Embracing The “M” Word

Yes, I maintain websites after I’ve designed them. Yes, I maintain websites designed by other people.

Apparently a lot web designers want to just that: design websites.  They don’t want to do minor changes or, God forbid, touch a site someone else originally created.

Many of the calls I get are from tired business owners who want to change some things in their site, but they don’t need — or want to pay for — a complete overhaul. They report problems finding someone who can help them.

Sometimes their original web designer has found a full-time graphics design job (a lot of web designers seem to be frustrated or underemployed graphic designers).  Other times the business owners report that their original designer doesn’t do maintenance.

I think we web designers have to be available to make changes and tweaks to our customers’ pages.  Phone numbers change, photos get outdated,  new products come out, business hours expand!  All of these updates belong on your website.

Sometimes the business owner needs more substantial changes. They want to add a video or a series of pages about new things they’re doing.  The owner wants to update their site, but they aren’t up for a total re-do!

I get asked to help with all sorts of websites, even sites created on WordPress or other platforms that supposedly allow non-technical users to update content. WordPress, Joomla, and proprietary systems by Wix, GoDaddy, and others all require some computer skills.  Although they do not require special software on your computer, these tools take time to learn and tame.  Many owners are too busy running their business to spend hours coming up to speed and implementing changes.  I am happy that they call me!

Doing maintenance may not be as fun as creating an eye-catching design from scratch. And, when I work on a site that someone else created, I have to adjust to whatever style that person had.  I also have to find out where they have put the images, layouts, and styles I’m being asked to use and modify.  And, of course, the original designer is never as organized and clear as I am!

Still, I am happy to do maintenance.  I have done one-time updates, and I have some clients whose sites I change several times a month like Theatre Rhinoceros, a San Francisco theater company.  I like making all of them reflect the owner’s current activities.

Can I Use that Picture?

Puppy with a rose hip
Puppy “Zenith” Can Help with Your Marketing

Good looking pictures make all the difference in your website, social media posts, and printed marketing materials.  Previous blog posts have talked about how sex sells and told you to load up on photographs of pretty women, babies, and pets.

But, you can’t just grab a photo of a Golden Globe winning actor from another web site and stick it on one of your pages as if the star was a raving fan of your business.

I am not a lawyer, so if you want specific legal advice, contact an attorney.  However, let me tell you the rules I follow when I create web pages and social media for my clients.

  • You must have the right to use the photograph — maybe you took the picture (you own it) or you bought a license to use the image from a photo service.
  • If the subject in the photograph is identifiable and if you’re using the photograph for commercial purposes (this includes beauty shots designed make your web site attractive), you must have a model release.  Either ask the subject to sign a release yourself, or make sure that the photo service you’re using gets releases from their models.
  • If you are using a picture to illustrate a news story, you do not need a release as long as the picture was taken in a public place where the subject doesn’t have an reasonable expectation of privacy.  This means you can use pictures you take of church members BBQing  in an article about the picnic without getting a release from each person in the crowd.  The photograph can include children, too.
  • Although you can use photos of recognizable people for editorial purposes, it’s my policy to remove pictures from the website/Facebook/wherever if the subject says they don’t want their picture published.

The rules as I understand them — see non-lawyer caveat above! — are pretty simple.  Use pictures you’ve taken or ones you have permission to use.  If you’re using the photo for a non-editorial purpose and a person is identifiable in a picture, get a model release from that person.

You cannot use any picture or graphic you find in a Google search, on Flickr, or anywhere else on the Internet, unless the photo is marked in some way that gives you explicit permission to use it. Flickr and possibly other photo sites encourage people to give permission to others to copy their works using Creative Commons licenses. But, most images are not tagged with permission, and by default a photograph is protected by copyright law and copying is not allowed.

Pictures that grab the attention of your potential clients are powerful components of your Internet marketing effort. If you have the pictures you want for your Internet campaign, great!  Use them! If you’re looking for more photographs, I take some darn good photographs (see examples — especially the puppy pictures).  I am happy to come over with my camera and take the pictures you want. Or, browse stock photos available for licensing on the service I like best, Dreamstime.

Just make sure you get pictures of puppy Zenith or something equally appealing on your Internet marketing materials now!

Put Your Business on the Map… and Other Tips from the Queeks

A group of local techy geeks have been meeting for lunch and swapping stories for a year or so. As we talked about client tragedies, we recognized that many of the dilemmas our customers face could be easily avoided with a bit of insight.

Thus was born the Queeks blog.

We’re committed to contributing regularly to the blog, in addition to what we write on our own web sites and social media spots.

Check out the two Queeks tips from Ozdachs:

  1. Put Your Business on the Map
  2. Don’t Publicize Like It’s 1999

We’re Back Here, too!
I’ve just finished a tour of jury duty that started in November. I was able to continue working for clients by extending the days and working weekends.

But, something had to go. So, there have been no blog postings or Dangerous Common Sense newsletters since I started on the jury.

They’re starting up again!

Stupid Web Hosting Tricks

A new client approached me today and asked for help updating her site and solving her email dilemma. The changes to web pages were not problem.

However, I couldn’t solve her email issue. She complained that she had to log on to each email account on her system every 33 days or else the hosting service would delete the email box.

I’d never heard of this before.

I have heard of hosting services limiting the amount of stored mail each mailbox could save, and I’ve heard of limits on the total amount of email stored for all accounts. But, I have never heard of an activity requirement for an email account.

But, PowWeb.com indeed has a requirement that each email account be regularly accessed or its suspended and then deleted. Their FAQ says they do this because inactive mail accounts attract spam. When we asked that our client’s account be set up to escape this requirement, tech support said:

On our platform, the mailboxes which are inactive for 90 days or more are disabled automatically. This is an automated process which is done from the backend. Please note that this is being done to provide our customers with the better services and smooth flow of emails on our servers. This is the reason, we suggest our customers to access their mailboxes via WebMail. This is the only option we provide our customers.

Say what? This policy is nuts!

Inactive accounts don’t attract spam — publicly known email addresses attract spam. Besides, PowWeb already has a limit on the amount of disk space each email account can use, so even an inactive spam magnet will fill quickly and not hog additional resources.

More importantly, my client says that this policy is enforced even on email accounts that forward all incoming mail to other addresses hosted elsewhere. Email addresses such as [email protected] forward to the owner’s personal email account where she retrieves all her mail. Those forwarded accounts take no disk space. Yet, PowWeb is insisting that she log on to the phantom [email protected] account every 90 days.

Note: the policy says the email accounts must be accesses every 90 days. My client accessed her email addresses October 8, and she received 5-day deactivation warnings on November 5. That’s more like 33 days.

My client now wants to move hosting services to a place that doesn’t have such an email policy. I recommend Webmasters.com, and they don’t have a policy like that. But, aside from personal experience, I don’t know how I would tell that a hosting service is free from such a squirrelly access requirement.

What are you supposed to do when you’re shopping for hosting services? Ask, “Do you have any incredibly stupid rules that I should know about?”

Are All Hosting Services the Same?

My policy of using whatever web hosting service a client has previously signed up for has been challenged this month as clients have found hosting services with small annual fees that have turned out to be cheap rather than inexpensive.

Here are some basics about hosting and why you might want to let your web developer choose the service for your site.

At its simplest, a hosting service merely needs to be reliable so that 99.some% of the time anyone trying to get to your web site will see your information.  Because of the limited requirements for hosting, it’s very tempting to sign up for a hosting plan that costs $5 a month instead of paying $200 a year in advance.

However, each hosting company offers different services and conveniences.  The hosting businesses vary on how you can upload information to your web and the features included in their hosting packages.

Most businesses need only very simple hosting. But, there are some fundamental qualifications for a professional hosting service.

What You Need in a Hosting Service

  • Uptime. You want your site to be available 99+% of the time. Ask a potential hosting service for their uptime stats!
  • An online way for you to make certain changes to your account. The hosting company should provide you with a “control panel” which lets you add new email accounts, change passwords, and do other administrative chores.
  • File Transport Protocol (FTP) access to updating your web site. You want to be able to use common web authorizing programs like Dreamweaver which employ FTP to publish web pages. You don’t want to be limited to using the hosting services custom file updater.
  • Unrestricted, 24×7 updating to your site. Yes, you want only authorized users to be able to update your site, but authorized users need to be able to authenticate themselves and do updates from anywhere at any time. Typically, hosting services control access through a user name and password (which you can change). However, some hosting services demand more, and their additional security requirements — such as IP authorizing — can make updating your site difficult.
  • Mail accounts. You want to use professional looking email accounts that include your domain name (e.g., [email protected]). You should be able to set up, modify, and delete at least 10 of these accounts for your hosting dollars.
  • Scripting language support. Even a straight-forward web site may include a contact form that you want validated. Or, the site may grow to use a login for certain pages. Or, other bright and shiny functionality may become a need. In any event, you want the host to support PHP and perhaps other scripting languages so that you don’t have to change hosting companies suddenly when you want to add a particular feature to a page.

Like many web designers, I charge clients by the hour. But, up to now I haven’t started the clock when learning the ins and outs of a new hosting company that a client picked. I figured that I was learning more about the hosting marketplace.

But, enough! After spending hours on work-arounds to comply with the quirks of some inexpensive hosting services, I have learned already!

Spending a reasonable amount of money for a full-service hosting company is truly the least expensive way to keep your site on the Internet. We recommend Webmasters.com who charges $120 year. From now on, I’m going to ask that clients use that choice… or make sure that the client’s existing service has the convenience and features we need.