Nicky Jurd

Effective Small Business Websites

Archive for November, 2007

Website Downtime

Nov 24,2007

What should you do if your website goes down?

Website downtime happens frequently, and for a large number of reasons. Here’s what you should do if your website goes down.

1. Test Internet Connection

First thing you should do is go to Google and do a search for something completely random that you have never searched for before. Try ‘orange scissors‘.

If you are not able to search Google the problem is not your web host, it’s your internet service provider (ISP). You need to call them for further information.

The reasoning behind this is that Google never goes down, so if you can successfully search, you can be reasonably certain your internet connection isn’t the issue. Therefore, so to step 2.

2. Contact Hosting Provider

Check the contact page of your web host’s website and see if they have a phone number you can call. If there is an answering machine, be sure to leave a message that indicates the nature of the problem. Something like this should do the trick:

This is Nicky Jurd calling from I am currently unable to access my website, Could someone please urgently look into this issue and return my call on 07 4041 6853. That number again is 07 4041 6853.

Important features of this message are:

  • Your name
  • Your business name
  • Your website address (or URL)
  • Your phone number – say it slowly
  • Repeat your phone number

Repeating your phone number is particularly important if you are on a mobile phone connection, as service dropouts can hinder the clarity of a message.

If your host does not offer phone support, they will usually have a support form on their website in which you can indicate you have an urgent problem.

Be aware that from a hosting provider’s perspective, your website being down is the hosting provider’s most important issue and they will treat it as extremely urgent.

Long Downtime

If your website is down for 24h or more and you have not been able to reach anyone at your web hosting provider, you should immediately consider swapping hosts to a reputable web hosting firm who offer strong phone support.

If you’re stuck for a web host with strong support, try local Cairns firm Get Web Services.

Facebook Pages

Nov 22,2007

An essential piece of viral marketing equipment for businesses who take the internet seriously, Facebook’s newly released Facebook Pages show a direct competitive attack on MySpace’s social stranglehold.

Bands, businesses, bars, clubs and attractions are among the organisations targeted to create a business presence and engage their customers through Facebook.

So, have officially joined Facebook.

Websites: Costs Vs. Results

Nov 22,2007

November 07 ITIBThere’s a lot of chatter among businesses about the cost of IT services and their affordability, and because of the increasing dependence upon websites, this is begrudgingly becoming a cost centre. The good news is that as well as costing more, websites are also delivering more profit. More people and businesses rely on websites to research product information, and to make vital purchasing decisions.

Lots of businesses make poor decisions relating to their website because they’ve never taken the time to learn about the medium, and instead, try to cut corners that end up being expensive to fix. Here’s how to avoid some of these mistakes and save money on your website bill.

Have Clear Goals

Most websites are built for two reasons; credibility or profit.

Most service-based businesses need a website to prove their credibility to potential and existing clients. Service-based businesses include lawyers, accountants, public relations firms, graphic designers, advertising agencies and web developers. Their websites should provide extensive information about the services they provide, why a client should choose them, an up-to-date portfolio and an easy method of contact. These websites tend to be smaller, but require cleaver dynamic content to be effective.

Retail and event organisation businesses must turn a profit from their websites. Their focus should be on product information and strong photography to encourage purchasing. Retail websites are naturally large because of the number of products most shops carry. They also tend to be more expensive due to the need for businesses to frequently update their prices and product range. Most retail websites therefore have a database and easy management interface.

Clarify your website goals before engaging a web developer. If you expect to make money from your website, you should treat it like any other business expansion and write a plan.

Research Online Competition

You can save a lot of money by checking out the mistakes your competitors have made online and avoid them. Don’t just check the local competition, either; research similar companies in other regions of Australia and around the world to gauge your opinion.

Watch your own habits when researching products; pay attention to what grabs your eye, where you click on the page, what you searched for and how easy it is to find essential information like contact details and prices.

Keep a list of the things you think work well and the parts of websites you dislike. Be especially careful of gimmicks which might catch your attention but distract you from the message or purpose of the website.

Seasoned web developer Greg Slapp from Port Douglas Internet Services says, “If you want to play the game, you need to know the rules.

Take the internet seriously and get to know the players.

Get Organised

The major reason budgets blow out in the web design industry is because businesses are not organised. You can be several thousand out of pocket if you do not get this right.

Be aware that most web development companies charge by the hour, which means if you are disorganised, you’ll be paying by the hour for someone to get your materials in order.

Collect all your branding and marketing materials. This should include your logo, corporate colour scheme, business cards, brochures, letterheads and print advertisements recently in circulation. Ensure you have vector copies from your graphic designer of at least your logo, but preferably all these materials. These materials are more essential to the web design process than anything else and leaving it up to your developer to recreate digital files from business cards or printed material can incur hours of unnecessary extra work.

Consider providing a written brief. A clear and articulate design brief is crucial to the design process and if you don’t write one, your web developer will need to spend extra time putting one together. A good design brief will include extensive details about your company, the aims of your website, your target audiences, your budget and time frame, and examples of designs you like.

Be clear about how you wish your business to be portrayed. This doesn’t mean providing a layout for how you want your website to look — that’s what you’re hiring a web designer for — but be confident about what your business does, its target market and the image you wish you project. Are you looking for something professional and clean or modern and funky? Do not leave the guess work to your web designer; otherwise you may be up for extra design costs when the visuals don’t match your expectations.

Deliver the final version of your text, not drafts. Many web developers will not start work on any part of your website without having the final text, and any changes to this text require manual changes by your developer and will incur an extra charge. Deliver the text digitally (for example, as Microsoft Word documents,) rather than as physical printouts to avoid the need for retyping.

Hiring a Professional

Consider at which point you need to engage a professional and carefully consider the type of web development company you are looking for.

If you have just an idea or a concept, you will need to pay a web developer in a consulting capacity to transform this into a realistic project. This requires planning, experience and industry research.

Working with a local company in Far North Queensland will be considerably cheaper than hiring a capital city firm — you’re likely to be paying less than half by keeping your business here. You’ll also have the added advantage of working with someone who is familiar with your industry and readily available for face-to-face meetings.

Many businesses try to save money by hiring a whiz-kid or “friend of a friend”. Sometimes this can be an effective way of saving money, but ensure you have seen examples of their work before committing. You should be proud to show off your website.

Cutting corners here will be expensive later.

How Much Should it Cost?

Websites are custom built, so the costs here will provide you a ballpark figure of how much you should be prepared to invest.

Service-based businesses: $2500 – $3500 for a new website, and allow $500 per year if you make minor changes once a month.

Online shop: $5000 – $7000 for a new website.

(These prices are indicative of the local market in Cairns, Australia)

Top Tips

  • Have clear and realistic goals
  • Check out the competition
  • Collect your branding
  • Write a design brief
  • Be clear about your expectations
  • Deliver final text, not drafts
  • Hire a professional

As with all goods and services, you get what you pay for in web development; but careful consideration of your business goals and expectations coupled with thorough planning and preparation will ensure every dollar is well-spent.

This article was originally published in the November 2007 edition of In Touch In Business magazine. You may also download the Websites: Costs Vs. Results Article article as it was printed.

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