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Posts about how to look after your website.

Are you on the right website platform for your business?

website platforms-wix-weebly-vistaprint-wordpressBy platform I mean the service provider that hosts your website – such as Wix, Weebly, Vistaprint, WordPress to name a few.

Starting out the right way with a website means it’s less stress, easier to manage so it takes up less of your time, and easier to change as your business grows or changes.

Now I know that you’re thinking, Karen, you’re a WordPress Business Consultant so obviously you’re going to say go with WordPress.

Well yes and no…..

I think, you can correct me if I’m wrong, I think that most of the decisions to go with those kind of website platforms are budget and ease of use. However I don’t think that they’re as cheap as you think, either in terms of money or time.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing your website platform for your business needs:

Will it make me look professional?

This is so important. Your website is where people will get an idea of who you are, what you do, why you do it and whether they want to work or buy from you.

If you’re website is more relaxed for your clients, that’s great but it still needs to be done in a professional way.

For example I know a business that sells a high end product yet their website says designed by Vistaprint at the bottom. I’ve seen the recent TV adverts for Vistaprint and maybe they are trying to change their image but my impression of them is cheap business cards (and yes I have used them in the past). In my mind having an association with cheap on a high end product website simply doesn’t work.

For me (as a micro business owner) if someone approaches me offering a service or product and they are using a website that is free or send an email using from a gmail email address I think a few things:

  • someone is not serious about their business because they are not setting it up the correct way
  • someone is testing a new website / service to see if it works and they could be gone soon
  • whoever is guiding them with their marketing strategy either isn’t doing a good job or they are not listening to them

Will this platform allow my business to grow?

I know that when a lot of micro / home businesses start up that they are on a budget, I’ve been there and done that too. If you have a business plan (even if it’s just in your head) make sure that you have marketing in there and a rough idea of how and when to create or upgrade your website.

If you are simply testing an idea or you know that all you’ll ever want is a website with a few pages then one of the simpler platforms may be ideal for you. Yes right now all you may need is a 5 page website, but will that be enough in the future?

Do I own the domain for my website?

You want to make sure that you own your website domain. It’s an important part of your business and branding. No-one other than you should own it – not a website platform and not someone who set it up for you – only you.

Why? Because as you build your business people will get to know your domain name, and if you don’t own it then you’ve lost control.

You’d be shocked (or maybe you wouldn’t be) at the number of clients that have come to me either about to lose their domain or their hosting.

Some platforms allow to buy a domain through them, or give it to you for free, but if you want to leave you have to pay a fee.

If possible, buy your domain name first in your name (or your company name) and then add it to the platform.

Do I own the content?

Make sure that your content (text and images) are still owned by you when you use a website platform. In other words always read the small print – no matter how small it is and how long it goes on for.

Can I move my content easily to another platform?

moving boxes website contentYou would think that most website platforms have some sort of system where you can export your content so that if you decide to move to another platform super easy.

Unfortunately some platforms seem to think that if they don’t provide a way of easily letting you export your content (yes it’s your content after all) then you’ll stay with them.

If you only have a small website, only a few pages, then copy and paste is an option when moving your website.

Can you imagine doing that on a big website  that as grown over time to tens or hundreds of pages? I know business owners that either are or will have to do that at some stage.

Make sure that you have all your images and other content kept somewhere else so if you do need to re-create your website you have all the details.

Can I have a copy of my website for safe keeping?

computer safe file backupI can hear you ask, Karen do I really need this, they take a daily copy anyway?  The important word in that sentence is THEY. Yes they have a copy so how does that help you if you lose access to them?

Oh I have too many backups – said no-one EVER!

What’s a fundamental of buying property? Location, location, location.

What is a little known fundamental of having a website? Backup, backup, backup.

When you don’t have a backup of your own website here’s what some clients have some across:

  • If their website has a problem and it needs to be restored they have to pay to have the website restored (this can vary in price)
  • If they have an issue with their hosting company (payment has not been received although it’s been paid) they could lose their entire website if the hosting is taken down
  • If whoever hosts your website has serious issues such as server problem, you’ve lost your website and you may not get it back for days, weeks or maybe you’ve lost it forever

Yes I know I’m coming across as a backup lunatic person and you’re right. If you’ve worked damn hard on your website (or even if you haven’t), you want to make sure that you have a copy somewhere.

All my clients, yes even on WordPress and even with excellent website hosting companies, have a regular backup of their website which is sent to cloud storage. This means that if anything happens to their website, hosting, or even to me, they have a full copy of their website that can be restored quickly to get them back up and running.

So which platform is right for you?

If you want to know which budget platform I would choose – I would probably go with WordPress.com. They do the hosting for you, you can take your own domain, you can add options to expand or change your business, you can take a backup of your website yourself and you can export your content too.

With any platform there is a learning curve, whether it’s WordPress or something else.

Test out a few free platforms

If you want to find one that feels right to you then set up a few free accounts and see which one is  easier to use. Just be aware that the easiest one may not be the one that answers all these questions in a way that you like, but at least you would know what choice you are making.

Summary

In closing, ask yourself these questions to see if you’re on  the right platform for your business:

  • Will it make me look professional?
  • Will this platform allow my business to grow?
  • Do I own the domain for my website?
  • Who owns the content?
  • Can I move my content easily to another platform?
  • Can you have a copy of your website backup?

If you’re on the right platform, congratulations, you can sleep easy at night.

If you’re not sure, read the small print or ask questions of your website platform.

If you’re not on the right platform or think you may need to move, you can check out my website business process and contact me if you want some help moving to WordPress.

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Why do you want a website?

Why do you want a website?

If you already have a website then hopefully you already know why you have one (if not then I doubt that it’s working well for you and maybe we should have a chat).

Why do you want a website may seem like a really dumb question. Every business needs a website right?

In general my answer would be yes but we’re not thinking about generalities we’re think about you (yes you).

Let’s reverse the question for a moment – why wouldn’t you want a website?

Time – you don’t have time to update a website while you’re running your business and you don’t have

Money – to pay someone else to do it for you because you think that they are too

Expensive – since you think that websites are expensive you think that the expense will take away from your

Profit – your website should add to your profit rather than take away from it, it’s an investment not a cost.

The biggest issue I see before anyone decides on their website comes back to your Why. Everything starts with why?

(Note: If you haven’t watched the TED talk by Simon Sinek How great leaders inspire action it’s well worth watching since Simon talks about starting with why and has written a book about it too https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.)

When I moved from the UK to Australia nearly 10 years people often asked me why I choose the providers I used when we moved here. The simple answer is because they were online.

I didn’t have a yellow pages directory (does anyone even use them anymore?) since I was in the UK. I had no idea about local businesses and I didn’t know anyone in the area. The only thing I had access to was the internet and the businesses that were online received my business.

That was 10 years ago and now it’s even more important to be online since so many people are using mobile devices.

If your customers aren’t online and never will be and you’re sure that they aren’t online (you may be surprised at how many people are online) then maybe you don’t need a website.

According to ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyCatalogue/ACC2D18CC958BC7BCA2568A9001393AE?OpenDocument)

in 2014 – 2015 85% of people in Australia were internet users and in the aged group of 65 years, 51% of that aged group were online.

Do not make assumptions about your customers. If you’re not sure you could always ask them.

If you really don’t have the money to invest in a website (a good website is an investment and adds to your business), then think about how much extra time you have to build your own. There are DIY options available but all of them have some sort of learning curve.

Maybe you just want to go with social media such as a Facebook page or an Instagram account. Social media is fluid and what’s popular one year may be surpassed by something else next year. You have no control over the trends and you have no control over the platform either.

Facebook has been annoying me recently with the amount of changes that come through without any warning. And yes I’ll whinge about it but the fact is that it’s a free platform and actually they can do what they want with it.

I confess that I’m a recovering control freak so I love the fact that I have more control over my own business website than I do a social media platform that I get for free.

In summary, think about why you want a website. If your business had a website (or already has one) think about what result you want that person visiting your website to take – call you, book an appointment, download information, buy something…. what result do you want from your website?

Start with the end in mind and work backwards.

If you have questions about this drop me a line or connect through social media.

 

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Does your website need an SSL certificate?

What is an SSL certificate?

do you need ssl certificateSSL (Secure Sockets Layer) allows data from your website to be encrypted so that when someone enters personal data (for example username, password or credit card details). If someone intercepted the data it wouldn’t make any sense to them which for personal data is obviously a good thing.

How do you know a website has SSL?

When you shop online if you check the address bar you’ll usually see https:// when an SSL certificate has been installed for that website. It’s one of the things I automatically check before I pay online.

Google and SSL

Google has been encouraging websites to have an SSL certificate for quite a while but for some micro and small businesses it has been too costly. However the cost of SSL certificates has come down and some like Let’s Encrypt are free.

If you buy an SSL certificate from your hosting company then they will usually install it free of charge.

Why mentioning the changes in SSL now?

From January 2017 the Chrome browser will make all websites that allow password or credit cards and do not have SSL as insecure. This means that if you have an e-commerce website that does NOT have SSL because you’ve been told that a third party (such as Paypal) handles the data, Chrome will mark your website as insecure. (https://security.googleblog.com/2016/09/moving-towards-more-secure-web.html)

In May 2016 Chrome overtook over web browsers to become the most used web browser. Whether it’s because it comes pre-installed or whether it’s because people prefer it doesn’t really matter. According to Net Market Share nearly 55% of users are on Chrome (for desktops), with slightly less for mobile devices.

netmarketshare browser use

Image from Net Market Share – for more details see: Net Market Share

What if you don’t have an SSL certificate?  

If you have a purely informational website then you don’t have to install SSL (yet) although Google is moving that way.

If you have customers enter usernames, passwords or credit card details then you need to install an SSL certificate if you haven’t already done so.

Although it’s easier to install an SSL certificate before doing a website it can be installed afterwards. Most micro and small businesses will need to approach a developer or specialist for help since once the certificate is installed you need to make sure that the web pages are still working correctly.

Warning about Wix and SSL

At the time of writing if you have a Wix website it is not possible to add an SSL certificate to your site.

A standard reply on several support tickets seems to be:

“Any payments made through your Wix site (e.g., WixStores, Wix Hotels, Wix Bookings, Wix Music, or Wix Restaurants) are completed through a secure server. In addition, your personal data and billing information are stored securely. “

Updated: 22nd Feb 2017

Wix have announced that all Wix sites have now been enabled for SSL certificates which can be switched on under manage site.

In conclusion

You need to know this kind of information so it can help you decide what is right for your business.

If you need more information about any of these of points feel free to contact me through my connect form.

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The ‘not so sexy side’ of website design

glasses on a documentI was wondering what to write about today when I received yet another phone call from a small business owner unhappy with their current web designer and wondering what they can do about it.
I understand that it’s tempting to hand everything over to another person, especially when it’s something you don’t understand or it’s not the focus of your business. I know because I’m like that in other areas of my life. BUT (you knew that there was a ‘but’ coming didn’t you 🙂 ) as the business owner of your business the buck stops with you.

Continue reading

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How often to update your website?

Subtitle – a website is for life not just for Christmas!

Okay that’s all a bit of an exaggeration but what I’m trying to say is that websites shouldn’t simply be created and then left alone.  Just like a dog, websites need to be fed regularly with juicy bits of news about the business. Don’t worry that’s where the comparisons with dogs ends!

Websites used to be difficult to update by small businesses so the website would sit there for months and possibly even years without any content being added. However with Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress and Joomla any business that can use applications like Microsoft Word can also add content to their own website content.

Updating your website content is important for a couple of reasons – you want people to come back and visit your website so you need something new for them to come back for and also search engines will think your website is stale if you don’t update it. If search engines think that the website info is old then your business website will drop in its rankings and eventually it’ll be hard to find.

Business owners often ask what to write on their website. It can be news about the business itself – new products or services, how to use your products / services, events that you’ll be attending or special offers. If you have a business or events diary go through and see what can be newsworthy.

If you are already updating a Facebook Page or Twitter account, that can be placed on your website easily with a CMS website.

How frequently you update your website depends on the news you have to offer but at least once a month would be good and once a week even better.  You need to decide how often to add content to your website depending on your business and your available time. Once you have decided that you want to keep it consistent. If you decide that you’ll write one article a week you can write more and then schedule that they can be published one a week but you don’t want to write four articles and then publish them on the same day. Search engines like consistency and so do your customers.

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Is your business online in Mount Gambier?

The Smart E-skills training is coming to Mount Gambier in March and I’ve already signed up. Why would a Mount Gambier Website Designer sign up for an e-skills workshop? Mainly so that the knowledge can be passed on to local businesses like you.

Local businesses need to be online so that customers can find them.  One of my clients picked up business from Queensland in Mount Gambier. Why? He was the only gardener that the person in Queensland could find online in Mount Gambier.

Back to the Smart E-skills training… If you are interested in attending this training please contact the number on this Smart E-skills flyer (355kb). This workshop has nothing to do with me since a government initiative which is why it’s FREE. I do think that it’s a bloody good idea though.

If you don’t want to attend the training but do want some down to earth, no technical jargon on updating or setting up a website simply get in touch.

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