Owner/Director"If your website isn't working so well, get in touch and let's see what we can do about it. My aim is to give you an effective website that pays for itself and more. That's why you have a website - isn't it?"
There’s a bit of pressure on a business, any business, to have a website. Is your website there because you felt you should have one, or is it there as an active promoter for you and what you do?
Have a scan of your competition’s websites. You’ll quickly be able to rank them according to first-impression – the good, the bad, the ugly! Which ones do you think are a ‘positive’ for the business they are promoting? Which of your competitors have a website that encourages more business in some way? Put the competitor websites in order, best down to worst (find at least half a dozen).
Now take a look at your own website, and slot it into the rankings. Is it a website with a bit of information, or is it actually trying to ‘sell’? Does it give a good first impression? Does it tell visitors what you do and equally importantly, what THEY should do next if they want to find out more or even buy your product/service?
Your website is a business investment, which by definition means you should be getting more OUT of it than you put IN. It’s easy to say “measure everything”, but if you don’t already have a gut feel on whether your website is pulling in new business for you, then you need to find some easy ways to get that information. Ask people how they found out about you, whether they referred to your website, what they thought of your website if they did. Make it part of the conversation when you get a new enquiry or customer.
A poor website built just to tick something off a to-do list will lose you business as potential clients go elsewhere. A good-looking website built to encourage customers to do business with you is a business tool that builds and promotes and sells.
(Another way to look at website “investment” – how much do you need to sell to generate enough profit to pay for a $3,000-$5,000 website? Read the Price or Value blog-post to find out more)
WordPress is a software package that makes it easy (well, easiER) to build, manage and maintain a website. About a quarter of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress. If your website is powered by its own independent WordPress package, then someone needs to make sure that software is kept up-to-date. Some frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) about all this;
Ask whoever built your website for you – “what content management system does my website use?”. This is something you ought to know, as a bit of background info. There are lots of other systems around, of course – some are for building ‘independent’ websites where you are free to do as you please with it eg. add whatever bells & whistles you like – some are ‘umbrella’ systems, where you get a set of facilities and tools but can’t add your own eg. Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace and many more.
One clue though is what you see when you login to manage/administer your website (and if you don’t login, then either someone else is looking after your site for you OR you aren’t maintaining it at all. Get in touch if it’s the latter, because someone needs to. Read on!). The typical WordPress Dashboard looks something like this;
There is a very high chance that your WordPress-powered website has more than just the base WordPress system installed. The WordPress package by itself definitely provides all you need to build and launch a website – but you really, really shouldn’t. It’s a bit like buying a new computer with the latest version of Windows or Mac OS and no other software packages installed. You just need more tools and facilities for it to be really useful. For WordPress, essential extras include things like security (much like a PC has to have internet-security software), search-engine-optimisation boosters, webpage speeder-uppers (nobody will wait 10 seconds for your images to load). These extras are called “plugins”. There are THOUSANDS of plugins to choose from. If you want your website to do it, there is bound to be a plugin to make it happen!
So we have this WordPress software package (the “content management system”). And we have these extras on top of it (the plugins). Like any software, the developers that created them are constantly improving things – fixing errors or bugs, adding new or better features, preventing the bad guys from doing bad things. So an “update” is simply a newer version of WordPress or a WordPress plugin that has been improved in some way.
Nowadays, you can set your WordPress to automatically update itself to the latest version of the package whenever a new one comes out (every couple of months or so). Alternatively, when you login to your website as an Administrator, you can click a button or two and make it upgrade. It’s really that easy.
Likewise the plugins – when a newer version is available for your website to retrieve and install – click a link or button, and it gets done. Easy. You will probably find updates for your various plugins several times a week.
Of course not. You don’t have to have internet-security software for your computer. You don’t have to have home insurance. You don’t have to put petrol in the car. But if you want to avoid potentially BIG trouble, you should. Really should. A website that gets built and published and then left is a website that;
It is. Looking after WordPress updates is probably not what you regard as a core activity for your business. Luckily, it IS a core activity for Winch Websites. We will not only make sure that your WordPress system and its plugins are all kept up-to-date, we do a few more things too (like take backups every day, perform security scans, monitor your site 24/7, and more). Get in touch to find out more, or see our Websites Care page.
SAAS is huge, and it IS changing what you do and how you do it. SAAS is Software As A Service, a collective term for anything that you can do online where you used to have to buy, install and manage software packages on your computer(s). If you made the move from Outlook to GMail/YahooMail/Hotmail, you started using SAAS. If you moved your accounting from MYOB or Reckon to Xero, you started using SAAS.
Software As A Service provides you with the tools, facilities, functions that you need via the internet – while someone else does all the maintenance, management, backups, security, etc etc etc. You’ll nearly always pay a monthly fee for the privilege, although there are other charging models of course.
SAAS can give you exactly what you need to run an efficient, effective, low-cost business where you can start small and grow as you need to. Take up the lowest-cost plan, and as you need more, you simply change to the next plan up (and pay a bit more). Perfect for systems to grow as you grow.
Well, the world is your oyster. There are literally thousands of SAAS providers covering an immense array of tools and functions. Just a few examples that might pique your interest;
These just scratch the surface of what you could do in your business to grow it and manage it – the old ‘doing more with less’. SAAS offers you great potential to extend what you do, save you time, save you costs, and scale up as your business needs more. Keep your eyes peeled, there’s a good chance that there are tools out there now that could make a big difference to your business!
PHP is a bit like the petrol in a car engine. Without petrol, it stops. Dirty petrol, it stutters and stops. Stale old petrol, it stutters.
For another way to look at it, PHP is like the interpreter between your website’s coding and your webserver. The webserver actually carries out the gruntwork for your website, receiving requests from your visitors (“send me the Home page again”) and doing what’s necessary to retrieve everything that your website says makes up the ‘Home page’, then sending it all back to the visitor’s device. Your website is highly likely to be a software package that assembles pages and carries out functions as and when requested. It will be passing instructions to the webserver computer (“get me that logo image”). However, the webserver needs something in between that understands website-speak on the one hand, and webserver-speak on the other. Enter PHP.
Your website has a webhosting account, like its own apartment in the overall skyscraper that is the webserver. It shares many resources with all the other occupants – PHP is one of those resources. So your PHP translator is also being used by other websites simultaneously. PHP is a busy bee.
Now as is always the case with any software, new versions keep coming out. PHP Version 5 has been around for a long time, gradually moving from 5.1 to 5.2 to 5.4 to 5.6… Well, there’s a big jump happening at the moment, up to PHP Version 7. Does this matter to you? Absolutely!!
PHP 7 is twice as fast as PHP 5. That by itself is plenty good enough reason to make the move. However, just as importantly, at the end of 2017, PHP 5 is no longer supported (in other words, won’t be fixed if the bad guys find a hole or if it stops working in certain situations). Odds are, PHP 5 will keep going for a bit longer, BUT it is definitely a good idea to move to PHP 7 as soon as opportunity permits.
How easy is changing to PHP 7? Sorry, but it’s that old chestnut, “it depends”. It can be very easy if you have up-to-date webhosting, and your website is up-to-date. Simply change a setting in your webhosting, and you’re done!
So to summarise, your website is highly likely to be using PHP, and you will need to change to PHP 7 in 2018 or risk a broken website and a panicked reaction to fix it. The good news is changing to PHP 7 gives you a more secure and noticeably faster website. Look into it sooner rather than later. If you need any help, Winch Websites is here.
Websites need care & attention if they are to continue providing value to you (the website owner). Just like owning a car, a house, a computer – if you don’t maintain it, gradually things degrade. Small problems become big problems. And sooner or later there will be a failure, which of course is bound to happen at the worst possible time…
So the question is, what needs doing and why? (NB. the “how” very much depends on what you’re website has been built with, and can vary hugely).
It is a rare website these days that is not powered by a content management system (CMS) of some sort. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify and on and on. They are all basically a software package that assists you in creating and managing a website without having to do coding or computer programming. Some of them allow you to run your own independent system (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal), some of them are large umbrella systems managed on your behalf (Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace).
So you need to know if you are responsible for keeping this underlying software package up-to-date, or if someone else is. If it’s someone else, all good – just make sure they’re are doing what they said they would. If it’s your job – make sure you are checking for updates on at least a weekly basis. The content management system is like the engine for your website, it powers it and drives it and makes it work. A stuttery engine will give you stuttery website performance.
Why update the core CMS? Because there are frequent fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing your site), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).
You are quite unlikely to be using the base-level CMS. For a website to be useful to you and what you want to do with it, you are going to add extra functions to the site – called ‘add-ons’ or ‘extensions’, or maybe ‘options’ in the big shared systems. For an independent website, these add-ons also need the same upkeep as the underlying website system. Again, is that your job or is someone else doing it? You need to know or you could wake up one morning to a day that is going to be wasted on fixing a broken website (not to mention the potential loss of business while it’s down, and the cost of repair).
Why update the add-ons? Because there are fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing your site), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).
Often overlooked, the webhosting is where the website ‘lives’. Think of it as renting office space in an office block – there are multiple businesses not connected to you all sharing the same office block, and you have rented one corner of one floor. Your rented space is your own webhosting account, and the other businesses are other independent websites.
What if the owner of the office block never did any maintenance? And worse, you can’t do it yourself even if you wanted to because your contract forbids it? Now you’ve got a beautiful office in a shabby building with poor security. Not good.
So it’s important to know if the webserver that manages your webhosting is being maintained and managed for you. Once more, there are always ongoing changes, fixes, updates to the webserver software – and you are nearly always not allowed to do anything to the webserver (because you would affect all the other inhabitants too). Ask the question of your webhosting provider – “do you managed and maintain the webserver, and keep it up-to-date?”
Why update the webserver? Because there are frequent fixes and updates that address security issues (people breaking into or abusing the entire system), bugs (things that don’t work properly) and improvements (making things work better and more smoothly).
Effective and ongoing website maintenance is as optional as business insurance. You might not want it or have it, but you are exposed to serious business and financial risks without it. Prevention is definitely better than cure in this situation.
Winch Websites manages its own webservers and definitely keeps them up-to-date with the latest recommended systems and software, and follows industry best-practice to provide high-functioning, roomy webhosting with lots of bells & whistles.
We also offer a ‘Website Care’ service – you have a website, we’ll look after it. Updates, backups, monitoring, security and more – and we’ll even make changes to the pages for you. Saving you time, hassle and mental energy so you can get on with your business and leave the web stuff to someone else.
You’re starting out in business, or you’ve been going a year or few – either way, you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for website and/or a business email address.
Step 1 is to register your “domain name”. What is it, and what should you register?
A domain name is your unique and exclusive address on the internet. It’s like your phone number – anyone in the world can reach you on that number, and only you. You can use your domain name for your own website, you can use your domain name for your own custom email addresses (ie. email@example.com). The actual domain name follows a format of something.something. For example, winchwebsites.com.au, winchwebsites.com, winchelsea.websites
Obviously you want a name that is related either to your business name or to your business activity. Ideally both. In other words, people can immediately relate to who you are and what you do as soon as they see it.
The domain name should;
And here’s an absolutely critical thing to do. Write it down on a piece of paper, and don’t look at it for a day or two. When you come back to it, does it still say what you think it does? Ask people you trust if the domain name you’ve chosen is OK. Because what you want to avoid is registering and then building on a domain name that can be mis-read or even become a laughing-stock. Don’t think it can happen? Have a look at these, they’re hilarious.
But you can also get more creative. You can certainly register more than 1 domain name, and have them all go to the same website. So you might register winchwebsites.com.au, for example, and also register wwshared.info because it’s great for sharing shorter links (that’s a whole other story). But both of those domains go to the same website. You might have your primary domain name mythicalplumber.com.au, and also register geelongplumbingservices.com.au so you can use the second one for printed adverts, flyers & leaflets, social media, radio ads – anywhere you want an easy-to-remember domain name. And last I checked, neither of those are in use by the way! 🙂
The majority of domain names that are registered end in “.com” or “.com.au”. Couple of things to know here;
One final tip; there are a lot of other endings, and it could be a great idea to register a domain name that is a bit different. For example, timsgeelong.plumbing, geelongcorporate.photography, indianmaharaja.restaurant, deliciousgeelong.pizza. There are lots of other endings. Could help you stand out and be remembered – which is, after all, one of the most important aspects of a domain name.
If you’d like help picking out and registering one or more domain names, get in touch with Winch Websites. We can handle all the registration stuff, and equally importantly make sure that it is renewed on your behalf when required. In addition, Winch Websites runs some bullet-proofing technology to ensure that your domain name data is not dependent on one single source, and is retrieved from key locations around the world to boost response times. We’re here to help you on your path to business success.
Anyone responsible for spending on behalf of an organisation, be it your own business or not, needs to make sure that the spending only happens for good reason. As the economists will tell you, money is a “scarce resource”. Nobody has an unlimited budget. But the price of something needs to be seen in terms of its value as well.
We know that a very large budget opens up a lot of doors and possibilities. We know that a very small budget makes things very difficult. At the smaller end of the scale, where most small businesses and non-profits operate, there is (or at least, should be!) a healthy focus on managing limited funds tightly. So when it comes to spending those limited funds, there are two ways to go – look at the price, or look at the value.
Up until a couple of years ago, Winch Websites was definitely a “price” centred business – the dollar amount was key. Essentially, the philosophy boiled down to whether the expenditure was mandatory eg. a phone service, internet, domain name renewals or whether the expenditure was optional eg. advertising, training, graphic design tools. In all cases, the cheapest deal was likely to be the best deal so long as the bare essentials came with it.
But then the business took a turn to a different direction. Not left or right, but up. Purchases were made on the basis of “value”. Here, the price is no longer relevant (really!). What matters is what that spend will bring back. A few examples;
So as hopefully you can see, viewing potential expenditure through the lens of “value” leads to a different perspective. Relating this to websites, it is easy to simply see the quoted price and not see past it to the value. “A website that you’ve described will require an investment of around $4,000” often leads to sticker-shock for a new or young business (or small business moving up in the world) – yet if that same business was to open a real brick-and-mortar shop, $4,000 would be a small fraction of the required budget. Once more, the question to ask in response to the amount is “What will that get me?“. If you are happy with the answer, then you’re getting good value.
If you’d like to chat about your own website, and what would be good value for you, please get in touch.
When you set out on the road to build or revamp your website, one of your most important (critical!) duties is to assemble and provide the information to guide your website creator. For building websites, think layout, design, logos, words & images for each page, the overall ‘feel’, the specific colours to mach your other marketing materiel… It’s no small job, and it’s very important to the success of your website. If you don’t engage, don’t get involved, you’re very unlikely to get the site you want. You absolutely need to give your website designer freedom to build a great site that reflects your business AND works well AND looks impressive. But you need to guide that from the outset.
How this is done in practice varies enormously between website creators.
One of the services that Winch Websites makes use of in the process of building a business-effective website is called ContentSnare. A client is invited to login to the ContentSnare website, and in there the client finds a number of forms to complete. These ask for things like the logo file, the colour-scheme to use, links to websites that the client likes the look of, webhosting account login details, the official contact info for the business, and the contact info to put on the website if it’s different, and lots more.
These forms are custom-built for the client to reflect their project. They can be completed in any order, one item at a time, with each one being marked by the client as ‘Complete’. It means while building websites, the client can provide bits and pieces as they get the opportunity at a time that suits them. The ContentSnare system reminds clients that there are items to be done, and this keeps projects moving along – we all know what it’s like running a business, you can get so busy “doing the do” you completely forget the development stuff that is so important to grow a business. ContentSnare automatically sends reminders as deadlines approach, saving time & trouble for both web designer and client.
ContentSnare also provides a dashboard view for an overall look at how things are going. It’s a great feeling to hit that “100%” done target!
This is one example of an internet service that Winch Websites employs to make specifying, designing, managing, and building websites a smoother, easier, and ultimately more cost-effective process. It’s a great example of what the internet can do for businesses – automate, standardise, and most importantly offload tasks while ensuring that they get attended to.
If you’d like to investigate what Winch Websites could do for your business, please get in touch. There are ALL sorts of options these days!
To find out more about ContentSnare, visit contentsnare.com
A few years ago, Google initiated a campaign encouraging website owners to protect their visitors from eavesdropping and snooping by third parties by using “SSL”. They are ramping this effort up in stages, beginning with mild indications, to gentle warnings, and up the scale all the way to all-out red-flagged “Do Not Proceed” banners.
It’s a worthy objective, because the path between a website visitor and the website itself can meander through all sorts of machines and providers. Internet service providers, webhosting companies, website speed optimisation services, government organisations, there are many potential ears listening out to what’s happening on the internet and recording it all. Worse of course are the people who shouldn’t be doing it, who are out to get personal and private information to sell or use.
One solution is to simply encrypt all the communication between a website visitor and the website. Anything that is intercepted is meaningless gobbledygook. It’s actually very easy to do. Just about every web browser is capable of being given a special ‘key’ by a website which is used to lock up (encrypt) anything that gets send or received from a particular website. It’s safe, and secure, and it’s known as “SSL” (or Secure Sockets Layer).
The website owner has to do all the work, to obtain an SSL certificate and install/link it to that website. Depending on the certificate, some are linked more tightly than others ie. there are several levels of proof that the website owner can choose from. At the very top, for example, the website owner not only proves ownership of the website, but also proves the ownership of the business that runs the website (independently verified by government appointed organisations).
How do you know if a website is ‘secure’? Just look for the green padlock up in the web-browser address bar at the top of the page.
PLEASE NOTE: a ‘secure’ website does not mean you can trust what the website contains. Fraudsters and scammers can easily create a website and add an SSL certificate so that your connection to the site is ‘secure’. But they can still be ripping you off, ie. the site is not ‘safe’. Buyer beware, as always!!
If you manage or own a website yourself, check your site to make sure it is automatically making visitors use a secure connection. For example, if you just put “winchwebsites.com.au” into your web browser, you will automatically be redirected to “https://winchwebsites.com.au” which is the secure connection.
If your site is not automatically secure, talk to your webhosting provider or your web people to find out. Of course, Winch Websites is happy to help & advise if you’re having any difficulties. Feel free to get in touch.
Let’s see if the process of buying a website is like buying a car.
So one Saturday you set off around town to buy yourself a car. New or used, it’s the same process.
You’ve done a bit of research beforehand – read the newspaper ads, maybe read a few magazine reviews on a few different makes/models. You’ve probably done a bit of Googling too, to see what other people are saying about their experience of buying the cars you’re thinking about buying. You might even have done a bit of research on who you’re planning on visiting to buy the car from – the internet is great for reviews of both products and the businesses that sell them.
You rock up to a car dealer, and mosey about a bit. You find the make & model that you are particularly interested in, and show some serious interest. A salesperson approaches you and starts the conversation – “If you’re looking for something reliable, with a bit of power, and some of the luxury add-ons, that’s a great example.”
“I’m just looking for something cheap. I don’t want to spend much, but I need it quickly”.
“Ah. So what’s your budget?”
“I’m not telling you that, just tell me what’s cheap and available right now”.
Well, of course, it’s a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ conversation from there. The salesperson cannot match you up to what you are seeking unless there’s a clear idea of what you are willing to spend. Your dilemma is that if you say how much you have, the salesperson could simply oversell you on a car you would otherwise have been able to do a deal on. This is based on the assumption that the salesperson is out to give you as little as possible in return for as much as possible. Classic “you vs me” deal-making with a loser and a winner.
That’s an old-fashioned approach though, that may work short-term but fails in the modern world of easy communication and online reviews. When you find out you’ve been ripped off a thousand dollars, you won’t be happy and you’ll be looking for ways to tell not only friends & family, but the whole world.
Besides, odds are you’ll be average at picking out a ‘shark’ or a hard-sell – because most people (especially in Australia) have a good nose for it.
So long as you can find someone that you are willing to trust to a reasonable degree, and you judge to be “of good character” as they say in legal circles, then you will likely find that by establishing how much you have to spend, you enable the salesperson to make the best possible match for you. The conversation heads off along the direction of; “Well, for $x,000, we have these four cars around that price – this one I think you should consider, because it’s pretty close to what you need”
When you’re looking into getting a website, you’re making a very similar investment. That last word is key, though – because you are putting money into something that you should be expecting a return from. You buy a car, you get personal transport (generally you get lots more bills too, mind you, and the car loses value constantly!). You buy a website, you get more leads, or you make more sales, or you generate more awareness and support.
Your relationship with your website designer or agency is absolutely critical. You have to be able to trust that when you say you have $4,000 to spend, that you’ll get maximum value for that expenditure. Be ready to negotiate, of course. That’s not the same as deal-making, where 2 parties are looking for the win-lose. When you negotiate, you’re looking for the win-win – “I give you this and you give me that and we’re both satisfied”.
So be prepared to be open and honest about what your website budget is. Expect a reasonably detailed description of what you are getting. You definitely want enough specifics (and in writing, too) to be able to compare against other website designers if appropriate. Alternatively, draw up a list of what you must have in your website, with some optional ‘nice to have’ extras, and ask for a quote to build that (this may limit what you ask for to what you know about though… and you don’t know what you don’t know!)
Winch Websites aims to establish long-term ongoing relationships with clients, with a view to building and continuing an essential element for their businesses. Please get in touch for a chat about your project, whatever stage you’re at.