Whether face to face or on the web, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. This short checklist contains “must haves” for a website. It’s unbelievable to leave them off a website. We’ve seen web developers as well as web do-it-yourselfers not provide the following.
Phone number – You’ve lost credibility right away if there is no phone number. Many people – yes even today – understand that talking actually accomplishes more faster.
Contact email – We recommend posting an email address. Some use forms keeping email hidden. Forms are easily “spammed” making more work.
Business location – Tell visitors at least what city you’re in. Customers wanting to deal locally appreciate this.
Hours of operation – Whether you expect foot traffic or take appointments, there’s nothing worse than guessing whether you’re open or not.
Who to deal with – Let visitors know who they can deal with. Staff shrouded in anonymity don’t appear helpful.
Aesthetics – Websites should appear clear and organized. Visitors expect some things in certain places – like navigation. Make it easy find items/topics and get around the site.
Website success happens by building visitors’ confidence in your business. Providing as much information as possible will help immensely with this process. Contact your web services provider for assistance. They, just like we at CharlesWorks, should be there to help.
Domain ownership is like home ownership. Domain fees are like home taxes. Stop paying taxes and see who really owns your home!
Domains are sold through hundreds of “domain registrars” around the world. It costs in excess of $50,000 to become a registrar. Registrars answer to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It maintains a database of all domains to ensure domains can’t be duplicated.
Most domains are registered by web development companies. Accepted common practice is to obtain domains for their client, set it up and build a website accessible with it.
Losing a domain can easily be avoided. Common reasons I have seen for folks to lose their domain names are as follows, in the most common order:
1. Renewals ending up in spam buckets or returned with dead/outdated email addresses.
2. Church parishioners/employees who have a falling out.
3. Business employees who move on regardless of circumstances.
Avoid Gmail, Yahoo or other “freebie emails” with your domain. You’ve ZERO control over and can’t even call them.
Seek out reputable web developers OUTSIDE your organization to handle your domain names. Avoid “one man shows” and startup developers. Use BBB accredited businesses who’ve been at it at least 10-20 years. They’ll likely look out for you and protect your domains.
People purposely search the web, looking for services or information. Ten seconds is what websites have to grab their attention.
They land on your impressive looking site with beautiful graphics moving all about the page.
The clock’s ticking. “Come on already!” they’re thinking. They hit that back arrow – they’re off to another website!
Or they’re at your page with oodles of information! They scan left to right, top to bottom. “Oh, that looks interesting over there!” and in the blink of an eye, they’ve clicked on an ad – and off to someone else’s website.
Viewers always judge websites by clarity, design, and detail.
Do your aesthetics relate its message, using appropriate colors, fonts, graphics, etc.?
Is content structured to quickly determine:
•What is your website about?
•How you can help them?
Is your website cluttered with ads or distractions, diluting its message?
Whether you or a professional designed it, have someone unfamiliar with your website or your business sit down and give their opinion.
Ten seconds is about all you have to gain a viewer’s trust and interest. Both the design and structure of your content are crucial elements in keeping a viewer on your site – and turning them into a customer.
Many tell me “Facebook is a waste of time – a real time-sucker.” That’s true for those who believe it. Yet, there’s great value in a Facebook presence.
Many business startups think just a Facebook page can grow their business. While not impossible, it’s as likely as winning the lottery.
Sending potential customers to Facebook subjects them to Facebook’s ads promoting one’s competitors. I’ve also seen embedded Facebook information on business pages listing the business’s competitors. Part of a web presence is to only have one’s business put in front of potential customers. That’s what effective advertising is about.
Facebook is free. It’s amazing what people do NOT notice when they think they are getting something for nothing.
Many forget Facebook is online to make money for Facebook. Businesses exist to generate income and keep the people running it employed. Nothing wrong with Facebook doing that. We just need to understand when it’s helpful for our own cause – and when it is harmful.
Links from other websites to your own are very helpful for increasing search engine placement. The very best value of Facebook business pages is to have lots of information on them that links visitors back to your own website.
So many services try to persuade us to access, link to, or download from “The Cloud.”
What is “The Cloud” anyway? A magical portal in the sky wherein lies knowledge and wisdom? Information stored in the atmosphere’s ionized particles? Aliens storing our information in flying saucers accessed by our Smartphone’s?
“The Cloud” simply refers to computer networks connected to the Internet. We’ve renamed something that’s been around for a while now.
When you’re using any device – whether it’s a desktop, laptop, smartphone, iPad, table, or whatever – that is connected to the Internet, you’re accessing a massive network of computers. This is often called accessing “The Cloud.” There really are no “clouds” involved at all. All of the servers and machines that supply all of the information we access all reside in various physical machines in many places all over the planet.
While all of what’s necessary to make the Internet happen is complex, it’s not magic. Dealing with local companies – a local “cloud” – really helps local economies. By lumping everything Internet into “the cloud” it’s easy to be helping distant economies instead of your own.
Local web companies can set people up in a LOCAL “cloud” where they can store the files needed to operate their websites to do business.
Last week I wrote about possible dangers of “FREE” offerings.
While verbiage varies, the end result is the same if you follow their link: headaches of an unimaginable magnitude for you!
Here’s an example of many I see each day in our company emails:
Dear firstname.lastname@example.org ,
Your mailbox quota is full.
This may cause your mailbox to be disabled or you may no longer be able to receive more emails
to continue using your mailbox. You will need to upgrade your mailbox quota immediately. This service is free.
Re-update your account
Note: Failure to update your account might lead to permanent deactivation of your account.
The Security team. 2019
Clicking lands you on an extremely convincing page. One wanting me to enter my email login information even had “© 2018 CharlesWorks” in it.
These work based on two principles: Offering the FREE “we’ll fix it” service and threat of imminent services loss. Together they convince you to bite. Especially that sense of urgency! Remember the world isn’t going to halt if you don’t act right away – it can wait until you deal with it properly.
Companies don’t have you “verify” your email account this way. If anything seems fishy concerning your email, call your email provider and ask for assistance. That’s what you pay them for!
It surprises me how many people still fall for anything with “FREE” attached to it. We shockingly still see “free counters” on many websites. They’ve been around as long as the web. Newbie web users still get fascinated by counters showing site visitor numbers.
There are problems with some freebies. If you visit a website and see that 3 people have visited it, that doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the site.
An aesthetic issue is that really nice, elegant looking websites don’t usually have counters. So site visitors aren’t distracted by traffic to the site. In fact, site counters are simply not that much in fashion these days.
Another problem is that many free counters are actually security risks. For an example, I recently read about a “Free SuperCounter Widget” that many have been using. It redirects site visitors to other sites (like dating and gambling and so on). So folks installing this counter were unwittingly sending site visitors away from their site.
Even more insidious is where the counter loads malware/viruses into the website – infecting site visitors as well.
The bottom line here: Yet another simple lesson about getting what you pay for. If your site has been infected, contact us or your developer for help.
Domain names are the least expensive part – yet the most important – of one’s Internet presence! Here are some tips on choosing them.
Initial Search – Be careful how you search! Unscrupulous companies buy domains people search for to sell at much inflated prices (often $100+ for $15 domains). CharlesWorks at http://CharlesWorks.domains does NOT do this practice. Or just ask us.
Association – Use the name of your business as all or part of your domain.
General Names – More general domain names are most likely already registered to other businesses (it never hurts to check with us first).
TLDs – Top Level Domains are the “extensions” like .com, .net, .org, .club, etc. Search engines today don’t care what they are.
Hyphenated Names – We recommend avoiding hyphens to lessen confusion, unless you absolutely can’t get your words another way.
Variations – Can be an option if your general business name is already registered, like adding “NH” before or after it.
Keywords – Pertinent words in your domain are increasingly important. Simplistically put, search engine algorithms rank the importance of web sites according to words.
Cost – Domains vary according to TLD, Many common ones are still only about $15-$20 annually.
Most importantly, we ensure domains we sell are renewed annually so you will not lose them!
Let’s broach the topic of SSL (Secure Socket Layers) and their importance on the web.
Using SSL is like sending certified mail through the post office. Mailing certified letters requires a signature by the receiver. The sender knows it got to the right place. SSL is instantaneous!
SSL is a security protocol (specified way of doing things) that helps guarantee that the browser you are typing information into is actually connecting with the website you believe you are connected to. This is extremely important when doing online banking, sharing private or personal information, or using your credit card. SSL is important regardless of the device (phone-tablet-laptop-computer) you’re using.
Besides ensuring you’re reaching the correct destination, SSL is MOST important when using devices through public WiFi (hotspots). They can be “snooped” by hackers. “Snooped” means hackers can sit in a parking lot near a place with WiFi and easily record all data communications happening. It is a hacker’s gold mine for people not security conscious.
Businesses expect to pay roughly $70-$199/year plus installation for SSL on a website. At CharlesWorks, it’s part of the hosting – with NO additional ongoing charges.
SSL is important! Feel free to contact us for more information.
With 20+ years in the web business, scams and schemes to steal from people still amaze me.
Several web clients have made me aware of a scam to frighten them into making a bitcoin payment.
They’re from addresses like “Anonymous Hacker” or even your own email. Subjects are “You have been hacked” or similar. They gloat they’ve infected you through some (usually unsavory) site you visited. They explain how they did it in terms most folks don’t understand – making you think they are really an expert – and frighten you into believing they’re monitoring your computer.
They threaten to send very personal items and even videos of you to everyone you know unless you comply with the demand within some short time period. They warn if you report them, they’ll distribute the “dirt” on you immediately.
We try to force these messages to spam on our servers. Sometimes they get through. We reassure several people each week they are a scam because they usually are.
However, devices DO get hacked. If you truly believe you’ve been hacked, you should see your IT person or someone who specializes in “cleaning” computers ASAP. We can recommend folks who can help.
We’ve gone off the deep end attempting to communicate entirely via email. Are we saying what we mean so say?
The “Subject:” should reflect the current content – especially in replies where the original idea has changed.
To ensure questions are responded to, keep the message simple and stick to expecting one answer about one question. People generally do not answer multiple questions.
Use a courteous greeting and closing. Email does NOT have voice inflection. Words appear demanding when you USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or numerous exclamation points – or terse when you treat email like text messages.
Including the previous message helps recipients understand your response. Generalities cause confusion and unnecessary back and forths.
It’s polite to include a “signature” with your name, your affiliation, your phone number and perhaps your address to enable easy followup.
Attachments are not meant to blast information to many. A giant file to a huge group is wasteful and rude. Large emails over phones is frustrating.
Messages requiring immediate attention are best dealt with via phone calls. Don’t assume people check email constantly.
Check the recipients list. Replying to ALL sends to ALL recipients. It might be shared with unexpected recipients.
Be careful what your message contains!
Customers want specific info about products and services. If there have been no changes since your website launched, they’ll look somewhere else.
New info triggers search engines to re-scan your website and index it according to what it sees as current and popular, relative to other websites in your industry. Distinctive and useful content helps the search engines recognize what your site is about. Posting new content on a regular basis gives the search engines a reason to scan your site more often.
Updating depends on your industry and who your competition is. The important thing is to review your site on a regular basis. We recommend a website review at least once a month.
Ensure your contact information up to date – nothing is worse than nonworking phone numbers or wrong hours. Your navigation hyperlinks all need to work as well. Good testimonials are an absolute plus. Noteworthy news posted can also help broadcasting your latest and greatest developments.
If you’re website doesn’t allow you to easily change the text in it, you should consider updating to one that will.
Keeping your website material up to date will help keep your current clients as well as add new ones.
It’s great to have “a friend in the web business,” isn’t it? That’s usually what people think when friends offer to help with one’s website. Web development is very complex. Every situation doesn’t end badly but I can tell you from experience many do.
A major problem is the “one person show” issue. For about 6 years CharlesWorks was only Charles – limited by what one could do in finite weekly hours. Being constantly asked what happens during vacations or sickness. The first hire happened to gain time to focus more. Another person to focus on business and office management. That allowed us to handle far more clients.
Now with 9 people it was unimaginable then we’d ever handle thousands of websites. Or that the first hire would still be here as my General Manager and develop her graphic, web and marketing abilities to an expert level over that time.
We have many folks we’ve helped after having negative experiences with their friends helping them. Think of how badly it can end when you put your business presence in a single person’s hands whose main life’s focus may not even be web work. Especially if your business is your bread and butter!
Hosting is where your website physically resides on servers attached 24/7 to the internet. Here’s some info for finding a good web hosting company:
Local – Best sticking with local folks. Computers have glitches. Knowing someone who can explain issues is important.
Customer Service – Nothing’s worse than being ignored. Many companies don’t interact with their clients. Find one you can actually reach. Conversation shows if they can explain things in understandable terms.
Longevity – Ensure they’ve been at this a while. Lousy companies don’t generally survive the test of time. The longer they’ve been around the better they usually are at providing service.
Reliability – Backups are a must. Good hosters back up websites nightly. If your company is a reseller of services – a “middle man” – they’ve no control over servers. Avoid such an arrangement.
Security – Your host should perform regular server updates. WordPress sites require security updates as well. You should be able to perform those.
Contracts – Avoid contracts. Deal with hosters that allow you to quit when you want to. That way they’re always striving to provide good service – not just when it’s time to “renew” with them.
Contact us with questions. We’re glad to help.
Compromised email can be an important component of identity theft. People take much of today’s electronic communications for granted.
Think about what’s connected to your email accounts – activities like shopping and even online banking to name a couple. Hackers getting into your email can give them an open doorway into many aspects of your financial and personal life. The losses incurred through compromised email can be enormous.
Good security practices are great deterrents. Start by using strong passwords to mitigate such losses.
Wireless connections can be “sniffed”, meaning hackers can wait nearby and record the information being sent and received over the connection.
Always access your email using encryption. Encryption makes it close to impossible to decode the wireless traffic. With email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail or even a mail apps on phones, make sure encryption is turned on. With webmail through web browsers be careful to access it using https:// to ensure an encrypted email server connection.
Free wireless hotspots are a haven for hackers. You are pretty safe as long as you are using encrypted connections.
If you don’t understand how to set up and use encryption, call your web hosting, email or device provider for help. Don’t risk potential losses.