Here’s why you’re probably better off with a small firm the specializes in websites than hiring a large marketing firm that builds websites “on the side.”
Brief local history lesson: In Washington State in the 1980s, a rural water district approached a large, prominent engineering firm to design a very small dam across a very small stream to help control minor spring flooding. The engineering firm asked for and received several million dollars and, after much measuring, surveying, and quite a few months they delivered a plan for a 50-foot high concrete hydroelectric dam. One that in today’s dollars would cost perhaps $100 million. Then or now the amount was higher than the total assessed value of all the property in the district! Bonus points: the flow of the stream was so low they estimated it would take four years to fill the reservoir behind it and even then it would only generate electricity a few months out of the year.
The district approached a smaller firm that put together a plan for a 10-foot dam that a) controlled flooding, b) cost just a few hundred thousand dollars. Oh, and c) even had a low-head hydroelectric generator that would work year round.
The district had paid the original firm nearly ten times more for unworkable plans than they paid the other firm to design and build what they’d actually wanted and needed.
While I’m not knocking the large engineering firm for demanding millions of dollars to design something they were used to building, I do knock them for not designing the dam their clients actually wanted and needed.
Which brings me to this headline from the tech news website TheRegister
Accenture sued over website redesign so bad it Hertz: Car hire biz demands $32m+ for ‘defective’ cyber-revamp
Rental firm fuming after consultancy ‘never delivered a functional site or mobile app’
By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 23 Apr 2019 at 21:12
While I’m not knocking Accenture for demanding forty odd million dollars for a website I am going to knock them for not even bothering to make the site work on mobile devices. Ok, actually I am knocking Accenture. Forty million smackers is a heck of a lot of money for a $%!#% website!!!
Just to be clear, I’m not saying Hertz should have hired us to rebuild their enterprise website either.
Both the local water district and Hertz’s cases the projects they needed completed were far below the scope and scale of the companies they hired. The engineering firm was used to bidding billion dollar public works. Accenture (an accounting, management, and “professional services” firm, not web developers) had revenues of 41 billion dollars in 2018.
In both cases the projects they were asked to undertake amounted to rounding errors in their grand schemes of things. And so in both cases they simply weren’t able to think small enough. Or their idea of “small” meant only “less giant, and less over budget than our day jobs.”
Ok, so let’s bring this down to earth: if you’ve got a small to midsize business and you need a website you’ll probably be better off hiring a small web design and development company than hiring a large marketing firm that builds websites “on the side.”
Websites aren’t necessarily cheap, but compared to a television ad campaign they’re not even a rounding error. And so even the best-intentioned large marketing company is going to be hard-pressed to understand your budget.
For the record I do know a tech group that regularly bills in the five million dollar range for websites. For sometimes stupidly simple final sites.
The “secret” is they work for major brand marketers for whom $5 million is a rounding error. But to get to one final site they might generate dozens of fully functioning finished sites a month trying to stay on top of the design changes coming out of the clients marketing departments.
Each one has to be meticulously optimized, photographed, up-designed, usability tested, manually tweaked for dozens of target devices, made accessible… and then ditched because some new idea comes along from up top.
Which I’d just another way of saying $32 million sounds like a heck of a lot of money. Even at $1,000 a pop for a favicon there can’t have been 32,000 other components that cost $1,000 each!
Question from a client:
[My Hosting Company] is asking to select default between Round Cube, Horde, and Squirrel Mail for the email… Not sure which too choose?
For decades now most web hosting companies include email with their server plans. And all of them offer the same three, decades-old webmail clients as well: RoundCube, Horde, and SquirrelMail. We’ll discuss whether you should use any of them in a moment (short answer, no, you shouldn’t use shared hosting for email) but let’s answer the client’s actual question first.
Not sure which to choose? According to the official cPanel documentation here’s the difference:
- Horde is for users who need a full suite of features that includes mobile email access and advanced productivity tools.
- RoundCube is for users who need a user-friendly web interface with some additional features available.
- SquirrelMail is for users who need a simple interface with which to read and reply to emails.
Most modern hosting plans will let you try them all out — using one won’t stop you from using another! And if you like one more than another, most hosting plans will let you choose a default.
And if you don’t have any other email accounts, and you don’t already use another web-based, desktop, or mobile application for email, any one of the three will probably do a fine job.
If you do have other email accounts, and if you do use Outlook, iMail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc., then you can use one of those instead.
Chances are your hosting company’s control panel has configuration information for desktop and mobile.
- Here’s a guide for using Gmail to receive and reply to hosting-plan email
- Here’s one for using Outlook.com and one for Yahoo mail.
- Here’s an older one for using Hotmail.
If you use a different web, phone, or desktop mail client chances are you can use that instead.
Point being that while it’s nice that you can use one of the webmail clients from your hosting company, chances are you really don’t have to.
Here at RealBasics we care a lot about keeping websites secure and sustainable. But occasionally a client will say there’s something funny going on. For instance that their website is showing advertisements or popups — something we never build into client’s business websites.* This occasionally happens to computer security researcher Dr. Neil Krawetz, who did something about it!
“If you see ads on your browser when viewing any of my web sites, then it’s not because of anything I’m doing. More likely than not, your browser or computer are infected with adware, spyware, or other kinds of malware. … I just added a new test to my malware tutorial. Test #3 checks for unexpected HTML alterations” — Dr. Neil Krawetz“
You can use his malware test too! It’ll test your browser for evidence of malware or spyware, evidence of an ad blocker, and evidence that your browser or an up-stream service (your data provider or ISP!) is altering results.
Pretty cool. And free!
Note: like Krawetz we’re unable to help people with hacked browsers — you’ll need a computer or phone repair person for help with that. But if your browser gets a clean bill of health but your site’s still not doing what you think it should? Give us a call — we love fixing websites.
* We think ads are a terrible idea on business websites. Getting a prospective client to visit your site either takes a lot of effort or a lot of luck — far more than the few pennies you’re likely to get for hosting an ad that… leads your hard-earned prospect to leave your site and visit someone elses!
Every business website needs to communicate three things quickly and clearly to their ideal clients – your value proposition, a reason to believe, and your distinctive difference from your competitors. The more quickly someone gets those three things the sooner they’ll answer your call to action.
Value Proposition — you’re worth it! better, faster, less expensive, more options, better communication
A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged. It is also a belief from the customer about how value will be delivered, experienced and acquired. A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customer accounts, or products or services — Wikipedia
Reason to Believe — you’ll do it! Experience, satisfied customers, clear examples, brand familiarity, portfolio of your product or service or self
Establishing brand identity using the concepts of value; values; personality; attributes; and benefits. A reason to believe should always accompany your brand statement. It builds the case for the target audience accepting your brand position or unique selling proposition as true and credible. — Market Directions
Distinctive Difference — why choose you instead of your competitors. You’re not one-size-fits-all, you’re the right fit for your ideal client!
By focusing on the needs and wants of a target market, a company can deliver more value than its competitors. The marketing concept emphasizes the “pull” strategy”. This means that a brand is so strong that customers would always prefer your brand to others. — Oxidian GmbH
Call to action — the action you want a visitor to take that changes them from a passive observer into an active client: call or email you, click “buy now,” schedule a meeting or appointment, sign up for service or more information.
Of course every page on your site should have at least an implied call to action. “About you?” You want visitors to decide you’re credible, capable, experienced, and likable. Portfolio or testimonials page? You want them to decide “I want you to do that for me.” But your entire site should have an overall call to action: call us, email us, buy now, book an appointment, sign up, buy a ticket… the overall action you want someone to take once they recognize your value, believe in you, and decide what makes you different.
This post is about choosing a 3rd party to host your company’s email instead of using the free email service that comes with almost all shared hosting plans.
I got a call on Friday from a former client, a small, highly-technical business with a handful of very large, old-school Fortune 100 customers. Their site and email has been on BlueHost for more than 15 years! Unfortunately, the network address on his server was recently blacklisted. His site and email were fine of course. However as a shared-hosting customer his site in on a large server that’s shared with hundreds or even thousands of other accounts. One of the other accounts was hacked or otherwise got blacklisted for spamming and so he and everyone else on his server ended up blacklisted too! As a result, his biggest client’s IT department started bouncing all his email! Yikes!
This is another very good reason why it’s important for businesses to host their websites, email, and domain registration with different companies.
As a web developer my biggest considerations for choosing email hosting are
- spam filtering, which is good,
- blacklisting, which is bad, and
- spam-filtering email from the contact form, which is also bad.
That last one’s kind of tricky so here’s a quick explanation: an email provider should be able to understand when your web server sends email from the same domain name your mail server is managing. If it doesn’t understand this then it’ll assume your web server is trying to spoof or spam using your email address. Depending on your mail provider it can be easier or harder to “reassure” them that your web server is authorized to send you email.
Moving websites is easy. Moving email’s a serious nuisance. No matter who you go with, if you have multiple email addresses and especially if you use 3rd-party mail clients like Outlook, iMail, Thunderbird, etc., at the very least you’ll have to change their IMAP and POP settings when you move your email.
Google’s GSuite for Business and Microsoft Office 365 have excellent spam filtering and zero problems with blacklisting, and for roughly $5.00 per mailbox they also offer excellent interfaces and a ton of goodies like calendars, office-productivity tools, and storage. They’re my top two choices… but there’s a reason I almost always recommend Google’s GSuite.
Google’s server settings are super easy to set up, so bouncing website contact email is rarely a problem. Many cPanel hosting plans let you change the settings for Google with one click!
It’s another story with Microsoft Office 365. Unless you’re willing to give me administrative access to the client’s backend Microsoft 365, on the other hand, is a giant pain to deal with when it comes to getting all the settings right on a web server. If you don’t get everything just right they bounce your contact form notifications and other email from your website. I mean, it’s awesome that they take security that seriously, but it’s still super annoying. (To be technical about it they’re so strict they recommend you use their nameservers and add A and CNAME records to whoever’s doing your actual web hosting.
So strictly from my selfish, egocentric WordPress web-hosting point of view, while Google and Microsoft are the #1 and #2 choices for never-move-it-again email hosting, Google’s GSuite is my first choice and Microsoft 365 is a distant second.
Note: if you’re not ready to make a change this post can help you make the most of your shared-hosting email.
When we bring a new client onboard for a site cleanup we use the excellent GTMetrix tool to assess site performance before we begin and after we’ve worked on it. We’re always proud when we can see results like this.
This client came to us with an “orphan website,” one that their previous developer had mostly finished and then disappeared. The site was built using the resource-intensive DIVI theme, hosted on a middle-of-the-road shared-hosting server.
What we did in this case, in addition to “loading down their site” with security-monitoring and SEO plugins was…
- Add and configure a good caching plugin
- Optimized all the images so they’d download faster
- Cleaned up and optimized the database to reduce query times
- Replaced a number of crusty, slow-performing plugins with newer, much more efficient ones
- Hand-resized some of the images to better fit the page (reducing some image sizes by more than 90%)
We’re pretty happy with the results before and after: Changing the performance rating from F to A, the PageSpeed score from 44% to 99%, the page load time from 9.5 second upload to 1.8, and the page size from 6.6 megabytes to 1.77.
You can do most of those things yourself with the right high-quality, open-source plugins from the WordPress repository. Or get in touch if you’d rather we do it for you!
I haven’t re-designed, but my traffic is dropping!
Website traffic is every business owner’s concern. When traffic is dropping, sometimes the first thing to do is PANIC, just kidding, the very first thing to do is NOT panic. What you should do is go into your Google Analytics to see what exactly is happening. Not comfortable with Google Analytics? Check out this great guide to your analytics page.
Check your code!
Even the simplest and smallest of changes in your website can cause a break in your links or accidental deletion of your tracking code. If you’re using WordPress, you can always start with the Broken Link tool in the “Tools” section of your sidebar.
Web servers have the ability to take on too much at one time, parts of your website might make your server slow down or even crash completely. If web traffic is down, there’s a chance your server is too slow and not loading in a decent time.
While it sounds unlikely, no site is spam-proof! To check if you’ve been hacked, you can go to Google’s comprehensive list of all the necessary steps to bring your site back to life!
Content is your best friend! Duplicate content throughout your site is simple to spot. Having as much original content as possible will help your site by becoming more valuable to Google. There are simple plugins to help you catch duplicate content in your site.
Looking to find more reasons your website traffic is down? Check out Forbes’ List of other common reasons your traffic might be down.
Real Basics can help analyze your site fully and find the real killer of your SEO for you! Give us a call today to start on your path to fixing your site and your traffic!
New Year, New Site
The number one thing website owners want to change when the New Year rolls around is to update their theme. That is to update the website’s look or change up the layout all together. However, there’s more to make out of an annual update! Here are a few steps better suited for your website than a new design.
- Focus on increasing leads
- Grow your email list & customer base
- Increase site traffic and successful conversion rates
- Increase your returning customers and blog engagement
A great article by engeniusweb.com has an infographic that helps with website goals!
Make sure you don’t make outrageous goals, but something like 15%-25% is a reasonable goal for each.
Now that you’ve set your goals, how do you track them?
Lucky for you, Google Analytics has your answer! If you haven’t set up your website analytics through Google, it’s easy to do and will help you at every turn on tracking your new website goals for 2019!
Look a little too overwhelming? Real Basics can help set up all your goals and website analytics with your new and improved website. If you host your website with Real Basics, not only will you get security and safety with your website, you’ll also be able to contact us day or night to help make sure your site is always up and always bringing in the traffic you need! Give us a call for a quote today!
When you throw words around like “Millennials” it tends to get an eye roll from either Millenials themselves, or everyone who is tired of hearing about what else they’ve ruined this week. However, they’re making a big impact in every aspect of the economy. Millennials technically make up ¼ of the US population with a total of 77 million. (Nielsen). In addition to being one of the most influential generations, they’re also one of the smartest! Millennials are the best-educated group of young adults in US history, with ⅓ of older millennials (ages 26-33) having earned at least a four-year college degree. (Pew Research Center).
So how do you keep your website relevant to a smart and tech-savvy crowd?
- Mobile Friendly: Tech-savvy means on the move and always on the phone. Keeping your website mobile friendly will make sure to reach the right audience. All plugins and key components of a mobile-friendly website are important to keep up-to-date. 66% are confident that the information they find on mobile devices is the same on a desktop (Google).
- Speed is Key: Millennials have a sense of urgency. If they don’t find what they’re looking for on your site within one or two clicks, they are likely to leave and go to a competitor’s site instead. The fastest wins the race and the sale. Make sure your copy is succinct and easily understood, and all major questions are answered as quickly as possible.
- Buying incentives: 90% of millennials look for coupons while buying anything online. Aim for attractive CTAs in the right places displaying offers or first-time visitor deals. Updated e-stores are important as well. 15% of millennial smartphone owners make online purchases on their smartphones multiple times per week, plus another 15% make smartphone purchases weekly. (Fluent) Not only does it mean your website needs to be mobile friendly, but user-friendly too!
- Means of contact: The millennials want to know all the possible ways to connect with you – a mere contact phone number won’t suffice. Giving them your email, your Instagram page, your Twitter handle etc. ensures there are multiple ways through which they can reach you. 66% of millennials follow a company or brand on Twitter and 64% like a company or brand on Facebook to score a coupon or discount. (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth).
- Minimalism: The new business generation hates clutter on a website and they won’t make an extra effort to gain clarity from clutter. Less is more when designing your UX.
Tired of dealing with your slow and out-of-date website? Real Basics can help update it to a faster speed and cleaner design. Don’t want to overhaul just yet? No problem, consider our ongoing maintenance package. For your first FREE consultation, give us a call today!
Photo by kevin dooley
Two lists with a seasonal flair from web security provider Sucuri!
“Naughty” features include outdated software, resused passwords, every user is an Administrator, and no automatic backups. They also point out that if you’ve got more than one website it’s a security risk if they’re all kept in the same folders on your server. (That’s standard practice for shared-hosting setups like GoDaddy or Bluehost.) Naughty features according to Securi include having all default settings (allowing anyone to create an account, for instance!) and not having strong security for login attempts.
We’d add that sites should have the latest server software (databases, programming languages) as well as a “green lock” security certificate to protect site visitor privacy. Note: quite a few hosting companies should get coal in their stockings for not updating their servers or offering free security certificates.
“Nice” features include keeping all site and server software updated, backed up, and secured, only one Administrator’s account with everyone including the owner using an Editor’s account for day-to-day use, having only those plugins and themes necessary to support the features you need, and routine security scans.
Some of the other features on Securi’s list include possibly self-serving features that their plugins and cloud-services happen to provide. And while we agree those can be a good idea too we’re not yet convinced they’re make-or-break.
Not to put in a plug or anything but if there’s a website on your holiday shopping list that needs a year-end checkup we’d love to help.