Archive for the ‘web development’ Category

What is the Best Hosting for Joomla?

This is a question we are often asked. What is the best hosting company for Joomla websites? We have tried at least half a dozen, and what we have found is there are certain criteria that you must consider when making a decision. Unfortunately we cannot say we have found one company that is aces at everything, but we have found several that have come really close.

We do not have a server where we provide hosting for our customers. Instead we have them set up their own hosting accounts with a service. In this way our customers have dominion over their website. Since we aren’t the hosts, we have tried many companies to find the best fit for Joomla optimization, Joomla security as well as customer service.

When choosing a host for Joomla, you cannot just choose anybody. Hosting requires a certain set of parameters in order for the site to run properly and to ensure Joomla security. This is why it is important to choose a company that specializes in optimizing their servers to host Joomla websites.

What do we think?

Here is our assessment of companies the we have used. This assessment is based on actual experience with these companies. Please don’t be upset if we’ve left your company off the list. If you’re not on the list, it’s because we haven’t tried you yet. Email us, and we’ll be happy to give it a go. In the chart below we’ve graded some of the services provided to give you an idea of how well they perform for us. In cases where there really isn’t a measure of service (i.e. unlimited bandwidth), we just wrote yes/no.

Hosting Company Rochen Hostgator Lunarpages Siteground Interactive
Online

Green hosting

yes

yes yes no yes
Unlimited Space no yes Some plans yes yes
Unlimited Bandwidth no yes Some plans yes yes
Unlimited URLs Reseller plans only some plans yes yes yes
Knowledgeable Technical Support A+ A- F B- B
24/7 Technical Support through ticket system yes yes yes yes yes
Technical support available by phone no yes yes no no
Technical support available by online chat no yes no yes no
Extensive Knowledgebase for Joomla questions A C C A+ D
Easy to navigate and find answers to questions B B C A B
Customer forums yes yes yes no no
Tech support Knowledgeable about Joomla A+ A C- A B
Cpanel easy to use A A B- A A
Billing Practices A A A C A
Email Function B A A C C
Up time B A A A C
Server speed A B B C B
Server up time B A A A C
Optimized for Joomla A+ A A A+ A
Redundant Servers No yes yes yes yes
Host creates server backups daily weekly daily unknown weekly
Restore from backup free of charge Yes No No unknown unknown
Will move your Joomla site for free when you sign up for hosting No yes no yes yes
Free Joomla templates? No no no yes no
Money back guarantee? Yes
(within 15 days)
Yes
(within 45 days)
Yes
(within 30 days)
Yes
(within 30 days minus setup fees)
Yes
(within 90 days)
Monthly price for shared server $8.95-$69.95 $4.95-$99.95 $2.95-$64.95 $5.95-$89 $5.95-$12.95
Hosting Company Rochen Hostgator Lunarpages Siteground Interactive
Online

What host do we use?

If you’re wondering what host this blog is on, it’s hosted on Green Geeks. Our company website, Landau Digital, is hosted on Hostgator.

What host do you use for your Joomla site, and how do you like them?

Browser Friendly Fonts Make Viewing Universal

We often get requests from clients to use particular fonts on their website. Recently the following email came into our inbox:

My question is about the fonts. When I used the WYSIWYG editor in Joomla, I was able to play with the fonts and get it to look like what I wanted. But then when I showed my friend on her computer, nothing looked the same. I wanted to use a script font for my menus, but on her computers it was all done in Arial. What did I do wrong?

The answer to this question relies on the need for universal fonts. Fonts on a web page are not stored within your code. Instead, they are called on by the code, but they must be present on the computer in order to display properly.

What fonts are universal on the web?
There are only so many fonts found in the world that typically exist on every computer platform. If you want your site to display consistently, you must choose your fonts from this list:

Arial
Arial Black
Comic Sans
Courier
Geneva
Georgia
Helvetica
Impact
Lucida
Lucida Sans
MS Sans Serif
MS Serif
Symbol
Tahoma
Times
Palatino
Verdana

You’ll notice that there is no script font on this list. That doesn’t mean you cannot specify a script font when laying out your pages. It simply means if you do specify a script font, there is a good chance other people’s computers won’t have the font, in which case the browser will substitute Arial for any missing fonts.

Using a graphic instead of text
If it’s really necessary to use a specific font, you might consider displaying it as an image rather than as text. If the image is too large this may slow the download speed of your web page, so take this into consideration. If you do use an image, be sure to use an ALT tag to let search engines know the description of the text in the image.

More on universal web fonts:

Why Shouldn’t I Build My Site in Flash?

The simple answer to this question is: because the search engines won’t index it properly. Flash looks cool, and it’s fun, and yeah the menus can bounce around, wave and do some back flips for you, but you really have to ask yourself “does this add to my business message?”

What is Flash?
Flash is a programming language that allows the designer/developer to create really beautiful animations. They can create sites that respond to your movements, and involve some really cool morphs of menus and content. You can see some examples from Landau Digital at Ralph White and Lapolla Inc websites. The opening animation of photographs and words are created in Flash.

Why can’t the search engines index Flash files?
The code required to build a flash animation is held in an SWF (Shockwave Flash) file format. The search engines cannot see into these files, so they cannot review and record the text information contained within them. Recently Google announced a change in Flash indexing. Unfortunately this change only relates to the auxilliary files that make the Flash file run, they still cannot index the Flash file itself.

Does that mean I should never use Flash?
No, flash files can add some dynamism to your site. You shouldn’t build your entire site in flash, but embedding a flash file within your site is fine. You can compensate for the lack of indexing in your title and metatags, as well as any content you add to the page. The animations I shared above are inset into a frame of HTML code. The search engines cannot index the flash animation, but it can index everything around it.

How do I decide when to use Flash?
You need to consider whether the flash animation adds to your business message. So many companies today build all-Flash sites because they look cool. But they’re not in the entertainment industry, and while it’s fun, a fully animated site does not add to their business message on their site. And the trade-off is that the search engines will not index the content on your site. Only you can decide if the WOW factor adds to your business message, or it’s more important to employ SEO tools.

Why Does a Website Cost So Much?

Early on in 1996, when I learned how to build websites, I realized an interesting phenomena with the web — people were reluctant to pay to have a website built. My theory was that it was really hard for them to pay for something they could not touch and feel in their hands. In their minds, it was air, and how expensive could that be? I recently read an article about hidden costs on website development. I believe many clients are not aware of the time involved in the creation of a website.

We work with mostly small to medium-sized businesses, and at least 1/3 of our companies are sole proprietors with only 1-2 employees. Their budget for a website is usually “we just want to spend a few hundred dollars.” They often gasp when they see the simple little website they want is in the few thousand dollar arena. Why would this be so? They only have 15 or so pages. How could it possibly cost so much? Here’s a list of the steps required to build such a simple site:

Steps involved in building a website in Joomla:

  1. Create information architecture and develop quote for client: 1-2 hours
  2. Select a couple templates for the client to choose from (selecting a template saves $1500-$2000 in design fees): 1.5 hour
  3. Purchase selected template: $25-$45
  4. Customize the template with client’s logo, color scheme and possible modify module positions to work with content: 3-4 hours
  5. Gather content from existing site and create content outline for client in Word: 1 hour
  6. Set up hosting, Install Joomla, create section/category, menu and article structure: 3 hours
  7. Input client’s content (all static content): 3-4 hours
  8. Optimize graphic layout of content to it abides by usability standards: 2 hours
  9. Search for stock photos for the site: 1-2 hours
  10. Pay for stock photos: $25-$50
  11. Size and optimize 15-20 photos for the site: 2 hours
  12. Input images and edits to content: 1-2 hours
  13. Create online contact form: 1 hour
  14. Install and configure FAQ component with 20 questions: 1.5 hours
  15. Test and optimize template for popular browsers: 2 hours
  16. Apply SEO to page titles, links, content: 2-3 hours
  17. 1 year hosting at Rochen: $95
  18. Talking to the client and calling/emailing asking for content or clarifying issues: 3-4 hours

Total hours: 28-33 hours
Out of pocket expenses: $145-$190

And what about nifty extras?
This time estimate is for a site that is basically text with very little extended functionality. We often add the following to our client’s sites, which can vary in time required depending on the complexity of the pieces:

  • Google Analytics
  • Backup System
  • Search Engine Submission
  • Keyword analysis and SEO implementation
  • Blog setup and integration with the site
  • Photo Gallery
  • Flash slide show on home page
  • Event Calendar
  • Newsflash module for marketing taglines on home page or customer testimonials
  • Modification of custom components to match site
  • Purchase of commercial components to optimize performance
  • Etc…

So you can see how quickly the hours add up, and that’s if the project goes perfectly without delays or technical glitches, which isn’t always the case.

The time has come where a website is an essential part of doing business. It is a critical expense to include in your budget, and because of its importance, its creation should be carefully considered. It’s okay to have a budget, but talk to your designer and understand what you’re really getting for your money. Sometimes that $500 saved means you’re getting a less-than-optimum product.

More information:

What is Joomla?

“Joom-what?” you say. Joomla is a an open-source, content management system. Still confused? That’s okay, this is a question many clients ask me as I talk about Joomla a lot. Joomla is a swahili word meaning “all together.” It is an international software project developed and supported by thousands of people around the world.

Joomla is the main method that Landau Digital uses to build websites. It’s a content management system, which means the site is managed by a database. The database stores all your contents in its tables, much like a filing cabinet stores information in drawers and folders. Your website does not exist in pages, it exists in the database. A template, or design, is created for your site, and every time a person clicks on a link in your site, the database feeds up the data into the template and presents the page. This is known as dynamic content generation because the content is not presented as a page until somebody interacts with it.

Joomla is open-source software, which means the developers who work on the program donate their time, and the software is given away for free. Why would they do this? Often an open-source project is begun when developers feel they can create a comprable project to commercial software. Once the project gets going, and its a success, the developers involved are often recruited for other work, which is the benefit they get out of volunteering their time. The popular browser Firefox, made by Mozilla, is another example of an open-source project.

Joomla is an excellent resource for creating websites. Not only do the sites go up twice as fast, but there are literally thousands of mini-programs, called extensions, which can be integrated into Joomla without requiring any programming knowledge. The sites are generated using CSS (cascading style sheets), which means almost any design can be converted into Joomla. In addition, our clients who are willing can be easily trained to maintain the site contents. Joomla not only saves money in site development costs, but also gives the client control of their site.