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Archive for ‘Demystifying the Internet’

1 Apr
Posted by Jane

A Beginner’s Guide to demystifying the internet: “How search works” by Matt Cutts from Google

We’ve just had a huge month of new site launches and this means we’ve been talking a lot about content, 301 redirects, links, tracking and Google Analytics to clients.

Rachel, one of our fabulous designer/developers here made a really good point that sometimes clients don’t really understand why the content, redirects and links are so important. She makes a good point! To solve this problem, she suggested sharing this video with new and existing clients. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Check it out…

11 Nov
Posted by Jane

Finding your perfect match: a guide to choosing a company to design your new website

In my past life, I was a client of Clever Starfish and many other agencies and spent a great deal of my time sifting through website and digital quotes for employers and clients. I was given the task of shortlisting and/or ‘decoding’ what website companies were offering and why the cost of a website seemed to vary so much.

As I am now a quoter and not a recipient, I thought it might be helpful to share my personal approach (and opinion) to making the right choice for you and your company.

So where do you start?

Good question! From the hundreds of websites I have been involved in (as a client, supplier, collaborator, representative of the client) the most successful websites were produced by a website company with passion in what they do and show a true interest in your business challenges and goals with the talent to back it up. To find these companies you should Google, ask friends, ask colleagues and find sites that you like. I suggest that you get at least two quotes.

The checklist below is designed to help you once you have a shortlist of companies you think might be a good match.

The checklist is suitable for individuals, boards, committees and groups who need to make a choice on supplier with little or no knowledge of web projects.

If the final decision is in the hands of a group who don’t get to meet the supplier they should be able to use the checklist against the shortlisted quotes. All the decision makers need to know is what your company needs and what sort of supplier would suit you to provide this service. Easy, right? Well it is easi-er, with this checklist!

Part 1: Basic skills checklist

I promise you that the right company will demonstrate that they have considered your unique business challenges and should include some of these proposed solutions in the document. They should be a yes for at least 5 of the 6 questions below to make it to the next checklist.

  1. Have they included a suggested site map and does it look suitable for you?
    If yes, this shows that they have taken the time to consider the structure of your website.
  2. Have they identified your business problems and suggested appropriate solutions?
    For example, they have may suggest functions, features and sections. If yes, this shows they are focused on solving your business problems and not just making you a ‘pretty web brochure’.
  3. Are they a personality match for you?
    This should be reflected in the way they have communicated the quote and how they dealt with the quote process.
  4. Is their business approach a match to you?
    This should be reflected in the way they interact with you and their methodology or process. For example, if you like to work face-to-face and deadlines are your thing, did they come and meet anyone in the team and did they communicate well and meet all the deadlines? The approach to the quote process is often demonstrative of how they will continue to work with you.
  5. Have they demonstrated that they can design great websites?
    You can often view these on their website portfolio or can be found by Googling the company name.
  6. Have they been awarded for their websites?
    If yes, this may show that they are practicing good design and development that is endorsed by peers and experts. If not, sometimes its worth asking if they enter their sites in awards. Some companies do not choose to enter their sites.
    *For reference, the Australian Web Awards is the most prestigious award in Australia.

Part 2: Budget and priority checklist

Web design companies vary in focus and expertise. The best companies have a balanced approach to content, design, development, project management, testing and training.  Quotes usually reflect the balance of their skill set. A new website needs to have a holistic and balanced approach. A rejuvenation of a website might need a little bit of a different balance, depending on the issues that are being overcome.

  1. What is the balance of design, development, project management, testing and training? Are they too focused on one area at the expense of another?
    This can help you to compare the approach each company will take to your project and make sure it with the weighting of what you see as your problem areas. If you don’t know your problem areas, look for a balanced quote.
  2. What is their ongoing hourly rate?
    Sometimes the rate for the website build is low but the ongoing “maintenance” rates are very high and part of a 12-month contract. This may work for you, but in my personal experience it doesn’t.
  3. Have they included enough time to design a unique solution for your needs?
    A low percentage of the overall budget is reflective of design being a low priority.  This often means they intend to reuse a template for your site, which can be restrictive. To work this out, compare the actual hours (budget divided by hourly rate) being put to design for each web design company.
  4. Have they quoted for a responsive website that adapts the layout, content and interactions to the needs of tablets and mobile phones?
    This increases the cost of a website by 20-40% so check that this is included in their fixed quote if this is a priority for you. Also, confirm that they have completed responsive site design projects before as this is a specialised skill set. Get them to explain what a responsive entails for them and what they have included. There are so many ways of designing and building responsive websites so be prepared.
  5. How do ‘apples’ compare with ‘apples’?
    There is always a huge variation in costs for websites and the solutions put forward can vary.  This is normal. When looking at the overall cost, try and compare a few features or skill sets to get a sense of how they quote. Cheaper quotes may have missed out features and more expensive ones are sometimes not tailored to your needs and are a broad stroke solution.  If in doubt, most web companies will be happy to take 30 mins to present their quote to you and explain their approach.
  6. Is their quote a fixed quote?
    There are many companies that offer packages, estimates and other approaches which are often rounded to $8,000 or $10,000 or $12,000. These aren’t always fixed. Be wary of anything with the word estimate UNLESS you feel they are the perfect match in every other way. You don’t want to find yourselves making a decision on price when they aren’t a match in any other ways for your website and regretting it later.
  7. What happens after the website is launched?
    It’s important to understand what ongoing services are offered (for example: further design, content, backups, maintenance, additional development, strategy, content support and site performance reporting) and what the ongoing costs could be.

You will notice that the question “does this quote fit my budget” isn’t in the checklist. This is because quotes are often flexible. If they match the rest of the checklist, you should be able to approach them to discuss their costs.

Part 3: Customer Service checklist

Web design companies don’t all have a single person that is responsible for your project. If you want someone to help you through the process, make sure there is a person and budget allocated to this. Many web companies don’t offer this as a service because it raises the cost. If you want a person looking out for you from the inside, choose a company that cost this out as a service.

  1. Check that they have included a budget (or enough budget) for a dedicated project manager
    This is not a sales person, designer or developer. This is an account manager, project manager (or producer) with training in this area. Many agencies do not see project management as a priority, but having a project without a manager will lead to delays and possible miscommunication.
  2. What do their clients say about them?
    It’s really important to get a list of references and make some phone calls because good relationships make the project a positive and fun experience for everyone involved. If the person was recommended, approach the referee and ask if they are customer-focused and not just after a “sales success”. Social media is a good place to see if a company has advocates if you are too shy or time-poor to call references.
  3. What was the experience like during the quote process?
    Did/would they come and meet the team to quote and who do you deal with? Is it a sales person or account manager or designer/developer direct? Many agencies send out a sales person and then move the project to a junior once the quote is approved. Be sure of how their process works.

So that’s it! Good luck and may you find your perfect match :)

7 Jan
Posted by Scott Shorter

What makes WordPress websites great: SEO and Social Media

This blog is an outline of the reasons why WordPress is a great CMS for SEO, Social Media, and counters to arguments against WordPress in regards to hackers and security. It is written by the fabulous Scott Shorter, Director at Scott Shorter – Search Engine and Social Media Specialists who holds a B.Comms – BSc (M), Multimedia & Internet Computing from Edith Cowan University.

Content Management Systems

Working as a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist for a number of different web developers, I’ve seen my fair share of content management systems (CMS). In my experience there are three main types of CMS:

  • Open source
  • Proprietary (created and owned by the developer)
  • Third party (which are purchased on a license)

There are various benefits and drawbacks for each type of CMS and coming from a search perspective we try our best to work with all three. As a guest writer for Clever Starfish, I would like to outline why, in my experience, WordPress makes for a great choice in CMS.

Open sourced CMS

There are a number of open sourced CMS’s available; the most well-known are Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. My personal favourite of these is WordPress for its ease of use, SEO readiness and available features.

WordPress is an open sourced CMS, which means it is an open platform that allows programmers throughout the world to continually develop for and contribute to. The popularity of WordPress means there is likely to be more developers contributing to it than any other CMS, which results in an outstanding level of refinement and extension availability.

Top CMS usage chart

WordPress and SEO

A standard install of WordPress is a great CMS for SEO, with Matt Cutts, one of the world’s most important Google representatives, stating:

‘WordPress takes care of 80-90% of [the mechanics of] search engine optimization.’

The level of on-page SEO on a WordPress website can quickly be taken to the highest degree via specialist SEO extensions following a standard install of WordPress. These extensions save both time and money because they are free and kept up to date with the latest Google algorithm updates by the wider community of WordPress developers.

WordPress and Social Media

WordPress is also a future-proof decision when you consider the rapid pace of social media evolution. WordPress is always at the forefront of what’s hot because of its hundreds, possibly thousands, of social media-ready extensions, with new extensions developed within hours of a social media change. This allows your WordPress developer to build faster, higher quality and more advanced functionality for a better price.

Security and WordPress

I often hear the counter sell that open source CMS’s are an attractive target for hackers due to their popularity. As a generalised statement, this is a one sided spin with half the facts of the story missing.

It is true that open source CMS’s are an attractive target for hackers, but primarily this is only true if your CMS is not kept up-to-date. WordPress’ attraction to hackers comes from vulnerabilities (all CMS’s have vulnerabilities) in out-dated versions of WordPress being left open. This means hackers are able to use the same vulnerability on another website that uses the same out-dated version of WordPress. However, this concern can be easily avoided by making sure your developer applies updates on a regular basis. If this is done correctly, the risk of being hacked is arguably no greater than if you were using any other type of CMS.

Putting security in perspective

The risk to WordPress security can be put in perspective when you consider that Matt Cutts (one of the world’s most important Google representatives) uses WordPress for his personal blog, as does rap mogul Jay-Z and renowned comedian Russell Brand. National burger chain Grill’d also uses WordPress for their corporate website.

Backups

It is important to understand that no type of CMS is hack-proof. If a hacker is unable to gain access to your website via the CMS, it is still possible for them to gain access through other avenues. This means it is essential that you make sure you have adequate backup procedures in place as a backup is often the quickest and most cost effective way to recover from an attack.

Final word

WordPress is a great CMS to use as a base for SEO and the Starfish crew are undoubtedly clever people for using it! Pay attention to your updates, backups and enjoy your future proof decision to go with one of the world’s most flexible and friendly CMS’s!

By

26 Apr
Posted by Jane

sites that work across all devices

According to Michael Walton from Nielsen Pacific, half the phones in Australia are now smart phones. For people under 34, 7 out of 10 use smart phones. Within a year it is expected that 2 out of 3 people will be using smart phones.

It is fact that smart phones really are changing the way people are accessing information and websites. To see how we are ensuring our clients are ahead of the curve ball, visit the responsive section of our projects page. To get an understanding of what responsive design is, go here.

4 Jan
Posted by Jane

Google likes it ‘fresh!’

Google has changed their algorithm to favour fresh content. This means that new content is going to play an even bigger part in how your website ranks on Google. Here are our tips to ensure that your website stays up top:

Get a blog within your site – If you don’t have a blog yet, get one! If you have a WordPress site, this is very simple and you can call us to arrange this. A blog allows you to add fresh content that is neatly contained in an area where people know to look.

Share your news! – If you have great content and your own social media, share the link via Twitter, Facebook, Google + and other people’s sites or social bookmarking sites. Also, if you have a blog, have ‘share buttons’ so that the people visiting your site can do some of the heavy lifting and share for you.

Don’t just add content to your blog (if you even have a blog!) – If your services or products change, update your content to reflect this within the relevant page. Google will reward you!

If your current digital strategy has been to ‘launch and leave’, this will almost definitely have an impact on your website. Luckily, our mantra ‘content is key, content is key’ – so many of you already have blogs. We can help you to plan for your content rollout, make a content plan and even write the content for you if needed.

To find out the ins and outs, check out Google’s blog or contact our team.

20 Sep
Posted by Kay

Demystifying the Internet: About IP addresses

‘IP address’. It’s a term you’ve probably heard before, but have never really understood. Here’s an explanation as to how it all works. Thanks to Chris at Fasthit Web Hosting for helping make sure we got it all straight.

What is an IP Address?

IP stands for internet protocol, and it’s the basis of how the internet actually works.

An IP address is kind of the equivalent of a phone number. When you have an internet connection to your home or office, you have an IP address that identifies you as an individual user, so that web pages and the like can be delivered to you. You share with everyone else using the same connection.

Does my web site have an IP address too?

Yes. Every web site also has an IP address, but usually lots of web sites on the same server will share the same IP.

If you have an SSL certificate, you need your own IP

When you have an SSL certificate, you need a secure connection. SSL certificates are most often used in online retail, so that monetary transactions are guaranteed to be secure. If you have other web sites using the same IP, that connection cannot be effectively secured.

Because IP addresses are finite (there are only a certain range of numbers possible), they are regulated and allocated by a central authority. It costs the ISPs and hosting companies money to have exclusive use of particular IP addresses. Usually, they have a range of IPs, consisting of hundreds of individual addresses. So they will charge you a little extra if you need your own IP instead of a shared one.

For example:

Julie needs an SSL certificate for her web site, because she provides secure online payments. Because the connection must be secured, she can’t use a shared IP address, and instead needs her own. Her Fasthit "Value" web hosting account does not include a dedicated IP address. She could upgrade to a Fasthit "Business" web hosting account, but her site doesn’t really need all those extra resources. Instead, Julie can get a dedicated IP address as an account "add-on" for $5 per month.