Archive for the ‘business’ Category
Website hosting can be a scary term for many people. We know from experience how scary. There are so many factors that you need to be aware of, understand and prepare for… its overwhelming. Thankfully there are a few tips we’ll share with you so that you can drop your fear of website hosting, make sure you’re hosting your website with the best host for your website’s needs, and you’re not stressing out about the servers crashing and losing revenue because of it.
Why is website hosting so important?
Besides being the literal home of your website, files, database, and everything else you’ve got under the hood of your company’s presence online? Well, there aren’t really other reasons because those are more than compelling! However, we need to break each one of these things down and explain why each is so crucial to the success of your website.
Think of your website hosting as the building that houses your company online. Your domain name is your address, but without a place to store your website the best domain in the world won’t be able to help your customers. It would be like sending people your address but it points them to an empty lot. That helps no one and frustrates your friends as you just wasted their time and told them you don’t respect them. Not a great message for your customers.
So how do you ensure your visitors make it to their intended destination and enjoy the experience? You start with your hosting platform. There are a few things we recommend for everyone to keep in mind while choosing their hosting provider.
What are you offering to your customers?
What is it you are offering your customers and website visitors? If you’re offering information in form of text like case studies, white papers, and blogs you will likely only need a simple hosting plan. Simple however does not mean any hosting company will do, so to ensure you’re providing the best experience for your customers and also getting the best support, you need to understand what is being provided before you sign up.
Maybe you offer information and sell products. Whether those products are digital or physical goods doesn’t matter all that much, unless you’re delivering those digital goods from your own hosting and servers. The more important item for anyone selling things online is, are you providing a safe and secure environment for your customers to buy your products and services? The only answer should be, “Yes.”
If you’re building a web service where your customers will login and be provided tools to make their lives easier and better, you will likely need a hosting plan that is more robust than someone offering only information. Increased bandwidth allotment, very reliable servers that are redundant in case one crashes or needs repair there are backups of your service that can be immediately switched on, and more are all items that a web services provider needs to be aware of when selecting a hosting company.
So what are the basics of website hosting?
Some of the basics that you should be aware of and want in your hosting provider are reliability, performance, and support. We’ll break each one down to get a better look at them.
Server Reliability and Uptime Scores
The most important thing a hosting company can do for you is keep your site accessible and while 98% of the time sounds good, that means that 2% of the time customers can’t access your website or anything connected to it. Ideally you want a hosting company that has a 99.5% and higher uptime score.
The uptime score refers to how long the servers remain active and “up”. Keeping the server working correctly and ensuring your website is active will be the first step in allowing your customers to interact with your brand.
Web hosting can range from 10 GB of storage to 10 TB of storage, shared server hosting plans to dedicated server hosting plans, and can provide various selections for how much bandwidth or traffic you are allotted. What do all these things mean? Well, let’s break them down and explain each one.
We’ll start with storage, how much space you have to store images, audio files, and other files on your hosting plan is highly important for blogging to ecommerce to software as a service providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter, or Instagram. Most hosting companies start out by offering “Unlimited” storage. We have the term in quotes because it’s not actually unlimited. What they mean is that they don’t actively cap your storage, however there is an allowance, especially on a shared hosting plan. Ideally you’d prefer to have more storage space than you could possibly need, but there isn’t a need to go crazy. Unless you’re storing a ton of images, audio files or videos you don’t necessarily need more than 10GB – 100GB of storage.
We just alluded to our next point of interest, types of hosting plans. There are 3 main types of hosting plan options. They are shared server hosting, virtual private server hosting, and dedicated server hosting. Shared hosting is when you share a server with many other people/businesses. Virtual Private Server, or VPS, is similar to a shared hosting plan, but instead of just having random space on a server, you are provisioned an instance of server within a server. This is a bit more secure and reliable than a shared hosting plan. Lastly is the dedicated server option. With this option you actually have your own server. It’s much more expensive, but you’re then guaranteed to have an entire environment to yourself.
On the off-chance that something does happen, like the latest DNS hack that took down a good majority of websites and services like Twitter and other large sites, you want to rest assured that your hosting provider will be working to correct the problem very quickly. The level of support the hosting company offers should be very high on your list.
While most hosting companies offer pretty great support, there are a few that really go above and beyond. In our opinion, the most crucial point to be aware of with support is 24/7 customer support. As long as you can access the support team whenever you need to, and they can take action immediate, you should be good to go.
Where do I find the best hosting company for my business?
We’ve provided an amazing baseline of information for you. You’re more than equipped to find the right hosting company for your business now. So to recap our most important elements of hosting, you need to keep the following in mind:
- Server Reliability and Uptime Score
- Tools and Options
Choosing a domain name is almost as hard as naming your business or child. I have honestly had easier times naming pets. Nobody really cares about branding, memorability or if it’s a dot com or not. Pet names are easy. Kid names aren’t too hard either. So what makes a good domain name? Let’s cover a few points and I’ll dive into what they mean.
Top tips for a good domain name.
- It’s as short as possible.
- Easy to say and remember.
- Accounts for your organizations brand or product
- Localized when logical
- Has SEO keywords
- Is available in a .com, .org
So what do these translate to?
Short is good. But not at the cost of being usable. Google works, but it’s based on real word. So the shorter the better, but not at the expense of the next point, easy to say and remember. I can’t tell you how many times people share a new product or service with me in passing, and for the life of me, can’t recall what it was or how to spell it when I’m back at a computer.
How important is the branding for your organization? Sometimes having the company name is less important, and a product or service is of higher priority. It comes down to knowing those priorities.
Pro tip: You can have more than one domain name. TempeCreative.com and Factor1studios.com are very different. One is localized and service based, the other is the brand name. Using both can help you meet your objectives.
Localized search terms really come into play for what I consider urgent needs oriented businesses. Plumbers, Garage door repair, Dentists, etc. These are often industries you want near by you, and usually ASAP. City specific domains with matching content can be a huge benefit to these as they play into an SEO strategy.
Finally getting your domain in a .com or .org is important. A few years ago Overstock tried their hand with the dot co vanity domain extension. They marketed heavily their new O.co domain. The main problem here was the consumer muscle memory. People simply finished the .co with an m. O.com had record traffic, and it cost Overstock millions in lost traffic, and later more millions in trying to buy the o.com from its current owner.
With any domain name, try to secure as many of the variations as you can. .com, .net, .org, .us; including misspellings or spelling variations. They all simply forward to the main. This does two things, secures that user who mis-typed the domain, and prevents anyone from grabbing the alternate to use for themselves, or worse, against you. Plenty of political sites come to mind over the years.
Where should you buy your domain ?
Good question, 100 points. Always use a reputable domain registrar, not a reseller. I’m personally a big fan of NameCheap.com and Godaddy.com but ONLY for domains. Domain Registrars are not good hosts. More on that in a future post. Other good registrars are Enom.com and NetworkSolutions.com
How long should I buy the domain for?
This is tricky. Yes you can buy it for 5 years and basically forget about it. But that’s the issue. You forget about it. Next thing you know it’s up for renewal, and you forget, you moved, you changed emails, etc. And recovering access to a 5 year old account is a nightmare. Most likely you forgot the security question, the email they have on record is invalid, and you moved, breaking any and all ties to the account.
Domain Registrars rarely give you any discounts for multiple years. So you can part with your money $10 at a time, or $50 all at once. I know interest rates are terribly low, but my cash on hand still has more value to me in my hand than with a domain registrar. There are no refunds, so really no point.
Pro tip: Set that domain up for yearly, auto-renew on, and add it to your calendar like a birthday!
So it’s the new year, and you are working on a new site. Maybe it’s for your company, or maybe it’s something you are working on for a client and you are shaping the content and creative for them. We all know WordPress is amazing, powers 50% of the websites out there today, and offers a very deep resource pool of free or low cost add ons.
Fast forward a few months, and you are all done. But it’s not the dream project you had envisioned. The journey to this point was long, and had a lot of bumps in the road. The theme needed more work to customize than you thought,. You now have a ton of plugins, widgets, and options to round out the gaps in the theme. The comments to the developers support forum took 2 weeks to get a sub par reply. Now moving the site from staging to production is a daunting task.
We hear stories like this almost daily. That $59 theme is now all the sudden getting more expensive with the hours you put into it, and the lost ROI with launch delays. All those bells and whistles from the feature list now look more like a long list of things to manage instead of great benefits.
Enter the WordPress strategic partner.
Let’s tell a different story here. You have an idea for a new site, and even some great examples of the end goal. Working closely with the admin team, designers, and project managers, together we craft the needs, features, user experiences, timeline and budget. As the designs go through the wireframe process, and later full design comps, our development team is reviewing & discussing options. Options and ideas to achieve the designed goal, outlining potential hurdles that may arise with the feature, timeline, budget, or end administration of content.
Together we go through several rounds of this. Finally landing on an amazing stack of designs that work across multiple devices sizes, with clarity on expected functions, content management, and performance. Our team dives into the code. Using our 11+ years of experience with CMS tools, we craft a custom WordPress theme that meets the goals and objectives planned, with a very specific task of making the design and the administration work together with unity and grace. No goofy plugins, widgets, short codes, or worse, code in the editor panel.
You are now left with a site custom built to meet the exact specifications, features and planned outcome of the site, and a design that matches up perfectly to an administration experience. This eliminates the need for manuals, training sessions, or guesswork. Our quality assurance process has checked the site on a wide array of physical tablets, smart phones and laptops for the ultimate test in compatibility, as well as optimized the site for speed and SEO. Fast forward 3 years, and the site is still running great. Maybe a few plugin updates here and there, but nothing that risks crashing the site, since we coded in the critical functions, leaving a few plugins to handle auxiliary things less critical to the site.
What to look for in a strategic WordPress partner?
With any long term project, relationship is key. We have had some of our clients over 10 years with many sites together because relationships win. When you have a partner, you have someone to call when things aren’t working right. You learn to get comfortable with details like finances and project risks. It’s a 2 way street. Our partners pay our invoices in a timely fashion, know what is critical versus important, they know that good work takes a little time, and they know to listen to our advice. Not in negative, don’t challenge our opinion, but in a respectful, purposeful, intentional way. The best partners are on a journey, together.
Look for agencies that have credibility, i.e. have they been actively developing for WordPress for a few years, and know how to make custom themes. Look to chat with long term clients. We are always more than happy to have a potential client call up a partner for a reference. Finally notice what they ask about you. Do they care about your bigger business goals and how they fit in, are they happy to share resources and ideas to help you get there?
What about the costs?
Can’t beat around this bush. You get what you pay for and good works costs time and money. But if you are looking for a partner to go to the next level in your business, know that it’s going to take some time, effort, and funding. We do our best to always be upfront, and clear with how much something costs. If that’s too high, say so, and share what you can work within. A good partner will help find solutions.
How does a strategic WordPress partner work with agencies?
Working with an agency who finds and manages the client relationship is tricky. We know that these relationships can go two ways. The first way, the developers are behind the scenes, white labeled, and never talking to the client. These are tricky, there ends up being a “telephone game” of communication, where the developer and client never talk, leaving designers and project managers in the middle to translate. Sometimes this leads to a mess when it comes to technical discussions. Additionally, this can leave clients feeling a lack of trust if (more like when) they figure out the developers are not staff, damaging all relationships along the way.
On the opposite end, sits the strategic partner. With transparency, we work together to craft a proposal, project features, and it’s well known that Factor1 is your WordPress strategic partner for this project. Shaping the conversation from the beginning that you are the branding and design experts, and we are the WordPress experts needed to launch this critical project. We work mainly behind the scenes, but when things get hard, or ready to launch, the client, your team, and our teams can comfortable jump on a call with no concerns about who is who.
If feels like just yesterday I convinced my very supportive wife I should quit a well paying easy job to start something new. Feels like yesterday, but it was actually 10 years ago. Oh I should also mention what a leap of faith factor1 was. At the time she had been laid off from a downsizing retailer and was not having a ton of luck with finding a new job, and we had little saved being so young. Yeah, we were that crazy.
The last 10 years have been amazing. We have grown a lot, both in size, great clients, partnerships, knowledge and experience. We have had a many of our current clients almost as long as we have been a company, and that’s saying something I think.
We stayed small, nimble, bold, courageous. We know the more people on the elevator the more work it takes to go up, so we kept our staff to a handful. We embraced the slow cooker model, and have grown slowly year after year by word of mouth from great relationships and hard work. I am super thankful we haven’t lost any of these traits that made us who we are. I am also very proud of the work we get to produce here, and the work our employees produce on a daily basis.
I want to say thanks. Thanks to all our awesome friends, clients, partners, staff — past and and present. So much of where we have been and where we are going is because of our relationships with you and I thank you.
So what does the future hold? Not sure to be perfectly honest. We are going to keep doing many of the same things. The technology may change, the tools will get updates. We all know adobe acrobat will update 3x a week. But we are going to keep doing the best work we possibly can. We are going to ask the hard questions, provide bold strategies that push our clients and ourselves. We are going to keep the pace that finishes the long race with passion and character.
When was the last time you used a company’s mobile app, and their desktop web site side by side and been shocked that the mobile is better? Yesterday I was using the ebay app on my ipad. I have buying and selling for years. Seriously, I think it drives my wife nuts. For years I have seen ebay upgrade their desktop experience, but also over complicate it every time.
Yesterday I spent some time listing a few things on the ipad app. Sure I shop and monitor from the ipad, but always assumed listing would be painful as it is on the main desktop site. I was pleasantly shocked.
With mobile apps, you are forced to start over, and re-think the process, the way you plan a user flow, and the interface for touch. So many businesses just continue to adjust the current version, but rarely do they tear it down to start over. The usual reason is time and money. But saving a little time and money by the company costs their customers time and money. This can lead to customer loss over time, and leave room for a competitor to come in and out innovate you.
Start over every now and then. Strip it back to the process and flow, and build something fresh. Use that experience and insight you have earned from the current version and make something better. Build the 2.0.
Last week a friend of ours mentioned he was having website issues. As we dug into the conversation, we found out that ‘issues’ actually meant his site had been offline for 4+ months. Yikes! Now he hosted his site with a friend, who was “working on getting it back up”. But 4 months is too long for any level of friendship when it comes to business if you ask me!
So why do you need to host with a reputable company.
To avoid the horror story we just heard, here are a few things to make sure you have when finding a good web site host.
- Server load. How many clients do the have on one server. Some of the cheapest companies have thousands of accounts on one server. Think of that like a roach motel.
- Server access. Do you have FTP and control panel access? You want to be able to log in, and manually save down files, run backups, etc. Maybe not you directly, but you want to make sure you have the access so you can hire someone else if needed.
- Storage and bandwidth. Most businesses need under 1gb of storage, and 5 – 20gb of monthly bandwidth. Churches that podcast are a different story. You want to make sure you have a hard number. Companies that offer unlimited have a limit, they just hide it and decide on a case by case basis. I know far to many people with normal usage sites, that have been suspended for “resource abuse” by these unlimited companies. Frankly It baffles me that they can advertise this.
- Support. Can you actually get a hold of someone when you need to? Many companies have amazing support, some make you wait hours. Find one you are comfortable with, because it hurts to have a massive site issue, and no one to talk to about it.
- Backups. Do they run nightly and weekly backups? Are they offsite? Is the database included with that?
- What restrictions do they have on WHAT you can host. More important, what are they keeping off the server that other users may be hosting. You never want to be on a server that allows porn, torrents, file sharing, etc. Its bound to tie up the server, and possibly get shut down.
So next time you need to find a great place to host your site, make sure you think through these points. And in case you are wondering, YES the factor1 severs meet all the above with flying colors and we are super picket who we host. We rarely, and I mean rarely host anything unless they are a client of ours.
We build WordPress sites here at factor1. We love using it, and love what we can do with it. WordPress is most commonly known for its blogging tools, but has really risen to the top for Content Management Systems (CMS). I recently saw some stats that WordPress now powers 22+ million sites, and 40% of the top 100 sites.
Most of our WordPress development is for organizations, not bloggers per sé. These are mainly non-profits, churches and businesses. While most of the sites we build are page focused, promoting products, services or general awareness, there is still the built in WordPress functions of posts and blogging. We get this question the most, and I thought blogging about it would be the best way to share the answer.
Why should my organization blog?
A notable close second: What should I blog about?
Blogging tends to have the mass public confused as to what it is, what it should be or why. Most often its associated with personal use. My definition of blogging is content that is clearly categorized, date and time stamped, and on a single topic. Blogging uses the the term ‘post’ to reference a single entry to the blog. A blog as a whole is a collection of posts. Much like a newspaper is a collection of news articles. The term ‘Blog’ has also become a verb, as one is often ‘blogging’ about a topic, in this case, it is synonymous with writing.
So why should we blog as an organization?
Blog posts are highly visible as new, relative content to google and other search engines. If you continue to offer free advice, tips, insight, case studies and relative industry information, google will reward you for that, for terms that align with each post based on their content.
Users also see this content, and it can form the base of your credibility with them. Active blogging organizations win new clients, because the prospects see activity, growth, community, and openness.
Reference / Archives
The blog also because a great repository of reference material, and a location to house full articles you mention in conferences, emails or social media.
What should my company blog about?
Any content worth calling someone about to tell them, or mailing them a letter, is worthy of blogging. This very post is my clear example of what to blog about. We have insight and expertise to share, and we hope the people reading this find it informative. Would I call a client or send them a letter on this topic? YES, and it is our clients who ask about this topic that lead me to write it.
You can use your blog for:
- Case studies
- Industry news
- Company news
- Insight to your product or service
- Frequently asked questions
- Education on a topic your organization is passionate about
I don’t think you need to pick one of the above, but ALL of the above.
Lets pause today for a copyright, legal rights, and the internet conversation. We are creators of content, hosts of sites, and believers in free speech. So first off, we don’t normally take political sides, and neither bill is specific to one political party. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills circulating Washington DC have us very concerned for several reasons.
You learn about sopa & pipa here.
or watch this:
Here are some key issues.
1. No Due Process. The US Government can choose to shut down funding, and even block the site URL from us search engines and DNS.
2. It doesn’t stop the issue of illegal content. IP addresses will still be accessible and so will the content.
3. It sets precedent. What other countries will follow in our paths if this went through? Can you imagine a world with a very disconnected internet? Countries like North Korea, Iran, and China already filter internet for a variety of reasons. They shut down free speech, conflicting views and organized political opposition. This is not what we want in the US.
Tell Congress if you agree with any of this.
The internet use on a smart phone may be one of the fastet growing modes of communication and consumption we have ever experienced. The overall adoption rate is growing faster than radio, tv, and the internet experienced. In some countries the internet is really only available on mobile phones, like in sub sahara Africa for example.
Here at factor1, we have the strong opinion that there is no difference between mobile web and what you get on your computer. There is only one internet, just different ways to view it.
So all sites we build are mobile friendly at a minimum. And often we build more advanced sites that are responsive to the screen size and displays the content as best possible for the size of the device.
Some fun mobile facts to think about.
- 39% of people use mobile phones while using the bathroom
- 33% of people use mobile phones while watching television
- 87% of people use mobile phones while on the go
- 400% increase in mobile phone use over 2011
Based on the below InfoGraphic, What can you do to connect with people via their mobile devices? What does your company do to reach people via smartphones?
Graphic via http://visual.ly/
You heard me. Your business does not need a phone app in the apple or android app stores. More than likely.
Last week, a client of ours was super excited to tell me all about this new web app they are “creating”. By creating I mean they paid some phone app company a set up fee (usually $250 – 500) and $50 a month for. When I asked what the app would do, they rattled off all the amazing features. Features like a home page, news, about us, contact, directions, and product info. So I asked to clarify, that this is indeed an “app”, Yes, they proclaimed! It will be free in the apple and android app stores.
Here is my giant issue. Please hear me very clearly here.
If your app is no more than basic content found on your site, its a waste of time, money and your efforts.
Yes apps are all the rage. All the cool kids are talking about apps. Trust me, no one is going to be browsing the app store, and think to themselves, “sweet! a company I have never heard of has an app about their company / service / product, and its free!”. No, no one will think that.
Save your money, time and app lust. I have a fix for you. Build a site that is mobile friendly. We have a few ways of doing this. One is responsive. Take our site for example. Resize your browser window smaller. Bam! It re-organizes itself to fit the screen size. Navigations get touch friendly, fonts remain clear and readable. Another alternative is a seperate mobile site with the core info, that we have an auto detect script set up on. Basically if the visitor screen size is less than 640px wide, send them to the mobile site. Give them an option back to the main full site. Yes, you can still use a QR barcode to direct people to your mobile site. They can call you, map your location, and learn more all from the mobile web, with no need for an app.
You may have a need for an app. If your idea is functional, helps a user, provides them a beneficial resource for planning, searching, researching, or tracking something. Great, go for it! Verizon has a great app to track my minutes used on my iPhone. Starbucks has a store locator, with info on menus, amenities, and wifi. E-trade has an app to search, research and watch over your trades. Catch my drift here?
Make it useful, keep it relevant, and make it a benefit to your users (not just you). Or dont do it at all.