The Small Business Association said in March 2019 roughly 30% of businesses failed during their first two years of opening. At the five year mark about 50% failed. At ten years around 70% had failed.
Remember this is ALL businesses – not just web businesses. I’ve seen many go under in the years since 1998 when I started in this business. Usually that news comes from our new web clients – who don’t even know what happened to their past developers – they just became unreachable or unresponsive.
Obviously there is no sure thing – no guarantee – that any business is always going to be there. That being said, there are many things that measure the likelihood of success. Look at factors like five to nine employees versus few or none. Look at employee longevity. Look at how they get their business – through referrals versus constant advertising. Look at whether they have a handful of web clients versus many.
Don’t risk having someone handle your web presence who won’t be there for the duration. Common sense dictates that a company that’s been around over ten years with a team that does most of its business through referrals for many, many clients is going to be way more reliable for you in the long term.
Our exposure to thousands of web clients has shown us many folks who’ve been exposed to scam artists, fly by nights, and outright crooks over the years. We’ve had clients that had paid money down to previous developers with no work done whatsoever.
Luckily, most legitimate reliable web development businesses have ethics. Part of building confidence in one’s client base is doing what is necessary to be a legitimate business. Fly-by-nights don’t bother with registering their business or any of the other numerous details of doing business that being a legitimate business entails.
It’s very simple to check to see if a business is legitimate – i.e., registered. Here are links to websites where one can check out businesses in several states in and around New England: NH MA ME VT
Doing a little research like this can save you a ton of headaches later. Dealing with a business that is willing to do the initial work of operating legitimately greatly increases the odds they are going to be reliable and honest in their dealings with you.
While there’s never a total guarantee, coupling this with other items in our checklist helps narrow the field to give you the best odds of developing a good business relationship.
This is a question that, amazingly enough, not everyone thinks to ask. We have had a number of people who received poor service from their web services providers come to us. Imagine their surprise when they discover that they do not own their website!
Our philosophy is very simple – anything you’ve paid in full for – meaning there is no open balance on your account – is yours. Period. We really have no reason to want your website. We just want to be paid for work done, your domains and services rendered.
Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous people in the web business. They use their ownership of your content as a method to hold you hostage – forcing you to keep paying them. It’s an unfortunate reality on the web. We have never operated that way.
Just about as bad are the large companies that you can build your website at quickly ans easily. However, there is no way to move that website from them. Your site operates ONLY on their proprietary servers so can’t be moved elsewhere. Folks usually discover that after realizing there are insufficient options for website expansion or customization. Then they’ve lost all the time and energy put into a website they don’t own.
We’ll be glad to tell you if you’ve been trapped like this.
It’s increasingly difficult sorting the good companies from the bad ones on the Internet. There are still ways to find the best, reliable web development companies. We’ve compiled this recommended checklist as a starting point. The order these are in isn’t necessarily important since ALL the points are very important!
Check to see if your web development company:
□ will ensure that YOU own your website when it’s paid for
□ is legitimately registered to do business within its State: NH MA ME VT
□ has been in business for at least 10 years
□ has several or more people
□ carries Workers Compensation on its employees
□ carries liability insurance
□ maintains a committed presence in networking groups
□ is accredited and has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau (https://BBB.org)
□ understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you
□ has a phone contact where one can at least leave messages
□ has an email contact where one can send information
□ provides automatic site updates at no additional ongoing charge
□ backs up websites every night for at least a month
□ provides website encryption (SSL) at no additional ongoing charge
□ does not require hosting or domain contracts
□ does not overcharge you by selling you inflated monthly maintenance plans
□ provides partial hour web work billing (9 minutes work charged 9/60 of hourly rate)
□ can respond to most maintenance requests in 3-4 days
□ has general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues
□ is proficient with WordPress through experience and training
Over upcoming weeks check here for details about each. Contact us with any questions, we exist to serve you!
Whether face to face or on the web, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. This short checklist contains “must haves” for a website. It’s unbelievable to leave them off a website. We’ve seen web developers as well as web do-it-yourselfers not provide the following.
Phone number – You’ve lost credibility right away if there is no phone number. Many people – yes even today – understand that talking actually accomplishes more faster.
Contact email – We recommend posting an email address. Some use forms keeping email hidden. Forms are easily “spammed” making more work.
Business location – Tell visitors at least what city you’re in. Customers wanting to deal locally appreciate this.
Hours of operation – Whether you expect foot traffic or take appointments, there’s nothing worse than guessing whether you’re open or not.
Who to deal with – Let visitors know who they can deal with. Staff shrouded in anonymity don’t appear helpful.
Aesthetics – Websites should appear clear and organized. Visitors expect some things in certain places – like navigation. Make it easy find items/topics and get around the site.
Website success happens by building visitors’ confidence in your business. Providing as much information as possible will help immensely with this process. Contact your web services provider for assistance. They, just like we at CharlesWorks, should be there to help.
Domain ownership is like home ownership. Domain fees are like home taxes. Stop paying taxes and see who really owns your home!
Domains are sold through hundreds of “domain registrars” around the world. It costs in excess of $50,000 to become a registrar. Registrars answer to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It maintains a database of all domains to ensure domains can’t be duplicated.
Most domains are registered by web development companies. Accepted common practice is to obtain domains for their client, set it up and build a website accessible with it.
Losing a domain can easily be avoided. Common reasons I have seen for folks to lose their domain names are as follows, in the most common order:
1. Renewals ending up in spam buckets or returned with dead/outdated email addresses.
2. Church parishioners/employees who have a falling out.
3. Business employees who move on regardless of circumstances.
Avoid Gmail, Yahoo or other “freebie emails” with your domain. You’ve ZERO control over and can’t even call them.
Seek out reputable web developers OUTSIDE your organization to handle your domain names. Avoid “one man shows” and startup developers. Use BBB accredited businesses who’ve been at it at least 10-20 years. They’ll likely look out for you and protect your domains.
People purposely search the web, looking for services or information. Ten seconds is what websites have to grab their attention.
They land on your impressive looking site with beautiful graphics moving all about the page.
The clock’s ticking. “Come on already!” they’re thinking. They hit that back arrow – they’re off to another website!
Or they’re at your page with oodles of information! They scan left to right, top to bottom. “Oh, that looks interesting over there!” and in the blink of an eye, they’ve clicked on an ad – and off to someone else’s website.
Viewers always judge websites by clarity, design, and detail.
Do your aesthetics relate its message, using appropriate colors, fonts, graphics, etc.?
Is content structured to quickly determine:
•What is your website about?
•How you can help them?
Is your website cluttered with ads or distractions, diluting its message?
Whether you or a professional designed it, have someone unfamiliar with your website or your business sit down and give their opinion.
Ten seconds is about all you have to gain a viewer’s trust and interest. Both the design and structure of your content are crucial elements in keeping a viewer on your site – and turning them into a customer.
Many tell me “Facebook is a waste of time – a real time-sucker.” That’s true for those who believe it. Yet, there’s great value in a Facebook presence.
Many business startups think just a Facebook page can grow their business. While not impossible, it’s as likely as winning the lottery.
Sending potential customers to Facebook subjects them to Facebook’s ads promoting one’s competitors. I’ve also seen embedded Facebook information on business pages listing the business’s competitors. Part of a web presence is to only have one’s business put in front of potential customers. That’s what effective advertising is about.
Facebook is free. It’s amazing what people do NOT notice when they think they are getting something for nothing.
Many forget Facebook is online to make money for Facebook. Businesses exist to generate income and keep the people running it employed. Nothing wrong with Facebook doing that. We just need to understand when it’s helpful for our own cause – and when it is harmful.
Links from other websites to your own are very helpful for increasing search engine placement. The very best value of Facebook business pages is to have lots of information on them that links visitors back to your own website.
So many services try to persuade us to access, link to, or download from “The Cloud.”
What is “The Cloud” anyway? A magical portal in the sky wherein lies knowledge and wisdom? Information stored in the atmosphere’s ionized particles? Aliens storing our information in flying saucers accessed by our Smartphone’s?
“The Cloud” simply refers to computer networks connected to the Internet. We’ve renamed something that’s been around for a while now.
When you’re using any device – whether it’s a desktop, laptop, smartphone, iPad, table, or whatever – that is connected to the Internet, you’re accessing a massive network of computers. This is often called accessing “The Cloud.” There really are no “clouds” involved at all. All of the servers and machines that supply all of the information we access all reside in various physical machines in many places all over the planet.
While all of what’s necessary to make the Internet happen is complex, it’s not magic. Dealing with local companies – a local “cloud” – really helps local economies. By lumping everything Internet into “the cloud” it’s easy to be helping distant economies instead of your own.
Local web companies can set people up in a LOCAL “cloud” where they can store the files needed to operate their websites to do business.
Last week I wrote about possible dangers of “FREE” offerings.
While verbiage varies, the end result is the same if you follow their link: headaches of an unimaginable magnitude for you!
Here’s an example of many I see each day in our company emails:
Dear email@example.com ,
Your mailbox quota is full.
This may cause your mailbox to be disabled or you may no longer be able to receive more emails
to continue using your mailbox. You will need to upgrade your mailbox quota immediately. This service is free.
Re-update your account
Note: Failure to update your account might lead to permanent deactivation of your account.
The Security team. 2019
Clicking lands you on an extremely convincing page. One wanting me to enter my email login information even had “© 2018 CharlesWorks” in it.
These work based on two principles: Offering the FREE “we’ll fix it” service and threat of imminent services loss. Together they convince you to bite. Especially that sense of urgency! Remember the world isn’t going to halt if you don’t act right away – it can wait until you deal with it properly.
Companies don’t have you “verify” your email account this way. If anything seems fishy concerning your email, call your email provider and ask for assistance. That’s what you pay them for!
It surprises me how many people still fall for anything with “FREE” attached to it. We shockingly still see “free counters” on many websites. They’ve been around as long as the web. Newbie web users still get fascinated by counters showing site visitor numbers.
There are problems with some freebies. If you visit a website and see that 3 people have visited it, that doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the site.
An aesthetic issue is that really nice, elegant looking websites don’t usually have counters. So site visitors aren’t distracted by traffic to the site. In fact, site counters are simply not that much in fashion these days.
Another problem is that many free counters are actually security risks. For an example, I recently read about a “Free SuperCounter Widget” that many have been using. It redirects site visitors to other sites (like dating and gambling and so on). So folks installing this counter were unwittingly sending site visitors away from their site.
Even more insidious is where the counter loads malware/viruses into the website – infecting site visitors as well.
The bottom line here: Yet another simple lesson about getting what you pay for. If your site has been infected, contact us or your developer for help.
Domain names are the least expensive part – yet the most important – of one’s Internet presence! Here are some tips on choosing them.
Initial Search – Be careful how you search! Unscrupulous companies buy domains people search for to sell at much inflated prices (often $100+ for $15 domains). CharlesWorks at http://CharlesWorks.domains does NOT do this practice. Or just ask us.
Association – Use the name of your business as all or part of your domain.
General Names – More general domain names are most likely already registered to other businesses (it never hurts to check with us first).
TLDs – Top Level Domains are the “extensions” like .com, .net, .org, .club, etc. Search engines today don’t care what they are.
Hyphenated Names – We recommend avoiding hyphens to lessen confusion, unless you absolutely can’t get your words another way.
Variations – Can be an option if your general business name is already registered, like adding “NH” before or after it.
Keywords – Pertinent words in your domain are increasingly important. Simplistically put, search engine algorithms rank the importance of web sites according to words.
Cost – Domains vary according to TLD, Many common ones are still only about $15-$20 annually.
Most importantly, we ensure domains we sell are renewed annually so you will not lose them!
Let’s broach the topic of SSL (Secure Socket Layers) and their importance on the web.
Using SSL is like sending certified mail through the post office. Mailing certified letters requires a signature by the receiver. The sender knows it got to the right place. SSL is instantaneous!
SSL is a security protocol (specified way of doing things) that helps guarantee that the browser you are typing information into is actually connecting with the website you believe you are connected to. This is extremely important when doing online banking, sharing private or personal information, or using your credit card. SSL is important regardless of the device (phone-tablet-laptop-computer) you’re using.
Besides ensuring you’re reaching the correct destination, SSL is MOST important when using devices through public WiFi (hotspots). They can be “snooped” by hackers. “Snooped” means hackers can sit in a parking lot near a place with WiFi and easily record all data communications happening. It is a hacker’s gold mine for people not security conscious.
Businesses expect to pay roughly $70-$199/year plus installation for SSL on a website. At CharlesWorks, it’s part of the hosting – with NO additional ongoing charges.
SSL is important! Feel free to contact us for more information.
With 20+ years in the web business, scams and schemes to steal from people still amaze me.
Several web clients have made me aware of a scam to frighten them into making a bitcoin payment.
They’re from addresses like “Anonymous Hacker” or even your own email. Subjects are “You have been hacked” or similar. They gloat they’ve infected you through some (usually unsavory) site you visited. They explain how they did it in terms most folks don’t understand – making you think they are really an expert – and frighten you into believing they’re monitoring your computer.
They threaten to send very personal items and even videos of you to everyone you know unless you comply with the demand within some short time period. They warn if you report them, they’ll distribute the “dirt” on you immediately.
We try to force these messages to spam on our servers. Sometimes they get through. We reassure several people each week they are a scam because they usually are.
However, devices DO get hacked. If you truly believe you’ve been hacked, you should see your IT person or someone who specializes in “cleaning” computers ASAP. We can recommend folks who can help.
We’ve gone off the deep end attempting to communicate entirely via email. Are we saying what we mean so say?
The “Subject:” should reflect the current content – especially in replies where the original idea has changed.
To ensure questions are responded to, keep the message simple and stick to expecting one answer about one question. People generally do not answer multiple questions.
Use a courteous greeting and closing. Email does NOT have voice inflection. Words appear demanding when you USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or numerous exclamation points – or terse when you treat email like text messages.
Including the previous message helps recipients understand your response. Generalities cause confusion and unnecessary back and forths.
It’s polite to include a “signature” with your name, your affiliation, your phone number and perhaps your address to enable easy followup.
Attachments are not meant to blast information to many. A giant file to a huge group is wasteful and rude. Large emails over phones is frustrating.
Messages requiring immediate attention are best dealt with via phone calls. Don’t assume people check email constantly.
Check the recipients list. Replying to ALL sends to ALL recipients. It might be shared with unexpected recipients.
Be careful what your message contains!