We take over lots of websites owned by small businesess that need a reliable web developer to manage their website, and unfortunately the process if often hampered by the lack of essential details held by the business owner. Here’s a list of things you should keep tucked away in a file somewhere just in case something bad happens to you.
Geeky warning: Some of the concepts here are technical – if you have any questions just post a comment!
This is sometimes a single password, or a username and password depending on who your domain was registered through.
These details would have been given to whomever registered your domain name for you.
If something happens to your web host and you need to quickly move your website to a new one, you will need this to make the switch.
The File Transfer Protocol allows your web developer to transfer your website from their development platform up to your web host. Your web host will have provided these when you first signed up for a hosting account.
If you’re unhappy with your web developer, you’ll need to give your new developer the FTP details so they can backup the website, and continue to make changes.
Hosting Account Access
Most web hosts have an interface which allows you to make changes to basic account details like setup new email addresses, create a new database and check your statistics.
To move to a new web host, it will be easier if you are able to access your hosting account so your new host can set up the same email accounts and move over your account fully.
It is a good idea to have a list of email accounts for all your domain names, and the current password. Also include on the list if you have any forwarders or aliases.
If your computer crashes and you are unable to access your email, with your username and password you will still be able to access your email using a webmail interface until your computer is repaired.
Just because you have products on your website doesn’t mean they’re going to sell. Not even if they’re good products, or unique, or interesting. It takes a great website to convince a visitor to part with their money, much more than it takes for a bricks-and-mortar store. There’s a lot to consider in getting the online shop right.
This article was published in the August/September edition of In Touch In Business Magazine.
Anonymity is a blessing for web shoppers, and a curse for web merchants. In the absence of a friendly sales assistant and a good shop fitout, your website needs to display the all signs of a fully-functional web business and make your potential customers comfortable to do business with you.
Start with the ways customers can get in touch if something goes wrong. So clear display of phone numbers, street address and email address.
Next, consider payment security. If taking credit cards customers will want to know their details are secure. This means using a secure payment gateway issued through a bank, or third party like eWay. At the very least own a secure certificate. This step isn’t to be taken lightly as credit card fraud is a great fear of online shoppers.
Credit card and bank logos feel trustworthy. Display the logos of the cards accepted in the footer of the website near the contact details.
Hordes of small business owners went into business because they were experts, specialists and had great track records of doing what they do best. Tell the story on your website through a company history or professional profile page.
The budding digital photography industry has spawned a society of amateur photographers, but professional photography is still the way to go for anyone serious about making money online.
Professional photography ensures products are displayed in their most attractive and most sellable light. For emotional purchases, such as fashion accessories, have a number of different angles of the product shot. This is especially important with multi-purpose products such as handbags.
Keep the photos simple because when they’re displayed on a website they’re quite small, and complex styling or backgrounds will lose the focus of the product.
Don’t forget to include photos of the business owners and team looking smart in their uniforms outside the office. Photos of the management give visitors the people contact they miss from a face-to-face transaction. It also raises your credibility through recognition.
For an example of a shop with great photography, see the Cairns-based jewellery shop for little girls, Silver Bells & Cockle Shells.
Online shoppers are curious, inquisitive and get annoyed by having to search for extra information. Think carefully about the questions customers ask about each product and answer all of them. Don’t be scared of having too much product text because interested customers will read it thoroughly, and the search engines love it!
Internet shoppers don’t like to be sold to, so by all means mention the benefits of your products, but don’t forget the facts. Consider writing light-hearted and informal product descriptions; the online shopping demographic tends to be younger, so we can afford to be a little less serious.
Prices need to be clear and easy to read. Remember that it’s likely people from overseas will be visiting your site, so ensure the currency is understood, and include a currency converter if you’re trying to appeal to the global market.
For a great example of good product text is Zazz who won NetGuide Online Shopping Site of the Year for 2007.
It’s frustrating to get to the end of an online shopping experience only to find out the postage charges are astronomical, or even worse, the company doesn’t ship to Australia.
Make your delivery prices easy to find, and detail various shipping options with realistic timeframes for delivery.
For everyday products it is often the delivery charges that prevents websites from competing on a level playing field with shopping centres. Consider offering free postage for deliveries over a certain spending level, or drop the postage charges altogether and build them into your pricing model instead.
Shops like StrawberryNET have created a huge base of loyal customers by offering free shipping worldwide.
Use strong, affirmative language to ask your customers for the sale. Don’t just do it at the bottom of a page either, ask your customers to buy at regular intervals throughout your copy.
If you forget this part, your customers will wonder what to do next. Buying from your website must be easy and intuitive with limited thought required!
I love shopping online. I love not being harassed by badly trained sales staff. Bliss is having an easy-going retail therapy experience in the privacy of my pyjamas. By concentrating on what the online customer wants in a shopping experience will inevitably bring legions of loyal and happy shoppers to your website.
September in Cairns bring back our first taste of the humid summer to come, and this September has certainly given us a reminder of the workout our air-conditioners will be having in the months to come.
It also brings spring… flowers, mating birds and cleaning. Your website needs a spring clean. So what’s on the spring cleaning list:
1. Check out 5 competitors’ websites.
They don’t need to be local, just businesses doing the same things as you. Have a good look at the information they give to their customers, and what features your website could incorporate.
2. Update your content.
Read every word of your website, and check it is still relevent. It might surprise you what has changed in your business since you last changed your website text!
3. Start a new website section.
Business blogs are popular at the moment because just about every business dreams of starting a newsletter to connect with their customers. But this isn’t the only section you might add… perhaps take the temperature of your customers and listen to what they’ve been asking of you. Usually the parts you need to add are the enquiries you recieve from customers the most frequently.
4. Change your look.
Websites change their design too infrequently. To keep your customers on their toes you should do a little change to your image every year, and a big change every second year.
5. Sell Something.
Start generating a revenue stream through your website if you’re not already. Service-based business could try selling their expertise through an e-book or online adjuct to an offline service. Retailers should have more than just their store location and opening hours – get some product online, even if it’s only a small sample of what’s in your store.
I confess, I’m a member of the mobile generation. I’m not one of the annoying types who answer their phone at restaurants or during meetings, but I do carry my mobile everywhere and thanks to Telstra’s NextG service, I’m continually connected to the internet.
There are a growing number of constantly connected consumers, who, just like me, browse the web from their mobile phone, on an exceptionally small screen. We are a frustrated lot too, because most websites are not built with small screens in mind.
Many people don’t believe their website will need to be adapted for mobiles, but if your business does financial transactions over the phone, or have a retail store, chances are a percentage of your customers are already trying to find you. Here’s a couple of real life examples of how someone with a mobile might be interacting with your business.
While enjoying an afternoon out of the house, a couple decide to go to a restaurant for dinner, but aren’t near a phone book. They look up the restaurant’s website on their phone to find the phone number.
While driving past an interesting property, someone might notice a For Sale sign out the front and look up a real estate’s website to find out the price of the property.
While out and about we might want to check the closing time of a particular store, or opening times of an attraction.
On the way for a weekend getaway, you forget how to get to an accomodation property. You whip out your trusty mobile phone and look up the website for directions, or just for an address to enter into your GPS unit.
Your web designer should easily be able to adapt your website to create an easy to read version for a mobile phone in 30 minutes – 2 hours, but having all the information a mobile user might require is important in the first place.
The next time you see a friend with one of those fandangled-looking mobiles that can surf the internet, ask if they can look up your website and have a go at browsing it, or finding specific information. You’ll be suprised how it looks!
One of the major factors responsible for a cost blowout on website development is continually making changes and tweaks whilst the site is still under development.
Most web development companies will charge you hourly for changes made to your website, so it’s important from a cost perspective to get all the glitches, spelling mistakes and formatting ironed out before you hand it over to your web developer.
Lots of little changes add up, and can put a project significantly over budget. Even worse for businesses with marketing deadlines, it can also cause your website to be late.
When you’re approaching a web developer for a website, ensure you have the following ready:
This guest star article is written by cityofcairns.com’s lead graphic designer, Belinda Vere. Belinda is an outspoken supporter of businesses having a strong brand kit and lifting the professionalism of small business with a functional and attractive website design.
1. Don’t give up your day job
Are you a whiz on the computer? Did everybody love your kid’s birthday invitations that you created in Word Art? Don’t be fooled! This does not qualify you as a Graphic Designer and the identity you produce will look amateurish and therefore can not be taken seriously. Hiring a Graphic Designer to do a professional identity package for your business saves you time and creates a trustworthy, professional image for your company.
2. Hit the target
A professionally designed logo should appeal to your target market and reflect your product or service. Your target market determines your identity and should be a major influence on your brand. If you are trying to sell children’s clothing your brand will be bright, colourful and fun however if you are an accountant your target market are looking for somebody who is professional, efficient and approachable. Try not to let your own personal style influence your branding if you are not the target market.
3. Squish the rainbow
A succint choice of colours will help increase the familiarity of your brand. When we think purple we think Cadbury (or Darryl Lea depending on whose side you are on), yellow reminds us of the Golden Arches and red makes us thirsty for Coca Cola. Keep your colour palette to one or two key colours and stick with them throughout your branding.
4. Use it!
Use your brand in everything you do but keep it consistent. Print business cards, get a website, send emails with a signature and splash your brand everywhere just don’t confuse people by having a green car, a red website and purple decor. Remember to maintain your image, colours, logo and style throughout every aspect of your marketing.
When you shoot a photograph the copyright of that creative piece is automatically assigned to you. Nobody is allowed to use your copyrighted material without your permission. You are the sole owner.
Many people don’t realise this, and might search the internet for a photo to use on their website. Google Images, Flickr and Picasa are popular places to search for photographs. If you want to use any photos you find you must contact their owner and ask permission.
Although the internet seems like a big anonymous place, you might find it’s smaller than you think when you steal pictures of someone. Taking photos without permission can be an expensive exercise. Photography companies will often charge you for using the picture, recently I heard of someone being charged $4,300 for a single photo they used on their website.
If your web designer uses a photo on your website which does not belong to you, check to ensure they have purchased it on your behalf from a stock photography library like iStockPhoto, or that they have permission to use the picture.
When you receive permission from someone to use their photo, you should credit them appropriately.
Search engines don’t care what your website looks like. In fact, it even seems to prefer the ones most people would believe are old and in need of a re-design. Why is this so?
Google uses the text on your website to determine what you will rank for. It’s a major determining factor.
Google can’t read images. So it doesn’t matter how beautiful your sunrise picture is, or if you’re smiling on your corporate profile page.
Google isn’t fond of flash. Anything that moves, wiggles and blinks doesn’t contain a lot of information, so Google doesn’t look at it as seriously.
Google loves headings. Break up your text into logical pieces with headings on each. Don’t scrimp on this.
Google loves copy. The more text you write and the more pages your website contains will reward you with great rankings. Put important text up the top.
Google hates copiers. Don’t steal other people’s text. It doesn’t belong to you, and you wouldn’t like it if someone stole yours!
A trend of the 90’s which has persisted in the dark depths of the internet are background textures. These are images which when tiled next to each other produce a (hopefully) seamless pattern. Popular backgrounds in the early days were stars, logos, sand, crinkled paper and clouds.
Background textures should be used sparingly, if at all. They should definitely not have text written over the top of them.
If a texture is part of your brand, use it on the non-text areas of your website.
The text on your home page is the most important text on your website.
Your home page not only leads your visitors into the money-making parts of your website, but it also provides the most important terms search engines will use to rank you.
Without text on your home page you’ll fall behind competitors in the search engines, and annoy customers who’ve come to explore your site.
Consider the most important words you believe your customers will type into a search engine and ensure these are included on your home page. This might be your location and industry, like cairns web design, or it might be the product you’re selling, like tennis balls.
Summarise your website on your home page by including useful paragraphs and snippets about what information can be found throughout the website. Invite people to explore further through strong calls-to-action.
Most importantly, don’t let your web designer build you a home page with just images, and no text.