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Choosing a Web Designer the Easy Way

When you choose a web designer, there are many things that you need to be aware of and that need to be taken into consideration before you make a decision.

To some extent, the ability to work successfully with your web designer is sometime as important as their actual skill in being able to deliver the project.

A web designer that is skilled in what they do but is a pain to deal with can make the whole process frustrating and not worth the money being spent, especially if you have an emotional attachment to the project (which you should have being the one supplying the money and motivation)

That relationship can be worth a large proportion of the contract.

However, there are some key things you need to consider

Be careful in what you get for your money. Some possible pitfalls you may want to check on

Obviously what do you get for your money

What is included? Design, Content, Search Engine Submission, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Graphic Design, Updates? You need to get these details so you can compare your quotes against each other. You also need to quantify some of these things in terms of quantity, hours, numbers search engines submitted to etc.

What are the ongoing costs?

All websites have ongoing costs. Web Hosting, Domain Names and updates are the main three. Make sure you know the total cost of your investment. Some companies offer lower up front costs to lock you into higher ongoing costs that end up costing you more. Some other things are SSL certificate costs, more bandwidth and web space.

How easy is it to incorporate your branding

Some template sites are hard to blend a logo or colours into them, be wary of template driven website companies, some of these people are skilled enough only to change the text on a template. Some designers design their sites from the ground up incorporating all of you design elements in their design. These companies offer the most flexibility.

How reliable are the services provided

With hosting and email, too much down time can make the whole experience unworkable. You don’t want to have to change hosts after six months because your designer has provided you with a poor host. Some people rely heavily on email and these are the people that need to choose carefully so their business inst impacted.

What are the costs for making changes later on?

Updates and maintenance on your site is something that will eventually happen, even if you don’t change the content frequently (see the Making Your Site Super Sticky Article for the benefits of this) you will eventually change some content and so you need to know what it will cost over a year.

Hidden costs

Make sure common things (like search engine submissions) are either not included or are an extra cost. Some key things can be omitted to keep the price down.

Make sure you don’t get sold short.

An important one…is the web designer doing the job part time Are your web designers doing this as a full time job? Some designers are working during the day and then web designing at night. A lot of designers started out this way, but it can cause issues when you need something done and they don’t do the job from 9-5.

If all these things check out then you have found someone who you can work with and provide you with a service that will get you your desired result.

Remember; choose a designer with the right skills, but also one you believe you can work with on an ongoing basis. Build a working relationship that will benefit you both and your web project will benefit as well

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Internet First Level Website Requirements

I have been asked a number of times to explain what is needed to launch a website. It is easy to be an expert when you know the basics but it is another thing to beable to explain the basics so that others understand the necessities to get going on the Internet… A website is like a shop in the desert, without a place to reside and address to find it noone will ever come.

Three basic things are required to launch any website…

  • Domain Name 
  • Hosting 
  • Website page or pages

Let’s discuss each in turn.

Domain Names

This is the name that you want customers and surfers to find you as..

Your letter box in Internet land…you can not purchase a Domain Name, you lease it.

Each country has a 2 letter identifier but you are not restricted to using only your countries suffix.eg: New Zealand is .nz, Australia is .au Even with this identifier you can be found worldwide.you can not isolate your domain name so that only one country can visit you.it is their for all and sundry. Some countries restrict who can purchase their web address, eg: In Australia you have to own a registered company to beable to get a .au address and in Germany you have to have a physical address in Germany to able to get a .de address.

You can add security to your website eg: a password, to limit your visitors but this will not stop the initial location of your domain name.

Hosting

The place where you will store your Website so that it is available to the www world 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Like the land you would build your house on..but you can not buy this land, it can only be leased.

There are millions of companies out there wanting to be your host..often your web designer has spent hours searching for a reliable and safe host.ask their advice but feel free to request the host that you would prefer.

Check pricing too, the Internet is a huge sea and has it’s fair share of sharks and fly by nighters. 

Website Design and Management

This comes in 2 parts.

Look and Feel

The pages that provide the look and feel of your company or venture that you wish to showcase. Design, Logo, Photos, Graphics, Galleries, Blogs and many other ways of presenting information are used. This is where your shopping cart or auction software is placed.. there are many ways to do this structurally, some more search engine friendly than others. Many hours of work can go into building your Internet house (Website).this you DO own. Look for an initial fixed price so you know what the up front cost will be to get you started.

Behind The Scenes

The behind the scenes information that allows search engines to find you and therefore makes it easier for your customers and other visitors to find you. There is an art form to creating and maintaining your website’s internet profile. Many hours of research go into finding the best ways to present a website…you could call it a science but it is inexact as it depends on how many others have the similar sites to yours and also how well known your business is..if people don’t know to search for you..guess what!!! You will never be found no matter how good you think your site is.

Your Website is like a glossy magazine advert but instead of being limited to one or two copies, it is live and available for as long as you keep leasing your Domain Name and Hosting. It needs regular upkeep to match what is happening in your business and market. A stale website will drift along miss informing potential customers and visitors. If your website has pricing and products, you can be held accountable for the information being incorrectly advertised. Beware.it is your responsibility to have your website information correct, your design is only as good as the information that your provide.

Summary

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a computer to have Website representation, you just need access to a great designer and someone who is prepared to field email messages on your behalf. However, it does help.

The internet is vast and can provide information on almost anything that you can imagine and a whole lot more that you never dreamed of! There are large portions that are unsavoury and down right dangerous. Make sure you have a good security program running on your computer at all times. There are a number of excellent products available for your safety.

The ethical business portion is rather a lot smaller but is very legitimate. You can level the playing field somewhat with a good website, big business does not necessarily have user friendly websites, they are large and cumbersome. Giving many opportunities for customers to leave without making a purchase or even an enquiry. Many large businesses do not sell on the internet but instead prefer to list their retail outlet stores..a very backward move in my opinion as often the punter has come to buy.why not make the most of wanting customer!

Smaller businesses websites are often very inviting and simple to use. They are there to make the sale and make the buying process easy. Don’t let your size stop you, large or small you can make an excellent impact with a well designed and managed Website.

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Online auctions – Trade Me Advice

We have been Trade Me members since November 2001.

During this time we have learnt by trial and error the best ways to present an auction, to pay for a purchase, to deal with postage and much more.

We have had the privilege of trading with wonderful people up and down this beautiful country also the profound privilege of trading with overseas buyers too.

Over the years we have used Trade Me as a Sales and Marketing tool for our business too. With products Trade Me can be an interesting a fun vechicle to reach customers. It is more difficult to auction services because there is no tangable item but an inventive marketing type could create something that could work for you.

I would like to outline just a few things we have learnt as part of the Trade Me community. 

12 Things we have learnt

FEEDBACK First and foremost..Always give feedback for every single trade. 
This is how the Trade Me community knows who to deal with and who to blacklist. This is how you will determine yourself who to trade with.

RULES Read the Trade Me rules and abide by them. 
You can’t do any trading if you break the rules. If you see some else breaking the rules use the Community Watch and report what you see. This is how the Website stays safe for the whole community. It is everybody’s responsibility to look after the running of Trade Me.

USE THE HELP information that is provided on the Website, as a phone call to Trade Me will cost $1.99/minute + GST. 
Don’t waste your money asking questions that are already answered for you. The Help feature even has a calculator to work out the Success Fees which stays open even if you close out of Trade Me..it is excellent.

PAYMENTS The best way to pay and receive payment for an item is on-line banking. 
If you don’t already have internet banking arrange it, it will save you a lot of time, money and hassle. Fantastic not just for Trade Me too. For international trading the best payment method we have found is Paypal..I am not keen to except Credit Cards from Overseas buyers but using Paypal they handle all of the exchange and banking for you. Very worth it and very easy.

POSTAGE When listing an auction always have the buyer pay for postage and packaging.. 
You are not a charity and you can’t guarantee the final selling price.This caught us out a goodie when we listed one of our first auctions for $1 and it sold for $1…the catch was .it was a printer and had been sold out of town.

PACKAGING When packaging goods that you have sold always pack them like they are going to be thrown out of a plane to their destination. Neither a courier company nor NZ Post are 100% infallible but don’t let this stop you. Know what insurance your postal company provides so you can take advantage of it if required. A pair of scales can come in handy for weighing parcels that go by NZ Post. The NZ Post website.www.nzpost.co.nz has a weight, price, destination calculator. Use it so you can get the right money for the postage and do not forget to add at least $1.50 to cover the packaging. Some sellers add more, it depends on what the item is. If you think the postage and packaging is unreasonable, say so but consider the costs first.

AUCTION LENGTH I tend to stick with the 7 day auction offered for free. 
It gives a good amount of time for many different buyers to find and bid on your auction. Use the other date options if you are going away and need a sooner finishing date. Don’t list an auction and then go away on holiday when it is about to close. This will get you bad feedback as a buyer wants contact within the first couple of days of winning. The same goes for buying..don’t bid on something that you are not able to complete the transaction on..read the Trade Me rules.

START PRICE Start your auction near the price that you want for it. 
I have found the most effective auction is one where the start price and the reserve price are the same. It also means that the first bid is a buying bid and you will not lose the sale because the reserve price has not been met. With Trade Me there maybe only one or two collectors for your item so if you start your price too low it will not go any further unless there is more than one interested party.

BUYER QUESTIONS As a buyer ask as many questions about an auction as you need to decide if you will bid or not. 
If you have no intention for making a bid refrain from asking questions. Only ask for a Buy Now price if you intent to buy the item straight away and be prepared for the seller to say no. It is an auction not a shop! It is important that your questions are relevant and appropriate. When you ask a question you are added to the list of interested buyers that an offer can be given to after the auction has completed.

SELLER ANSWERS As a seller try and answer all the questions HOWEVER you do not have to answer questions that break the Trade Me rules. 
You also do not have to answer any questions that are inappropriate. You do not have to add a Buy Now price if asked, it is your choice. Describe the item you are selling warts and all. This will earn you respect and good feedback

FREE LISTINGS Don’t be tempted to do a Free Listing.. 
While this sounds great you limit severely who will look at your listing. A .45cent gallery listing will very much improve your chances of selling your item. A buyer will search for key words but will look at the pictures first then the words in the title and then the listing itself.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH Finally, research what you are buying and selling. 
Know what you are dealing with it is key to getting the best out of a system like this. $1 Auctions can make you some good money if you did not want anything for your item in the first place.but if you do want something for your item research it’s value so you can choose a good starting price. Some good places to do research are:

  • Google search engine or indeed any other search engine
  • Trade Me
  • Ebay
  • Local shops that sell your item already
  • Trade and exchange

So, with all the above advice under your belt.. don’t forget to research, measure, describe and photograph your item. Add maker’s marks, stamps, certificates and anything else that will prove authenticity. Be courteous in your questions and answers. Be generous in your feedback. Most of all treat others, as you would like to be treated and expect nothing in return. You will be pleasantly surprised at the kindness and generosity that exists in New Zealand and in the Trade Me community. Finally, do not exclude overseas customers as they bring a Global Market dimension that does not exist in normal retail shop or auction house. Some of my best money has come from Overseas buyers.

We continue with Trade Me as a vehicle for our endeavours and recommend it to all as a great place to buy and sell. Have a go it could work for you too.

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KISS Basic Web Design Principles

One thing that sometimes escapes web designers is the need for the end product to be focused on the customer rather than on what the web designer can provide.While new whiz-bang things are nice, they can be, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, so distracting from the purpose of the website that the true message never gets across.A balance needs to be met that encourages creativity but retains the adage that “content is king”.To achieve this balance, here are three areas that I believe are important.

  • KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
  • Don’t do anything silly
  • If I were a customer…

You can look at these areas from both a designer’s point of view but also from a client’s point of view. If you have contracted a designer to provide you with a website to sell you and your products and services, don’t get baffled with talk of Flash, DHTML, Java and the like, make sure it delivers your message effectively

KISS

Yes, it really does work… Keep It Simple Stupid is a key idea throughout a project. The client’s message is what needs to get through. Some industries lend themselves toward more complicated and visually impressive effects (i.e. entertainment, music, art), but remember that this is still promoting the message.

You do not want your home page to become cluttered and bogged down with too many words; this is the place to convince your visitors that they want to know more. Make sure your navigation is simple and makes sense; it is easy to fall into the trap of having snazzy looking menus and buttons that don’t tell you what they are supposed to do. All this does is wastes your customer’s time finding the information they need.

Don’t do anything silly!

While this is more of a pointer to the designer rather than the person paying for the service, as the client, it is your website that maybe affected and so you should keep tabs on what is happening to your website.There are some very simple things that can slip the net when creating a site.

Hopefully your web designer will have enough sense to have the site thoroughly checked before it goes live, but it is amazing what you see out there on the net.From spelling mistakes to grammatical, these small errors on the website promote anything but the professional image you have paid for. Look for these things when you are either completing a site or when your site is due to be delivered to you:

Make sure the title on each page is defined (this is what appears right at the top of your browser). It is surprising how many “untitled documents” slip through the cracks. It is also very important when getting recognised by the search engines

Keywords and descriptions are often played down when it comes to optimising your web pages for Search Engines. The “META tags” are hidden from normal view, but some search engines still take them into account when indexing your site or simply displaying your page in their search results.

Broken Links – there are two reasons for making sure your links are working: firstly, nobody likes clicking on a link and finding it doesn’t work and secondly, links are very important when indexing your page. If you are linking to external websites, you will need to periodically check them to make sure that they still work.

Get an assurance from the web designer that they have included these checks before the site will be released. Even take responsibility for it yourself and do your own checks. 

If I were a customer…

You must always remember that the whole purpose of your website (especially if you are promoting products or services) is to get people buying or enquiring from you. With this is mind; you need to make sure that everything that is done is done for the benefit of the customer.

You navigation should be simple and intuitive, your written content should be clear and easily understood, pictures should enhance the rest of the website and everything should direct your customer to the point of your website being there: Making a Purchase.

In summary,

A website is a communications medium, and with all communications you should tailor it to the intended receiver of the message, your customer.

Make it clear, simple and focussed on your customer and you have the best chance of making it work.

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Make it SuperSticky

With web sites being more common than ever, people are turning to the web to find products and services where they may have used other mediums previously.