The CW Corner is a weekly article appearing in the Monadnock Shopper. It is written by Charles Oropallo from CharlesWorks. Charles writes articles on popular web topics with helpful hints. Most are intended to be simple explanations of common web topics. Some are for the more experienced. Charles always hopes that all will be found useful and educational.
Most of us think “hit and run” refers to a car accident. We’ve been using that phrase in the web world since starting this business in 1998.
Most of our web clients have been victimized by website hit and runs. That’s where a web developer hits you up for the cost of building your website and – if you’re lucky enough to have them complete the project – they run.
The main reason is because that initial developer really doesn’t have a robust grasp of the website development field. They stop being responsive to you because they simply don’t know how to modify or alter their work. This usually happens because they used quick templates that they simply don’t know how to adjust or modify.
In most cases I’ve seen, these so-called web developers are part timers doing a little web work on the side. They may provide what seems like a fantastic deal at the time – but leave you high and dry when the time comes that you need changes made to your website.
Although there are no guarantees you’ll never experience this – there are a few things you can check on. First of all see if they are a legitimate business. You can check this and other factors at https://cwcorner.com and in the upper right corner hit the magnifying glass and type “legitimate” and hit enter.
Don’t be the victim of a hit and run – you can minimize it happening to you by checking the potential web developer out before getting involved with them.
I’ve written several articles about specific scams that are occurring on a regular basis on the Internet. They seem to subside for a short time – a very short time – and then a wave of them happens again.
One of the worst – as far as I am concerned – are the ones where the email recipient is being told they must verify their email. These have some common traits with most Internet scams:
1) A sense of urgency – they want you to take care of this immediately
2) A time limit – they give you within 24 hours to act
3) A threat – they tell you your email will be locked.
The first thing you have to understand is that nearly everyone gets these on occasion. I have received them myself in which they are made to look like they are from CharlesWorks. So when our clients get these they tend to become very worried very quickly.
I can’t stress enough that most legitimate companies will not send out messages like these. To fall prey to these can be a real nightmare. With access to one’s email these days the bad guys can wreak havoc in one’s life. The worst cases are called identity theft!
Don’t be the unfortunate one who falls prey to these scammers. If you have been “notified” of something serious – call your provider up and speak with a representative. Just like at my company – it’s a lot easier for us to allay your fears than to have to try to clean up the mess that can happen with compromised accounts.
In the web world, copyrights and trademarks can get business owners in hot water. Many experienced web developers have an awareness of when legal assistance may be required to resolve such issues.
While I am not an attorney, I can say with a fair degree of certainty what items are safe to use on one’s website.
First and foremost are graphics that you create yourself or have created for you by someone you hire to produce them. However, an exception to that is if the graphic created is similar enough to a copyrighted work to create confusion to the viewer.
Next are photographs. Usually using your own photographs is pretty safe. Photos not taken by you is always risky unless you have permission to do so.
There are various sources on the Internet for pictures and graphics that allow unlicensed or licensed use – otherwise “free to use” graphics or photos. Pixabay.com is one example. It has many items that can be used covering many topics, classifications and so forth.
I recommend you use an experienced, seasoned web developer. A general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues is more apt to be found by using a seasoned website developer. When in doubt, as a business owner you should consult a trademark or copyright attorney.
We’ve mentioned the term WordPress previously. Over 1/3 of all websites on the planet are built using WordPress. It is the most popular website platform. The platform is the environment in which a piece of software is executed.
An important aspect of website operation is determining whether the platform is optimized for your WordPress coding. That’s difficult for most people other than server operators to know. We recommend you find out two things from your web developer:
First is whether the latest version possible of PHP is used. That’s the actual programming language WordPress is written/coded in. PHP doesn’t have to be the very latest, as there are always new versions being developed. However, your WordPress themes and plugins may not work on the very newest version. But if you are using a version of PHP 5.x you may be asking for security issues. If the plugins and themes won’t run on the newer PHP 7.x then you really need to consider upgrading your site to use newer plugins or themes. WordPress itself is kept up better than most software and works great with the very latest PHP versions.
Second is to check that your WordPress installation is running on a Linux based system. Over twenty years in this business has shown us that there are far fewer issues with WordPress operating in Linux based servers rather than Windows based servers.
Hopefully your web developer is proficient with WordPress through experience and training. He or she should know the answers to these questions. If not, we routinely reassure our clients on such matters.
And, finally, the CharlesWorks team wishes you and yours a very safe and happy 2020!
Web services providers are really not much different than most trades. Response times can vary widely. Most good tradespeople can give you an idea of when they are going to get a job done for you. If they’re too busy for you then you’d normally just find someone else.
One of the major concerns we hear expressed in the web services field is about the general lack of timely service. Before dealing with a web company you should know if it’s a one man show – which dictates whether they can respond quickly to most maintenance requests.
My belief is that small changes should be done within 3-4 work days – if not sooner. If a web company does not have staff to be able to do this in that time-frame, that should raise a red flag. A one person company will always have issues should several of its clients require service during the same time frame. One person cannot be truly reliable to be there every time you will need them.
Unfortunately for most, they don’t find out the service will be poor until they are experiencing it. Not to worry – just make the switch then. A good company has backup staff on board to see to it you are taken care of. Do what’s best for your business – deal with reliably staffed web companies who will have people to help you when you need it.
We hear lots of hype about how the economy is doing so great these days. However, it isn’t necessarily true for all and many have to watch their spending.
One thing to watch is minimum labor/service rates. Checking out how you’re billed for webwork can save you a lot on money over time.
You gain the most advantage for yourself by finding a web company that bills by the minute. Billing by the full hour – or even worse yet – a minimum of more than an hour – is the absolute worst for you as an end web client.
By the minute billing means if a task takes 14 minutes you are billed for 14/60 of the hourly rate. While some complicated website tasks take lots of time – but smaller tasks usually do not take long to do – like changing phone numbers, updating hours, adding or taking down specials, minor modifications to how something looks and the likes of that.
There are companies that will bill you for only the work they do for you – billing you by the minute.
I started doing it that way from the time I started my business in 1998. The business experienced considerable growth. One day, a competitor in my field told me I was “shooting myself in the foot” by charging that way. I ran into him a number of years later. He wasn’t in the web business any more.
There are many companies out there that do business fairly. If you’re paying minimum labor times or so called maintenance plans, then my suggestion is to look for a web company that will treat you fairly. You’ll save a lot of money in the long term.
Along with all the many scams out there on the Internet are what I’d call the “inflated monthly maintenance plans”.
These are usually fixed monthly pricing plans that include hosting and website maintenance. Such plans are touted as providing the business owner with a means to budget ongoing website maintenance, so-to-speak.
I’ve seen many of these offerings since 1998. I’ve also spoken with many website owners who have had such plans. They’re almost never advantageous to the business owner.
In most cases, business website owners had paid up to several hundred dollars a month for these plans – for many years in some cases. Most never had any work done to their websites. Those who did have work done indicated it was far less value than they had paid for with their “budget”.
Put specifically in dollar terms, some had paid thousands of dollars for only about a hundred dollar’s worth of web updates over time. For that reason I highly recommend businesses avoid such plans.
In short, be very careful about doing business with web companies or web developers that want to sell you these inflated monthly maintenance plans. Paying for website work on an as-you-need-it basis will almost always cost you much, much less in the long term.
I’ve mentioned SEO (Search Engine Optimization) throughout many articles. While it is important – I believe it’s the most abused area of website development.
It’s important for your business website to be found in the search engines. That is best and most inexpensively done by having pertinent material in your website so the search engines see your website as pertinent or closely related to a topic.
There are many unscrupulous individuals and companies out there selling just plain bogus SEO. It’s often impossible to discern the truth. There are no regulations or meaningful certifications in this field.
As an example – let’s say you receive a dozen Viagra spam messages in a month. Does that mean you need it? Certainly just because a number of spam messages are saying you need something doesn’t turn it into a fact.
Why would you believe the same about SEO regarding your search placements on the Internet? Our web clients are bombarded with spam and with phone calls saying they need this and that for their websites. Some fall prey to these sales pitches and some even go out of business as a result of spending hundreds of dollars each month on scams.
Your web developer should care about you as a client – should want you to be as successful as possible and not up-selling you right out of business.
The worst part of the SEO scams is they can oftentimes hurt your placement with the search engines.
Don’t fall prey to the scamsters selling these bogus “services”. Check with your web developer FIRST about such offers to find out if they are for real or whether you actually need them.
It’s Halloween time again so I thought I’d mention Halloween Spoofs! Well, actually email spoofing happens year round.
An example of spoofing is when emails are sent that are addressed from you (and maybe to you) but you didn’t send them. In that case your address has been “spoofed”.
Spammers and scammers alike do this. There are a couple reasons it’s done.
Sometimes it is malicious. Let’s say someone goes onto numerous websites to sign up for information as XYZ Company. So a ton of spam is sent to XYZ. XYZ finds itself barraged with email and phone spam – wasting lots of their time.
More often XYZ is spoofed to appear to be the sender of spam. Folks local to XYZ are more likely to open the spoofed emails. The spam really isn’t from XYZ – just made to look like it is. So recipients think XYZ is spamming them. They’re annoyed with XYZ and report them as spammers and complain and so on.
Fortunately, spoofing doesn’t account for most Internet issues. It just makes life miserable for XYZ – the target – for a while.
The good news is that usually spoofing usually only lasts a few days. The actual sending server is identified and blocked or shut down.
Always report these issues to your email administrator. Early intervention saves lots of headaches in the long term.
Two components of a website are the domain and hosting. Websites are accessed easiest with these.
Domain names are labels typed into web browsers that point to a particular website. Usually they’re a word or words pertinent to the website. Each domain is unique. There can only one of each in the world.
Hosting is a server space for a website. It’s available 24-7 for anyone anytime it is accessed. Websites usually contain coding that shows what the site visitor would view as a website.
Finally, the website coding can reside in the hosted web space. That’s what makes the site appear. Or the coding may just jump off (redirect) to go to a different address.
My favorite analogy is to a house. There’s an address (domain name). It’s rented each month (hosting) so one can show off its furniture (web coding). It doesn’t matter whether there’s a little or lots of furniture – they pay rent (hosting).
Does your web company require hosting or domain contracts? Reputable ones won’t. They’re willing to ALWAYS provide the best service to you instead of just before contract renewals.
Contact your hoster to determine whether they’ve locked you in or you’re free to move where you can get the best service.
Website visitor safety is extremely important. I’ve mentioned terms here before like SSL, encryption, security and so on. These involve that little green or grey lock in front of the web address in your browser. Clicking on that tells you whether the encryption is valid and what site it’s issued to.
Providing encryption was traditionally expensive for website operators. However, it can be had for free these days. There’s no reason not to have it.
Encryption refers to a method on website servers that helps ensure you are actually on the website you think you are on. This greatly reduces the risks of fraud.
Ripping you off is a top priority for many nefarious individuals and organizations on the web. One method is tricking you into giving your credit card or other personal information on a “fake” site or web page. These pages often look exactly like those of your bank’s or credit card company’s or even your email’s login pages.
There’s usually a small one-time charge for initial setup. Website owners should check with their hosting company or web developer to ensure website encryption (SSL) is included in their monthly hosting at no extra charge. If need be, it’s worthwhile to move to a company whose hosting provides this.
Your website is an important investment. Whether you made it yourself or paid to have a professional develop it for you – you wouldn’t want to lose it. We have taken on clients who were with the largest company in the world who lost their website because of having no backup. The terms for doing business with that company even state they are not responsible for the loss of the website.
I couldn’t imagine not backing sites up. Nowadays the technology is ever present to back everything up. In the not too distant past, hard drives were much more expensive than they are now. Hard drive space is extremely inexpensive nowadays – so there’s no excuse for a company to not make backups.
One third of today’s sites are on a platform called WordPress. Security updates happen often and changes can be readily made to WordPress sites – so they need backups at least every day. Whether there’s a server catastrophe or simply one of your employees blowing up your site while making changes – it can be recovered.
Definitely protect your website investment by hosting with a company that provides daily backups of your WordPress website every night for at least a month. That will avoid having to restart your website from scratch.
It’s always great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you.
As a point of curiosity I usually ask when the last time was that a company received referrals from their web hoster or web developer. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer others back to their own clients.
You need a web developer that does that as a rule rather than as a request. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and experienced at referring business back to their own clients.
That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.
One way that can be done is if the web development company has a directory they can be part of. That helps clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.
If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!
Recently I checked search engine placements for some web clients. I landed on a property maintenance website. The site was quite interesting. However, the site had no address information on it!
I navigated everywhere in disbelief – curious to find an address. My search left me wondering how a site visitor would know if this outfit would be able to help them or not. Further investigation (I’m sure a standard Internet surfer looking for a service would likely never do) showed the site’s domain was registered to someone in California.
Looking for a property maintenance companies in the Keene NH area, a company from California wasn’t going to be any kind of a fit!
Besides the above issue – not having at least a city and state on a website – if looking for someone local for services – you don’t know if they’re local – even if they are. Most web visitors won’t bother to check – they’ll just move on to the next search result.
Business owners – particularly those providing services – should make their geographic location fairly obvious on their website. If their original web developer didn’t, it’s usually an inexpensive change to make to a site. It will increase business from the web and filter out callers who are too distant to be a good fit.
This week is a closely related follow up to last week’s article. As I mentioned then about a lack of a phone number, it seems like it would go without saying that a website trying to sell something should have an email contact someplace on it.
Last week I was referring to a web developer’s website with no telephone number or email address on it. Some developers put forms on their sites to try to get out of displaying an email address. The main issue with forms – besides the fact that form output is more often than not considered spam by many mail servers – is that people generally don’t want to fill them out. It’s much easier these days to click on an email link and send off an email saying exactly what you want to say. Of course you can speak it even more clearly but email may be the next best thing.
If you can’t find an email address to contact someone, my advice is to just move along to the next prospective web developer on your list. You want to deal with a web development company that makes it easy to be reached.