The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

The Web Corner – 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.

 

The Web Corner – Review your Website

Customers want specific info about products and services. If there have been no changes since your website launched, they’ll look somewhere else.

New info triggers search engines to re-scan your website and index it according to what it sees as current and popular, relative to other websites in your industry. Distinctive and useful content helps the search engines recognize what your site is about. Posting new content on a regular basis gives the search engines a reason to scan your site more often.

Updating depends on your industry and who your competition is. The important thing is to review your site on a regular basis. We recommend a website review at least once a month.

Ensure your contact information up to date – nothing is worse than nonworking phone numbers or wrong hours. Your navigation hyperlinks all need to work as well. Good testimonials are an absolute plus. Noteworthy news posted can also help broadcasting your latest and greatest developments.

If you’re website doesn’t allow you to easily change the text in it, you should consider updating to one that will.

Keeping your website material up to date will help keep your current clients as well as add new ones.