If you’re here, then you have my card.
If you have my card, then I, or someone I trust, thought I might be able to help you. Let’s sit down and talk.
To learn more about what I do:
Or stay here a few minutes longer.
On this page is some general advice I’ve gathered over the past two decades of designing websites and apps. These are the same recommendations I give family and friends. For almost everyone, then, these following tidbits are essential.
I hope you find them helpful.
You probably don’t need a custom-built website.
Websites are like automobiles; very seldom do you have to build one from scratch. Often you can find a solution that meets most, if not all, of your needs. Customize the branding, add in your information, and away you go. Even in the odd case where something truly unique has to be built, it is often a matter of building only the pieces that are custom and adding them to what is already available.
Buy quality, but inexpensive, off-the-shelf solutions when possible.
There’s expensive, there’s inexpensive, and then there’s cheap. For most small to midsize businesses, the expensive stuff is overkill. Chances are there is a scaled-back version of the software that will fit your needs just fine, and you can put the money you save into supporting your website in other areas.
Avoid ‘free’ and ‘cheap’ stuff; both software and developers.
Free and extremely cheap software is generally buggy, unsupported, and more than likely to be discontinued. While inexpensive to set up initially, free and cheap often costs more money and time down the line in figuring out how to keep it working, or paying a developer to continually switch you from one abandoned solution to the next.
Related to this, you can find cheap developers all over the internet. The problem with many of these, however, is that they will often do only what is necessary to get the job done, leaving you with a website that will cost you extra money and time when the next developer painstakingly endeavors to untangle the morass of code left by his predecessor.
Update your website software regularly.
One of the reasons software developers update their code is to patch holes and fix issues that turned up after it was released. Often, these fix holes that others are already aware of, which means that you are currently vulnerable, so update as soon as you are able.
Have good security.
Beyond updating your software, there are a number of other steps you can generally take to protect your website from criminals and nosy kids. Find out what is recommended for your software, and do it.
Back up your site.
This is important, for a number of reasons. Sites can be victims of malicious attacks, hardware malfunctions, software glitches and user error (yes, you and me). Ever accidentally hit delete? Or accidentally paste new content over old content and hit save, only to realize you pasted over the wrong item? Anyway, backing up is important.
Usually, there are three levels of back up you should have.
First, your host should be backing up your site daily for their own purposes. However, these backups are generally kept only for a few days, a week at most, so they can cover their own obligations to keep the servers up and running.
Second, your software may keep versions of your work, to help you recover from your own blunders along the way.
Third, you should regularly run a more long-term backup of your site in case of something catastrophic, or even just a mistake that you notice weeks or months after the problem happened. Or maybe you’ve lost access to your hosted site and need to move to a new host for some reason.
Store your backups somewhere else.
Keep copies of your backups somewhere outside your home. While having backups on your computer, or an easily accessible external hard drive is convenient, you should also have copies backed up somewhere off-site, in case something happens to your local hardware. A few dollars a month for some space online is a simple enough answer for this.
Choose a hosting service that will support you, not leave it up to you to figure out what went wrong.
Many hosting services offer you rent on their servers ‘as is’. If something happens to your website that isn’t directly related to their server functions, its up to you to figure out what happened and fix it.
On the other hand, when you find a host that is set up to work specifically with the software you are using to run your website, they can help you through many rough patches, trouble-shooting the most common issues and offering advice on how to avoid problems moving forward.
Before you build or write anything, hire a strong SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialist.
If being found on the internet is essential for you, a good SEO specialist will:
- Help you understand where to put the main focus of your site content.
- Research and identify the most important pieces of your website structure.
- Write, or provide guidance on, keyword targeted content.
- Register you with search engines for local and/or global search listings.
- Educate you on your advertising options and help you determine your best strategy for both organic and paid listings.
Hire a great writer and/or editor.
Nothing turns people away from a website, confuses them, or causes them to see you as unprofessional faster than poorly written content.
If you like writing and want to write your own website content, then a great editor is an essential second set of trained, critical eyes that will help you get the most out of your effort. Yes, all of the content on this website went through at least one editor (two, if you count my wife who pre-edits my stuff before I ship it out to my editor).
If you aren’t a great writer, or don’t have time to write, hire one. Then be your own pre-editor or editor.
In either case, make sure the person who is writing is working with your SEO specialist to provide the proper content.
Hire an outstanding photographer.
If you sell custom products, you need beautiful photos. If your products don’t look great, people won’t want them.
Consider adding video elements to your site.
When selling product or demonstrable services, video has been shown to greatly increase sales when used in conjunction with photography.
Set up a mailing list (and a reason for people to sign up).
If you expect or hope for a lot of internet sales or interaction, set up a mailing list and newsletter. The people who sign up here are the people who actually WANT to hear from you. Treat them like your biggest fans (they probably are) and keep them updated with news, insider information and even early access to products and sales.
Don’t drown your audience in newsletters.
Unless you’re doing lots of product sales, you don’t need to send out a flood of emails.
If you want to send out regularly scheduled emails, then keep them short and sweet and filled only with pertinent information. Stay away from fluff. In fact, if you find yourself scraping for news, consider cutting back on the frequency of your mailings, perhaps even sending out newsletters only when you actually have information to share. Email filled with worthless information is called ‘junk’, and honestly, people will appreciate the help keeping their email inbox free of clutter.
Don’t set up ANY marketing channel that you aren’t in a position to fully support.
This especially includes social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram or anything else where community and interaction are the key ingredients. Spaces that are not active look old and empty, like an abandoned building, and people will assume your business is the same. Also, people who reach out to business via social media and receive no response assume that you offer poor customer service.
OK. That’s pretty much all I have here. If you’d like to learn more about exactly what I do, you can:
Learn more about how I make all of this stuff above happen on the sites I build:
Or you can just contact me here: