Let’s focus on my business for a bit. Usually, I’m all about my client’s business (the “if they do well, I do well” perspective), but we’ll flip it around for a change.
The websites/web-marketing industry is undergoing huge changes. Has been for years, of course, along with technology in general. Ask a website designer/builder to go back 5 years and recall how websites were built, and compare to today’s tools and techniques. It’s chalk and cheese.
And cheaper. Like most technology (except iPhones, it seems…!).
In the last couple of years, there have been 2 major developments that have led to a massive surge in the number of people who say they are available to build you a fabulous website. “Page builders” which greatly reduce or even eliminate the technical knowledge needed. And “Software as a Service” which lets you subscribe to functions & tools & facilities that you need, when you need them, without having any hassles with installation, maintenance, upgrades or backups.
You may have seen the Wix ads, or Squarespace, or GoDaddy. Yes, you can DIY – build a website right now, and it will indeed look good, at low cost (to start with). Get up and running in an hour or two. They don’t lie.
So we have a huge number of ‘experts’ out there now. The web industry has such low barriers to entry that it has become an enticing side-gig, a part-time activity that fits in with the full-time job or study. All you need is a reasonable internet connection.
The result is apparently a reverse hourglass effect. Squeeze at the bottom of the market (lots and lots of competition for low-priced projects), squeeze at the top of the market (high-ticket projects attracting increased attention from mid-range players who can easily access more advanced capabilities).
In the middle, though, there seems to be a more positive effect for business such as Winch Websites. A project can now include functions and facilities that would have been financially out of reach to small and micro businesses or non-profits. It’s here that clients typically already have experience with owning a website, and recognise the skills, expertise and benefits that a professional brings to play. Websites are no longer about the technology – it’s about what they are there to achieve for the organisation. More sales? More signups? More donations? More enquiries or leads? The focus is on the outcome, not the tool. Find out what the outcome is first, then find the best tool to make that happen. Then fine-tune and optimise, forever. Something worth investing in, in other words.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that although the website and web-marketing industries have very low barriers to entry (and therefore many, many participants), it doesn’t mean that getting something good is easy and cheap as chips. A decent investment really should pay dividends.
However, riding shotgun with the low barriers to entry is the lack of regulation and control. If you haven’t come across outrageous claims already, you won’t have to go far to find some. Think “website in a day”, “Google page 1”, “10x your sales”.
How about your own industry? How easy is it for a newcomer to come along and think “Hmm, that looks like an easy way to earn money. I’ll say I can do it and then work it out from there!”?
If you too have low barriers to entry, you’ll be familiar with all of the above. And like as not, you too will have had customers who’ve tried the cheap and the quick, been burned, and are now looking for experience and knowledge.
When you go looking for website and web-marketing services, please bear in mind that there’s little to stop people saying what they like in internet-land. Take claims with a small pinch of cynicism and maybe do a bit of due diligence. Ask or look for evidence that your chosen service provider has done this sort of thing, and that it’s worked. Be ever-so-slightly distrustful of reviews and testimonials unless there’s evidence to back them up as genuine customers.
At Winch Websites, I’m well aware that the competition for your web-marketing dollars is global, huge, and a minefield of options, technicalities, capabilities and playing with the truth. I aim to provide honest and accurate advice, and if we aren’t a good fit for each other in terms of outcomes and objectives, I’ll happily refer you to services or businesses that are.
I want to take care of your website so that you can take care of your business – over the long term, ongoing. That’s not going to happen unless you get great value from Winch Websites. So next time you’re looking for website design & build, website care or email automation services, please get in touch. At the very least, you’ll get something to compare against. And I’d love to hear what you think when you do compare, business feedback is so hard to come by!
Good luck in your business, and may low barriers to entry be no barriers to your success!!
Once upon a time, in the ‘good old days’, I had a Triumph 1500. Cream-coloured saloon, 4 doors, double headlights, manual, leather(ish) seats. Great first car.
(photo: By Charles01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11341226)
I did all my own servicing on that car. It was like a giant Meccano set (for those not familiar with the brand, you had all sorts of metal shapes full of holes that you could bolt together to make fabulous machines, the big-kid version of Lego). In that Triumph, you could take stuff apart, clean it, replace worn out bits, put it together, and it was better than before.
I do have a mind that likes taking things apart and putting them together, I will admit. All the same, the Triumph 1500 made it quite easy. Generally, access to things was easy enough, spares were easy to find. I was a Mechanic!! (and now I’m regularly on a big red fire-truck, but that’s another story…)
My next car was a much more modern Ford hatchback, I forget the model. It had electronic ignition, was packed into a small engine-bay. First time I tried to tune that Ford, I stuffed it. Because now you need specialist equipment, skills and experience.
So I gave up my car maintenance hobby and let the professionals do it. It costs me to get a car serviced by someone, of course, but a) it’s easy and b) I can be reasonably confident it will be done properly and quickly.
I’m sure I could still do it myself. However, I have other things I could and should be doing – including newer hobbies like family, doing up this house, learning guitar. Servicing my own car would no doubt still give me a sense of achievement, but it would suck up time and need a bit of learning plus some new equipment and gadgets (hmm, there’s a thought…).
This same principle is almost certain to apply to you. What are you doing, where are you spending your time, effort and funds to do something yourself that someone else could do more quickly, more effectively? If you enjoy it, stick with it. But if in a perfect world you could stop doing it, it’s worth considering the benefits of outsourcing.
Weigh up the cost of getting someone else to do it against what you would do with that free time, alongside knowing that it has been done properly (no left over bits!).
An example is book-keeping. Are you catching up on your accounts on a Sunday? Imagine just handing that over to someone else. Checkout Roneta’s services at Enhanced Power for what I mean.
Another example might be your website. When are you managing that? Are you adding new content every now and then? More importantly, how often are you making sure all the components are updated with security and bug fixes? Backups? Again, all of this can be handed over to someone else for around the price of a couple of hours of your time per month.
At Winch Websites, we offer a Website Care plan that looks after all the technical stuff (updates, security, backups, search-engine basics, speed & performance) and also lets you make any changes you like simply by sending an email with what you want done. Your website hums along all tuned-up. Easy and stress free.
Sure you could look after your website yourself. A great many do. This isn’t about whether you CAN though, it’s about whether you SHOULD. You’re running a business, it’s a business judgement you need to make – at what point is your time worth more doing other things? Are you going to build and grow your business more through DIY website maintenance or have you reached a point where it’s more cost-effective to hand it over?
I did really enjoy looking after that old Triumph 1500. The cars I drive now though, I’m not interested in getting under the hood. Aside from a wisp of nostalgia, I can’t say I regret that, with a lot else to do instead!
So you're starting a business, and you're thinking you should have a website.
Great! Well done on both counts, there's a lot of satisfaction to be found running your own business, and putting it out there for the world to see.
Before jumping in with both feet and just magically creating a website out of thin air, there are some things you need to know, some things you need to do, and some things you need to buy.
Yes, you can build your business website for free (as in, no money). It's actually a good way to get your feet wet and get some practical, hands-on experience with what you need to consider and do to build a website. Do the free stuff before you want customers though, to get experience and learn a few things.
You can still get going for very low cost, and add functions or tools or services later, however there's a world of perceived difference by customers between "mybusiness.wordpress.com" and "mybusiness.com.au"
So if you want to be taken seriously, to be seen as a 'proper' business, then you'll need to make at least a couple of small investments. Whether you've gone as far as registering an official business name or even if you're planning on trading under your own name (check with an accountant on that one though), you'll want to be seen and recognised as a 'business' and not an uncommitted part-time hobbyist who may or may not still be going next month.
You'll need your own web-address. Your very own www .something .com .au. The "something" in there can pretty much be whatever you like, although there are some rules;
Just what is your product and/or service mix? Be clear about what it is you're providing – because you are going to have to provide it!
Can you write it down in just 1 sentence so that a first-time reader will quickly know what you are talking about?
And most importantly, does it solve someone's need or pain-point or problem? If your potential customers can't immediately relate to how your offering will make life better in some way, you'll lose their interest quickly. And there's too much demand for people's attention to let that happen.
What's important here is that First Impression. In just a few words, literally no more than a sentence, you have to cut through and grab people to make them want to find out more. Once a person knows that this may be a 'good thing', you can expand and provide more detail and do the selling, but it's that first communication that is key. You simply don't have the luxury of in-depth explanations on why your offering is worth considering until someone is already hooked somehow.
Be clear on what it is you are aiming to sell – and not so much the 'what', as the 'why'.
Your 'target market' is important for a number of reasons. You need to know where to find these people. It is (very!) unlikely that what you sell is important to EVERYbody, no matter how passionately you believe it should be.
So zoom in on the core people that are going to buy your product/service. Age range? Income range? Geographic location? Single, family? City, country?
You will need to communicate with these people in a way that they are comfortable with. Use their language/phrasing, sayings, style of writing/speaking. If they are good with acronyms and jargon for a particular industry, use it. But if jargon is a barrier, try very hard to use wording that avoids jargon.
In essence, be as clear in your mind as possible about who it is you most expect to want your product/service, and communicate in a way that they expect and appreciate.
Knowing your target market also allows you to focus better on the best ways to reach them. Facebook? Twitter? Newspaper ads? Letter drops? Email (but be wary of the law against spam)? Paid Google search ads? Youtube ads?
There's no point paying for Facebook ads when most people go searching Google when they need you, for example (although it may be useful to create awareness of you).
Note that this is not an easy area of business – put in the effort, and you put yourself further up the ladder of competition though. If we could all reach our ideal customers easily, we would all be doing just that, and making money would be easy, wouldn't it?
Get a bit practical here for a bit. You know what you want to sell, and who you want to sell it to. Exactly how do your customers get it?
If you're selling a Thing, you'll need to be sure you have it in stock (or know how to get it quickly). You'll need to be able to move it from A (where Thing is) to B (customer). also quickly. What are the costs involved of getting from A to B? What's your strategy for shipping charges?
[NB. Shipping is a tricky one. We all love free shipping. Failing that, flat-rate shipping. Either way, people will want and expect to know up-front what your shipping charges are going to be. That extra little 'sticker-shock' when you're going through the checkout process and only at the end do you see a sizeable shipping charge? No. Not good. Abandoned cart right there.]
You'll likely be able to hook into shipping services like Australia Post to get a realtime quote on what it will cost you to send a package to a particular destination. Have a think about the impact this will have on your sales. Shipping of $50 on a $7,000 item isn't the same as $15 on a $35 item. What do your closest competitors/equivalents do for shipping?
It's worth knowing that generally, people would prefer to buy a $40 item with free shipping that a $30 item with $7 postage. Just sayin'….
This is a very important part. Some would argue (you bean-counters out there) the MOST important. You are setting up in business to exchange something for something. Obviously, most businesses expect to receive money in return for their products/services, so the odds are you'll want some way of receiving payment.
Just how is that going to work?
Many of the above payment options can be included in your accounting system too, for example Xero. So when you email an invoice, the invoice includes all the payment options and (where appropriate) a link to enable instant online payment.
In addition, there is of course "an app for that". You can setup your smartphone to take payments through Paypal and/or Stripe, although you'll need to manually enter the card number etc.
You might event want to setup a direct debit arrangement that lets you automatically take payment from a customer, for example if your are providing a product/service with a monthly charge. Pinch Payments provide a commission-based service (as usual!) which lets you automatically take payment directly from the customer's bank account or credit-card when the invoice is due – the client stays in control and can cancel any time, and has to agree to allow it. This means you can automate a monthly Xero invoice and receive payment without anyone needing to do a thing. Neat.
There are other payment options around too. The point is, what is going to work best for what you do and for your customers? A smooth payment system is good for business all round. The less 'friction' people experience when having to pay, the easier the process is, the more pleasant the experience – the happier the customer is, and the more sales you get.
So when webby people talk about the platform, they're talking about the software system that will be used to create and build a website. For example, the world's most popular platform is WordPress.
Does it matter which you go for? Yes and no.
Bear in mind, you will be renovating your website (as in, major overhaul) every 2-3 years. If your business succeeds and grows, you will be making significant investments in time, effort and money into making the website do more and more, and be increasingly effective and sophisticated. A $15,000 dollar website may sound hideously expensive for a startup, but compare that to $50,000 for a sales person to do the same thing (not to mention sick-leave, holidays, superannuation………..).
But at the beginning, you'll want something that is popular (so there's lots of support for it), easy to use (so you don't need to pay someone for every little change), and extendable (so you can add the facilities and functions as you need them).
This doesn't rule out many options, I'm afraid, as that's how website systems are these days. And if you find one that isn't popular, easy and extendable, be aware you are tying one arm behind your back no matter how good a solution it seems right now.
Major players that look after the technical side for you include Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify and WordPress.com (note the ".com" there, we'll come to why). You sign up for free, they step you through how to create a website (and provide some good-looking templates to get you going quickly), it's all done online using reasonably easy tools. You'll probably fairly quickly run up against the need to start paying for add-ons for particular functions which the free account won't let you have. The biggie is using your own domain name instead of piggy-backing on their name (eg. mybusiness .squarespace .com).
These managed website builders can be great value, you can create a great-looking website, and they can put you on the map and in business. BUT they are a one size fits all solution. If they don't or won't do something you want in your website, there's nothing you can do about it but add it to their Customer Wishlist. And an important consideration is that you are basically renting your website. If they close down (unlikely), so do you. If you have an argument with them, your site could easily be off-air and inaccessible.
So the main disadvantage is your level of control and ownership. Quite probably, not much of a thing when you're starting out! For your Version 1 website, these website builders are a good option.
The alternative to a managed website builder is to strike out on your own with an independent website. This is what you do when you head over to WordPress.org (and note it is ".org". this time) where you'll see you can download the website software to install yourself, on your own webhosting.
You not only have a world of choice (literally thousands) of 'optional extras' when you choose an independent WordPress website, you can also create your own unique customisations and code for it. If you have an idea that's a bit different and nobody has already built a solution, you can contract someone to get your website to do exactly what you want. That's fairly uncommon though – you'd be surprised at what has already been invented!
I'd recommend getting someone else to install and setup an independent WordPress website for you – you'll have enough to learn when creating the webpages never mind learning the ins and outs of creating databases that one time in your life and never doing it again. I'd also highly recommend using one of the major "page builders" – think of this as a layer that sits above the raw website system, to make creating and editing webpages with all the fancy stuff a WHOLE lot easier.
Page builders you'd want to consider include Divi, Beaver Builder, and Elementor. Which is best? Well, THERE's a whole can of worms you can look up on Google. They all do much the same in the way the major supermarket chains do the same, but with slight variations that mean you'll probably like one more than another. Elementor in particular has been well received by newcomers to website creativity, though – and it's free to use, with a paid upgrade available that adds more bells & whistles.
These page builders work on the 'drag and drop' principle. Create a new page. Add a new section to the page, and say how many columns across it will be. Put a block of text in the first column. Put an image in the second column. Add a new row that is only 1 column. Add a row after that with 4 columns. Wherever you want, you choose a type of content (text, video, image, quotation, testimonial, photo gallery etc etc) and put in where you want it, and then fill it with the appropriate stuff. You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. And there is a LOT of help available to make sure you get through whenever you get stuck.
An independent website lets you do whatever you want to. And it is YOURS (so long as you make sure copyright is assigned to you, if you get some assistance with it). You can and should take backups of the entire site, which lets you move it to completely different webhosting should you feel the need. "Webhosting?" – glad you asked!
Your website has to 'live' somewhere. Any website boils down to being a collection of files and data stored on a computer (ie. a "webserver"), in some physical location. That could literally be anywhere in the world. And it really doesn't matter these days where.
What does matter is the quality of that webhosting. Here, cheapest is definitely not best. You are likely to get what you pay for. Very cheap webhosting means you share your webserver resources (disk space, memory, processing speed, communications links) with thousands of other websites. Not dozens or hundreds – thousands!
Compare it to a block of flats. At the cheaper end, you have multiple buildings each with hundreds of small flats crammed in. In the mid-range, you have dozens of larger apartments with higher-grade fittings. At the top end, you have just a few luxury big apartments with all mod cons. Each priced accordingly.
When you are starting out, you can certainly get away with cheap webhosting. You won't have all that many visitors, and you aren't likely to be activating functions that require significant computer resources. By all means, save money at this point – but bear in mind, you WILL need to relocate your site to better premises as your business grows. Do some research before picking a webhoster too. There are lots of webhosting businesses that are great at selling and marketing and atrocious at customer service.
Be sure you have direct access to your files and database so you can make copies and download as & when you need to. And be sure that you have some sort of backup in place, whether by yourself or on your behalf by your webhosting provider. You do NOT want to have to do it all over again because something goes wrong – and I've seen this several times. Painful, expensive, disruptive, a waste of YOUR time just when you need it most in other activities.
The managed website system will take care of backups, security, updates for you. That's a lot off your shoulders. An independent website will need you to make sure it's all done, although most good webhosters will include their own backups and tools for you to make your own backups.
This is more important than you may realise, yet is also not something to get hung up on. When you launch, you'll want your potential customers to recognise you as a legitimate business. First impressions absolutely count here.
Think of your own experiences when you look at websites. Or better yet, hop onto Google and do a search for the product/service you will be offering, and compare the sites you find. Don't just look at the top results (especially the paid ads in the Google Results page). Go to page 4 or page 6 of the results to see the websites that are struggling to be found.
Take a critical look at the websites found on page 1, and compare to the page 4 or page 6 websites. If you were a customer, which would you buy from and why? Which would you NOT buy from, and why? Be sure to include all these aspects when you put your own website together.
So a good design will put customers at ease about your business. Above all, whatever you do will create an instant 'image' for your business. Are you formal? Fun? Adventurous? Healthy? You've got 2-3 seconds of attention to get across the feel for how you do business, and that is important to positioning your business in the minds of customers.
A professional logo is great. Don't get clipart or DIY it unless you have graphic design skills – you will look cheap and low grade and amateur. Better not to have a logo until you can afford one. By the way, very cheap logos can be found via online design services such as Fiverr – again, you'll get what you pay for, and there is a significant risk it will just be copyright theft. Don't leave yourself open to that sort of legal headache.
Come up with a colour scheme – a main theme colour, and then 2-3 supporting and complementary colours. Use your colour theme everywhere you do business stuff. Website, logo, leaflets, clothing etc. etc. Do a bit of research on branding to see why this is important.
But don't stall here. It can be easy to get hung up on the perfect logo, the perfect colours etc. Keep moving!
The fabled "SEO". The black art of getting your website to the top of the first page when people search for your product/service. There is much hype around this, and a LOT of people selling what they can't deliver.
First thing to know – NOBODY can make you top of page 1 in Google. Nobody. That defeats the entire purpose of Google who want to list the best matches to a search. What does "best" mean? That is the secret sauce for each search engine such as Google.
But essentially, it's a popularity contest. Firstly, a page does actually have to be about what the searcher is looking for. Secondly, the more other people/organisations that link to that page, the more trust you and search engines can have that the page is both legitimate and something worth going to.
Winning at SEO is a long-term game and requires consistent work -by you or someone else acting on your behalf (eg. an SEO consultant). Winning at SEO is all about finding what people actually search for instead of what you think they search for.
As for design though, you can do the basics now to get going, and then come back and refine later when your business has settled down. With more experience under your belt, more customers, more sales, you'll have a better feel for what to do with SEO.
When you're starting up, go with your gut. As you create the words for each webpage;
I'd put this as the most important step of all. A user-friendly layout that guides visitors through a journey from awareness to purchase is going to be much more successful than one that gets the visitor to work things out.
In other words, on every page and at every step, guide the customers. Want them to find out more about a particular product/service? Add a "Find Out More" button. Want them to buy it? Add a "Buy Now" button or form. Want them to contact you? The details should already be there – not tucked away in a Contact Us page up in the top menu.
So be very familiar with what a "Call To Action" is, and make sure your website is peppered with them in a consistent way. A Call To Action (or CTA) is simply you telling the potential customer what to do next.
Your website will have a primary objective (eg. buy online) and will have secondary objectives for visitors not yet ready (eg. subscribe to a newsletter). Decide on your primary objective, list your 1-3 secondary objectives. Make sure every page has the primary Call To Action or at least a secondary Call To Action. Feel free to repeat your CTAs on a page eg. the introductory text with a Buy Now button, then more detail and images along with a repeat of the Buy Now button.
In other words, make it as easy and convenient as you can for your visitors to take that next step. They're on your website, they've stuck around long enough to show they are interested, now give them guidance on what next.
So, with all the above covered off and under your belt, you'll get your new business online a step ahead of most. DIY websites are easy enough, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily effective or successful even if they do look good.
Websites are no longer about the tools or the tech. It's about what you use the tools and tech to create & build. Even if you do outsource some or all website aspects, your website will still need to reflect YOU and YOUR business. Keep control of that by being involved, directing and guiding what the website does and what it looks like.
At Winch Websites, we have a very interactive process that involves each client in making sure that a website is what they want and need, to determine what the objectives are, and therefore what functions the website will need.
A professionally-built website will get you better results quicker (as you'd expect) but it is a significant investment for a start-up; weigh up whether you are better off putting in the time to DIY and reserve your limited funds for other things plus get some website experience, or whether you want to fast-track things to get established and grow faster.
If you'd like some assistance with a website for your start-up, please get in touch. Our Project Assessment online form will cover some of the points discussed above, you'll need to be able to provide these answers no matter how you build a website, so please be sure to fill it out even if we turn out not to be suited to each other.
A client called the other day, asking about an offer that had been made to him over the phone. A Queensland-based company wanted to see if he was interested in the ".com" version of his domain name (since he already had the ".com.au" version).
Turns out they'd registered this .com version 2 days prior to calling, and were now aiming to sell it to him.
A couple of numbers to put things into perspective. At Winch Websites, I charge $44 per year to register and/or renew a .com domain name. For this, all you are doing is grabbing that particular domain name and making it yours. So additional related services (such as a website, webhosting, business email, etc. etc.) are all extra. We're talking only about the domain name itself.
It's a bit like vehicle rego, when you renew that you don't get a car or driver licence, you just get the rights to put the associated vehicle on public roads. Register and renew a domain name, and you get the right to use it in internet-land however you choose, and nobody else can have it (legal claims to the name aside!).
Now, this Queensland company was offering to sell the .com domain name at $650 plus GST. This is the exact same domain registration service as I provide for $44 inc GST.
There is nothing strictly illegal about this. They have the right to register any .com domain name they choose, unless it is a trademark. And likewise, for a .com, they are free to sell it to whoever they like for whatever price they like. (Note that this practice IS illegal for .com.au domains).
But is it wrong? I firmly say Yes. Is it immoral to pre-register a variation of someone's existing domain name and sell it for over 10 times the going rate? Absolutely.
What can you do about it? Not much. They've already registered the domain, and it will be theirs for at least a year. At bulk-buy discount rates, it costs them $10-$20. Obviously worth the gamble or they wouldn't be doing it. In your marketing activities, you may need to make it clear that only the .com.au version of your domain is yours.
However, because you are reading this, you may actually be able to head off the issue. If you have .com.au domain names, maybe check to see if you could register the .com equivalent too. It's a small price for the peace of mind that someone else couldn't steal it (and possibly abuse it).
Feel free to get in touch if you'd like any assistance with your domain name registrations and renewals, it's a critical part of your internet activities.
Your website has to be about your business – the products/services that you provide. That comes first. When visitors land on your website (however you drive them there), they’ll be looking to check they’ve come to the right place. So Step 1 is to provide whatever it is that lets the visitors know that you are a potential match for whatever they are looking for.
But then what? We have someone who’s confirmed that you are potentially able to provide the solution required. S/he has seen enough to think it’s worth pursuing.
Here is the 2nd Most Important Thing your website should have. The fabled “Call To Action“. In other words, don’t leave the interested visitors hanging – guessing what the next step should be. Do they phone you? Email you? Fill in an online enquiry? Can they buy it there and then? It’s up to YOU to tell them – and the easier you make it, the more likely it is to happen.
Don’t ask for a long form to be filled in with lots of deep-thought answers, unless it’s important to you that they do. On this website, I have a quick and easy Contact form (see that “Contact” link up in the menu). But I also have a much more involved form for potential clients that may want to work with Winch Websites, in the Project Enquiry form – this is an essential pre-qualification to see if the business owner knows enough and cares enough to be able to clearly set what the project is to achieve. It saves time on both sides if we both know what we’re doing, why, who for, and for what objectives.
So look through the home page on the Winch Websites site – you’ll regularly see a big orange button asking for the visitor to get in touch. These lead to a short and easy form – and the less a form asks for, the better (less ‘friction’ = more submissions).
Make sure ALL your webpages include a Call To Action (or CTA, in marketing-speak). Each page, at the top, the middle, the bottom, tell your potential clients exactly what you prefer they do next to go to the next step. Then make that action as easy and simple as possible (and make sure it runs on both desktop and mobiles!).
Is your website working for or against you? If you’re missing CTAs and you think it’s time to get a website that is effective and pays for itself, get in touch. (See what I did there? CTA again!)
A change in your business offerings is always going to be a catalyst for a review of how you market and publicise your business. At Enhanced Power Virtual Office Assistance, the principal Roneta had worked hard to gain certification as a Registered BAS Agent. This gave her a whole new arm to her business – in addition to the paperwork, book-keeping, editing and administration services she could now prepare and submit the Business Activity Statement (BAS) on behalf of her small-business clients.
Roneta wanted to make this major extension to her business front and centre. Her website was about 5 years old, and while perfectly acceptable the technology it was built with was behind the times – as was its design and layout.
So a revamp was on the cards. The core business service features prominently as the first thing visitors see. But it’s not a dry “We do BAS”. The site focusses on the visitor and how s/he can benefit from Enhanced Power Virtual Office Assistance. Time. We all want more time, and if your business isn’t administration, papework, and BAS, odds are those things are what you’d rather NOT do. This theme carries on through the site. Roneta is about taking off you what you don’t want to do anyway – doing it for you professionally and economically.
Client testimonials add social proof of Roneta’s capabilities and ethos. Contact details include a quick online query form. And a video adds extra visual appeal. A separate page breaks out more detail on what Enhanced Power Virtual Office Assistance can do.
Roneta didn’t want to go much further online because each client has unique needs and aspects, so it’s important to discuss with each lead what she can do and therefore what sort of pricing will apply. This is a small 2-page website that is all about lead generation. Let visitors know what Roneta does (and why that’s of interest), and encourage them to get in touch.
How about your own website? Do you know what you want from it? Does it actively work to achieve that? Our “Project Enquiry” form will help you work that out if you aren’t too sure – you don’t need to submit it, of course, unless you would like Winch Websites to put together a proposal customised to your needs. That form will get you thinking though.
In the first of this series of 3, we saw just what a ‘domain name’ is, and making sure that it’s registered in YOUR name.
In the second of this series of 3, we saw how a domain name by itself is useless, it needs to be linked to associated services like a website or email accounts.
In this the last of the series, we consider what else you can do with your domain name. Because it’s more than just having an email and/or business email addresses.
Your domain name can be used to customise a huge range of online services. There are all sorts of clever online tools that help you grow your business, manage your business, improve your business. Say for example you want to create laser-focussed marketing campaigns for one particular service or product. Well – “there’s an app for that”!
For my business (websites and everything that go with them) for example, I could build and maintain my own service for clients to check availability of new domain names, and then let them register them through Winch Websites. Or I could tap into a service already provided by my wholesaler to provide a customised domain registration portal. See domains.winchwebsites.com.au for what I mean. I didn’t build it, but I can offer customers a quick and easy way to register a domain name at my own pricing, using a webpage with my own branding on it.
Do you send formal proposals to your potential customers? Or would it improve how your business is seen if you did? There are a number of proposal-management online services you can use to make it quicker, easier, more professional and more convenient to generate and handle proposals. Proposify is the service I use. I login to their site, create a Winch Websites-branded proposal from a pre-prepared template, customise and price it to the recipients requirements, and send it away. They get to see that proposal online at proposals.winchwebsites.com.au, again with my branding around it.
There are 1,001 similar services that you can take advantage of, yet keep your branding and domain name in front of your clients and/or potential customers. Often, it’s simply a matter of making a small change or addition to your domain name’s records. Clear instructions are usually given, and so long as you have your domain name login details (which you should!) it is easy enough to do.
I hope you found these 3 domain name articles useful!
In the first of this series of 3, we saw just what a ‘domain name’ is, and a very important aspect when registering one – that it must be registered in YOUR name, not whoever is doing it on your behalf.
We now turn to what happens once you’ve finished the registration process (or someone’s done it for you, in your name). It’s a bit like wandering into a Telstra store and getting a new mobile phone number. They take your details, charge you an initial amount, and give you a wee little chip aka Sim Card for you to put in your phone. That’s essentially all you need to get a new mobile phone number – an active Sim Card.
But of course a Sim Card is useless by itself. Likewise, a domain name is useless by itself (unless you’re simply stopping anyone else from having it, but don’t intend to use it. Not legal in Australia!). In the same way you need to put your Sim Card into a phone before you can make/take phone calls, you need to link a domain name to web services eg. website, email.
Now if you get someone else to sort all this stuff out for you, you won’t need to do anything. Even if you DIY, it is very likely that whoever you use to register the domain name will offer you those linked services when you are going through the registration process. “Want webhosting with that?”
However, you are not tied to those web services. If you registered a domain name a while back and the same business hosts your website and/or does your email, it is very easy to switch to someone else. A very popular and highly recommended example is using the business version of GMail for your email accounts. $5 per month per account for buckets of storage space, state of the art anti-spam and anti-virus built in, nothing to backup, and easy access from just about any device that does internet. When you sign up, they will run through what you need to change in your domain name so that all the world knows that GMail is handling your email now. These changes are called DNS record changes. Your domain name keeps a list of what is where, and in this case when a mail-server has email to deliver to you, it will ask your domain name “Who do I give this email to?” and your domain name will say “Head over to GMail at this address”.
The same thing applies to your website. If you’re not happy with the performance of your website where it is, it is easy to find someone else to host it. Again, it’s a case of changing your DNS records to say “My website is now living over here“. If you do this, don’t forget to stop paying for the original webhosting though! You can bet they won’t go out of their way to ask you to stop sending them money…
The upshot of all this is that a domain name is independent of the services that attach to it. Your website can be managed in the USA, your email can be based in Singapore, your domain name registered in Australia. You are not stuck with who you start with. In fact, even the domain name can be moved to someone else without affecting anything else. Say you wanted Winch Websites to make sure that your domain is re-registered whenever required, and all its DNS records are copied to strategic locations around the globe to speed things up and make you more bullet-proof – easily done. So long as you are the Registrant!
In Part 3, we talk about what where you can go with a domain name beyond a website and business email accounts.
If you’ve got a website, you’ve got a domain name.
Well, not necessarily, but in the same way as you have a phone, it has a phone number – stop paying someone somewhere for your phone number service, and you’ve got a piece of equipment that isn’t able to live up to its purpose. Likewise if you have a website, if you aren’t paying someone somewhere for the associated domain name, then people can’t visit your website.
So the domain name is your unique name out there in internet-land. Just like a phone number, nobody else can have the same thing. Every domain name has to be registered and then occasionally renewed (how often depends, we’ll get to that). While you can register the domain name through 1,001 different resellers or providers, ultimately all domains are managed by a country’s Registrar.
For .com.au type domains (eg. winchwebsites.com.au), the country is Australia (hence the “.au”) and our Registrar is auDA (.au Domain Administration Ltd) who is the “policy authority and industry self-regulatory body for the .au domain space”. In other words, the top dog. They make the rules, and have final say in who can or cannot have a domain name.
If you’d like to register a domain name, you can’t go to auDA. You need to go to an official licenced Registry Operator or more likely a reseller who has a wholesale account with a Registry Operator. I’d recommend Netregistry as the place to go – their prices are good, their service and reputation are good. You’ll need to provide the required information (eg. ABN, Business Name) through an online application, submit your payment, and usually within an hour or two the domain is yours unless there’s a hiccup of some sort. Of course, Winch Websites would be happy to do it for you and make sure it’s done properly, just get in touch.
Many small businesses, however, outsource the domain registration, often as part of a package deal to get a website. But here’s the thing – the domain MUST be registered in YOUR name. Not the name of the business registering it on your behalf. If your own details, including email address, are not used as the “Registrant” (ie. owner), then the domain does not belong to you!
A domain name will have contact info for;
Each has name, email, address and phone (for domains ending in .au). It is quite normal, safe and even recommended to have Admin, Tech and Billing all show the contact details for your webby person. But the Registrant must be you and your business. I have seen several cases where a business owner and the web people have gone separate ways (eg. the web business closed up/disappeared, or there was an argument) and it is a painful bureaucratic process to wrestle back control of a domain name. In some cases, it’s a case of “Too bad, you can’t have it”.
So to close off this first blog post all about domain names, remember this – it’s easy to register a domain name, and quite cheap to do. Just make sure that you are listed as the Registrant. And don’t forget, the email you give will be the one used to send you renewal reminders.
In Part 2, we talk about what happens after a domain name is registered. To use the phone analogy again – you have a phone number, now you have to associate it with a device so you can tell people to use 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. firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.