Charles Tips – An Email Contact is Essential

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.

Charles Tips – Leaving a Voice Mail

Do I really have to say a web developer simply has to have a phone contact where one can at least leave messages?

As unbelievable as it may seem, there are those out there without a listed phone contact. I saw a website recently where there was no telephone number or email address on it to reach someone for service. I know you won’t believe it when I tell you that individual has been in business for many years.

The owner asked me how I managed to get so many clients and grow CharlesWorks to handling thousands of websites. I couldn’t resist mentioning there was no contact information on the website. The response was they didn’t want lots of junk emails and people knowing their phone number.

It reminded me that back in 1998 I started CharlesWorks because I wanted to help as many people with their web related needs as possible. I knew from having been in business earlier in my life that there are always going to be spam phone calls (just like spam emails). But that’s part of the cost of doing business.

So think twice if you can find a phone number to talk to someone.

Charles Tips – Forming Reciprocal Relationships

It is 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. I always ask folks I meet when the last time was that they received referrals from the web hoster or web developer before moving to CharlesWorks. 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 folks back to their own clients.

You need a web developer that does that as a rule. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and will refer 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 small way CharlesWorks does that is through its CharlesWorks Directory. We help our 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!

Charles Tips – Better Business Bureau Accredited

When exploring who to have build your web presence or do your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), look to see that the web company you’re considering is an accredited member in good standing with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). The BBB does a lot of your homework for you. It actually checks out businesses for things like the fact that they really are in business and what the company’s website states.

This can be very important: make sure the company really is accredited by checking for them on the BBB website. There are many unscrupulous companies out there that place a BBB logo (with is a copyright infringement) on their site and have never even applied for BBB accreditation.

Companies must apply to and pay a fee to pass accreditation member of the BBB. Once again, these are all factors that point to the integrity of the company – it’s reliability – its dependability. You want a company that is going to help you and that thinks about its web clients – so the web company’s BBB accreditation is very important.

Charles Tips – Committed Presence in Networking Groups

Reliable web development companies often maintain a committed presence in local networking groups. This keeps them in touch with those in their communities. It also makes the web company more accessible to those needing services. Developers usually give great service to those they see face to face weekly.

There are many networking groups out there. I don’t consider chambers of commerce networking groups. I say that for a few reasons. First is that there is no commitment to go to the meetings. Many join chambers and never attend meetings. One can join just about anywhere without committing to attend. Some belong to many chambers with no commitment to attend. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to belong to a local chamber and actually be involved.

Web development companies belonging to BNI (Business Networkers International) are ahead of the game. In order to participate in BNI the company’s representative must commit to a minimum one year and agree to show up weekly. Relationships are built among BNI members. This encourages referrals passed among members.

Bear in mind the web company should be able to pass all the items on our checklist (click to see the list again in a new window). That will be the most homework you can do to ensure the best probability of a great outcome with your website development.

Charles Tips – Carrying Liability Insurance

Carrying liability insurance is yet another important part of maintaining a legitimate, caring, responsible business. I’ve come to realize that in the web business many businesses operate without insurance. When something goes wrong, they just change the business name and open as another name.

Businesses operating in this fashion create problems for their potential clients. First and foremost is that should something happen that triggers the need for insurance, the client is stuck totally. The client in such a case may have no recourse or might not even be able to recover damages.

Folks who operate their “businesses” this way are fundamentally dishonest fly-by-nights. It’s easy enough to ask a web developer who handles their insurance needs and a quick check with their agent can verify that.

Avoiding dealing with a dishonest vendor can save you a ton of headaches in the long run.

On the other hand, good, honest businesses are always thinking in terms of the long run. They are thinking in terms of developing healthy business relationships with their clients. Part of that is staying in business so they can continue to provide services to their clients.

Finally, looking at all the items on the checklist we’ve provided in our Web Developer’s Checklist post will ensure you have the best possible shot at a positive experience having your website developed.

Charles Tips – Carries Workers’ Compensation on employees?

The potential for people being injured exists everywhere. If someone gets hurt due to their job, Workers’ Compensation provides coverage. Costs of medical care, rehabilitation treatments and lost wages are covered by this insurance if the injury is due to employment.

People do not understand the ramifications of dealing with a company that does NOT carry Workers’ Compensation on its employees. For example, web developers in business “under the table” would NOT be insured. In most states an “uninsured contractor” or “subcontractor” gets treated as YOUR employee if injured while doing work for you. Think about when they show up at your business for planning, discussing, photographing or whatever for the web project. Should anything happen to them, YOU may be on the hook for way more than you bargained for.

In addition to helping and protecting employees, Workers’ Compensation for our employees offers special protection to our business. It helps protect us and ensures we stay in business to continue to serve our clients over the long haul. Without it, a single mishap could put small web companies out of business.

Workers’ Compensation is yet another piece of being a legitimate, honestly run business protecting its clients as well as its employees and itself.

Charles Tips – Have several or more people?

We started in 1998 as a one man show – just Charles. After some years it became apparent Charles would not be able to keep up with the workload Charles was generating.

A choice had to be made. Charles alone didn’t get some projects because the question often came up: “What happens if Charles is on vacation? Sick? Etc.?”

The only path to growth was building a team. So that’s what we did. We became a team of 8-10 people at any time. We have the owner at this since 1998, the next in charge at it since 2005 and so on. The team grew. We were able to cover all aspects of web development. Team members go on vacation, are out sick, or whatever – but work continues to get done.

We’ve encountered many clients who previously dealt with “one person shows”. These clients spent much time frustrated and having to wait for important web changes to be done until that individual could get to it. With a team everything gets done quickly by whichever technician is available.

Think in terms of having a team behind you. When you need your work done you need it done. Period.

This is what our clients needed and we evolved to meet our clients’ needs.

Charles Tips – Been in business for 10+ years?

The Small Business Association said in March 2019 roughly 30% of businesses failed during their first two years of opening. At the five year mark about 50% failed. At ten years around 70% had failed.

Remember this is ALL businesses – not just web businesses. I’ve seen many go under in the years since 1998 when I started in this business. Usually that news comes from our new web clients – who don’t even know what happened to their past developers – they just became unreachable or unresponsive.

Obviously there is no sure thing – no guarantee – that any business is always going to be there. That being said, there are many things that measure the likelihood of success. Look at factors like five to nine employees versus few or none. Look at employee longevity. Look at how they get their business – through referrals versus constant advertising. Look at whether they have a handful of web clients versus many.

Don’t risk having someone handle your web presence who won’t be there for the duration. Common sense dictates that a company that’s been around over ten years with a team that does most of its business through referrals for many, many clients is going to be way more reliable for you in the long term.

Charles Tips – Are they a Registered business?

Our exposure to thousands of web clients has shown us many folks who’ve been exposed to scam artists, fly by nights, and outright crooks over the years. We’ve had clients that had paid money down to previous developers with no work done whatsoever.

Luckily, most legitimate reliable web development businesses have ethics. Part of building confidence in one’s client base is doing what is necessary to be a legitimate business. Fly-by-nights don’t bother with registering their business or any of the other numerous details of doing business that being a legitimate business entails.

It’s very simple to check to see if a business is legitimate – i.e., registered. Here are links to websites where one can check out businesses in several states in and around New England: NH MA ME VT

Doing a little research like this can save you a ton of headaches later. Dealing with a business that is willing to do the initial work of operating legitimately greatly increases the odds they are going to be reliable and honest in their dealings with you.

While there’s never a total guarantee, coupling this with other items in our checklist helps narrow the field to give you the best odds of developing a good business relationship.

Charles Tips – Do YOU own your website?

This is a question that, amazingly enough, not everyone thinks to ask. We have had a number of people who received poor service from their web services providers come to us. Imagine their surprise when they discover that they do not own their website!

Our philosophy is very simple – anything you’ve paid in full for – meaning there is no open balance on your account – is yours. Period. We really have no reason to want your website. We just want to be paid for work done, your domains and services rendered.

Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous people in the web business. They use their ownership of your content as a method to hold you hostage – forcing you to keep paying them. It’s an unfortunate reality on the web. We have never operated that way.

Just about as bad are the large companies that you can build your website at quickly ans easily. However, there is no way to move that website from them. Your site operates ONLY on their proprietary servers so can’t be moved elsewhere. Folks usually discover that after realizing there are insufficient options for website expansion or customization. Then they’ve lost all the time and energy put into a website they don’t own.

We’ll be glad to tell you if you’ve been trapped like this.

Charles Tips – 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!

Charles Tips – 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.

Charles Tips – 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.

Charles Tips – 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.