Website Launch Checklist

25 04 2009

So you’ve spent weeks or even months focused on web development and your website is finally ready to launch. This is an exciting step in the web development process but before you hit the upload button and share your site with the world, make sure it is ready.

Spell Check Your Website

Because of the nature of web design software and how it works, few offer a solid spell check feature. That being the case, misspelled words will find there way onto your site more often then you think. The poses a few problems, the first of which being the fact that misspelled words portray a negative image for your site and your business. The second reason spell checking is of great importance is search engine optimization. Your website’s content will have a more difficult time appearing in high ranking search results if the keywords involved are spelled incorrectly.

Check for Broken Links

Nothing can be more frustrating than finding out that a particular page or piece of content you created has been passed over because you linked to it incorrectly. Whenever possible, manually inspect all of your links. If your site has a great deal of pages however, this might not be possible. If this is the case, most web development software comes packaged with link analyzer capability.

Check for Cross Browser Computability

In a perfect world the hard work you put into designing the look and feel of your website would translate perfectly to everyone who viewed it. Unfortunately, not everyone on the internet uses the same web browsers or has the same screen resolution and as a result what might look perfect on your screen could be a jumbled mess on a different computer. For more information and resources on the subject I highly recomend 10 Helpful Resources for Cross Browser Testing.

Make Sure Each Page Has a Title

From a purely user friendly standpoint, web pages with out titles can be incredibly frustrating while trying to navigate a website. You want visitors to be able to always know where they are without needing to track exact URLs as they browse. Further more, as far as SEO is concerned, the title is the most important aspect for both keywords and search result appearance.

Hopefully this will get you started at taking a deeper look at your website before you share it with the world. As always, I welcome comments and hope that those who read this post can contribute there own thoughts


Networking Tips

25 04 2009

A few tips on business networking from Phil and Drew Lewellyn from CIBER Inc.

  • You never know when a networking opportunity may arise so make the effort to be positive and energetic when discussing what you do and where you work.
  • Don’t hesitate to do favors for people in your network when asked. Having a friendly and helpful reputation is a fantastic asset to have.
  • Think nationally or even globally! Technology has given us the gift of fast and limitless communication. Just because someone’s office isn’t across the street doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable resource.
  • Stay in touch. Quick emails or phone calls “Just to say hello” are very powerful and will keep you in the forefront of people’s minds. Stay in touch.
  • Never exaggerate your abilities or connections. Trust is a vital element in networking and is hard to regain. Furthermore, dishonest actions or dealings can spread to others quickly.
  • Asking for favors (within reason) is not a bad thing. Everyone likes to feel important and useful so being asked a favor is actually a compliment. It also makes others more comfortable with you and helps develop relationships faster.
  • Contrary to the well known adage “You owe me one!” network relationships should not be treated like bank accounts based on deposits and withdrawals. Instead, networks should be thought of as a partnership, where each party willingly participates knowing that the rewards will soon surface.
  • If you don’t already… learn to play golf. Golf often.
  • Attend networking events and join networking groups.
  • Never leave a job or project on less than perfect terms.

Drawling a line between cuteness and content

25 04 2009

Lately I’ve noticed a ton of new flashy, graphic driven, active UI, and Java heavy web sites making their way onto my Stumbles and in other people’s blogs and Twitters. Initially I am very impressed because after years of doing web development my self I know how time consuming and complex writing that code can be. Then my thoughts digress to whether or not it is effective to have such elaborate content and user experiences. Where do you draw the line between maintaining SEO and trying to impress visitors once they are at your site.

Like I have mentioned before, the internet was created and still thrives today on it’s ability to exchange information between it’s users. What does an impressive 10 second long splash landing page accomplish in the way of information exchange besides “This developer is creative but has too much free time and assumes you do to”?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the creativity behind such sites and respect the talent it takes to create them. Yet, I can’t help but see some of it as a waste when you consider how hard SEO work can be to draw people to your site in the first place. After all, it is text content that drives SEO. I guess what it boils down to is keeping in mind what exactly your site’s purpose is and what stage it is in:

  • If your site is new and you need to make as many people aware of it as possible, don’t waste your time with the glitz. It will only lead to wasted effort and disappointment when you lack organic traffic. Focus on cleanliness, simplicity, and let your text content do the important work.
  • On the other hand, if your site is well established and has loyal visitors, sprucing up the end user experience might increase loyalty and decrease the chance of losing those loyal visitors to boredom. Be careful however because people like familiarity and too much sudden change can be a turn off. (Take for example what initially happens to Facebook every time they change your home screen. Grrrrr….)

Twitter Tips (Part 1)

25 04 2009

Until recently I have been oblivious to the world of Twitter. I kept hearing about it every where but I couldn’t understand the concept so I kept putting off signing up. After all, I had been using Facebook for around 5 years, LinkedIn for 2 years, and considered my self pretty web savvy. Little did I know, there was a whole other world of people I wanted to know communicating about what I need to learn 24/7. Thankfully a friend finally convinced me to check it out and let’s just say, it has left me “Twittering” with excitement. The following are a few things I have learned about using Twitter that I wish I had known right off the bat:

Most importantly, Facebook is for people you used to know, Twitter is for people you want to know

This is the best explanation I have come accross regarding what Twitter is and how is should be used. When I first began using Facebook it was a social networking site geared exclusively for college students. Infact, it wasn’t that long ago that you were actually required to have a college email address to sign up. It was revolutionary in the way you could re-connect with old friends from high school or keep track of you current friends in college. This is because it was organized by schools, past and present. So not only could you find your long lost chemistry class partner from high school you could also find some one who had the notes for your 8am Bio Chem lab at college that you always slept through. It grew so fast that it became addicting for so many of us because every time we logged we were greated with a new surprise of some one past or present that wanted to connect. And that was how it worked until life got in the way…….. and we graduated.

There is no denying that Facebook has exploded in popularity with in the last few years because of it’s ability to maintain strong networks for people, but I also have another theory that has given it such a bump. My “generation” of the original Facebook users is now in the work force and at first struggled with their Facebook addictions, logging on during work hours at the office. Now, instead of seeing who was in what class, you could see who was working where. BINGO! Everytime companies were looking for an in with another company it was the young Facebook addict who was the first to be able to supply a name and email address. It wasn’t long before our superiors and mentors began to pick up on this phenomenon and figured out how to put it to their advantage and that is where Facebook stands today. A jumbled mix between old friends and eager baby boomers looking to network. (Keep watching out for my next ground breaking blog: The Facebook Identity Crisis)

Now, with that explanation I hope you can understand what I mean when I say Facebook is for people you used to know. On the other hand Twitter is for people you want to know. This is because of one simple reason, you have access to virtually everyone on Twitter who wants to be found by simply following them. To gain information about some one on Facebook, you first need to request their friendship and wait for them to approve this request. Twitter gives you instant access to what people are thinking and doing every day. This benefits users in a number of ways. For example, let’s say you need a website created for your business but don’t know who to go to. By searching for people on Twitter you can find a number of web development professionals. After reading the bios of a few you can begin to learn about them, their work habbits, personality and much more by simply following them. This gives invaluable insight into what you should be looking for in a web developer and you might even find a perfect match!

Another example of why Twitter is for people you want to know is the ability to track the day to day of someone who you aspire to be. With in no time you learn about what their professional life is like, what their favorite web sites are and if you pay attention you will pick up on what they do to be so successful.

Don’t keep your Twitter private

The initial fear that many people have when they first join Twitter is that now people they don’t even know will be watching there every move. This is an unsettling thought so it’s easy to check the box under privacy settings and keep your Twitter private. Think about it though… isn’t it every businesses dream to have consumers hang on their every word? Also, because you are notified every time somone starts following you you are getting the chance to know your potential customers.

On the flipside, I was asked today about the chance of some one being followed and monitored by their competitors. I say, let them follow but also when you become notified of their follow, begin to follow them. It comes down the the timeless expression “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Be aware of who you choose to follow

For some, the initial reaction is to begin following people in their related field who already have significant numbers following them and follow few others. It makes sense that this paints a picture of someone with importance. But before you follow them, take a look at their history of posts. You might be surprised to see that their posts are nothing more than shameless self promotions and links to their products. Obviously, there is not much to gain and definately a waste of time to track them. But how did they aquire such a great following?

It’s pretty simple really. For many on Twitter, it is a common courtesy to return the follow of some one when you are notified that they are following you. If you are new to Twitter and and eager to gain a following, it is the immediate reaction to return a person’s follow. However, it is also just as easy to quit following some one and when you do so they are not notified. This makes it easy for users lacking integrity to spend a day clicking on the follow of everyone they want to target, recieving a huge number of follows, and then just as quickly unfollowing this list of targets, walking away with a list of contacts that others earn honestly over time. I feel sorry for those who use this tactic however because they are missing a huge piece to the puzzle. They aren’t learning about their target market and losing sales or networking opportunities in the proccess.

The Facebook Identity Crisis

25 04 2009

“I had heard rumors around campus of other people developing the habit, but I was skeptical it would have power over me. After all, how bad could it be if some Ivy League kids discovered the formula messing around in their dorm room. I thought I could stop anytime I wanted. I was wrong.

Nothing beats that first time but now that I am really hooked, I spend countless hours trying to find that feeling again. There’s been times I swore to myself I would never go back to it. Whatever “friends” I have made through doing it are purely superficial. They are all just suffering from the same problem….

I used to be ashamed of myself when I started to sneak off during parties to get my fix. Now, I need it first thing when I wake up in the morning. I even do it at work. Really, I don’t think I could get through the day without it. It’s nothing like it used to be though. They keep making it stronger and more complex now that big business has gotten involved. It’s been all over the media and I think my boss is hooked which is the most unsettling part about it. I feel like I have relinquished my identity to it and now everyone can see. Should I fight it or just give in? Part of me feels like if I quit now I would be losing a lot, but I also don’t want my past to get exposed.”

Does this sound familiar to anyone? This quote is purely fictional but my hope is that it helped some people come to terms with what so many are experiencing. Now that I put it out there, let’s talk about it…

The Facebook Identity Crisis

What is exactly is it? The Facebook Identity Crisis is struggling with balancing Facebook for work and play. So many of the first generation of Facebook users have now graduated and entered the working world and are being presented with a dilemma. We have accumulated a social network of contacts that is incredibly useful now that we are in “the real world”. With a click of a mouse we can call upon these contacts for just about anything, and because of the close relationships we have built and maintained over time, we can expect an incredible response.

Now, this was ideal in college when you needed to find a party for Thursday night and the lecture notes for the following Friday morning. But now that our newly budding professionals careers are at stake, do we want to risk the chance of accepting our boss’ friendship request in the morning and getting an obscene wall post in the afternoon? Is it ok to contact someone you haven’t seen in three years with a sales pitch? What amount of transparency should your profile posses in order use Facebook as a tool? I think what it all comes down to is acknowledging who you are and where you came from.

What do I mean by this? Well, go ahead and ask yourself the question “Who am I?” Chances are you will say something like “accountant”, “sales exec”, “caring friend”, or “loving family member”. You wouldn’t say “Watermelon”. Everyone who knows you knows you’re not a watermelon. So why would they trust you if you came to them for anything claiming to be a watermelon. They would think you’ve lost your mind. What’s my point? If you are going to be visible on Facebook don’t try to be someone you’re not. You have maintained friendships by being yourself and that is the only way to hang onto them. Work it to your advantage by being genuine. Invite your network to events and include a message of how much it would mean to you if they showed, because it should.

On the flipside don’t feel guilty if you don’t keep your photo tags public. Everyone has a couple of moments caught on camera where they acted out of character, myself included. I won’t get into the specifics of my own, but I will say that my friends know who I am deep down and that’s why they find those kinds of pictures so amusing. But there is a risk involved when people who don’t know you, like potential employers, have access to those photos and get the wrong impression. They’ll think you’re a watermelon. (Are we picking up on the analogy?)

These are just two examples of an infinite amount I could cover. As I type this I am realizing that my intent on writing this was not to tout myself as a Facebook expert, but rather to generate a dialogue about an issue that so many of us face. I sincerely hope that after reading this you leave a comment to let me know your thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree I think the topic needs to be brought to light. If you would like to contact me personally I encourage you to do so by catching me on Twitter (@StrickerOnline).

Obtaining References

25 04 2009

Its no secret that web developers and their skills are becoming more and more desirable to businesses, both big and small, everyday. However, despite this trend in their popularity few are fully aware of what to look for when deciding to work with one.

it is a process

Every good web developer, or at least anyone worth paying, should have glowing recommendations for the services they have preformed for others in the past. My reasoning is that there is no way to determine the skills, professionalism and timeliness of an individual by simply seeing a finished product. Building a web site is a process not an event. If a web developer is difficult to communicate with during this process it will move slowly and be more costly to you.

monkeys with typewriters

They say a monkey with a typewriter could eventually produce Shakespearian work (or something like that) and the same goes with writing code. How are you to know that examples of their work really hide a nightmare of an experience had by someone else. I know of instances where clients have stuck with horrible situations simply because they had already invested a great deal of resources working with an individual and it would be more difficult to find someone different and start over.

In closing, I hope this post was helpful and I encourage you to both provide your knowledge on the topic by posting comments as you read this series and to also ask questions regarding information I have yet to cover.

Tough Economy? Look to the web…

25 04 2009

With the current state of the economy businesses and individuals are looking for innovative and cost effective methods to generate new customers and income.  This post covers a few tactics which are cost effective, if not free, and will provide many benefits to those who utilize them.

Create a Blog

A common misconception that many in the public still have is that blogs are nothing more than a public diary of rants and opinions with little substance or value. This however couldn’t be further from the reality that some have already discovered. Blogs are an excellent way find new customers, communicate with current customers, establish credibility and create brand presence. All of this is accomplished with little or no setup costs and only a few hours of week to maintain.

Utilize Email Marketing

Email marketing has existed for quite some time but few businesses have used it effectively until recently. If done correctly though, email campaigns, e-newsletters and online promotions can open up a whole new customer base that you never knew existed. Not only this, but because of email’s digital nature, you can actually gather valuable marketing data in the process. Email marketing provides so many benefits that I could write an entire post on the subject but I will stop with the few I have mentioned. A complete list of Email Marketing benefits can be found here.

Social Networking = Business Networking

A lesson that just about everyone in the business world learns at one time or another is that “It is not what you know, it is who you know”. So why wouldn’t you want to maximize the number of people are in contact with? You would be surprised at what a great resource a solid social network can be when promoting an event, looking for employment or seeking assistance outside of your expertise. My favorite social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.