Stay Current with PHP Upgrades

We asked Ryan, our web developer, to explain why PHP upgrades are important for websites. As your bonus, I will once again attempt to translate his answers into common English so we can all understand what is meant. Refer to VIA Idea #44 to see my last translation.

VIA Idea #51: Stay Current with PHP Upgrades

  1. Michelle: Starting with the basics, what is PHP?
    Ryan: PHP is a server-side scripting language designed primarily for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language. PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page but it now stands for the recursive acronym Hypertext Preprocessor. All that means is PHP code can be inserted into the HTML of a Web page.Did you know that as of January 2017, there are over 935 million websites in play on the World Wide Web, and 82.6 percent use a version of PHP? The most-used and supported version is PHP 5.0; these make up 92.3 percent of websites created with PHP code.
    Translation: Website developers really, really like PHP and use it all the time. A “supported software version” means that if a problem occurs, software developers are actively investigating the issue and sending you update patches with the fixes.
  2. Michelle: I’m wondering what other programming languages are out there.
    Ryan: There are dozens out there, some that are well known, such as HTML, ASP and JavaScript. At the other end of the spectrum, there are languages that are rarely used such as Intercal and Whitespace.
    The thing to remember is that even though websites are built in PHP, it doesn’t mean other languages are not used as well. PHP is a server-side script, meaning it runs functions and scripts on your host server before it renders the front end of the website that your visitors will see. PHP works well with other languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and dozens of others to create very powerful websites and applications.
    My Comments: I’m sorry I asked…not sure it matters to our topic of keeping website PHP code updated.
  3. Michelle: Getting back on track: why are there so many versions of PHP?Ryan: People like me work to help grow technology with field advancements in languages such as PHP to bring forth updates and new versions. The most recent version of PHP is v7. Since it is still so new, only 5.5 percent of PHP servers are running it. PHP v5 is still the most-utilized version. Older versions like 5.2x still exist and are used by some web applications, but we are starting to see problems as we move forward with new servers and recent software updates.I skipped PHP v6 because it collapsed in 2010. It’s important to realize that even though it failed, it spawned the intl extension and other features that are now part of the language in v5.x or 7.
    This Means: Programming is always reaching and changing for the better.
  4. Michelle: What happens if I don’t update my PHP version?
    Ryan: If you run PHP v5.2x or lower, you may not initially see anything wrong with your website, but it’s important to remember that your website needs to be up-to-date. New PHP scripts, codes and function may not run on older versions. For example, most content management systems (CMS) on websites run a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, similar to WordPress. This feature requires a minimum version of 5.3 to even run. So as you add new features to your website or CMS, it is imperative that you ensure your server-side software is up-to-date.
    Example: A client of ours recently asked us to add a new CMS feature to the editing part of their website. They wanted a lightweight, stand-alone editor that would allow them to change their website’s text and images. Once installed, we realized the new feature (in this case KCFinder) would not let them employ “image upload” or “file upload”. Only after we tried to upload a file, did we get the warning that the KCFinder required PHP v5.3 or higher. So our client contacted their website host and requested that they update their legacy server. The host informed them that they would be happy to update them to PHP v5.5, from v5.23. Afterwards the client was able to upload images, but a new issue popped up. PHP error codes appeared about “deprecated code” throughout the entire website. We found that the client’s initial CMS installed on the website worked with PHP v5.4 but was never updated for v5.5. PHP v5.5 deprecates the standard mySQL database calls and encourages you to use mySQLI or PDO. We updated all the CMS mySQL calls to the new standard and removed all the errors. Some PHP scripts for special functionality do not work on every PHP version. One seemingly small update started an unforeseen chain of events. Even though it may have been frustrating, it was a good thing to move away from the old server and code.
  5. Michelle: Thank you for that real-life example. Does PHP automatically update itself? How do I know what version my website is running?
    Ryan: PHP needs to be manually updated, and this is best done by a developer to make sure it is a smooth transition.
    Translation: Chances are if your website hasn’t been touched in three years or more, your code hasn’t been touched either. The next time you want to add a new feature or make a change, you may run into a conflict between the server and the code on your website.

If your website is out of date, needs PHP upgrades or suffers from one of the flaws mentioned previously, the VIA Marketing team will be happy to help. Contact Julie and we will recommend PHP updates to keep you on the cutting edge – or at least running without error messages.

7 Critical Website Tips That Will Help Your Business

Some of our website tips are not by any means new; they are just applied to the world’s new way of finding information – websites. Following these simple tips will ensure that people find your website. Once there, they should be encouraged to contact you so you acquire a lead.

Website tips that can help your business

  1. Make Your Website Mobile Friendly (Responsive) – Mobile and tablet usage have surpassed that of desktop, so it’s no surprise that Google and other search engines have modified their algorithms to accommodate this. They are now penalizing you by ranking your site lower than those who have met the mobile standards. A responsive website instinctively resizes itself across multiple viewing devices (from desktop monitors to mobile phones) – no pinching or horizontal scrolling required.
  2. Use Common Words Instead of Industry Jargon – “Too much of a good thing” is a saying we often hear in the world of web design, and the same goes for your content. Some people make the mistake of talking to their audience as if they are experts as well – many times this causes a disconnect. You can’t expect your audience to know all of your technical terms and the lingo of your industry. Write your content on a level that most can understand in order to keep your readers interested. Have someone else proof it and get their opinion.
  3. Optimize Your Website for a Quick Load Time – Do you ever go to a website and give up because it takes too long to load? Unfortunately this is all too common with today’s websites. As we continue to add new ways to engage our audience with moving imagery and fancy content, we can forget the time computers take to load all the assets the website requires. Having a slow website not only discourages your anxious guests, but search engines have added your load time as one of the deciding factors in how high you rank. It’s important that you take load time into consideration. The shorter the load time, the better chances you have of connecting with your audience and being on the first search results page.
  4. Have Clear Calls-to-Action – I once read that you need to tell your audience plainly what you want them to do. Whether it’s to place a phone call to make an appointment, fill out a form or join an e-newsletter group, calls-to-actions help guide your visitor about what to do next. Without these buttons you lose opportunities to capture new leads. Obvious call-to-action buttons and features on your website, with Google Analytics tracking code, will help you and your audience.
  5. Write Relevant Content – When visitors come to your website, they are there for a reason, whether it’s for information about one of your services, help with a problem or an inquiry about a product. Your website should satisfy their question. Write as if you are talking to someone for the first time and answer all of the questions they typically ask. I’m sure you’ve had a conversation with a prospect and know what people inquire about, so you already have a good grasp of what should go on your website. There is a balance between general information, qualifying information, and information that someone really needs to contact you about.
  6. Show Essential Business Information – Visitors to your website also look for your business information. They want to easily access information like your
    • Address, and if you have a brick and mortar store, a link to a map
    • Phone number and email address
    • Social media links
    • Hours and an “about us” page
    • Pricing and how it works

    You’d be surprised how many businesses don’t have this obvious information in an easy place for people to find. If you’re like me, you may tend to stay away from those businesses over security or other legitimate concerns.

  7. Stay Current – More and more, people judge you by your website. Websites with current information, well maintained and contemporary in design, build trust and credibility for your business. That doesn’t mean you need to update your website every month. But if it’s been years since you’ve had a major website overhaul, it’s probably time to change to something more present-day.

If you haven’t looked at your website for some time, take a new look with fresh, discerning eyes. Compare your website to your competitors’ websites. Are there any features that you should add? Is there a better way to point out your advantages over theirs?

If your website is out of date or suffers from one of the flaws mentioned previously, the VIA Marketing team will be happy to help. Contact Julie or call 219-769-2299 to see where to begin.

How to Protect Your Images and Content

With the growth of the internet, image theft and copyright violations have become one of the biggest issues facing website owners. Now with the addition of sites like Pinterest, Flicker, and even Google Images, it is almost impossible to stop your images from being stolen. Is there anything you can do? While a website owner cannot achieve 100% safety, there are steps you can take to protect your brand and your media.

Disabling Right-Click

Website images are stolen by right-clicking. Thieves easily right-click on the image and paste it to their desktop. With the advancement of technology, there are now ways to prevent someone from utilizing this method. Using a simple line of JavaScript code completely disables right-clicking on your website. Although this may seem like a sure way, this only stops a non-tech user. To get around this, a tech-skilled user will just disable JavaScript on their browser, and right-click will work again.

Protect content by disabling right-click

Adding a Copyright Notice/Disclaimer

Although this sounds simple, it’s been shown that adding a copyright notice and disclaimer prevents some people from taking images from your website.


This may not be applicable to all website images, but watermarking helps to stop people from taking images, especially on portfolio websites. You can also accompany a watermark with a notice of usage that urges people to contact the owner for details of the rights of use. This stops a lot of non-tech users, but people with strong skills in any photo-editing software can remove your watermark.

Protect content by placing watermark

DMCA Badge

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Services Ltd. (DMCA) offers free protection for your website, which includes a takedown notice. They also offer a free image watermarking service. Putting a DMCA badge on your site acts as a deterrent for serial image stealers, and DMCA will threaten legal action on your behalf, which usually scares infringers into removing your stolen content right away.

Protect content by placing DMCA badge

In conclusion, there is no surefire way to protect your media from being stolen, but by using one or more of the above methods, you can deter people from taking your images. Pick a method that works best for you. If you have a portfolio-based website, watermarking is the simplest method. Most artists and photographers have their own watermark for professionalism. If you’re a larger company and own a website, a copyright disclaimer and DMCA badge will show your authority. No matter the methods, ensure that you approach and implement them correctly.

If you are concerned about your website’s security, the team at VIA Marketing is here to help. Call or email Julie at VIA to see where to begin.