The Web Corner – Web Developer Checklist

It’s increasingly difficult sorting good companies from bad ones on the Internet. There are still ways to find the best, reliable web development companies. We’ve compiled this recommended checklist as a starting point. The order these are in isn’t necessarily important since ALL points are important!

Check to see if your web development company:

will ensure that YOU own your website when it’s paid for
is legitimately registered to do business within its State: NH MA ME VT
has been in business for at least 10 years
has several or more people
carries workman’s compensation on its employees
carries liability insurance
maintains a committed presence in networking groups
is accredited and has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau (https://BBB.org)
understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you
has a phone contact where one can at least leave messages
has an email contact where one can send information
provides automatic site updates at no additional ongoing charge
backs up websites every night for at least a month
provides website encryption (SSL) at no additional ongoing charge
does not require hosting or domain contracts
does not overcharge you by selling sell inflated monthly maintenance plans
provides partial hour web work billing (9 minutes work charged 9/60 of hourly rate)
can respond to most maintenance requests in 3-4 days
has general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues
is proficient with WordPress through experience and training

Over upcoming weeks check here for details about each. Contact us with any questions, we exist to serve you!

The Web Corner – Checking Web Content

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.

The Web Corner – Who owns your Domain?

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.

The Web Corner – About Ten Seconds

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.

The Web Corner – Businesses on Facebook

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.

The Web Corner – Choosing Domains

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).

TLDsTop 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!

The Web Corner – SSL hype

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.

The Web Corner – Review your Website

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.

The Web Corner – Do-It-Yourself Sites

Do-it-yourself website builders make it sound SO easy! And they can be. But there can be a steep price to pay.

I see ads every now and then boasting about how you can build a website in an evening with no previous experience. Several times a month we have people who have fallen into that trap, then contact us to help them out of it.

The biggest issue with these do-it-yourself sites is that you don’t own your site! The platform/servers the site is built on is proprietary – so you’re locked in to that company. Couple that with the fact that the site can’t be easily customized. Also, your site looks like numerous others. Many of these sites are not found well in the search engines. They have layers of coding that makes it easy to make changes but harder for the search engines to “see” what they’re about.

Do-it-yourself sites are generally not through local companies either. So if doing business with local people who will send business back to you is important – that’s another reason to avoid them.

When thinking of having a website built, take the time to ask a developer about options. Simply ask, “Do I own my website?”

The Web Corner – Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of raising a site’s ranking with the search engines. Sites can have different rankings on various search engines. Each search engine’s scoring methods vary and are closely guarded secrets. Where you “rank” is how close you are to the top (e.g., 1 vs 100).

No one can promise a #1 placement. Only paying the search engine itself can guarantee that! However, there ARE things that can be done for better placement. Understand that search engines are like artificial intelligence. They “read” the text in a site to gain understanding of what a site is about – much like humans do. They understand context and categorize topics.

There’s no magical trick to gaining website search engine ranking. Plenty of information in a website’s text about its products or services is key. More written info about a topic equals more relevant search results.

While photos help aesthetics, text still “tells” search engines what a site’s about. Don’t be afraid to write in great detail about your products and services. Remember: The more pages there are on a site about a topic – the more relevant the site becomes about that topic.

Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team does website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services.