Is your website in 3D?

I was flipping channels a couple of weeks ago trying to find the football game. When I finally found the game but to my surprise, it was on the screen twice. It took me a few seconds to realize that my cable provider was sending me 3D stations now as well as regular and HD. I had found the content I wanted – the game – but without the right lens to view it in, the content was useless to me.

Is your website like that? Do you provide your viewers the proper lense – or context – to view your content through? If someone finds your website, it is easy for them to understand what you do? Can they, without anything other than the information available on your site, make a decision on whether they can do business with you?

Business owners often look at their own sites through the lense of context. They understand the terminology and jargon and make the assumption that everyone else does. Every website owner needs to review the content on the site regularly. If you have a blog, make sure all archived posts are still relevant. If you don’t want to delete articles, mark them with a paragraph stating that the post remains online for archival purposes and may not be accurate any more. If you have an update to the concept in the post, point your readers to the new post.

For non-blog sites, have someone outside your industry read and comment on each page. Do they understand what you are trying to say on each page? Can they understand what your company does?

Don’t make your readers go buy 3D glasses just to view your content. Make sure that the content on your website is clear, concise, and understandable.

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Why do you need a website?

It’s a serious question and one you need to ask yourself before you start working with a developer or designer. Why? The answer can’t be because the latest shiny business book told you that you needed one or that your cousin the Social Media expert said you are missing out. You have to have a reason that you believe in.

The process of building a website is going to be frustrating unless you are building it yourself. (Even then, it’s not going to be nearly as easy as you think) If you aren’t 100% in then it will be easy to either give up or just let your designer or developer run the show. Both cases are bad for your project.

Answer the question. Write it down so you don’t forget it. Review it from time to time to remind yourself why you are going through all of this. You are the vision keeper of your website project. If you lose sight of the end-goal, your project will never make it.

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Shiny Object Syndrome: A deadly project killer

We are all guilty of it, developers, designers and clients alike; we like the new, the cool, and the cutting edge. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this. Everyone wants their website to stand out from the crowd and to do that; you need to be on the cutting edge of technology. That is a great idea as long as you have it in the planning stage of your website.

jQuery is a hot technology these days that gives designers and UI experts a lot of very nice widgets to help improve your user’s experience. Flash was the technology to do this before jQuery came along. Designers look at the functional specifications that you create and they start drawing out the wireframes. At some point they begin fleshing those out and telling the developers to put a “carousel” here or an “accordion widget” there. This is good because they understand the purpose those elements serve. The danger comes when someone, the developer, the designer or even you, the client, see something new on another website and insist that it be integrated. This is what we call Shiny Object Syndrome and it can kill a good project.

The danger is that all of the other elements on the page were placed purposefully to enhance the user’s experience on your website. This new shiny object’s sole purpose is to be shiny. At best it will distract your users from the designed flow; at worst it will confuse the user to the point where they abandon your site and move to on to the next.

Not only do you need to avoid being the harbinger of S.O.S, you need to be vigilant and watchful that, after the design phase of your project, new shiny objects are not introduced into your project by other, well meaning team members.

Save your project, be ever vigilant for S.O.S.

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How Many Social Networks is Too Many?

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin are the big three but there are countless others ranging from closed B2B networks to niche, open networks. There are so many that it’s hard to know which ones you should be participating in and how much effort you should put into them. The answer is simple; you participate in every network that makes sense for you.

This doesn’t mean go nuts and start shot gunning all of them with the same posts. Pick one, start small, learn how to participate in it. Once you’ve mastered it, measure it. Is participating in this network moving you towards one of your goals? If so, keep participating; if not, drop it. Repeat this procedure for each Social Network you come across.

  • Learn
  • Master
  • Measure
  • Evaluate

At some point you will hit a point where you can’t participate in all the ones that are performing well for you. Luckily, you have been measuring their effectiveness so you can easily determine which ones are most effective for you and which ones you need to abandon.

That is exactly how many Social Networks you should be participating in.

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Beginning of the year website check-list

It’s the beginning of the year and time to take a look at you Internet presence. Here is our beginning-of-the year list, “A Three-Point Internet Checklist for Business People”.

1: Is your website up-to-date?

On the Internet, nothing else matters if your website isn’t working for you. Everything else reviles around driving traffic to it. In the real world, you would never start advertising a grand opening when your store is in disrepair, so don’t do it on the Internet either.

Get a notebook and set aside an hour or so to comb through your website. Visit every page, read every word. Look for more than just spelling and grammar errors, look for factual errors.
Has something significant happened this year that you need to record on your “About Us” page or your “Company History” page?

Check your “Our Team” page. Have you made any notable changes in the team? Do you need to add anyone in or remove anyone?

Make sure that phone numbers and addresses are correct and consistent throughout your site.
Your website should inform your users, not confuse them. Make sure the information presented is factual and clear.

Now check the design of your website. Visit your competitor’s websites to get ideas on how to make your website better. Remember, Pablo Picasso said “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”. See how others are using the web to get a better idea of how you can use it better.

If your design was created more than two to three years ago, have your designer review it. The art of website design is constantly evolving. it may be time to incorporate some of the new techniques and technologies into your site. Budget a little time and money to have a sit-down with your designer. It may be that you can’t afford a re-design right now but if you know you want one this year, start talking to your designer now. They may be able to help you spread the cost out over the year by making changes incrementally instead of one big project.

Your website is the cornerstone of your Internet presence; make sure that you understand what the goals are for having a website and that your current website is meeting those goals.

 

2: Review your Social Media presence to make sure it is working for you

It’s time to sit down and take a hard look at how you are participating in Social Media for your company. Are you an active participant, engaging with your customers and promoting your products or services? Or are you passive, setting up a Face book page, a G+ page and waiting on your customers to find you? Both are valid strategies and both will produce results; the question is which one will produce the results you want?

If you don’t have a strategy for Social Media then participating in it can quickly become an unproductive time-sink. Using the notebook you used yesterday to take notes about your website, write down your goals for Social Media for the coming year.

  • Are you looking to build awareness of your products or services?
  • Do you want to engage with your customers, build good-will, and create evangelists?
  • Are you wanting to drive sales of your products or services more?

None of these goals are mutually exclusive but if you don’t know why you are participating, it’s difficult to figure out how to participate. Once you have set you goals for Social media, start tracking your progress towards those goals.

One great way to do that is a new free application called ThinkUp. If you are well versed in computer technologies, you can install ThinkUp on your own server and use it. If you aren’t comfortable with managing your own server, you can setup a free account with phpfog.com and install ThinkUp as your free application. ThinkUp will help you track your Social Media presence so you can measure your progress to your goals.

WARNING: Installing ThinkUp will take you about 10 minutes. Configuring it should take you about an hour. Getting the most out of it though will take digging into the documentation and understanding the software; this can take some time. If you work with a content strategist, let them help you figure the tool out so that you can track their progress towards your goals.

 

3: Take a look at your mobile strategy

Mobile is hot and gets hotter each year. The number of people surfing the web from a smart phone or tablet rises daily; are you ready for these potential customers?

If you’ve been following the advice for the 3 point checklist then you’ve already reviewed your website. You know that it is up-to-date both content wise and technology wise. Now take a look at it from a variety of smart phones and tablets. Don’t limit yourself to your favorite brand, your customers may not always agree with you. Make sure that whatever device they are visiting your site with displays it properly.

If you are strictly an on-line company then how your site looks on a phone or a tablet is as important to you as having a well-kept store it to a brick-and-mortar company. Things that work well on desktop browsers, like mouse-overs and hovers, fail miserably on touch devices. Make sure that your website doesn’t get in the way of a positive user experience.

If you are a brick-and-mortar retailer, have you checked your foursquare presence? Are you offering specials for check in? For your Mayor? For specific badges? It doesn’t matter if you like foursquare or not, if your customers are checking in with it, you need to be aware and be a part of the experience. One of our favorite restaurants tweets to us the day after we check in, every time. They want to engage with us, make sure everything was to our liking and let us know that our business is appreciated. The same goes for Google Local and Facebook places. It is up to you to actively participate in these mobile strategies because whether you do or not, your customers may be and if you aren’t part of the conversation, you aren’t influencing them.

If you are a physical store, your mobile strategy is just as important as your content strategy as part of your overall Internet strategy.

Regardless of whether you are on-line of or-offline, if you are ignoring mobile, you are ignoring a fast growing customer base. Find a good Mobile Strategist to help you start using this important channel.

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A Business Person’s SOPA Primer

If you own or operate a small business you need to know about SOPA. You need to understand how it can affect your business and what you can do should you agree with many citizens of the web that it is bad legislation.

TL;DR

The “Stop Online Piracy Act”[1] is a bad piece of legislation and it is up to all of us to let Congress know we won’t stand for it. This article gives a non-partisan, non-technical, business oriented look at the major problems with the bill. It then calls them to action in protecting this bill.

If DMCA was a hammer, SOPA is a Jack-hammer

In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” (DCMA) into law. DCMA was a deeply flawed piece of legislation that has been abused by both the Government and by large media corporations for over a decade now. The one thing it did get right was the concept of “Safe Harbor” [2]. In layman’s terms, if someone post something illegal on your website – for instance a copyrighted MP3 or a video clip – the owner of the copyrighted material can send you a “takedown notice“. If you comply, you cannot be held liable for the infringement. If the material that was taken down was not actually infringing on anyone’s copyright, the original poster can protest and there is a process that you go through.

It has been abused in many cases, especially by large media companies like Warner Music who have admitted to sending automated taken down notices without human review that resulted in material that they do not own and that does not infringe on their copyright being taken down.[3] In court and under oath, Warner Music not only admitted to automated DMCA takedown notices, they admitted to sending a takedown notice for a piece of software they did not own the rights to but didn’t like because they felt it helped people copy files faster.

The important thing to note is that Warner admitted to sending incorrect takedown notices without apology. The DMCA gives them the freedom to wrongly accuse sites of infringement and the content can be taken off-line for as much as 10 days. In Warner vs. Hotfile [4] Hotfile was required to remove the content but no direct revenue was lost. This is not always the case, this month – December of 2011 – Universal Music Group, as part of its war with MegaUpload filed a DMCA takedown notice and had an episode of Tech News Today removed from YouTube. Megaupload – a Hong Kong based file sharing service created a promotional video staring Kanye West, Will.i.am, Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams, Snoop Dog, and other artists supporting the service. Megaupload asserts that it has agreements in place with all the celebrities in the video and that they own the copyright to all the material. Even so, DMCA allows Universal Music to demand that YouTube take the video down. Caught in the crossfire though was a daily video webcast, Tech News Today. Episode 391, which discussed the controversy and played two clips of the video in question as part of a news story, was taken down. It is now back online and available but being a daily news show, being off-line for ten days means that the advertising potential of the show is now almost zero. The production company, twit.tv lost all potential ad revenue for 10 days because Universal Music Group did not like being criticized.

These are two of many egregious abused of the DMCA. It is flawed legislation and should be repealed. However, DMCA does at least have a due process built into it. The content wrongly taken off of Hotfile and the episode of Tech News Today can both be restored, even if the offending companies cannot be punished for their sins. SOPA has no such due process restrictions. Companies that swing the DMCA hammer freely are lining up to start using SOPA to silence critics and shut down businesses that don’t support their business model.

Artists don’t need SOPA, Media Companies Do

Large media associations like the RIAA and the MPAA want you to believe that they are doing this to protect artists’ rights. That foreign websites are robbing the US blind by “stealing” our Intellectual Property. They don’t offer any proof that this is true and they are silent on exactly how much SOPA will prevent these acts. The fact is artists, the very people they are representing, don’t need SOPA. Artists can make money on the Internet without the help of movie studios, record labels, or four letter associations. One of the best examples happened just last week.

Comedian Louis CK produced his own concert video and put it up for sale on the Internet. Without resorting to DMCA takedown notices and without encrypting the video using any Digital Rights management technology, Louis CK was able to sell over one million dollars worth of videos in four days. [5] Artists do not need SOPA; many like Ashton Kutchner [6] or Adam Savage [7] are actively opposed to it. It seems that only large media companies need SOPA protection for this existing business models.

The Domain Name System is a technology, not a weapon

The authors of the bill – mind you that is not any elected member of Congress, but instead their staffers; two of which now work for major media companies [8] [9] – propose that to stop the theft of U.S. Intellectual Property, foreign sites that are found to be “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property” be blocked from being accessed in the U.S. by removing them from the Domain Name System. (DNS) The DNS is what allows you to type in “avoidingagoatrodeo.com” and get to our site; the Internet runs off of IP addresses at its heart and they are hard to remember, even for those of us who work with them. The Attorney General for the U.S. could petition to have a site removed from the DNS system. This is similar to how they currently take ownership of sites accused of the same. The problem is, the current system is ripe with mistakes and malicious intent and SOPA only makes this easier.

In February of 2011, Homeland Security took down 84,000 websites by mistake. [10] [11] In an effort to stop online child pornography, DHS inadvertently shutdown thousands of law-abiding sites for three days. [12] If you don’t think SOPA can affect your website, then ask yourself if the owners of those thousands of websites thought DMCA could ever affect theirs.

The seizing of domains by the Department of Homeland Security is egregious to say the least. However it is not yet technically damaging to the Internet, only damaging to the reputation of the United States. Steve Crocker [13] one of the fathers of the Internet put it best when he said this about the technical ramifications of using the DNS to filter the Internet.

Mandated DNS filtering would be minimally effective and would present technical challenges that could frustrate important security initiatives. Additionally, it would promote development of techniques and software that circumvent use of the DNS. These actions would threaten the DNS’s ability to provide universal naming, a primary source of the Internet’s value as a single, unified, global communications network. [14]

In fact, 74 of the very people that built the Internet are telling us that if we do this, we are opening the Internet up to additional security problems and instability. [15]

On the other hand, members of Congress admit that they have no idea how the DNS works but believe that it should be the weapon used.

Rep. Mel Watt said he was not a technological “nerd,” but said he did not “believe” security experts who said that the internet would become less secure unless Issa’s amendment was adopted. [16]

Congress should listen to the people that designed the Internet – the people that understand the ramifications of the actions they are proposing – instead of dismissing them out of hand and enacting laws that will reduce the security and stability of the Internet.

Call to Action

If the above has given you pause for thought then you need to act now. The fight against SOPA – and all legislation that purports to protect copyright holders – is nowhere near over. Your help is needed.

The first thing – and the easiest thing – you can do is contact your Representative and both Senators. If you don’t have their contact information handy, visit americancensorship.org and they will help you find the right people and contact them. If – like my Congressman Rep. Jim Cooper – your Congressperson is a co-sponsor or supporter of the bill, ask them to explain themselves. Point them to some of the articles below and ask them how they justify supporting a bill like this. Always be polite but remember that they should be working for you, not large companies. This is by far the most important thing you can do to oppose SOPA.

If you are still interested in taking action, here are a few follow-up actions that you can do that take a little time but little or no money.

  • Read SOPA. This will immediately make you more informed than most – if not all – members of Congress. To be effective, you have to be informed.
  • Tweet, post on FaceBook or whatever Social Media site you use. Explain the problems with SOPA and urge your U.S. friends to contact their members of Congress to oppose it. The more of us tweeting about it and discussing it, the harder it is for Congress to act against our will.
  • Review the complete list of SOPA supporters. If you purchase products from one or more of them (and almost all of us do) then tweet, FaceBook or email them expressing your displeasure that they are supporting SOPA. Let them know that you will “vote with your pocketbook” if they continue their support.

If you still don’t believe that SOPA will affect you then ponder the words of Martin Niemöller as he discussed the inactivity of Germans during the rise of the Nazi’s preceding World War II.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me. [17]

While SOPA does not rise to the level of atrocities committed by the Nazi party, the sentiment behind the quote is as relevant today for the fight against SOPA as it was then.

End notes

[1] http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/112%20HR%203261.pdf
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_harbor
[3] http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111110/10135116708/glimpse-future-under-sopa-warner-bros-admits-it-filed-many-false-takedown-notices.shtml
[4] http://torrentfreak.com/warner-bros-admits-sending-hotfile-false-takedown-requests-111109/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
[5] http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/sales-of-louis-c-k-s-standup-download-top-1-million-20111222
[6] http://aplusk.posterous.com/87693122
[7] http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/mythbusters/articles/mythbuster-adam-savage-sopa-could-destroy-the-internet-as-we-know-it-6620300
[8] http://boingboing.net/2011/12/11/congressional-staffers-behind.html
[9]http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111209/10151917022/shockingly-unshocking-two-congressional-staffers-who-helped-write-sopapipa-become-entertainment-industry-lobbyists.shtml
[10] http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110217/00082213144/homeland-security-wont-even-admit-whether-not-it-seized-mooocom-taking-down-84000-innocent-sites.shtml
[11] http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1297804574965.shtm
[12] http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/vulnerabilities/229218959
[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Crocker
[14] http://domainincite.com/docs/PROTECT-IP-Technical-Whitepaper-Final.pdf
[15] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/12/internet-inventors-warn-against-sopa-and-pipa
[16] http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/12/sopa-stalls/
[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6

Do I really need to hire someone to build my website? Part 3

Obligatory recap from previous post

Ok, if you’ve read this far then you have decided that you need to hire someone. You have probably figured out from part 1 & part 2 that you have an idea for a website that you need some help with. You have even created a simple bulleted list of the things you want your website to do. You need to stop here and congratulate yourself because a lot of people spend a stupid amount of money with web developers before they get to this point. It’s not the web developer’s fault; they build what they think you want. If you don’t have a real clear picture of what you want, they try to interpret what you tell them; and that’s where things go wrong.

We have talked about three different “sizes” of websites. Using your budget as a measure is an imperfect guide but it is one that everyone can understand. We talked about small, medium and complex websites. There is a fourth level to consider, a complex web application.

A Complex Web Application

Complex web applications are more than just simple brochure sites, blogs or even simple shopping carts. Web applications, in many cases, blaze new trails and create something totally new. Since they can’t be fit easily into an existing pattern, they are more expensive to build. As a rule of thumb, when your budget (not your actual spending – what you think it’s going to cost) goes past ten thousand dollars, you need to step back and think for a moment. Hopefully, this moment comes before you have contacted a developer and you are still figuring out what you want and what you can afford.

At this point, you may want to consider working with a professional to do the “discovery phase” of your project before trying to find a developer to build your application to give your project the best chance of success. Paying someone to sit down with you and plan out your site before you contact a developer can actually save you money in the long run.

If you hire a consultant to help you get the project going, make sure you understand what you can expect and what you are getting for your money. Having someone other than your developer scope the project is a good idea. Your consultant should have no hope of bidding on the project once it is scoped so they can focus their energies on figuring out exactly what you need to have built.

When the project is scoped out, they should turn over to you a packet of documents that describes your web application in details. It is important to understand that this is not a technical document; your developer will create that. This document is what is known as a “Functional Specification”. It describes everything in plain English. Once you have selected a developer, they will take this document and create a technical specification.

  • All technical aspects should be covered in enough detail so that your developer can understand them.
  • All features should be explained.
  • Every screen should have a wire-frame representation

If you ask them about it, many developers will include this process in your price if you let them. However, having someone work with you separate from your developer means that they will pay a lot more attention to you during the process and once finished, you can “shop” your document around to find the best developer for your project.

Many times, a website is not the embodiment of a project. Restaurants that put up a website aren’t in the web business, but they recognize the importance of having one. Even if your website isn’t the focus of your idea, executing on it properly is important so that the whole project is a success.

There is a lot you can do to minimize the cost of a website, much of it explained in “Avoiding a Goat Rodeo:How to get the website you want“. In the end though, don’t be surprised if you find you do need help. Once you have decided you need help envisioning your dream, find the best you can afford to work with. The money you invest in executing your idea properly should pay for itself handily.

 

 

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Do I really need to hire someone to build my website? Part 2

Obligatory recap from previous post

In “Do I really need to hire someone to build my website? Part 1“, we looked at how to look at your website and try to determine if you need help building it or if you can do it yourself. We discussed one way of scoping your website using a very simple methodology; the WordPress.com test. In this post, we will look at the next two levels of difficulty.

A Moderate Website

Take the list you made in the previous exercise. How many bullet points did you not check off? Of those, think hard about whether you really need them to get your project off the ground. Can you compromise on any of them and put the off until a future date?

If, after thinking through the points that cannot be done with WordPress.com, you still have bullet points that absolutely have to be done, then yes, you need to bring someone in to help you. The good news is because you’ve started thinking through your project before hand, you are ahead of the game. Most websites that get built aren’t thoroughly thought through until they are finished and the keeper of the idea (you) wonders why they didn’t get the website they want.

Now that you know you need help, start planning your budget to see how much help you can afford. Once you know what you want to build and how much you can afford to spend, then – and only then – you can start looking for a developer to breathe life into your idea.

A Complex Website

If you have more than two or three bullet points unchecked after the earlier exercise, you are most likely building a complex website. This is not a bad thing and shouldn’t scare you but you do need to think about it differently. Your web application may still be built on top of WordPress; it may also use Drupal or Joomla. Chances are good that you will also need to arrange to host your application on the web somewhere. (For more on that, see “Does your web design company own you?”

Unless you are a programmer yourself you are going to need to hire someone to build your web application. There is a good chance that you will end up with a team that involves a designer, a programmer, and a writer; other members are possible as well. The important thing to remember when building a complex web application is that you have to know what you want before you begin, or you will never get the website you want. Planning out your web application before engaging a developer is critical to the success of your project.

 

 

Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

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Do I really need to hire someone to build my website? Part 1

Times are tough, money is tight, and everyone is looking to do more with less. The Internet is full of people who promise that they can build your website. Should you hire them? Do you even need them?

Obligatory history lesson

In the early days of the Internet – back when the term Webmaster was more than an ironic joke hipsters put on their resume – the answer was always “yes, of course you do”. HTML was scary, the insanity that is CSS had yet to be invented but JavaScript was around to help push developers over the edge. While anyone with a copy of “Hotdog Editor” or “Homesite” could hang out their shingle as a web designer, getting it right was difficult. It was only natural to hire someone to build your website for you, even if it was your niece or nephew.

The rise of dynamic languages took the tools of programming from the hands of the trained few and put them in the hands of the curious many.Then a revolution happened. Languages like PHP brought programming to the masses. The rise of dynamic languages took the tools of programming from the hands of the trained few and put them in the hands of the curious many. Programs started popping up – both commercial and open source – with the promise that anyone could put up a website. Sadly, this promise sounded good in theory but failed in practice.

Those that stuck with it – those that built their website and maybe a few more – started realizing that a lot of websites were the same thing over and over again. They started building out platforms to solve these common problems. Systems like were born. They still weren’t exactly easy to install and get running, but they were a lot easier than before.

Why the history lesson was important

Flash forward to today, platforms like Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, and many others, have entire ecosystems built around them. Building a website today can be as easy as clicking a few buttons and answer a few questions. Very quickly you can deploy a website, customized functionality and be ready to start entering you content, entering products, or building the part of your website that makes it special. In many cases you have to ask yourself, “if you have to spend money, isn’t it better invested in design and content, two areas that have yet to be commoditized?”

The answer to that, as well as the original question is a big fat “it depends”. Whether or not you need help depends on how complex your website will be. If you haven’t done your due diligence yet, even you don’t know the answer to that question. Let’s look at a simple exercise you can do to help decide if you need to hire someone or not.

We will divide web projects into four groups. The first of these we will be discussing in this post.

A Simple Website

This task will take you between thirty and sixty minutes. Don’t attempt it if you don’t have the time, wait until you do have the time to complete it and think about the results.

Sit down with a sheet of paper and list bullet points of everything that your website needs to do. Use more paper if you need it. Don’t get too technical, most things can be described in one or two sentences.

Once you have a complete list of everything you want your website to do, go to WordPress.com and register. Setup a dummy blog just for testing.

Look at the functions available for you to use. Look at the themes available for you to install. Review your list point-by-point and see how many bullet points you can tick off just using the tools at hand on WordPress.com. Can you get your website up and running using only WordPress.com? If you can see all the features you need, and can find a theme you like, you don’t need to hire someone.

WordPress.com is a powerful platform and a lot of people use it because it does what they need. If it does what you need then congratulations, you won’t have to spend much at all to get up and going and while you probably don’t need to hire someone to build your website, you may want to anyhow.

 

 

Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

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Questions to ask your developer – Who is keeping an eye on my website?

Who is keeping an eye on your site? Is it your job? Is it your developer’s job? Are you just assuming it is your developer’s job because after all, you host with them? If you are paying your developer for hosting then you need to find out if they have a plan in place to monitor your website.

There are two major types of monitoring you need to be concerned with. First is what is known as a “ping”. A ping (it gets its name from the sound a sonar makes) just tells you if the server that hosts your site is operational and responsive. If your host is managing the server that your site is running on, then they should have a system in place already that monitors the health of their servers and should be able to tell you if the server is up or not.

There are services you can use to “ping” the server that hosts your site, independent of your developer. A good, and free service is Basic State. Signup for a free account. Every 15 minutes it checks to make sure the server hosting your website is operational. If there is a problem, it sends you an email. (Note: Use a Gmail account, or a Hotmail account if your email is also hosting on the same server.) More complete ping services will monitor the server your website is hosted on from sites around the world and let if you if there are problems getting to it.

Second, you want to monitor for modifications. If your website is a blog, you want to make sure that it doesn’t change unless you have posted a new entry. If it does change between entries, your site may have been compromised. Again, there are free services on the web that will keep an eye on your site for you and send you an email if something changes. It is important to note that these services can’t tell the difference between a change you made and a change someone else made. Anytime you update your homepage, you will get an email. ChangeDetection.com is a free service that will monitor a page on your site and tell you when it has changed.

Don’t assume someone is monitoring your site. Better yet, even if you know someone is monitoring your site, keep an eye on it yourself.

 

 

Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

Buy amazon kindle
softcover adobe pdf