Websites

Tech Thursday: Building a Website is Like Running a Relay

The other day, we thought of an analogy for the website building process: it’s like running a relay race!

To elaborate, there are different legs, or segments, to the website building process, and having clear points of handing off (especially when it’s a collaborative process) keep things organized.

There are 4 legs to the website relay: function (what the website will do), content (what it will have in it- images, video, text), design (what it will look like), and the final stretch- its release into the internet!

(Note: we received many strange looks from passerbys while recording- apparently it’s uncommon for two ladies wearing sparkly headbands to jog in place in front of a camera while talking about websites. Who knew?)

Hiding Your Website In Development

threewaystohideCongratulations on your new site in development!
Now I as a web person understand your old website needs to stay online while your new website gets developed… then get moved ‘live’ when you are ready. The question I have for you is, how secret do you want it to be?
Here are three levels of ‘hiding’ your website in development, in case you are worried about spies.

Level 1: Hiding it from search engines.

This hides it from being indexed… but someone typing in the direct URL can still get to it.
To do this: In Wordpress go under ‘Settings’ then ‘Reading’ and check the box to discourage search engines. (Other kinds of software have similar settings.) Will it completely stop everything? No. Does it put at least a white sheet over it that someone has to notice and remove? Yes.
For most clients we work with, this is enough. We simply work on the site at a location like dev.thewebsiteurl.com while thewebsiteurl.com stays online. No one even notices! (And honestly, most people don’t really care.)
Best for: People who don’t want to take their current site offline but aren’t feeling super sneaky either.
Kind of like: Playing hide and seek with your 10 year old cousin. You can get up and go find them if you really want to but really, aren’t you going to just keep sitting on the couch, watching the movie you started?

Level 2: Hiding website from everyone behind a password.

This means when you type in a website address, you will immediately be prompted to enter a username and a password before it’ll even load. This box will pop up and, until you give it what it wants, you aren’t getting anywhere.
authenticationrequired
If you want to hide what you are working on from everyone, this is one way to do it.
The annoying thing for people who keep having to work on the site: You’ll have to do this *every time* you want to look at a page. Also things like uploading photos becomes difficult as you are changing files and the server gets a little confused sometimes since you didn’t enter the password to do that. (And at times, you have to turn on password encryption to be able to do these things.) This is a bit technical and it’s something that can be set in your web hosting (in Cpanel, it’s relatively easy. I can’t speak for servers that don’t use Cpanel as far as to the easiness of this).
Best for: An idea that is potentially damaging if it gets out before it’s completely solidified (ie you think you’ve invented the next Facebook) yet you need a team of people to be able to work on it from different locations.
Kind of like: Breaking into someone’s email. You probably can’t guess the password but figure if you can’t get in, there must be something juicy lurking in there. (P.S. I’ve never broke into someone’s email, for the record… but if my younger days, I definitely tried!)

Level 3: Working on the website locally

zoolanderfilesincomputerThis is the most secure. Basically you download Wordpress/your website onto a computer and work on it from there. (Downloading a program like MAMP (or WAMP if you have a windows computer) makes it a bit easier to run a server on your own computer).
Since you are working on it on your own machine only, only you can see it. We don’t do this a ton because we’re often showing things to do the client, having multiple people work on it at the same time, etc. but this is an option. (You can also send links for previews to clients in the Pro version of the software I believe.)
You basically add MAMP (or WAMP) to your computer, run a backup of your current site, and pop it into MAMP/WAMP on your computer. When you feel the site is done, you just move it back to where it goes online (I don’t mean this is necessarily ‘easy’: few hours of work and involves some database changes but honestly, in the grand scheme of things, not a huge deal. Just worth paying someone to do that portion maybe!)
Best for: Super secret projects being worked on by a small team either physically close together and/or you have an interconnected network together
Kind of like: Every spy movie you have ever seen where they go in the government building and realize everything is happening in the one room that you need to break into. Get out the grappling hook! (Or in this case, be ready to steal a computer.)
I know it’s easy to think that everyone is waiting with baited breath for your new website, going to the point where they will do ANYTHING to see your new site before it’s live… but honestly, most of this is overkill for most people. But we did want to mention that you do have options while the site is in progress to keep it under wraps.

 

Client Profile: Bar Harbor Historical Society

You’ve probably seen somewhere on our website we offer training for websites. You might wonder, what does a website built by a volunteer with some technical help from Breaking Even look like?

Well let’s start from the beginning and say it looked like this (note: This was screenshotted as the website was, and is showing at 500 pixels rather than the actual 600 wide it was. In other words, a very skinny website floating in the middle of my 20 inch desktop screen):

screenshot-original-barharborhistoricalwebsite

The site was built in 1995. Now I don’t know about you but a lot has changed for me since 1995, and a lot has changed in terms of website technology. First of all, screens have gotten both smaller (mobile) and wider (desktop monitors). It has also been made much easier to have dynamic elements, like slideshows and other interactive content. And also, people now expect more out of websites. They want to pay online, fill out a form, learn a lot of information about you before proceeding.

Kathy, a BHHS volunteer, wanted them to be able to easily have photo galleries, downloadable brochures, a slideshow, a blog, and other features she had seen on websites. She also wanted it to be something they could update themselves.

bhhs-website

So over the course of several meetings, to allow Kathy to gather materials like photos and get approvals from the board at various stages, we built the following basic (though very useful) website for the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

Is it super fancy? No. Did we get all crazy on fonts or redesign their logo? Nope.

But the site is responsive and has the features they want. And it’s built in a platform that will be able to grow with them as they increase their membership and track their website visitors’ behavior over the course of the summer with Google Analytics.

Since it’s been online the last few weeks, they’ve gotten several inquiries from people visiting the area or searching for historical information.

As being part of the creation process, Kathy has a great idea not only of what went into the website but what it is capable of. She has already had some great ideas she is taking to the board. Most exciting is she was able to pinpoint the most important information that needed to be conveyed and we were able to find places for it on the homepage of the website, with still more room to add additional features.

Congratulations to Kathy for her hard work getting content together as well as the Bar Harbor Historical Society on a website that reaches not only a more modern user but saves volunteers time and effort in the process by answering those questions they were being asked over and over again.

Online Video and SEO

Way back when, search engines relied heavily on text. But in the age of Youtube empires and search results including videos, it is time to realize that video and doing well in online searches actually go hand in hand.

videoinsearchresults

Think about it:

Youtube = Search Engine

Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world after Google and attracts 157 million unique visitors per  month. So people are going directly onto Youtube to find information they need.

Worried about your performance in Google? Videos are 53 times more likely to be on the first page of search results.

So if you want to do good in search engines, make videos, upload them with good titles and descriptions to sites like Youtube or Vimeo, and make sure in the description and on your profile, you link back to your own website.

Video Websites = Social Networks

Youtube has 1 billion monthly active users (as of March 2013). Vomeo has 25 million members with a 70%+ international audience. In other words, people go on video sharing websites (not just large networks like Youtube and Vimeo but video sharing sites/curating sites like Upworthy or Godvine) and not only watch your initial video but all the videos on your channel (this obsessive watching has a term now: binge watching).

So not only do people connect with your video, they might see what else you have to say, what else you are liking and commenting on, and otherwise want to interact with you.

Video = Sticky website content

There are entire websites built on curating specific groups of videos (Upworthy and Godvine above but also even very specific websites like Twitch, where you can watch people play online video games in real time).

People are four times as likely to stay on a website that has video on it. In other words add video to your site and not only are people more likely to come but they’ll also be more likely to stay.

Video = Less competition (for now)

I do this exercise when I talk to groups.

1) How many of you have watched a website video this week? (99% of people raise their hands.)
2) How many of you have watched a website video today? (Depending on the time of day it’s at least 50% but sometimes close to 99%.)
3) How many of you have made an online video in the last month? (0 hands go up)

In other words, here is this thing that people want but not many people are making. A low supply/high demand scenario at its best. If you are the ones making the videos that other people are watching, you win!

So this is why we have resolved to do more with video this year: because not only is it a cool thing to do but also because it is worthwhile in terms of online visibility. And it’s never been easier folks so step in front of that camera and let’s see what you’ve got!

Click here to binge watch Tech Thursday… 

Tech Thursday: How to Avoid Shady Web Developers

This week’s video is all about weeding out the wrong sorts of people to work with (in terms of web developers). But, how do you tell if a web developer is shady? Interestingly, the signs are similar to dating a shady sort of person. Does he/she nag you about your site’s appearance or overall function? Is he defensive or secretive about offering examples of past work? And, finally,  does he only have ONE client that he seems to mention all the time?

The moral of the story: If someone gives you a weird vibe, do you really want to trust him/her with your business? Don’t settle!

Trust Symbols On Your Website: Where, When, and How To Use Them

Here’s the thing with the internet: it’s become very easy to set up a website. (I’m not taking away anything from us here but really, if you want a basic informational website, you have lots of options.)

So as someone navigating online, it might be hard to figure out: Is this person/company trustworthy? And people are looking at your website and asking this same question.

And since people are giving them your time or money or both, you want to figure out how to show them they can trust you. ‘Trust symbols’ are ways you can do that.

Now when I talk trust symbols, I’m not talking about this:

certificateofauthenticity

I am talking about something that means something to your customer in a deeper way that a self issued guarantee.

Here are some things you may (or may not) think of as trust symbols and how to use them on your website.

Trust Symbol #1: Recognizable brands

Now if you carry Makita drills or Nike running shoes, showing these logos on your website is a way of affiliating yourselves with these companies that people already trust. If you are trying to get someone to buy something from you AND educate them as to why Vizio computers are equally as good as Macs, you have a tougher road ahead of it (one you shouldn’t be discouraged taking necessarily  but still, something to think of).

Trust Symbol #2: Logos/Quotes from clients

Showing your current or past clients (and ideally having a name of someone at the company to associate some kind of testimonial with) shows your potential customer that other people have bought things from you and did not live to regret it. Also if they happen to be bigger clients or clients like the ones you are trying to attract, all the better.

Trust Symbol #3: Professional Affiliations/certifications

By showing that you are, say, a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or a certified electrician, you make yourself stand out from the average fly-by-night handyman. Not only have you invested money in these affiliations but also likely your time in getting them, which is worth something to people in that market.

Trust Symbol #4: A lot of information that is easy to browse

A lot of people throw up four to five informational pages about their business online and call it good, while others write blog posts, answer FAQs, and otherwise put out a lot of information. Looking at our Google Analytics data, we know the average person who fills out our contact form has looked around our website for awhile, likely getting information about who we are, what we do, and our approach. If you act vague or secretive about your offerings, it doesn’t make you necessarily seem exclusive so much as shady.

Trust Symbol #5: Photos/Videos of you and your team on your website

If you opt for stock photos instead of who works for you, I as a consumer assume one of three things:

1) You don’t keep employees around long enough that this is relevant.
2) You aren’t organized enough to pick up your smartphone when your employee is in the vicinity.
3) Your employees are ashamed to work for you and don’t want to be associated.

Trust symbol #6: Links to Social Media

Social media sites and online review sites are where people can post information about a company and a good company will let them do that. By clicking on your Facebook page or your TripAdvisor link, you are telling people ‘I trust my reputation enough for you to go onto other sites and look me up.’

Case Study

Let’s say you were going to hire someone to clean your home. Would you rather have these guys do it:

trustsymbolsforthewin

Or these guys:

themaids

Sure the second website is slicker but they seem much more interested in selling me a franchise and having me call them right now then building any kind of rapport with me. So if I am going to hand my housekeys and leave my dog with someone, I’ll go with the Green Clean Maine team any day of the week.

Small businesses and non-profits have a great opportunity to be the opposite of generic. Show your customers and potential customers they can trust you online and they will, online and off.

 

 

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