Waterlink Web gives back

How Do You Decontaminate a Polar Bear?

Greenpeace protest on the St. Johns Bridge with protestors dangling from the Bridge
First morning of the Greenpeace protest with volunteers in place on the St. Johns Bridge.

Last week was a hot one in St. Johns. The temperatures exceeded 100 and the St. Johns Bridge, which never takes a bad photo, exceeded the usual expectations of beauty with the addition of dangling Greenpeace volunteers, pennants waving in the breeze, and blue lights shining through the night. If the Bridge were a woman, she would have been Halle Berry dressed for the Oscars.

I walked down each morning and each evening to see and to marvel. I work from home, designing websites for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. My skills are in demand, and it’s not often that I take time during the work day for a walk. Still, for this event, I took the time.

I went even though I am conflicted. Yes, I walked there in sandals made, at least in part, from petroleum. Yes, I own a car. Yes, my home uses oil to heat. Of course, I am conflicted.

learn WordPress

Get Searched … In a Good Way

Every day web visitors use Google or Bing to search for a solution to their problems. So, how do you go about submitting a website to Google or Bing? Did you know that WordPress has site analytics as part of the JetPack plugin?

Mary Ann Aschenbrenner leading a Portland WordPress MeetUp.
Mary Ann Aschenbrenner leading a Portland WordPress MeetUp.

At yesterday’s Portland WordPress MeetUp I walked about 40 WordPress users through the steps of submitting a website to major search engines and then what to do with the data.

Review the presentation below. I enabled full screen and the pan and zoom feature we have come to expect from Prezi.

Or, contact me to have your website optimized for organic search engines.

grow a business on the web

Growing a Business

Growing a business is somewhat like growing a garden.  It requires an economy that is loamy and workable, the fertilization of your creativity, ideas or seeds that are fresh and the favor of fortune shining on your work.  It also requires the hardships of chilly rain to strengthen your resolve and business savvy.

Sunflowers on Dog Mountain

The past year blessed me with all of the above while growing Waterlink Web!  I know that this economy is workable because small businesses ready to succeed are coming to me.  Each new website that I design and develop brings out more creativity.  None are alike.  Just as each client and his or her business is unique so are the websites I make.

Website design and development is a field constantly changing and adapting to new technology, new coding languages and new design requirements.  Every day I gather these fresh seeds while I study, research and learn about the latest techniques and search engine optimization updates.

Fortune has also favored me in 2014 as one client lead to another and contacts and referrals blossomed into friends.  There were hard times, of course. Weekends when I stayed in the office, days when the demands of children, husband and home took priority and, of course, occasional technical difficulties. I am grateful for 2014 and look forward to 2015.

Happy New Year!

content creation

Waterlink Web Adds Content Editor, Katherine Miller

I am so pleased to announce that Katherine Miller has joined Waterlink Web as our Content Editor!

A well-designed website is only part of the package. An effective experience for users also demands top-quality writing and marketing. Katherine’s 20 years of experience as a communications specialist, expert writing skills and media insight are key to Waterlink Web’s strategy.

Katherine Miller, content editor at Waterlink Web
Katherine Miller, Content Editor at Waterlink Web

Katherine Miller most recently was with The Oregonian, where she was an editor and regular contributor of both editorial and marketing material. Her extensive background in media includes writing and editing for digital, print and television. These included a public television station, several major metro dailies (such as the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the San Francisco Examiner), a regional wire service, and OregonLive, the website for The Oregonian.

While at The Oregonian Miller demonstrated her versatility as a writer with profiles, long-form features, copywriting, Q&As, book reviews, display type, and more.

Katherine Miller in her own words

My goal is delivering a client’s message in clear, concise and lively copy that engages and inspires readers — from the brief and pithy to the in-depth and thought provoking,” said Miller. “I’m excited to help expand Waterlink Web’s line of services and apply my skills in this dynamic field.

Waterlink Web is a full-service interactive agency offering website development, strategic marketing, Google analytics, Search Engine Optimization, WordPress websites, WordPress training, and website maintenance.

learn WordPress

Safeguarding Your WordPress Clients Presentation

Since launching Waterlink Web I have frequently helped clients who came to me with lovely websites, beautifully designed, but missing key safeguards to protect their site from hackers. These clients paid for websites but were never given the essential training in how to post, add categories and tags and, most importantly, how to help their website’s Search Engine Optimization.

This post includes the content from a July 2014 WordPress Users MeetUp where I spoke on “Safeguarding Your WordPress Clients” and the elements that should be included in every WordPress site but often are not.

Security Begins with a Name

Mary Ann Aschenbrenner delivering a WordPress presentation
I would smile, but this is serious.

What I am referring to here is the User Name. When a WordPress designer adds a client to administer the website, the User Name should be unique, hard to guess and something the client will remember and like using. It cannot be changed!

Never make it “admin.” Admin is the most common user name in WordPress and the first thing hackers will guess when trying to break into a website.

Security Continues with a Password

Have you heard the term “password rot?” What this means is that your password is the strongest on the day it is created. Once we create a password we think it is clever, we can remember it and we start using it on multiple sites.

Well, your WordPress site may be pristine without malwear but another site you log into may not be. So, the “bots” on that other site get your password and then they can log into other sites you frequent, including your WordPress site.

Ideally a Different Password for Each Site You Visit

So how do we track all of these different passwords? There are plenty of tools that can help from low tech to high tech:

  • Sticky Notes, while decidedly low-tech, no “bot” has ever looked into a desk drawer and found the list of passwords.
  • Password Managers, such as 1Password for Mac or LastPass, can ease the burden of remembering passwords.
  • Two-step authentication, offered by Google as well as GetClef, this password system can require a telephone for additional authentication and protection.

If you cannot manage all of your passwords, then pick the passwords that are most important and manage those.

Updating also Safeguards Your Clients

It is frightening how many WordPress sites are designed and turned over to clients without the necessary training in how to update the plugins or theme, leaving these sites potentially open to hackers.
As President of Waterlink Web I always make sure each client is taught how to do the basic security maintenance on their website.

Include a Backup Plugin

Every WordPress site should be secured with a backup plugin. There are various options including Vault Press, a premium plugin that is included in JetPack. At this MeetUp most users preferred the following:

Include a Search Engine Optimization Plugin

Good Search Engine Optimization helps your client be successful. If your client is successful, then you are successful.
Good SEO is never really done. It includes content that is kept current, that users want to access and link to. One of the things that makes WordPress such a great tool is that once the site is set up it is easy for your client to add new and engaging content and, with a little help, improve their SEO. Waterlink Web includes Search Engine Optimization with each site we design and develop.
The SEO plugin I prefer for my clients is WordPress SEO by Yoast. I prefer it because it is easy to follow the steps for improving your SEO on each page of your site and provides an overall ranking for your pages.

Blog Posts – Never Leave Uncategorized

Because we have all posted, at least once, without selecting or adding a Category, do your clients the favor of eliminating “Uncategorized” on their posts.
This is how:

  1. In the admin panel, under Posts, scroll to Categories and select. Put in a Category, something that will always describe your posts, such as your website name.
  2. After that is saved, go to Settings and scroll to Writing. Under Default Post Category select your new default and save it.

Now your posts will never be “Uncategorized.”
I also recommend brainstorming with your client before turning the website over and inserting a series of Categories that he or she can draw from when Posting.

Blog Posts – Categories and Tags

Just as each post should have a Category, Tags are also helpful both in SEO and in helping your users find content on your website.
Think of Categories as chapter titles in a book and Tags as a listing in an index. For example, if your website is about hats, then Categories might include Cowboy, Fedora, etc. Tags might by felt and straw because many hats are made of felt or straw.

To Learn More …

Just log into the Waterlink Web – About page to learn more about me and how my marketing background will help your website and business succeed. My goal is your success.

Waterlink Web gives back

Gone Green

Waterlink Web is a green company partially powered by a solar array and located on a Gold Certified Backyard Habitat property. This is not a new thing for us, nor is it something we have “advertised” in the past. It is just our way of life and another example of our commitment to the community.

Solar panels at Waterlink Web
Solar Panels on the Waterlink Web roof supply clean energy.
Certified Backyard Habitat
Yes, Waterlink Web is in a Certified Backyard Habitat.

Controversy surrounds “green washing” or as Wikipedia puts it, “… when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being ‘green’ … than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices.” Another excellent resource about green washing is, a site sponsored by Greenpeace.

Waterlink Web is green because it inherits the philosophy and practices of my husband and myself, Mary Ann Aschenbrenner. We went “green” over 20 years ago when we stopped using chemicals and pesticides in the garden and lawn, choose native plants for landscaping and began composting kitchen scraps.

Today we operate a small apiary of organically tended honeybees, raise chickens for eggs and, just over a year ago, put up the money to install a solar array on our roof. While it will take about six more years for our solar array to completely pay for itself, we see the results every month in a smaller electric bill. Some months the solar array contributes half of the electricity used, more frequently one-third, but even in the winter months, when we see short days and rain in Western Oregon, it still contributes.

As a green interactive agency, Waterlink Web is proud to build websites for small businesses and non-profits that share our values of sustainability and community involvement.  We know that how we treat each other and the earth is the legacy that counts.

Waterlink Web gives back

The Rewards of Consistency

When I first imagined the Pier Park Pick-Up in 2008, it was with a ragtag board of volunteers, all members of Friends of Pier Park. We are dedicated to the protection and improvement of this North Portland Park and knew it would take more than just our members to tackle the invasive ivy that covered an entire hillside along one sheltered valley and was established at the north end of the park as well. We knew we needed help.

Trilliums at Pier Park

The encroaching ivy was a threat to the native understory of ferns, wood violets and trilliums, a threat that could eventually rise to choke the Douglas firs that dominate the Park. One member suggested we call SOLVE to get help. SOLVE staff suggested we schedule our event to coincide with the SOLVE IT Earth Day event sponsored by Portland General Electric.

It was a brilliant suggestion. Over the past six years that we have pulled ivy, blackberries, holly and even Japanese knotweed, it has always been with the help of volunteers from companies across Portland. One year it was Boeing who showed up with 50 volunteers including spouses and children. This year it was a law firm, Perkins Coie, who arrived early and prepared with gloves and tools.

Mary Ann and other volunteers at the 2014 Pier Park PickUp
Mary Ann Aschenbrenner and other volunteers at the 2014 Pier Park PickUp

Along with our own volunteers and the support of Portland Parks staff I am proud to say that we have beaten back the ivy and the blackberries are at bay. The knotweed is nowhere to be seen and the holly starts that came up over the past year are removed. In fact, even the amount of litter picked up seems to decline each year.

This is the reward of consistency. In North Portland, in a neighborhood park that features a Sequoia grove and a forest of Douglas Fir, the ivy that is taking over so many of our public forests is virtually gone. Thank you SOLVE. Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who have come out over the years to Pier Park for the annual SOLVE IT event. You have made a difference!

Volunteer group at 2014 Pier Park Pick-Up
Volunteer group at 2014 Pier Park Pick-Up
Waterlink Web clients

Usability Testing Rocks

If you are striving for excellence in a website, usability testing is essential.
A couple of months ago I completed a site for a young local attorney, David James Robinson.

My client loved it. I loved it. Then I asked another attorney, a cousin, to run a usability test. He thought it was great, but …

A few changes later it is even better.
Check out the photos and see if you can find at least three differences.
You can navigate to David’s website at 

By the way, I definitely recommend David as an attorney!
Check back next week to learn more about setting up your own usability test.

David James Robinson website by Waterlink Web
WordPress site for estate and business planning attorney.
David James Robinson website by Waterlink Web
WordPress site for estate and business planning attorney.
usability testing

Finally, the Usability Test

Usability testing seems to be the overlooked stepchild of web design.

As web designers and builders we put energy into selecting fonts, styling, colors, logos, search engine optimization, writing and rewriting copy, photography and editing photos, etc. all the while working effectively and efficiently with our clients. When we get to that place in the process of developing a website where the client is happy and the site is finished, it is natural to feel our work is “done.” Without a usability test or two and the subsequent improvements, however, our website will not be complete.

Simple user testing, also called debugging design, will eliminate the irritating but common quirks that crop up in websites. Quirks such as content that is too busy or difficult to scan, clickable areas that are too small and overly long registration forms, just to name a few. These website problems turn users off, can cause our clients to lose customers and will keep our websites from performing as hoped.

Following through with simple usability tests is a debt we owe to our clients and ourselves in the effort to make our websites not just good, but excellent.

grow a business on the web

Genuine and Certified

Website Design and Development Certificate awarded to Mary Ann Aschenbrenner

After a year or so of study, learning and working all the while, I am now official. Officially certified, that is, in Website Development and Design.

This is not my first degree, that one is from the University of Puget Sound where I was an Honors student focused on English with an emphasis on Writing. That was followed by a stint as a sports writer for a local newspaper and several years in marketing, specifically, marketing carpool matching websites for local governments involved in transportation planning.

What I love about web design is seeing small business clients succeed with the websites that I created. These websites will serve my clients for years. The expert training and feedback I received from Portland Community College, one of only three colleges in the country that offers this program, has enabled all this to happen.

Thank you PCC.