Posts Tagged ‘website’

One of my clients is in a frustrating situation that my business, Manage My Website, is trying to sort out.

They’re a small business with four divisions, eight domain names and four websites. Their problem? Each website has been designed by a different agency or freelancer and each is hosted separately. My client is desperately trying to get hold of the vital information my business needs to help them gain control of the whole lot.

The lesson here is that it’s crucial to ask your web designer to give you all of the contact details, URLs, usernames and passwords for all of your websites, content management systems, email accounts and hosting services. That way, if anything goes wrong, you can get it fixed quickly and with minimum fuss. You don’t need to do anything with this information other than keep it somewhere safe (preferably in a few places) and make sure you can access it if need be.

Imagine if one day you decide to change a few images on your homepage or add a page to your website. You try to contact your web designer, only to find they’ve emigrated to Australia without leaving a forwarding address. You’re stuck.

Even worse, imagine if you’ve bought an existing business along with its website(s), which you urgently need to update. You need to make sure you know who designed and built your sites and how you can contact them if you need to.

You must also find out whether you own your domain name (you should) and when it’s up for renewal.

If you need to make backups or update or develop your website, do you know how to access your website files? Does your web hosting company offer automatic daily backup services and is this included in your contract? When does your web-hosting contract expire? How much disk space is included in your web-hosting package and how much of it remains?

Simply knowing the answers to these key questions can help to ensure your website continues to run like clockwork.

Alex Astell, Manage My Website


Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

Unfortunately the web design world is not regulated in any way. Awards can be won for design but the technical code that drives the website is often given little importance. When commissioning a website it’s so easy to get swept away with fantastic design or worse still to to opt for a low budget/DIY option. Either way, many business owners judge a website only based upon how it looks. They often completely overlook the code *under the hood*.

Skimp on the code and your website will cost you more in the long run. Here’s five reasons why.

  1. Google. Ensuring that your website is well coded will make Google and the other search engines very happy. In return your website will feature in more search results and benefit from more visitors. Your website does not have to include search engine optimisation (SEO) at the time of purchase to be search engine friendly. If you later decide to hire an SEO expert they will much prefer having some nice code to work with.
  2. Accessible. A well coded website will be accessible to visitors with different sized monitors, different software, different hardware and to people of all abilities. Not only is there a legal and moral obligation to ensure that the website can be viewed, it will also increase your customer base.
  3. Cross browser compatible. OK so you only use one computer and one browser to surf the internet but your visitors combined will have a wide array of different applications. Some are using browsers that are 10 years old and others are bang up to date. Your website should downgrade gracefully, meaning that it could take advantage of new features but still display nicely without them on the older browsers.
  4. Fast loading times. How annoying is it when you have to wait for a web page to load? Perhaps there is a big spinning image on the screen to remind you to wait? Your customers won’t want to wait. When coded in the right way, your website pages should be light and fast to download.
  5. Most important – easy to update. Did you know that if your website is coded correctly you should be able to do simple things like changing the banner on every page with just one line of code? This is because well coded websites use different files, one file for the content (HTML) and another for the design (CSS). If your website is not well coded you could end up paying for a lot of development time should you want to have it redesigned in the future.

Ensuring that the website is all neat and tidy backend shouldn’t cost much more initially but it is guaranteed to last longer and give you better results. Even if you out-grow the design the code behind can be built upon like building bricks.

If you are buying a website then please do ask your website designer/developer how it will be coded. Ideally you are looking for a website written in XHMTL/CSS and one that is absolutely not table driven. Beware of purchasing sites with content management systems (CMS) that do not generate very good code. If in doubt – get a second opinion.

Zoe Brown, B Websites Ltd

A version of this post originally appeared on the B Websites blog.


Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

Create a professional looking site in under 30 minutes: Easy things to install on your web hosting

If you need to create a presence on the Internet and you already have web hosting, then there are a few things that you can do to create a professional looking site in under 30 minutes.

Blogging – WordPress
Using a blog is one of the most effective ways to build a following and create a professional web presence with little fuss. The results won’t be immediate, but with continued blogging, you’ll soon start dominating your key search terms. Blog frequently, with no less than 300 words on topics related to the words that you’ve discovered people use when searching for your products or services.

WordPress is software that is completely customisable and can be used for practically anything you need. There is both a downloadable version, suitable for parking at your web host (e.g. http://www.myblog.com), as well as more limited online version (e.g. myblog.wordpress.com).

Due to the flexibility of WordPress, you can tailor the look of your blog accordingly by downloading hundreds of free WordPress themes, or by purchasing one that better suits your needs. You can also engage WordPress designers to create bespoke themes at a later stage if you wish to add to the unique nature of your blog.

These days, it’s possible to use specially designed software to convert or transform your WordPress blog into a Joomla Site so that if you want to give your blog greater functionality and potential later, then it’s possible.

CMS – Joomla
Joomla is a powerful Content Management System, or CMS, which easily allows you to build your own website. Many successful businesses that do not want to spend a fortune on designers fees and wish to retain complete control of their website choose Joomla software. Joomla is easy to use, flexible and can be tailored to your precise needs. It’s completely free to download and there’s a great deal of help and support both on Joomla’s website and across the Internet.

A content management system will help you to get found on the Internet. The CMS organises and maintains all of the content on your website and presents it to you in a way that makes it very easy for you to create, edit and publish your content to the website. With Joomla you can add music, text, photos, video – whatever you need, it’s all very simple. The main advantage of using Joomla is that CMS systems like this do not require you to have any programming skills, so once you’ve mastered the basics of Joomla, you can quickly create great looking pages without the need for technical expertise or experience.

Forums/Community Site – SimpleMachines
A great way to create interest in your site, build online credibility and drive traffic towards your products or services is to create a forum or community site. You can add an online community to your website using Simple Machines Forum. They offer a professional software that’s completely free and only takes a few minutes to setup and get running. It has a completely customisable layout and unique technology allowing your website and the forum software to work together seamlessly.

A forum is the perfect tool for bringing people to your site. There they can express their opinions on a range of subjects, all under your watchful eye, and every comment or question they add helps you to attract more people to your site.

So what are you waiting for?

Peter Gradwell, Gradwell


Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

OK, so you’ve thought about a fantastic name for your company and it’s time to purchase your website domain. Before you hit the purchase button, it’s always a good idea to run your decisions past someone else.

Why? Because, by shortening two words or more by simply removing the spaces in your business name, your domain name could attract an unwanted audience.

All of the businesses below didn’t spend quite enough time considering how their URLs might appear – or be misread…

  • So you want to find out the name of the agent or agency that represents any celebrity in the world, so you can book them for your upcoming event? Who better than ‘Who Represents’ [www.whorepresents.com]?
  • You’re a programmer and you need advice or want to provide advice to other programmers. Where better than ‘Expert Exchange’ [www.expertsexchange.com]?
  • Looking for a pen? Look no further than ‘Pen Island’ [www.penisland.net]?
  • Need a therapist? Try ‘Therapist Finder’ [www.therapistfinder.com]?
  • In Italy and need to contact a power company? ‘Italian Power Generators’ can be found at www.powergenitalia.com
  • And don’t forget the ‘Mole Station Native Nursery’ in New South Wales 
  • If you’re looking for ‘IP computer software’, there’s always www.ipanywhere.com.
  • Decided you have found God and want to attend church? Then you might want to head over to the ‘First Cumming Methodist Church Web’. Their website is www.cummingfirst.com.
  • And finally the designers at ‘Speed of Art’ await you at their wacky Web site – 

The serious point is, always check your domain spelling and the way it reads. It saves on embarrassing marketing issues or red faces in front of clients later on.


Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

Start up business owners absolutely can’t ignore the opportunities that are available online to market their small business. As great an opportunity as there is, it’s also a pretty daunting task for a new business – especially if you’re not an expert in getting attention on the web.

The good news is, keeping it simple is one of the best ways you can ensure that your website is ticking all of the boxes and serving the purpose it needs to for potential customers or business partners.

Stefan Tornquist, Research Director of Marketing Sherpa, talks about improving your search rankings organically through relevant website content. As a small business owner, how easy do you find it to write copy and articles for your business? Is it something you can do yourself, or do you prefer to outsource this job?

Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

All start-ups must consider how they pinpoint the ‘relevancy’ between what their business offers and what there website does. Follow the R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T marketing approach and soon you will find your online activities gathering pace.

Relate to your site visitors needs
Spend time understanding how users find your site, what they do when they’re there and how they exit. Building a picture of your typical user will allow you to quickly identify their needs, what information they’re looking to acquire and how you may persuade them to interact with you and your business. Knowing the pitfalls encountered on your website enables you to react and adapt to maximise your online ROI.

Engage your visitors
Don’t be afraid to ask. Use your website as a communication tool – not simply as a corporate brochure. Giving your customers what they want – relevant and topical information – will build confidence in your offering. Think of it as a conversational piece: the first question they ask is through their initial Google search, so make sure your page(s) respond to that question.

Learn from your visitors
Know how visitors interact on your website and communicate with them directly. Make sure this critical information is leveraged in your business’ best interests. Communicate internally. As an example, if the same question is being asked repeatedly online, see how this can be adapted to your own offline sales techniques. Understanding what your customers’ current requirements are from their search requests can have massive impact upon your business.

Excite your visitors
Once you give the end user what they’re looking for, whether product or service offering, catch them there and then. Don’t be afraid to offer them further free information in return for their email address, which will allow you to communicate directly. They’re sat there thinking – “GREAT! Finally found what I was looking for” – but we know that potentially a competitor’s website is just a click away. Retain your visitors’ interest by giving them what they want and by offering a little bit more.

Value your visitors’ time
First and foremost – give your customers what they’re looking for. Structure your website so they can find exactly what they’re looking for. Not only does a well constructed website get a general thumbs up from the end user, it’s also a great search engine optimisation tool.

Anticipate your visitors’ needs
By using specific trigger terms within search (eg “buy”, “shop for”, “info” or “help”) you can quickly understand your visitors’ needs and wants. If you’re a retailer, structure your website to offer both an easy route for product information and an even easier route to buy that product. Certain high value products may require a customer to go away and think about the potential transaction. Anticipate this by offering a link to your site RSS feed, a telephone number or a simple email enquiry.

Nurture your visitors’ trust
If the information you provide upon first glance ticks visitors’ “Yes, this is what I’m looking for” box, then capture their attention and nurture the relationship. Remember, whatever your industry, the visitor may or may not know of your business and it offering. If your offline sales process is complex, don’t simply throw your visitors into a website with “BUY NOW” buttons flashing and scripted content that can be found on any of your competitors’ pages.

Test your message
Sceptical about which approach works best with which visitor? Use free offerings such as Google Website Optimiser, which allows you to offer different pages to individual visitors. This A/B approach allows you to quickly identify which messaging works best and provides you with the necessary focus for future marketing activity.


Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

For many Start-ups, the website is an early investment, and for many more an early headache. To avoid common mistakes, it can be good to adjust the way you think about your site. Rather than thinking of it as a project or a tool, think of it as your first employee – a valued member of the team to be nurtured and developed.

Key ways in which a website is like an employee:

  • It has a specific set of tasks to perform
  • It needs a development plan if it is to continue to perform at its best
  • It needs regular updates to stay current – like a training plan
  • It relies on input from various other team members to do its job
  • Not everyone will like it all of the time

A website has a permanent, full time, role in your business: It never ceases to amaze me how many small businesses think of a website as a self-contained project – with beginning, a middle and (even more worryingly) an end. You wouldn’t recruit someone into your business and think that, once they’d signed the contract, their job was complete or that they’d stay exactly the same as the day they walked through the door. Neither should you think the same of your website.

A person comes to your company with some skills and knowledge, but over time they will gain more specific knowledge about your company, and become more skilled as they learn on the job or undergo formal training and development. A website is just the same – however well conceived and delivered, it is only when real people start to interact with it that you’ll know what really works, and what doesn’t, on your site. Through reviewing analytics and undertaking user-testing and feedback, you will be able to constantly refine and improve your website’s performance. Which brings me to performance… you’re likely to set of minimum performance standards for your staff, have you done the same for your website? And, do you have the tools to measure against those standards.

And of course, things change. Think also of a scenario in which your employee’s area of the business is subject to some sort of change (legal, environmental, new product, etc.) – they’ll need to adapt and respond. Your website is no different. Just because it was beautiful when you launched it, it may not be in a new context. What’s more, this is technology we’re talking about. The tech big boys work to a circa 6 month product development cycle – the pace of change is fast and furious. If your website is to stay current, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the new trends, like Twitter, Tag Clouds, etc… and whatever is just around the corner.

But, it many ways it is even better than an employee:

  • It never sleeps
  • It doesn’t take holidays
  • It won’t sue you if you change its role or replace it with a new one

Useful people management techniques you can apply to your website:

  • Write it a job spec
  • Set a basic salary (hosting, support, regular updates)
  • Set a commission plan (invest a percentage of the revenue it delivers back into traffic generation and improvements)
  • Have a weekly one-to-one (update content, check stats)
  • Conduct a monthly review (stats, performance targets, etc)
  • Conduct a quarterly appraisal – consider a 360 appraisal where you get feedback from all users
  • Set a ‘training’ budget – essential updates, spring cleaning, new features

For many businesses, the website is probably quite an early investment – thinking of it as your first ‘employee’ is a healthy starting point – meaning you’ll feel happier with seeing it as an ongoing task rather than a one-off project. For other businesses, particularly ecommerce businesses, your website is more like a team of employees, rather than just the one – and just like a team of people you’ll need to think about the way that individuals interact, etc.

This is even more critical in a Startup. By the very nature of your business being new, you’ll need to test and learn. And what’s more, money is tight at the beginning of any business – if you simply invest and ignore, you’re wasting precious funds. By going into a relationship with your website, based on the certain knowledge that it is an ongoing task, your initial and ongoing investments are money well spent.

So, if you think your web project has come to an end because you’ve gone live… I advise you to think again. I advise you to think of your website as a valued member of your team and to treat it accordingly.


Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »