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.

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 – 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.

Charles Tips – The Cloud Defined

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.

Charles Tips – Free Counters

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.

 

Charles Tips – 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.