Charles Tips – Checking Your Site

Something many folks overlook is occasionally checking their website’s functionality. I recommend doing this every couple weeks, but at minimum once a month.

Most websites and the servers they are on are subjected to ongoing software updates. Unless you are paying an additional fee for maintenance checks, it’s normal for things to occasionally break due to updates.

Most website owners are not paying additional fees for such maintenance. This means you really need to take the time to check:

– that the site appears to work properly
– that your hours of operation are correct
– that any website forms are working
– that email addresses are correct

The site operation and forms are most susceptible to software updates. If you have a good web developer, the fixes will happen quickly and it will not cost you too much.

Website maintenance should be thought of like automotive maintenance. We get oil changes. We get inspections. We even make modifications and do repairs to keep our vehicle operating the way we want. And our older vehicles can cost more to upkeep – just like older websites. As websites age, more work needs to be done to keep them secure and working as originally intended.

So check your site every now and then to keep things working and have the correct information out there!

Charles Tips – Engagement

Engagement, in military terms, is described as a fight or battle between armed forces. In web terms, engagement could be thought of as the process of getting an idea across to accomplish a goal.

There are a couple major goals with websites, as I see it. One is to simply share information. Another is to sell products. Make no mistake about it – whether you are selling widgets or ice-cream or trying to increase your congregation – the goal is the essentially the same – getting people engaged.

The first, sharing information, definitely is a precursor to the second. I’d like to focus on the second here.

Websites that are more engaging with their visitors will encourage more sales. With that in mind, it follows that engagement is a result of information and aesthetics.

Aesthetics costs for a website can vary greatly. Graphic design can be time consuming. This equates to higher labor costs. Information in written form, however, is usually the least expensive part of website development. Text can usually be pasted into web pages. This is not usually as labor intensive. Having more information in text format on a website usually equates to more exposure to the public. This is because website visitors can arrive using search engines. And the search engines find your site based upon pertinent content – mostly text.

In a nutshell, if you want an engaging website – which will increase your probability of success on the web – make sure there is plenty of information in text form on it. Search engines will help get folks there and your aesthetics can do the rest.

Charles Tips – Hit and Run

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.

Charles Tips – WordPress Proficiency and Training

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!

Charles Tips – 3-4 Day Maintenance Response

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.

Charles Tips – Partial Hour Webwork Billing

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.

Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees
It’s better in YOUR pocket!

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.

Charles Tips – Inflated Maintenance Plans

Along with all the many scams out there on the Internet are what I’d call the “inflated monthly maintenance plans”.

Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees
Paying expensive expensive maintenance fees

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.

Charles Tips – Rampant Phishing

When working in the web world as I do, Internet scams appear to be everywhere.

Phishing is defined as the act of attempting to trick the recipient of a malicious email into opening and engaging with it.

It’s amazing how people fall for phishing scams. They fall for them mostly because the emails are designed to appear like the writer isn’t too bright. So immediately the recipient thinks they have the upper hand. Many count on the recipient’s greed – believing they’ll get something for nothing.

The bad guys that develop these schemes are experts. All they do is work scams – day and night. They wouldn’t continue if it didn’t pay off in the long run.

Phishing
Phishing – Will you bite?

I read someplace that billions of dollars annually are conned out of people through the various scams out there on the Internet. For the most part – I hate to say – they can’t be stopped. They are sent from all types of email addresses, all types of servers, from all over the world.

Bottom line is that you should keep deleting them. The best course of action is to stop responding to them and opening them. Report them as spam or report them as phishing attempts. Your email provider may provide insight with how to do this. They will ultimately stop coming.

Remember that if the bad guys can’t trick you into parting with your money they will focus on someone else – until they find someone who does. Just don’t be that someone.

Charles Tips – Nightly Website Backups

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.

Nightly Backup Server

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.

Charles Tips – Where Are They?

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!

It should be simple to find where a business is on the Internet. If you can't figure it out, choose a different business to spend your money with.
It should be simple to find where a business is on the Internet. If you can’t figure it out, choose a different business to spend your money with.

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.

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 – 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 – 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.