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!!
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.
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.
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.