Common Mistakes Web Developers Make

1. Forgetting about Website Standard Conventions

Even since the internet was developed, users have been trained how to interact with a website. People will get frustrated with a site if things don’t match their expectations such as

  • Text that is underlined is not a link
  • They click on an icon in the header expecting to go to the home page, only to find it goes no where
  • It takes several clicks to find contact information or the contact tab is hidden
Here at Hartzler Digital Media, we take pride in making sure your website meets all standard conventions.  We have browsed thousands of sites and we know how to build easy to use sites.  And we always keep in mind the end user and how easy it is for them to navigate your website.

2. Creating Slow Loading Website

Users hate slow websites.  More than 40% of users will leave a website if it does not load within 3 seconds of click the link.  Some common things that we do to avoid slow load times:

Resize images to the correct size.  If an image has been uploaded to the server at the full 3000×2000 pixel resolution, it’s going to take awhile for that picture to load, especially with slow internet speed.  We always right size every image on your site to ensure the fastest loading times.

Load JavaScript in the Footer.  Most programmers will unnecessarily load all of the page’s JavaScript files in the head tag.  This will actually stall the page load.  Except for critical navigation JavaScript everything else can be loaded in the footer of the site.  We do our best to always follow this simple rule.

Load CSS Externally.  This is another big time saver.  If each item is styled on each individual page, on every page refresh, all of the code needs to be reloaded.  If you use a separate .css file to house the stylesheet, then the computer will save it in a cache file and it won’t have to retrieve the style information over and over.  Every theme we build a site we use an external stylesheet.

Extra CSS Code. Say your WordPress site is built from a great theme at themeforest.net, but you are barely using any of the style elements that the author has built into theme – remove that extra code! There is no sense leaving in there in case you will use it later. Trust us, later never comes.

3. Don’t Teach Clients How to Use WordPress Site

WordPress is a powerful website building tool for developers and it’s even more powerful for the business owners too. WordPress makes it easy to for your clients to make changes themselves without bothering you for every single small itty bitty change.

Teach Clients the Basics. After every project, we take an hour and show the client how to use their website.  We don’t send a generic WordPress video that has nothing to do with their site.  We talk them through each piece of their site and the difference between posts, pages and media menus.

Design with the Client in Mind.  We have never met a client that likes writing HTML code. So make it easy for them, don’t make them learn how to code a website.  Take the extra time when developing to make the site extra user friendly.

Remember the less you teach your client, the more they will rely on you to make their “urgent” changes, which will create all types of headaches!

Are Your Passwords Secure?

Over the last few days, I have been bombarded with information overload about online security – mainly dealing with passwords.

I’m afraid that everyone that uses a computer will do at least one of these things. We as humans are horrible with password management. We surf on free internet in coffee shops, we use the same passwords for a gazillion different sites and we never change our passwords – EVER – it’s just too much hassle. And the passwords we do create are simple to hack into.

Here are a few tips that I put together to keep you safe online. These tips include generic password advice and how to keep your WordPress site safe.

General Tips

1. Change your passwords.
No excuses, change your passwords every three months – that’s four times a year. Get out a piece of paper and draw a grid with passwords for home, work, devices, emails, etc.
2. Create hard to crack passwords.
Create passwords that are psuedo-words. For example, password is horrible password, but Pa$sw0rd is much tougher to crack (but please don’t use this example!). Create tough passwords by observing the following:
– Don’t use only numbers or only letters
– Don’t use any names, pets, spouses, etc.
– Don’t ever use important numbers, i.e. birthday, phone number, social security
– Don’t mix home passwords with work passwords
– Don’t use any full length dictionary words, not even foreign words.

3. Come up with a system.
One way to remember all the passwords you are about to create is to come up with some type of system. For example, make all your passwords have the same prefix like Wint3r_2011_01. You can remember the winter part because that’s the quarter and year you changed the password and then tack on numbers or letters at the end.

4. Don’t forget “hidden” devices.
How often have you changed the password to your wifi hotspot in your home? Or what about a gaming system? Yes, we all tend to forget about these devices.

Original Article.

Keep Your WordPress Sites Safe

1. Use different difficult passwords for different sites. If you need help coming up with difficult passwords, see above.

2. Keep backups of all your sites, both source files AND database backups

3. Enable SSL (https://) for the ‘wp-admin’ folder and login page

4. Keep all of your software up to date. Always use the newest versions of WordPress, themes and plugins

For an audio podcast about keeping your WordPress sites secure, head over to Your Website Engineer and listen to episode number 031.

The No-No’s of Website Design

Is your website driving away customers? You might be pushing potential clients and money away if you are committing any of these website sins.

Cluttered
You cannot try to build a website that will appeal to every single person. You need to decide who is your target customer and build the site around them. Always remember to order your site in a clean logical manner. Lots of people try to jam too much information on the front page of their site, when in reality, that makes the whole site seem more cluttered.

Difficult
The path from the first click to the sale has to be extremely easy. The more clicks, the less likely they are to continue through to the purchase. Personal pet peeve, making the user set up an account before they can make a purchase. The site should allow people to purchase on their own terms

Analytics
Review your site’s analytics before redesigning your new site (if possible). Google analytics will tell you what keywords are typing in to find your site. Once you know the major keywords, then build your site with those in mind.

Static
Your website is never finished. There are always new features to add, pages to reword and blog posts to write. Keep finding ways to constantly add new content. This will help the customers stay interested in your product. And more interest will drive up your web rankings as well.

Copy
It is a good idea to see what your competition is up to, but don’t copy everything they are doing. If you look too much like another business, they will have a hard time seeing the difference between companies.

Help
Do not to be afraid to get help. If you don’t know what you are doing, hire a professional. Website developers can build sites exactly to your specifications and will take you much less time.

If you need help with a website project, feel free to contact Dustin at Dustin@HartzlerDM.com or call 937.881.4865

Google Voice for your Business (or Personal Use Too!)

Google Voice, which the search giant introduced in 2009, recently became freely available to everyone in the United States. Even though the service hasn’t dramatically changed since then, it’s still very useful to those that run small businesses, because it can give them an extra edge and make professional life much easier — at least, it can if you know how to use it.

When you register you can choose a virtual phone number in any area code. You can use that number to send and receive text messages, record voicemails and even receive and make calls over the Internet, but it becomes particularly useful when you attach it to the number associated with your mobile or landline phone.

Google Voice can forward calls directed at your virtual line to your physical line, record voicemails and calls at both numbers, transcribe voicemails, share those voicemails with other contacts, block callers, apply special rules for individual callers or groups of callers, receive e-mail notifications of calls and text messages, and make unlimited free domestic calls and very cheap international calls. It even enables you to listen in on voicemails as they’re being recorded, giving you the option to pick up if you want to talk to the person who’s leaving the voicemail.

Here are our picks for five ways you can use all these features to make your small business (or managing your personal life) more efficient.

Search and Prioritize Your Calls
Most of Google Voice’s features fall into this category, but be aware that you have to actually provide contacts with your Google Voice phone number to use them. You can’t use many of the features we’re listing for calls received at your old number. This is a huge problem for small business owners who have already amassed an extensive list of contacts using their old number(s), but if you’re planning on switching pace and only handing out your Google Voice number, you’re all set.

Google will record voicemails on your behalf, then e-mail or text message you digitally made transcripts of every voicemail you receive. The robot transcripts aren’t perfect, but they’re usually clear enough that you can tell who is calling and what he or she is calling about. More importantly, they’re searchable.

Just like you can search your Gmail inbox or the web using Google, you can search the transcribed text of your voicemails. Voicemails have never been searchable before. If your business gets a high volume of calls, this is a killer feature because it allows you to avoid losing important calls. Have a sentimental voice mail someone left, and don’t want to hear it every 21 days when your carrier makes you review mailbox messages? With Google Voice, you can archive these messages and listen to them when YOU want to.

Since voicemails and text messages are all up on the web for you to search and sort, you can process a lot of calls more efficiently than you would be able to with a regular, call-in voicemail system. You can listen to your messages through on the web or with an app for your smart phone.

Use Different Rules and Greetings for Different Contacts
You can assign contacts to user-defined groups when you dig into Google Voice’s settings menu, then adjust behavior for those groups. You can say that certain individuals or groups should be connected to certain numbers when they call, or block some people from contacting you at all should you become harassed by unnecessary calls.

For example, you can determine which contacts will be calling to discuss business development deals and which contacts will be calling for product support, and forward those calls to the appropriate team member inboxes automatically.

You can also create custom voicemail messages for important clients or to represent certain divisions of your business. For example, the voicemail messages for your customer support and sales divisions could greet callers in different ways and with more relevant information on who to contact.

Share Your Calls
Because calls, text messages and voicemails are sent to you via e-mail, you can easily forward them to other people working at your business. But that’s not all you can do. You can actually embed the audio recordings of voicemails and share them via e-mail or other communications media with anyone you want.

Furthermore, you can press a button while on a call to begin recording that call. The recorded audio will appear on the web, and it will be shareable as well. This can be very helpful for collaboration, or for looping a partner in on an important conference call that he or she couldn’t attend.

As we mentioned in the previous point, you can configure calls from certain contacts to go to specific team members, but you can easily transfer a call to a different number once you’ve received it, too. This is of course standard for normal office phone systems, but many of today’s small businesses are operated via mobile phones on the go. This is a welcome feature for business owners in that situation.

Set Up Shop Anywhere, or Nowhere At All
Google Voice allows you to pick virtually any U.S. area code, and that can be a boon for small businesses in a big world. Do you have a large concentration of clients in Chicago, but you’re based in Ohio? Set up a Google Voice number in the 773 or 312 area codes so they have a local number to call for support.

You can also use Google Voice to make dirt-cheap international calls. That can save you a sizable sum in this age of Internet business and e-commerce, when national borders have little bearing on who you might do business with.

Specify when you want to receive calls
You can tell Google Voice which times of day you’ll be at which numbers, or recover your sanity by saying you don’t want the phone to ring at all outside of business hours. You can also change these rules for specific contacts or groups, as described above.

Let’s say you’re about to go on vacation; you’re leaving the office at 1:00 p.m., then you’ll be in transit until 7:00 p.m. After 7:00, you want to clock out. Just tell Google Voice to connect calls received before 1:00 p.m. to your office landline, to connect calls received between 1:00 and 7:00 p.m. to your mobile phone and to block all calls after 7:00 p.m.

And of course, you can make exceptions for important contacts, such as your business partner, who’s holding the fort while you’re gone and who knows what news is important enough to merit an interruption. Specify that his or her number can reach you on your mobile at any time and you’re all set.

Do you use Google Voice for your small business? If so, let us know how you’ve found it most helpful or hindering in the comments below.

Information via Mashable

The Cost of Quality

Content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, and design templates have made it extremely simple for small business owners to build and manage their own website. If you don’t count your sweat equity, you can usually get a site up and running for less than $250. But do you really want to spend your time learning all the skills necessary to set up your own website? I mean, you could learn everything, but then when are you going to use that skill again? Probably never again.

The cost of your website will be based on the size and complexity of the site. A five-to-ten page site that introduces you and your company to the world will be much less than a site that has the capabilities to process orders online.

When budgeting for a new site, you should take the following into consideration:
Domain Registration:
Cost:$10-$15 per year

Hosting:
You have to store your files somewhere where they they can be viewed from the internet. Hosting fees are to pay someone to store your files and maintain the servers to ensure that they are operating 24/365. Fees are different based on the number of visitors to your site and site complexity. Average cost for a small business is between $8-$20 per month

Graphics:
Unless you already have a logo, you will have to create a logo for your company. You could find use a company online like logoinn.com or hire a graphic designer with estimated fees of between $50-$150 per hour.

Web Developer:
Website Developers are folks like myself, are people who have the skills to know how to set up your site, customize your template, and publish all of your content to your new site. Developers can save you significant amounts of time by setting up your site and getting it live on the internet. Fees for developers range between $50-$150 per hour as well.

I would love to help you set up your site and get you off the ground and running. I also can provide you the tools necessary to keep your site updated for years to come.

Podcamp / Wordcamp Columbus 2010

This weekend I was able attend my first ever Podcamp / Wordcamp conference at The Ohio State University and wow, it was awesome. I was super excited to learn; however, there were so many great sessions, most hours I had to pick the one that looked the MOST interesting and hope that people were recording some of the sessions that I didn’t attend.

The four sessions that I attended were:
– How to keep your WordPress site secure
– How to find clients on LinkedIn
– Podcasting from an iPad
– How to make money by podcasting

I got excellent information there and I will be sharing some of it shortly.

The coolest thing about the whole conference was I got to meet one of the podcasters that I listen to weekly. Cliff Ravenscraft from Northern Kentucky was there from the Podcast Answer Man. He is such a great down to Earth guy. We spend some time talking after his session as he cleaned up some of his gear. I told him how I would be moving to the Dayton area in August and he suggested that we should do lunch. I could hardly believe it!

Excellent conference, plus a ton of networking. I can’t wait for next year. Hopefully, there are lots of these conferences within driving distance, because it was totally worth it. I spent $3.00 and won a free iPad holder and a free LinkedIn consultation!