WordPress is an online, open source website creation tool written in PHP. It is usually thought of as the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system (or CMS) in existence today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: NHMAMEVT
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.
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.
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: NHMAMEVT □ 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!