fantastic interface for creating and designing emails, managing your contact lists, and sending out mass marketing emails.  Mailchimp is free as long as your contact list stays under 2000 members (and you don’t mind the little monkey at the bottom of your emails).  When it becomes time to pay for your account, it starts out at $20-$30 per month.  Very reasonable!

A Final Thought…

This is certainly not an exhausting list of Hubspot Alternatives – if you are truly interested in apples-to-apples competitors of Hubspot, there are a few out there.  Google “marketing automation” and you will find a slew of products that fill this space.  Be warned though, many are equally expensive and some are even more!  If you have that kind of budget, you can’t go wrong with Hubspot.  For start-ups and small businesses, however, part of being a nimble and adaptive business is diversifying your tool-set.  Don’t put all your eggs (data) in one basket.  With the tools we mentioned above, you can put together a customized marketing automation suite that does just what you need.

Need Help with Marketing Automation, Inbound Marketing or SEO?

ITD Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency.  From website and eCommerce development to full-scale inbound marketing and SEO services, we help businesses, large and small, increase their exposure online and generate more leads.  We have services available for all sizes of businesses and budgets.  Click on the link below to find out more!

ITD Interactive - Inbound Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and Web Design

 

Going Where Businesses Don’t Want To Go And BUYERS Do: Cost

SearchHere’s a little secret. The price of your product or service is probably already out there.

It’s a fact with which few in the business, and especially sales, world are not comfortable. For most of us, we set a price on our product or service that is indicative of the value we bring to the lives of those who will purchase it.

We can make their lives easier, better, more enjoyable, etc. And we put a price on our widget/service that matches that confidence.

But apprehension talks to us. It whispers in our ear.

“If you throw your price out there, you’ll lose business. You’ll scare people away who might become customers. Your leads will dry up.”

But leads don’t pay your bills, clients do. And the time you spent on unqualified leads could have been time spent taking care of existing customers, or nurturing qualified leads, or building content that draws in qualified leads. (more…)

A Simple 5-Minute SEO Checklist for your Blog

seo checklistWant to know the secret to dominating search engines for your targeted keywords?  You might be surprised to know that the secret isn’t in how much money you pay your SEO firm – the secret is in the QUANTITY of high-quality content on your website, that is optimized around your target keywords.  It’s true!  Instead of spending thousands of dollars and living in constant fear of the next Google upgrade, build search traffic the RIGHT way. (more…)

Consumer Trends, General, Local Search Optimization, Local SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Checklist, SEO for Small Business, Website Design, Websites