Archive for the ‘website management’ Category

911 – 5 Reasons Your Website is Down!

No one is happy when the day begins with a customer calling to say they get an error message when visiting your website.  A visitor may see a message indicating that the website is not found, the domain is available for purchase, a database cannot be accessed or that the website is offline. Here are the most common reasons websites don’t display and how to avoid it.

1. Someone “hacked” or maliciously interrupted your website

Just as viruses can find their way onto your local computer, websites can be compromised too. Hackers love to create programs that sneak in and corrupt code and take down your entire website. Public and internally websites should be protected in a variety of ways to make sure this doesn’t happen. At Landau Digital we are experts at restoring hacked sites and implementing security measures to help prevent future hacking.

2. The hosting or domain fees have not been paid

If you catch either of these issues quickly, you may be able to remedy them by simply paying the bill.  Many web hosts and domain registrars set you account to renew automatically.  If that is the case, your credit card information may not up to date.

3. The host server is down

The easy solution is to contact your hosting company or by checking with your IT group for internally hosted sites.  A professionally hosted site should have redundant servers and be able to get your site live quickly.  If you continue to experience downtime and if the downtime is over an hour, look for another hosting solution.  Sometimes shared hosting environment are prone to downtime so consider upgrading your hosting plan to a VPS or dedicated account.  Sometimes a new hosting company is appropriate.  Look at our hosting recommendations  if you need to consider that option.

4. Your visitor is inside a restricted network

It is not unusual for visitors who are inside a firewall to loose access to your site because the security settings or workstation settings have changes.  Sometimes public wifi networks have similar issues.  So ask your visitor if that may be the case.I attempted to access the internet in talking to a potential client from their office and could not access many public websites because of this.  (Needless to say, I didn’t gain that client.  It is hard to tell a client that their IT is poorly configured.)

5. Something in the basic website code failed

This may be because of an incorrect edit to these files.  Occasionally files become corrupted because of many unknown reasons.  These reasons include corruption on the host servers and read/write errors from accessing files. Sometimes the hosting company makes server upgrades without notifying you, and suddenly your website is not compatible. These types of issues are unpredictable.  If your host does not provide a good backup, plan to look for another host.  Regardless of your host, you should have a backup process that stores backups apart from the host server.  Check with your developer to see what options are available for your site.

How you recover from a hack or virus depends in part on your host’s security measures.  Some hosts quarantine websites they detect as compromised.  Your first steps are to check the date of your locally stored backup and then seek assistance if you are unsure what to do.

Can content management systems (CMS) make all your website changes easy?

jce_smOne of advantages of content management systems (CMS) is the ability to edit content easily and in real time. While this is true at face value, it may not be as simple as it sounds. Here are some of the changes that laymen cannot make:

Change in content type– Suppose most of your pages have a small amount of text (50 pages) and perhaps an image. If you want to replace that page with a video or add a large image to the text it as an example, you need to be aware of several things. Will adding the content require another technology tool such as a video player? Will the content be too much so that it looks out of place?

readmoreMost CMS systems allow you to add a “Read More” link, which may help address the issue. But it is always advisable to consider the overall impact before replacing the content.

Clashes between new content and the design framework– As you select images be especially aware of colors that clash with the website accent colors and for images that are cropped inconsistently. It is always best to establish and maintain the standards for content especially graphics and video. Any new content should follow these standards. If there are new silos of content e.g. divisions, develop common standards for content. If the content is inconsistent, you lose the sense of competency that a CMS framework creates through common style sheets.

Content that suggests a change in navigation– If new content reflects a change in services, business strategy, etc. it is always best to consider how that content relates to the whole site. If a customer sees a new product on your site but there is no link to “get more information” form, the new content is not serving your needs as it should. Be careful not to underestimate how important it is to create a consistent look.

PHPmyadminContent managed by database functions– Most CMS have the ability to interrelate several sets of content according to rules you define. The relationship between content is managed through a database and may be done by custom programming or through CMS tools. If you understand that relationship between the data, you can make the edits successfully; otherwise you may not accomplish what you want.

Content linked within the site– To help users find related content easily and to improve SEO, a good website key phrases from one page to related pages. If you change the names of your linked pages, you will also need to change the links in the related pages. It’s not difficult but if you forget, you will have broken links. This hurts your site’s appeal and SEO.

Joomla has a set of these tools generically called content construction kits. The most popular examples are MosetsTree, SobiPro, K2, and Zoo. Some are easy to add categories, some allow easy import of other database content and some are allow the layout of information to be customized easily. A good developer will understand the strengths and use the right tool.

Here are some tips to make the update process easier:

1. Make good decisions before you launch or re-launch you site. Define the basic layout of your site for the long term.

2. Work with developers who inform you of options before you build the site. Ask them questions about maintenance. Ask them what you change and what you cannot without help. Ask them about training.

3. Know your website’s CMS and train your staff to follow your style guidelines.

Worried Your Joomla Site Might Get Hacked?

Joomla is not invulnerable even though it is a robust content management system. Any website, not matter how it is constructed or secured, is vulnerable to hacking attacks. Because Joomla has standards about the way it works, in some ways it gives a road map to hackers looking for a way in.

Landau Digital has created a comprehensive Squidoo lens that provides information on how to secure your Joomla website to prevent hacking. If for some reason your Joomla site got hacked, we also provide information on how to repair a Joomla hacking problem.

Please read 15 Ways to Secure Your Joomla Website and take the steps to prevent hacking attempts!

An Easy Way to Create Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

Make sure your users know your site is trustworthy

We are launching a full scale e-commerce site this weekend. One of the small details of these sites is to have the “compliance policies” in place that cover terms of use, privacy, etc. These policies are important because if something bad happens on your site e.g. a hacker adds unethical content to your site, your company could have damages without them.

However there are more important reasons to create a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use with some care. Users expect to see the policies and some actually look at them. It would be a big disservice to have them look sloppy. In addition, when most organizations create policies, it helps them understand how they do customer service now, whether they want to make changes and coordinate their online image with the rest of their activities.

So how do you get started?

There are usually 2 policies (Terms of Use and Privacy Policy) required, although some organizations have them combined into one organized statement.

Terms of Use would include:

  • What is the purpose of the site>
  • What can people do with the content and technology used on the site? (Typically users have a license for private personal use only.)
  • What responsibility do you have for typos, broken links, and external links? (The typical answer is very little.)

Privacy Policy would include:

  • Does your site set cookies?
  • Does your site collect personal information?
  • How is it used?
  • Is information retained for later use?
  • Is the information kept private?
  • Is it kept internally? In printed form too?
  • Is it made available to “partners”?
  • Do you allow children to visit your site?
  • Are safeguards and warnings in place for children?

Writing content for these pages

If you are having a hard time answering these questions, it often helps to look at examples first. Check out Why Have a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use? for ideas on where to get templates for these pages.

As you get ready to write your policies, ask for input from the marketing, legal and PR staff. Before you finalize these policies, you should review them with your legal staff or lawyer.

Compliance policies are important. If you never have a problem with online privacy or content issues, it will be well worth the time you spend getting them right from the start.

Finding a Great Referral for A Web Developer

Choosing a web developer can be very challenging if you don’t understand how things work at a basic level. Just like cars, everyone admires a good website, but it is hard to know which salesman to believe.

So many people look to a friend or business associate for a referral  to a web developer. This makes sense as long as you ask the right questions of that person. Most people don’t understand their website needs from a technical aspect. This makes it difficult to know whether your friend or associates website is a good measuring stick for yours.

In my opinion, the best source of information on web development comes from someone in a similar line of business. For the most part, you will want similar functionality on the site and perhaps have a similar marketing approach.

Here are questions to ask when getting a web developer referral:

1. How well did the client define their project ahead of time?
Often people will have an idea of what they want in a website but will not have the true scope or details identified. Taking time to answer some basic questions and you will have an easier time managing the project. Specific details to ask about include:

  • Did they have your information architecture (IA) set? IA is the design for the information flow. Did the developer help them refine it?
  • How complex is the content on their website? Is some of the content inter-related? Was the website built in a static fashion or in a relational fashion? Did they need special programming, such as Joomla, to accomplish what they want?
  • Did they have a project plan with milestones? Was it reasonable technically or simply “what they wanted”.
  • How often will they make changes? Are they simple text changes or design changes? Did they allow for this in your design and vendor agreement? Who makes the changes, client or do they pay the developer?

If the responses are not all positive, the client and developer may share the blame.

Developer issues that can cause delays:

  • Lack of key technical knowledge
  • Poor project management skill
  • Shabby ethics

Client issues that can cause delays:

  • “Two many cooks (stakeholders) in the kitchen” may create a confusing project scope and priorities. This could also delay critical decisions.
  • Poor conception of development costs: If you have a comparable website that you are going by, it’s important to know how much it cost to build so you have an idea of the costs involved. If you want super technical by don’t have the budget for it, this can cause disappointments and delays as the client tries to get the developer to create what they don’t have the budget to pay for.
  • Taking too long to develop content. This is the number one reason we see delays on sites we build. Putting content together is the hardest part of a project, so ask your friend to honestly answer how prompt were they about delivering content to the developer?

2. Did they need to adjust their expectations during the contracting process?
If a project has any complexity at all, the developer will need to explore how to implement the client’s design best to meet their needs. This may involve some changes to the client’s vision because of budget, technology limitations, or the desired timeline of the project. This may mean implementing the project in stages or developing custom functionality provided the budget allows for it.

It is common to work with clients who don’t have all their content done. In the course of creating their content and IA, they discover that their original design is poor. In looking at the IA, they often discover better ways of doing business or a better marketing approach, and this changes the scope of the project.

3. How clear was the agreement with the developer?
Some problems in development are easy to avoid by having clear contracting language. If you want results that meet your expectations, you need to ask enough questions to clarify how the site will work. You can express the results you want in an agreement without knowing how a developer will implement this technically. When this is done, it is easy to hold a developer accountable.

4. Was it difficult to communicate with the developer?
Many developers are good at coding but have a hard time understanding the client’s needs. It is important for developers to have a sense of the user’s experience as well as the business purpose of the website. If a client finds a developer does not show an understanding of this part of the project, it will make the project more stressful.

5. If changes were needed along the way, did the developer explain things well?
Did the developer provide options for challenges? If a project has any complexity at all, it is not uncommon for both the developer and the client to learn in the course of the project. As a result, changes in the scope or implementation may be needed. If a developer is not flexible or diligent enough to be a partner, this part of the project will be a challenge.