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Archive for the ‘IT Leadership’ Category

How to teach strategy to IT

IT’ers tend to be task-driven. This makes it hard for many to see the end business strategies and how their IT work fits in. But it’s vital for CIOs and key IT managers to incorporate business goals into daily technology work, because a better understanding of the business drivers produces better IT work. How do you do this with a naturally resistant staff?

It’s not easy–because many IT staff members are focused on critical technical areas that demand most of their focus. They find it difficult to get out of these mindsets and focus on the “big picture”-especially when they are up against tight deadlines. For many of these IT staffers, meetings are perceived as unwelcome introductions to the “real” work that needs to be done. This perception will likely always be a “fact of life” for folks in the trenches-but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be educated about the business enough so they can understand and explain how their work delivers value to the company.

How do you facilitate this as a CIO or as an IT manager?

#1  Talk about the business in your staff meetings.

Attendance is “required” in IT staff meetings, so you have a captive audience. This is an opportunity for CIOs and key managers to discuss the needs of the business, and how IT projects support those. But CIOs and managers also need to take a page out of every entertainer’s notebook: be careful not to lose the room! Be succinct in your business discussions, and avoid long-winded presentations.

#2  Get IT’ers out into the business.

This practice works with IT staff members who are business analysts or application developers, but not with more technical members of the staff, such as systems programmers, database administrators, etc. The goal is to let user-facing IT members directly experience the areas (and pain points) of the business that they support so they better understand the operations and the workflows that they are designing applications for. During this process, there is also an opportunity for IT staff to become better acquainted with end users. This fosters teamwork and ongoing collaboration.

#3  Define SLAs and incorporate business goals into salary and performance reviews.

Once of the fundamental values IT delivers to the business is keeping systems running. Accordingly, service level agreements should be established for system uptime and performance, and also for problem response and time to problem resolution. These goals are measurable with today’s automated infrastructure software and can be directly incorporated into staff personal goals and salary reviews. Business-directed projects (like a new Manufacturing system) can also be incorporated into performance and salary review goals. These are ways to embed business impact into IT personal reward systems.

 

 

 

#4  Develop “workload” teams.

More and more, applications are being organized and monitored on IT infrastructures as integrated business “workloads” that combine different computing platforms, networks, CPU and disk. IT staff needs to be “integrated” into business workload thinking as well. For instance, if the workload is identified as an Accounting system that supports the business financial functions and there is a problem with the workload, the database administrator, the network guy, the applications people, QA and the help desk all have to work together as a “workload team” to deliver value to the business. Working in different “silos” of IT expertise isn’t going to get the job done and will only delay IT staff from the end business objective-to get that system running. This is a fertile area for CIO and IT manager work-because many IT staff members are accustomed to (and prefer!) working in isolated technical silos where they only have to answer for “their” area. When this is their focus, they fail to extend their concern for the overall health of the system and the business. This is traditional IT thinking that has to change.

#5  Trace all IT goals/achievements back to the end business.

At the end of the year and in periodic updates, most CIOs hold full IT staff meetings to recap the strategic IT roadmap and what has been accomplished. In this forum, the CIO should also plan to extend discussion to the areas of the end business, and how specific IT deliverables have made contributions. This is an opportunity to reinforce “business thinking” in IT.

#6  Let the business drive IT.

There are some companies (Caterpillar comes to mind) that have gone so far as to not take on IT projects unless they are endorsed and supported by the end business first. The strategy ensures that IT work resonates with the business. It is also a way to build in immediate accountability in IT to the end business for projects and services.

25 Steps to Understanding Your Website Audience

Success on the Internet never comes out of thin air. Effective, successful websites are always a result of profound research and diligent, dedicated work.

Although optimizing a web page may seem like a daunting task and real ordeal for many website owners, with numerous manuals and practical advice available for absolutely free on the Internet, optimizing your website is just a piece of cake. This is where search engine optimization, content writing and target audience concepts come into play. It is essential to make your website attractive both to search engines and people. In fact, an average customer should be in a focus for any website, since it is the audience that you are going to interact with or sell goods to. It is impossible to please all Internet frequenters, yet it is possible to find the ones which are in search of information or services provided on your website. Below in this article we are going to dwell upon the importance of understanding your website audience, writing and optimizing your resource to meet your users’ wishes.

 

In order to illustrate the theory with some practice, let’s imagine that you, being a proficient designer, have decided to move your business online. So, once you have a functioning website and a certain clientele, you may start your research.

1. Use Questionnaires

Gathering demographic data about your website users is probably the easiest and the most surefire method to see what people visit your pages. There exist various ways to implement this. For instance, you may offer a bonus or a gift in exchange for a filled out form. The gift could be an extra cookie, a gift certificate or a discount for example. The questionnaire should not look intimidating. A typical form should include but not limited to:

  • age;
  • sex;
  • marital status;
  • education;
  • geographic location;
  • income;
  • occupation;
  • food preferences (use a drop-down window, if necessary);
  • hobbies and so on.

The questionnaire should include questions which would help you to create a profile of your average website user. For example, it could be ‘a strict vegetarian’ or ‘a busy and overburdened student’.

2. Process the Questionnaires

Now when you have the information, you are ready to think up a successful marketing campaign according to your clients’ preferences, as well as to make slight adjustments in the current company’s policy and goals. For instance, if most of your clients prefer vegetarian pastry or are going nuts for your apple and cinnamon strudels, you may focus on these recipes and hold over the unpopular ones. To surprise your frequenters you may add some new variations of the already existing recipes (the ones which are in demand, of course).

3. Maintain Your ‘Contact Us’ Page

All successful sites, large or small, should have a Contact Us page. At first glance, this page may seem insignificant, but it is the main gateway for your clients to contact you, especially if you don’t have a forum or run a blog. Make sure this page contains the actual, valid data. List all possible ways to contact you: e-mail, Skype, phone number and a physical address, if applicable. By doing so, you will raise your chances to get in touch with your direct customers.

4. Keep in Touch with Your Technical Support

In case you have a tech support which is run by another person or company, try to monitor its work. You can definitely learn a lot about your clientele from the most frequent questions they ask and problems they face when on your website.

5. Create a Forum

Forums are great tools allowing website owners study their customers’ habits and preferences well. It is essential to let your customers write and express their thoughts regarding your service, website and related topics. When creating topics, select several categories and watch which ones are the most popular and which stay untouched. It won’t take much time and effort, yet creating a Forum page can be a recipe for your business success.

6. Encourage Your Visitors to Join the Forum Page

Insert links into your website posts leading to corresponding topics on Forum. Let the most active users be moderators. You may also create a kind of hierarchy, either funny or serious: Member, Silver Member, Gold Member; Strudel Eater, Experienced Strudel Eater, Master Strudel Eater or BA, MA and Ph.D. in Strudenomics, etc. (just a hypothetic funny hierarchy for a cooking website forum).

7. Spark up Discussions

In order to attract attention of your website and Forum customers, you can employ some tricks. Don’t hesitate to spark up discussions: controlled debate is a very good tool for your target audience research. However, you should not go too far when adding fuel to the fire.

8. Create a Contest

Launching an interesting contest not only allows your customers express themselves and receive gifts, but also gives a lot of information about your target audience. The contest requirements should not be very strict, so that an average user could join the competition: a photo contest, a recipe contest and so on. It is essential to point out requirements and think up the prime and secondary prizes. The prizes should have something to do with your business domain: a cookbook, a gift certificate or a weekly strudel supply, etc.

9. Encourage Posts

Allow your customers contribute to your website or blog by uploading pictures and writing articles. Of course, it does not mean you are obliged to post everything you receive. Your customers’ pictures and especially articles will help you to get to know more about them than any questionnaire or forum. It is a really great pleasure for a person to see his or her creation on the web, especially if he or she does not run any web page. Other than that, with ‘third party’ posts your audience can increase rapidly, since contributors will want to share their works with their family members, close friends, colleagues and so on. So, by encouraging your website visitors writing posts and adding pictures you actually kill three birds with one stone:

  • you receive unique papers;
  • you learn more about your target audience;
  • you get free advertisement.

10. Make Sure Your Customers Can Leave Comments

In order to study your target audience well, you need to know your customers’ likes and dislikes. Allow website visitors commenting on your posts, pictures and products. Analyze your users’ reviews and make right conclusions.

11. Writing a Review Page

In order to get the most sincere testimonials, you can create a Review page where everyone would be able to write an anonymous testimonial. Many websites today create such pages to fill them with fake reviews, though there is a more effective way to utilize those: by getting genuine testimonials you will know what gaps you need to fill and what adjustments to make.

12. Create a Profile Database

Although it can be very burdensome and take some time and effort, it is advisable to build a profile database for your customers. A personal profile is a great place to express your individuality and uniqueness. Many will make use of this advantage, because people enjoy seeing their personalized accounts with pictures next to their comments or articles on the web. You will also win from seeing your target audience personalized.

13. Create a Group on Facebook

Today you can hardly ever find an Internet user who has no account on Facebook. It is essential that your website includes different social media networks’ icons enabling visitors to share the information they like. Social media are great tools to promote your business online. You can create your website’s appearance on Facebook, for instance, and post your news there. You can also create events, such as an Open Air Strudel Party, for instance, and use other great functions to remind your subscribers of your existence.

14. Employ Twitter

Twitter does not offer as wide functionality for business purposes, as Facebook, yet it is still a great tool in understanding your target audience. In fact, Facebook ‘Likes’ and Twitter ‘Tweets’ are great tools to calculate your posts success: just scan the recent posts for amount of Likes and Tweets, and you will see which topics have sparked up your reader’s interest.

15. Make Use of YouTube Insights

Did you know that you can gather some info about your clientele with YouTube insights (assuming that the chosen video has enough views)? You can scan the video for Likes, Dislikes, Comments, Favorites etc. It is also possible to track top viewers’ geographical location and demographics. In case you do not have any own video, you can analyze your competitors’ materials.

16. Monitor Your Ads

In case you display your own or third parties’ ads on your website, you can track which ones are the most popular with your target audience. Commercials are a good indicator of a person’s concerns and interests.

In addition to aforementioned manual methods to investigate your target audience, there exist special online tools, both paid and free, allowing you studying your clientele in figures. The data obtained from tools described above are called qualitative, while information obtained with the help of analytics is referred to as quantitative. So, let’s move on to analytics tools you may use to understand your target audience better.

17. Hire a Team

Of course, if you are running a large website or a series of satellite pages with numerous visitors every day, and you take your target audience research very seriously, you may want to hire a professional team specializing in this domain.

However, in case of a small website you can gather some quantitative data yourself. Below we will dwell upon the most useful features of analytic tools, allowing you to see how visitors are arriving at your page, what they are doing once they are on your site, where they are from and much more.

18. Set up Goals

Analytics sites, such as Google Analytics, for instance, offer you an option of settings Goals for your enterprise. Let’s say, you want your visitors to go to the Pastry Catalogue once they are on your website and then go to the Discounts and Special Offers page. So, you can specify this route in your analytics tool. Thus you will get notification each time someone goes through these locations.

19. Measure Traffic

Measuring traffic allows you to see how many visitors come to your site per day. With special analytics tool it is even possible to track this data by the hour. By doing so, you will get information on how your website is performing on the web, such as which days of the week customers are most likely to visit your website. For example, you can notice that on weekdays, when people have no time to cook, they tend to order pastries via your website, while on weekends the clients flow is decreasing.

20. Know Your Bounce Rate

Measuring your website’s ‘bounce rate’ is very important, since it can make you think about adjusting your marketing tactics. Bounce rate indicates whether or not a visitor stayed at your page after arriving there. The lower the bounce rate, the better for your enterprise. High bounce rate shows that you may use wrong keywords or improper ads, and visitors cannot find a product/service/information they are looking for on your website. Bounce rate is an essential figure in understanding your target audience.

21. Know How Your Customers Find You

It is essential to monitor how customers arrive at your website: whether they found your page through paid advertising, search engine inquiry or through another source. Besides analytics, you may use manual methods to get this info: ask your customers how they found you when registering their accounts, for instance. Analytics is undoubtedly a powerful tool, yet it does not encompass cases of offline ads (in magazines, business cards, leaflets etc.), and word-of-mouth recommendations.

22. Join Discussion Groups of Other Websites

Browse around for customer discussion groups and forums related to your business. This is a good idea for those who still have no forums but would like to see what people are talking about. Look for groups which are as similar to your site’s main concept as possible, prefer groups with a lot of members.

23. Make Contact

In case you are running a small family business or anything like this, you can directly ask your customers (your friends, close relatives and colleagues) about what they might search for in the targeted topic, what they would not look for, etc. For instance, if your home bakeshop serves approximately twenty people a day, and all of them are frequenters, you may adjust the menu according to their preferences without any losses.

24. Use Competitors Experience

There is a plethora of data you can glean off of your competitors. There exist special websites allowing you analyzing your rival website performance. Of course, in this case you will not get in touch with your actual audience, but you will be able to pinpoint the type of audience you are going to deal with.

25. Stay Tuned!

It is essential to monitor your website’s performance regularly. Set new goals, measure your traffic, bounce rate and encourage your clients to write and express themselves. Stay abreast of the new developments in analytics and use as many tools as you can handle. Remember, success is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration!

 

Understanding your clientele will allow you to shift your marketing efforts into the right path and accommodate your average customer’s wishes. By narrowing your target market you will increase your sales. Remember, it is impossible to cater everyone’s needs: focus on a specific target, become an expert and be flexible in reacting on your target audience wishes.

Jack Of All Trades Vs. Master Of One: A Designer’s Perspective

Every year, large batches of design students graduate and launch their careers in the market. Some of them land at proper places, which groom them professionally and set a solid career path for a successful future. Then there are designers who are not so lucky, who do not find the kind of professional approach they were looking for.

To help these designers cope with their career decisions, there has been much literal support through books, websites and blogs, and even debates on issues like to be a freelancer or not, to start with a smaller organization or a bigger enterprise and where and how to start professional networking etc.

However, one aspect of professional indecisiveness, which has been observed in many fresh designers, has not been discussed upon very frequently, i.e. to be a jack of all trades and be a generalist designer with multiple skillsets, or to be a master of one specific field of design career.

We will spin our article around this very topic and will discuss its different aspects in detail.

The Root of Argument

Designing, nowadays, is an extremely voluminous concept with hundreds of branches and sub-branches springing up from its core. When asking about your profession, even the most irrelevant of minds would ask “what kind of designer are you?” rather than be content with “I’m a designer”.

There are two kinds of trends seen in a designer’s professional life cycle. Some designers learn a specific skill and once their learning reaches a saturated level, they develop a curiosity to learn its associated skills too.

On the other hand, some designers learn a number of design skills at the start of their career and as they move up the professional ladder, they tend to layer off the extra skills and focus themselves onto one specific skill for the rest of their professional life.

But what about newbie designers? There is bound to be a bout of confusion as to which professional approach to opt for. Here is some food for thought.

The Benefits of Being a Generalist

When you are a “Jack of All Trades”, you are:

I. Highly Sellable

The biggest advantage of having a multiple skillsets is that it makes your profile highly sellable in the market. When you storm into the market with a diverse set of skills, there are chances that your different skills attract clients both individually as well as collectively, and will land a good bunch of projects on your desk.

Moreover, there are a number of clients who prefer to have a ‘one-window solution’. Therefore, it may happen that rather than getting only a part of it, you get the entire project on the basis of your diversified skills which will probably bring in bigger profit margins.

II. A Professional Chameleon

A chameleon has a natural mechanism of changing the color of its skin to blend in with its surroundings in order to deal with a situation. ‘Jack of all’ designers have the ability of being a professional chameleon and modify their profile to suit the needs of the project being offered. Having multiple skills enables them to play any card from their deck of skills and win a project.

III. More Productive

Being highly productive is the biggest concern of a designer from any field or sub-field. For designers, productivity not only means financial gains but is a matter of mental and morale satisfaction. In case of a design generalist, productivity almost never ends. Their multiple skills keep a steady flow of projects coming inwards, and they stay busy for most of their career.

What Could Go Wrong?

Being multi-skilled has its downsides, which includes:

I. Too Much to Handle

As I have mentioned before, although professionals get projects in bulks, everyone has a maximum workload that they can handle. These designers will reach their full work capacity at a very early stage. This situation sometimes results in a serious work burnout leading to chain of non-productive days.

II. No Exclusive Projects

Exclusive projects are every designer’s dream. Exclusive projects relate to a specific field of design, require much focus, are generally paid higher than usual projects and are a gem for a successful design portfolio. However, it happens that the clients usually do not opt for a generalist designer mainly due to the fact they already have multiple projects and might not be able to focus and work exclusively for their project.

III. Weak Project Management

Project management is one of the few add-ons that are required for a smooth flow of design business. Although project management is itself a skill (good to learn for both types of designer being discussed in this article), nevertheless, a ‘jack of all trades’ type of designer, mostly due to the pile of tasks in his plate, cuts a sorry figure in this respect.

Such designers amass design projects (those too with a variance in scope of work), usually end up messing everything up and ultimately eat into their own profit by spending money on outsourcing.

The Benefits of Being a Specialist

Now, let’s take a look at what good there is to being a specialist designer.

I. Depth of Experience

In any field of work, experience is the biggest feather in the cap of a professional. As a matter of fact, professional life is one of the few places where ‘being old’ is a compliment. In the professional life of a specialist designer, working in the same field for years and years, experience becomes his greatest asset. And so when a client is leafing through profiles and portfolios of designers for some project, the ones with more experience readily catch their eye.

Moreover, when a designer works in the same field for a long time, he becomes fluent in it and so, working on a new task becomes less challenging for him.

II. Streamlined Approach

Being a specialized designer helps you in developing a streamlined approach in work flow. As a specialist designer works on projects with same or similar scope of work, new tasks easily get adjusted in his work flow enabling him to stay focused without losing his productivity.

III. Charge Higher

Whenever you add the title ‘specialist’ in your professional profile, this immediately puts a positive impact on the other person’s mind and adds a lot to your value. This is the same case with a ‘master of one’ designer.

When you offer your services to a client by saying that you are a ‘specialist’ in this certain field, it automatically gives you a reason to charge higher than a generalist designer. Also, most clients do not argue on this as well and consider it justified to pay you handsomely for your expertise.

Master of One – Cons

Now don’t get too carried away on being a ‘master of one’ because there are some disadvantages associated with it as well.

I. Lack of Alternatives

The most basic disadvantage of being a specialist is that you do not have a lot to offer your client. For instance, a client works with a web designer and both develop a very good professional chemistry with each other, however as the web designing task ends, the client asks you if you can provide him further services like web development or CMS so that he may not have to deal with people he is not comfortable with, you end up disappointing him as you do not have any such skill.

Therefore, being a specialist designer may result into a relatively shorter business relationship with your clients.

II. Much Outsourcing

The designers who work in a single field of design sometimes get projects that require skills more than their own. In such a situation (and somewhat the kind of situation mentioned above), these designers have to outsource part of their projects.

Although outsourcing facilitates them and fill in the aspects they lack, however, the profits gets divided, sometimes quite unevenly. Also, with outsourcing, you lose control of the overall quality of the project which affects your market reputation.

III. Lower Chances of Business Expansion

In design business, like all other fields, business expansion is the ultimate goal. Particularly from the perspective of a freelancer, there is always a stage when he wants to increase the circumference of his business to keep up with the competitors.

However, with a specialized approach towards design career, this may seem difficult. For instance, if a person with multiple skills would consider business expansion, he will most probably rely on his own skills to offer a variety of services to the client. On the contrary, when a specialist designer would plan for business expansion, they would not be able to do it without external help.

Conclusion

I have tried my best to give a balanced picture of the choice between being a specialist or generalist from the perspective of a designer. This may give you some points to convince yourself to adopt whichever approach suits you. Nevertheless, I also understand the fact that every person has his own situation and circumstances that will mould his career approach preference.

So do share your personal experiences in this regard and let me know if this piece of writing has helped you in any way.

A Thorough Guide to Domain Name Registration

The choice of a domain name is considered as one of the most important decisions that can help in establishing an online business or personal website. Every online entrepreneur prefers the top level domains for their website and in some cases; they prefer using special top level domains.

General Top Level Domains (or gTLDs) include common domains such as .com, .info, .org, and .net. For specific business websites, one may use special TLDs. For example, a company engaged in air travel, tourism, and air transport business may use .aero. While online entrepreneurs often try to garner global customers, if an entrepreneur wishes to stress more on native or local customers, they may also decide to use country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) such as .co.in for India, .bn for Bulgaria, .ch for Switzerland and so on.

 

An attractive domain name that represents the uniqueness of a business and its business ethics can hugely influence the business outcomes and that is why online entrepreneurs try to select the best possible domain names for their personal or commercial websites. An online entrepreneur is required to take care of every aspect of making an online website in such a manner that it may offer them a unique ability of search engine optimization. While one may use any general domain name for their website, choosing a distinctive, unique domain name may prove to be beneficial especially if potential customers can easily recognize it, remember it, and search for it. Thus, for a commercial website, such a domain name that can easily offer an idea about the business is always preferable. Such domain names are often called as generic domain names. Instead of providing information about a person, these types of domain names offer direct information about the business subject of the website. The domain name should be smaller and easy to be remembered. However, while choosing a domain name for a commercial or personal website, one should be very careful about choosing the domain name. One should avoid using the trademarks of other businesses and using a well-known trademark for a website can be termed as a violation of Intellectual Property laws. The IP laws of almost all countries maintain that registering the trademark of a well known company or person as a domain name of commercial website not belonging to that company or person is a violation of IP rights and it is considered as trademark infringement.

Brief History of Domain Name Registration

While the Internet is establishing itself as the strongest and fastest growing media, the history of Internet is not very old. In 1960s, people started connecting their computers with each other with the help of Wide Area Networks or WAN’s. One of the most commonly used WAN of those times was ARPANET. Gradually, the number of people using WAN facilities kept increasing and people realized that a systematic identification is necessary so that any system can be easily accessed. Initially, there were very few users of computers who made use of networks to connect with others and all these network users were associated with the U.S. Department of Defense and similar authoritative institutions. However, the number of network users kept increasing at a faster pace and it became necessary to offer a strong way to regulate and keep an eye on all available domain paths working on the network.

To facilitate the means of identification for each network user, the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency evolved the concept of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA. The main job of IANA was to offer a unique code number or address to each network users so that they may regulate every computer that can be connected through the Internet network with others. Within a year, the concept of Internet Protocol or IP addressing system was developed and it became necessary for every computer connected with the Internet to have a proper IP address.

However, with increasing number of Internet users, the problem of addressing everyone through IP address became problematic and this problem was solved by the development of first name server in 1984. Within a year, the use of IP numbers to address network users became obsolete and it was replaced by the domain name system. In 1985, all major Top Level Domains such as .com, .net, .org and others were introduced and that gave a chance for Internet users to maintain their uniqueness.

In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee released the concept of World Wide Net with the help of CERN and within a month, the first commercial domain name server started offering domain name registration services for interested Internet users. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the proper transfer of management of domain registration systems to private companies and it increased the competition in the market of domain name registration services and that in turn increased the number of people using Internet. At present more than 19 million people are enjoying the facility of domain name registration and according to some estimates, more than 40 thousand people get a registered domain name every day.

Types of Domain Name Extensions

Domain name extensions are also known as Top Level Domain Names. We have already discussed about TLDs in brief. Let us take a look about 15 major types of Domain Name Extensions.

Initially, .com was the most commonly used domain name extension. Since there were not many Internet users at initial stages, the domain name servers used to offer mainly six types of domain name extensions to offer unique information about specific websites which were,

  1. .int
  2. .net
  3. .org
  4. .edu
  5. .gov
  6. .mil

During those days, .com was commonly used as the Top Level Domain. However, with increasing number of Internet users and with the advent of Internet shopping and marketing, DNS providers realized the importance of offering generic Top Level Domains. In general, these domain name extensions are often used by special interest groups. Some of these domain name extensions are..

  1. .biz
  2. .jobs
  3. .info
  4. .mobi
  5. .tel
  6. .name

With the advent of World Wide Net, Internet became the fastest growing global phenomena and the use of country code Top Level Domains became popular. Some very common ccTLDs are

  1. .in (India)
  2. .br (Brazil)
  3. .fr (France)

Generic Top Level Domains such as .com, .info, .net, .org, etc are the most commonly used domain name extensions and they are also known as unsponsored Top Level Domains or uTLDs. In addition, one can also choose a sponsored Top Level Domain or sTLD such as .museum. These types of domain name extensions are specifically used by specific companies or institutions within a business or industry.

Why a Short Domain Name is Better Choice

While choosing a domain name for a commercial or personal website, it is necessary to consider about the uniqueness and charm of the proposed domain name. In addition, one should also stress more on choosing a small domain name. The benefits of using a short domain name over a longer domain name can be summarized as follows:

  1. A short domain name is easier to remember. Thus, once a visitor arrives at your webpage, it will be easier for him or her to remember the web address of your website so that he or she may revisit your website.
  2. A short domain name for a commercial website will offer greater ease in submitting your website address in various directories. Directory submissions are profitable as they can offer great benefits of search engine optimization.
  3. A short domain name for a business website can help in establishing the website as a brand name. This offers better chance of Internet marketing and business.
  4. A long domain name of a website increases the chances of misspelling. Thus, even if a website succeeds in impressing the visitors, it will fail to attain any promotion through those visitors if they misspell the long domain name of the website. On the other hand, the risks of misspelling of shorter domain name of a website are pretty less. A short domain name can attain a huge praise and promotion through the words of visitors in their personal discussion with their friends, colleagues and family members.
  5. Shorter domain names can easily be promoted through social media platforms while longer domain names of websites are often ignored by social media users.

Certain Tools that help in registering an effective domain name

It is not easy to select a short, attractive, and appropriate domain name for a commercial or personal website. However, there are a number of software and tools that can help a person to choose the best possible domain name for their websites.

Every day, more than 40,000 new domain names are being registered on an average. This huge flood of registered domain names makes it difficult to select an attractive domain name for a new website. However, one can use innovative and effective tool that can help a person to know about other TLDs that have been used to create very popular websites such as del.icio.us. In addition, such tools will also provide full information about the available classy and catchy domain names to be selected for a new website. Some of the very effective tools that can help a person to find, select and register a charming, short and attractive domain name for their website are Domainr, Dot-o-mator, BustAName, Domize, Ajax Whois, Stuck Domains, squURL, and many others. All these services are very effective and any of these can be used by a person to make domain name hunting and registration process pretty rapid, easy and effortless.

How to Find a Good Domain Name Registrar

Before deciding for a domain name registrar, it is essential for a person to confirm that the registrar is trustworthy. The registrar should provide complete information about the whole process of domain name registration and how it works. Certain tips and criteria that will help in choosing the best domain name registrar are as follows:

  1. While a person can easily attain services of an online domain name registrar for their website, it will be beneficial to use services of such a registrar whom the registrant already knows. It is better to take help and advices of friends and colleagues and ask for their experience with the domain name registrar if they have had used the services in past.
  2. Looking for customer reviews about a domain name registrar may help a lot in finding the right service provider. A person may know if the domain name registrar offers proper customer care services for their clients by going through the customer reviews.
  3. A good domain name registrar will actively help in choosing a good, short, and attractive domain name for a new website. Communicating with the registrar before choosing his services will provide better idea about how good his services can be.
  4. Ask about the security systems for the domain name to avoid any fraudulent transfer or stealing of domain name. A good registrar should also offer proper information about the facilities of domain transfer in future.
  5. Going through the websites of different domain name registrars and comparing the charges for their services can help a person in choosing the best and cheapest domain name registrar effectively.

Mistakes to be Avoided while Registering a Domain Name

  1. Before registering a new domain name, one should confirm that the domain name they are choosing is not a trademark of any well known company. Avoiding any trademark infringement is very necessary as trademark infringement is a criminal act.
  2. One should confirm that the domain name registrar is reliable and he will provide proper security for the domain name to avoid any fraudulent domain name transfer.
  3. While registering a domain name, one should avoid choosing such a domain name that provides no information about the objective of the new website.
  4. Often people fail to find any short domain name for their new website and they give up too easily. One should try their best to find a short domain name for their website as it will help in establishing the website as a brand.
  5. If an attractive domain name is not available with the common TLD .com, one should try to choose such a domain name that is available with .com. While all generic TLDs offer same services, online visitors often show more attraction towards websites with TLD .com.
  6. Before registering a domain name with a registrar, it is necessary to thoroughly check the contract and terms of conditions offered by the registrar. This will avoid chances of losing a domain name because of some terms of the contract were violated.
  7. In general, domain name registrars offer services for variable durations such as 1 year, 2 year, 5 years, 10 years, and so on. One should avoid registering a domain name for more than one year especially if they are not fully confirmed about the quality of services offered by the registrar. Registering for longer periods will reduce a person’s chances of transferring domain name legally and he may also face difficulties if the registrar goes out of business within the period of their registration.
  8. Even after paying for domain name registration, one will not be able to use the domain name immediately because it takes time to update the official registry in the set of DNS information. One should confirm the authenticity of domain name and domain name registrar in advance and should ask how much time the registrar will take to get the new domain name officially registered in DNS information record.
  9. One should avoid using explicitly racial or abusive terms in the domain name of a new website.
  10. One should avoid using hyphenated domain names for their website. People often forget to use hyphens while typing a domain name to visit the website.
  11. One should not forget to use specific keyword or keywords in the domain name of their website.
  12. An online entrepreneur who is looking forward to achieve global customers should avoid using country specific domain name extensions.
  13. One should not chose a domain name registrar in haste and should invest enough time to research about the best, cheapest and reliable domain name registrar.

Top Domain Registration Websites

As you may know, it is the domain name that turns the raw IP address of a website into a human-readable piece of text. It is very important to register your website with a quality domain registrar. Your website could be your business. It could be your life. Do not take any risk. Play safe by avoiding cheap registrars. Here are a few quality domain registrars for you to choose from!

7 Ways Freelancing Is Similar To A Corporate Job

When you ask a freelancer why he or she started freelancing, you’ll get answers like ‘I wanted to work for myself’, ‘I love being my own boss’, ‘I freelance for the flexibility it provides’ etc. At the heart of it, all those answers mean the same thing: they wanted to escape the cubicle nation.

While freelancers may indeed have escaped ‘imprisonment’ in a cubicle, they can’t completely escape all the things that made their corporate life difficult. Actually because you’re out on your own now (in freelancing), you have to do all the things that your colleagues in their respective departments do on behalf of the company.

In any case, you should know that there are elements that remain the same in both the corporate working life and when you are out of it, and prepare accordingly.

1. Salary/Rate negotiations

In a corporate job, 9-to-5′ers get a fixed salary and structured pay raise. On the surface, freelancers are the exact opposite. They set their own rates and can raise them whenever they want. In reality however, regular employees negotiate their salary much like how freelancers negotiate their rates with clients.

The only difference is that 9-to-5′ers only do it when accepting a job or negotiating a raise; freelancers do it on a regular, client-by-client basis. So unless you have fixed rates stated on your website, you’re actually negotiating more on your rates than you ever did over your full-time job salary.

2. Accountability

Freelancers boast of not having to be accountable to anyone but themselves. I beg to differ. We’re accountable to our clients. Sure, no one asks us what we’re doing with our time, or checks in on us throughout the day, but on the day of the deadline, the client expect to get their results from you.

Ultimately, a freelancer is accountable to his/her client. Miss a deadline and you can’t simply say ‘Oh sorry, I wasn’t able to meet the deadline.’ Explanations must be given and in most cases, a client is well has the right to dock pay due to your tardiness.

While full-timers report to their superiors, freelancers report to their clients. The accountability cycle is there – it’s just the names and designation of who we report to that has changed.

3. Responsibility

While you might not be completely responsible for a single project or deadline, working in a company gives you a bit of a safety net as far as taking the blame is concerned, when things go wrong. In a corporate setting, the manager takes the rap for a failed project regardless of which of his or her subordinates made the fluke.

In freelancing, congratulations, you get to shoulder ALL the blame regardless of your job function, when things go wrong.

4. Office politics

Office workers deal with office politics and the different behaviors and personalities of their colleagues on a daily basis. From the passive aggressive co-worker to the know-it-all colleague, the limelight hogger to the boss’ pet. If you have ever worked in an office setting, chances are you have seen them all.

Freelancers see these characters every day too – only instead of co-workers, they experience them in their clients. Gather two or more freelancers together and the topic of client personalities invariably comes up.

5. Working after hours

If you started freelancing because you wanted the flexibility of working your own hours or less hours, then it probably didn’t take you long to discover that you actually work more hours as a freelancer than you did as a full timer.

Even though plenty of people work after-hours in a corporate job, for freelancers, it’s basically a must. Freelancers often find themselves working nights and even weekends to meet deadlines. If they want to make a success of their freelance business, working long, hard hours is a requirement.

6. Getting a promotion

In a corporate setting employees get promotions as recognition of their hard work and dedication. For freelancers, it’s pretty much the same, except they give themselves the promotion, or a break, or a raise, or a new gadget etc. Getting a raise in their rates, and handling bigger clients, etc are all part of that promotion.

7. bigger and better opportunities

Whether it’s within the company or with another, corporate employees are always on the lookout for their next big break – be it a new designation, job, benefits or environment. Freelancers are the same.

We’re always on the lookout for our next big client. We’re always looking for bigger and better opportunities that’ll help us earn more. Just as no employee sticks to one company for his entire life, a freelancer doesn’t stick to that one client. It’s simply not in the nature of how a freelance business is done. Sure, every freelancer has clients who retain them but that partnership is not indefinite. Eventually they will move on to other clients.

So what’s the difference?

If there are so many similarities, are we just fooling ourselves into believing we’re better off as freelancers? Is making the switch from a corporate full-time job to a freelancing business just a change in the scenery?

The answer is no. There is a big difference between a full time corporate job and a freelance one: flexibility and control. In a full-time job, you don’t have flexibility. You can’t start work later if you want to go to the gym in the morning, you can’t take the random afternoon off and you certainly can’t just turn off your computer and leave work to go pick up your kids in the middle of the day.

Among other things, as a freelancer, you have control over how much you earn, who you want to work with, what days and hours you work. Best of all, you can raise your rates, let go of clients you don’t want to work with and find more, better paying clients. You have the freedom and control to make all these decisions when you are freelancing, and this is what makes it all worth it.

7 Tips for Successful Side Projects

Designers and developers have unlimited potential and opportunities when it comes to side projects. With your skills, knowledge, and experience you can do any number of different things aside from your full-time work to make a little extra money, or just for fun. Some of the possibilities include blogging, designing stock graphics for sale (like icons, vectors, etc.), designing and selling website templates or themes, running a community website, and writing a book or e-book. Of course, there are countless possibilities, these are just some of the more common choices.

Many designers choose to take on side projects because they can provide a creative outlet where you get to make all of your own decisions, rather than just following the wishes of a client. They can also help to give you something productive to do during down time between client projects, or for those who are working to build a portfolio they can often serve as excellent work samples. Side projects also have potential to make some money, and in some cases they can even lead to a full-time income. They can even provide some excellent networking and collaboration opportunities. So as you can see, there are a lot of reasons for designers to consider taking on a side project.

In this article we’ll take a look at seven keys or tips that will hopefully help to make your own efforts with side projects more beneficial.

1. Know Your Purpose

There are any number of different reasons why you could start a side project. Maybe you are just looking for a project that will allow you to do the things you enjoy, but with more creative freedom than your full-time work. Or it could be that you want to learn some new skill and you’re using the side project to gain experience. For many designers the motivation is at least partially motivated by the opportunity for income. You could be looking for a little extra money on top of your full-time income, or it could be that you’re a freelancer and you’re trying to make more productive use of your time between client projects.

It’s important to know your purpose and your motivation because it should dictate how you go about managing the side project. There is no right or wrong motivation. If your main purpose is to have fun and enjoy your creative freedom, you can pretty much work on whatever you want whenever you feel like it. On the other hand, if your purpose is to supplement your freelancing income you will want to approach the side project with a more organized and business-like mindset.

Your purpose will also have a big influence on the specific side project you choose to follow. If you’re looking to make money you’ll obviously need to choose something with the potential for creating that income. If you’re looking for something that will simply supplement your existing income you may want to choose something that offers the potential to start making a small amount of money pretty quickly. If your goal is to ultimately use the side-project to replace your full-time income, you’ll want to consider the long-term income potential of any projects that you evaluate.

2. Be Realistic About Time Limitations

One of the biggest challenges with side projects is the inevitable time limitation. Take a look at your schedule and try to be as realistic as possible about how much time you really can dedicate to a side project. Do you have a few hours that you can dedicate each week? Is your available time more sporadic and not as frequent? It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an idea for a side project only to realize pretty quickly that you simply don’t have the time needed to make it work. It’s better to consider those time limitations before getting started and chose a side project that will fit with the amount of time that you have available.

3. Consider On-Going Requirements

Along with the previous point, on-going time requirements should also be considered. For example, you may have time available right now to create a WordPress theme or plugin to sell, but will you have the time for on-going support and updates that will be required? The more limitations that exist on your time, the more you should consider projects with a reduced need for on-going time commitments.

Anything that is likely to involve a considerable amount of customer service or support will require that you always have some time available to deal with these issues. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell any items or products, because some items require much less support than others. For example, designing and selling an icon set will lead to a small amount of customer service emails, and most of the requests you do receive will be things like answering basic questions or helping people who may have issues with downloads or payments. Selling website templates, WordPress themes, or plugins will likely bring far more customer service requests, and many of them will involve more time and effort on your part to research and solve.

In general, things like stock graphics and e-books are good for designers who don’t expect to have much time available for ongoing support and service. And things like templates, plugins, blogs, community websites, an online courses are good opportunities if the need for on-going support is not a problem. Also keep in mind that income potential is not equal for all projects. So while top selling WordPress themes will require support from the designer/developer, they also provide a high potential income.

4. Set Aside Time Each Week

Setting aside the time needed for your side project is important. If you’re working a full-time job or freelancing full-time you’ll probably need to set aside some time during evenings or weekends to focus on the side project. Most people, myself included, struggle to get things done on side projects if time is not designated specifically for that purpose.

Each project will have it’s own time requirements, so you’ll need to consider your own situation. If you’re working on something like a book that will take a lot of time to complete, try to find a time in your schedule that you can dedicate on a weekly basis.

5. Start Small and Build

From my own experience, one of the most challenging aspects of side projects is limiting the scope. In most situations it’s easy to try to do too much all at once, and with a limited amount of time available it can reduce the quality and success of the project. If you’re working on a blog or a website as your side project you may have big ideas and plans that you want to implement with the site. In most cases you’ll be better off if you can keep it basic to get started, focus on doing things well, and then expand and add new features or sections of the site later.

If your goal is to create a template or theme club as your side project, focus at first on just creating your first template or theme and doing the best job possible. Then later you can focus on adding more templates and themes, but don’t try to do too much right away.

Time limitations are something that you’ll always have to deal with on side projects. By recognizing the limitation and appropriately focusing on starting small you can build success over a period of time, and you’ll do it on a solid foundation. If you’re trying to do too much all at once it’s easy to get frustrated and give up before you achieve that success that you’re looking for.

6. Consider Sustainability or an Exit Plan

While you’re thinking about how much time your side project will require on an on-going basis, think not only about the time that you will have available, but also about whether it is something that you will still want to be working on a year from now. Also consider if it is possible for the time requirements of the project to grow faster than the income from the project. For example, you could start some type of community website for designers. It’s possible that the site could grow quickly and require more effort on your part to keep it running smoothly. It’s also possible that the site doesn’t produce significant income for you despite growth in traffic and the amount of time you spend working on the site. If this happens, how will you sustain the site? Will you be able to use the income from the site to outsource the maintenance to someone else? Will you be able to quit your full-time job or scale back on client projects to allow for more time on the project?

In addition to sustainability, you can also consider if the project is something that you may be able to sell. If the side project is a website or a blog, chances are you would be able to find a buyer when you are ready to move on to something else (of course, it’s possible that you may not be able to find a buyer that is willing to pay the amount that you want to get for the site). Obviously, the details of the project’s sustainability and your exit plan can change and evolve throughout the life of the project, but it helps to consider these details early on and at least start to develop a plan.

7. Take Advantage of Leveraging Opportunities

Since one of the biggest challenges of side projects is the time limitation, anything you can do to leverage your time can be helpful. If you are creating and selling some sort of resources (templates, themes, stock graphics, e-books) there are opportunities right now to use deal websites or existing marketplaces to sell your products. In general, I think a lot of designers can make more profit by selling resources on their own rather than using stock marketplaces, but when your time is limited there are some significant advantages to using a marketplace. While the marketplace will obviously have some drawbacks (sharing revenue with the marketplace and the chance of having your products buried by thousands of other items), you also have the potential to start selling items without the need to set up your own online shop or to process transactions. It’s possible to leverage the popularity of a marketplace like ThemeForest to get a great deal of exposure for your product without doing any marketing on your own.

Aside from marketplaces, there are also a number of deal sites that present opportunities for selling products. Sites like MightyDeals and AppSumo have huge customer lists that you can leverage, and there are even more deal sites with smaller audiences that can also produce some sales for you. With deal sites you’ll need to be able and willing to offer a deep discount on your product, and then you’ll also have to share the revenue with the deal site. So you’ll be making significantly less per sale than you would make by selling the product on your own, but the volume of sales can be pretty significant. In general, deal sites work best for selling digital products with low customer service requirements. If your product is likely to require a decent amount of customer support you should consider how much you would be making on each sale and determine if that amount is enough to cover the time and expenses needed to support the sales made through the promo.

Leveraging opportunities aren’t applicable only to side projects that involve selling products. If your side project is running a blog, you could leverage your time by accepting guest posts from other writers. There are a lot of people looking for guest posting opportunities in order to get a link back to their own website or blog (usually in the author bio of the guest post). By accepting guest posts you can get content for your blog without the time requirement of producing all of the content yourself, and without the need to hire freelance writers.

You really just want to look for ways to make the most of your time and to work with other people and other websites to improve the results of your project.

Conclusion

The unlimited possibility for side projects is one of the things I love about the design and development industry. There are always ways to have fun and experiment on your own, and making money with side projects is also possible. However, in order for the project to truly be successful you’ll need to make the best use of your time, and I hope the tips covered in this article can help with your own projects.

How to Interview And Work With A Designer And What NOT To Say!

I usually write advice for designers based on my career experiences and horror stories but I thought it was time for an article for design clients to make their design needs a bit easier and more efficient.

How to Interview And Work With A Designer And What NOT To Say!

Dealing with creatives is not as easy as it sounds. The difference in those who think with the rights side of their brain (the “creative side”) as opposed to the left (the “business side”), takes some training and understanding for the best results on projects. There are people who have a balance between grey matter hemispheres but it’s rare that the client and creative vendor both have such a balance. Here are some handy tips to make the twains successfully meet.

 

Finding Candidates For Your Project

You might need a first web site for your business or just want to update your existing one with some new technology, want to establish or freshen your brand or create some paper or digital marketing material. Whatever you need, there are great design studios or freelancers available to deliver your needs.

For the sake of this example, let’s say you need a new web site. How do you find a competent vendor for the development and design?

  1. Ask a professional friend with a great web site who they used. Word of mouth and recommendations are the best and safest way to find great talent.
  2. Google similar businesses as yours and look at their web sites. Is the site well designed? Is the functionality and navigation top notch? If so, scroll to the bottom of the page and see if there’s a link to the designer or design firm that created the site.
  3. Google “web designer, yourtown, yourstate” and then look at their web site. Call the clients of web sites they’ve designed for a reference. If you use someone local, you help your local economy, are able to meet with them face-to-face and they are available for site updates and will become a loyal vendor.
  4. If you want cheap and simple, can do without a creative brief that tailors the site design perfectly to your brand or business and are willing to take a chance on the design, try a site like 99designs.com or designcontest.com. They are not the best avenues but they are cheap and usually provide a generic solution you can use. The downside is you will not get the service you may need for uploading or debugging your site or the expertise a local designer or firm will provide. With contest sites or bidding sites such as eLance or oDesk it’s caveat emptor.
  5. Your niece or nephew goes to art school and you think they will give you an acceptable site for free or $50. FORGET IT! If you want a crappy looking site that will make your business look crappy, then go right ahead but if they screw up and something really goes wrong, do you want every relative in the world calling you to scream about how you hurt little Chris’ feelings or spend some awkward family holiday dinners sitting next to little Suzie and her sharp, pointy goth jewelry?

How Much Should You Pay?

As with any business expenditure, be prepared to pay for quality. If you hire an electrician to wire the power for your office and they quote $7,000 do you really want to chance a beating when you tell them “$200 is all (you’re) willing to spend” or go out and find someone who will actually do $7,000 worth of work for $200? If so, keep lots of fire extinguishers handy and insure your expensive computer equipment for when power surges blow out the processors.

This is not to say you shouldn’t shop around. Perhaps a competent electrician with a good reputation can wire your office for $5,000. Well, you just saved $2,000 and will have piece of mind that you won’t die a fiery death. The same goes for any professional service. A friend of mine was so excited to have bought all of her office phones on a New York City Street for a quarter of what she would have to pay in a store. It would have been a coup if the phones actually had any wiring inside them.

Shop around for a designer but make sure they are wired inside. It’s better to have a reliable source in case there is a problem with your site as a reliable designer will solve the problem right away, saving you income if you depend heavily on your site, rather than trying to go through contest or bidding site channels to get in touch with the person two continents away, in another time zone, to solve the problem… after negotiating another fee and creating the paperwork and contract through that site. Time lost and time is money.

Naturally, the bigger the design firm, the higher the cost. True, there MAY be higher service and abilities (a firm can write content, develop, design, program and come up with branding and a marketing plan… but so can a freelancer in many cases). A freelancer, in many cases, may be freshly out of a big design firm and has the experience to give you whatever you need. Check their résumé to see what other clients they have serviced. Talk to them about how they work and what they see for your own needs. As with any service provider, referral or not, shop around. Most importantly, you should feel a comfortable bond with your creative provider. Trust, communication and transparency are the utmost in your relationship.

When price comes in, do some math yourself. Have you set a budget that’s too low for a professional job? If a project translates to paying $10 an hour to your vendor, it’s too low. Keep in mind you are not hiring someone to come into your place of business and move boxes, staff the counter or shuffle papers. Designers have their own business expenses that include office space (even if it’s a home-based business), computers, computer and software upgrades, electricity, insurance, etc., just like any business. As with the aforementioned example of the electrician, a vendor who quotes $7,000 and then agrees to half that amount is most probably going to cut corners. Expect designers to do the same. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” has survived because it’s true.

Different designers have varying contracts and pay schedules. It’s common to pay 30% to 50% upfront for your project. This is the money used for material, salaries and overhead while your project is being designed. There will most probably be what is called “milestone payments.” Milestones are the points in the project where approvals are needed from you, the client to proceed to the next step in the project. Before the next step is taken, a percentage towards the fee will be expected to be paid before the designer or firm will proceed to the next step. For example, a project may be split with 30% up front, 20% at the first milestone, 20% at the next milestone and 30% when the project is finished and your site goes live.

It’s not an odd way of doing business if you compare it to other business models. Your phone company, insurance agent or internet provider will most probably ask for a payment up front and your attorney will definitely ask for a retainer against future services. Design services are no different. You get what you pay for. You stop paying and the work stops. Delays will, in the end, cost you money for lost business.

This is one big sore point I have heard from many vendors and clients. A milestone payment is missed and the designer doesn’t want to stop the progress as the project is balanced against deadlines for other projects, which can cause the designer money for delivering late to other clients and a client feels that a late payment to the designer will just be a week or two. Personally, I’ve worked for small businesses and the largest corporations. A large corporation can have a check cut in 48 hours and a small business either has a checkbook sitting in a drawer or can call their accountant and have a check within two days. Ideally, the designer or firm should give the client notice that a milestone payment will be due within seven days even if it is listed on the contract with all deadlines.

Transparency

Transparency in the work process is a touchy point for both sides. A competent designer or firm will keep the client apprised of each step of the project. Sometimes just for “hand holding” although daily reposts with attached jpegs may be too much and drive the project price up.

At a talk about design transparency, the firm’s account manager spoke about keeping the client in the loop as much as possible. Such a working method makes sure there are no changes that pop up unexpectedly or confusion about instructions and process. Even in the best of worlds, these can occur from time to time.

At that talk, a freelance designer raised the question of what he labeled, “enigmatic wizardry.” It’s not a term known by any professional and he was asked to explain. He thought it was best to keep a mysterious shroud around the design process. Basically, the client hands over the money and is presented the final project. ALAKAZAM! The magic of design. Nothing could be further from the truth or reality of how the design business should run. It was the first time I had ever heard that odd process mentioned, so chances are, no other designer will have that way of doing business in their head.

As the client, you have the right to ask questions. Call the account manager or the freelancer and ask those questions. Professionals will be happy to fill you in completely. If you are a happy client, it means you will be back for further site updates, collateral material. It’s important to remember that web technology changes quickly and a strong relationship between a business and vendor is essential to keep your web presence up to date and functioning using that technology.

Changes

If the project progresses properly, the designer and client will create a creative brief that outlines the client’s “wish list” for what kind of site, expectations of function and brand building should be achieved. Milestones will include a sketch stage with color palette choices, a wireframe of the entire site and/or a site map of how viewers will navigate the site. Site content of images will be chosen, content written and all facts finalized before the stage of final design ever takes place. Transparency should keep all parties on track but sometimes the client will want changes.

Changes can be as simple as wanting a different color for the background and as impossible as the client seeing another site and wanting to mimic that design. Sometimes it’s just a relative or friend who has decided they are a design genius and negatively critiques the proposed design. As the client, it is up to you to decide on the course of action and accept the consequences. Making changes after a milestone has been approved means extra time and extra money. There’s no way around that and you shouldn’t expect anything to the contrary. Consider if your desire to make changes is merely due to your own insecurity, other people’s egos or you made a mistake and didn’t speak up during milestone approvals. If you’re building a house and decide you want to change the layout after the foundation has been poured, you can understand the need for more time and more money. Although a web site is digital and not concrete and wood changes are still work that needs to be done and someone pays for that. If the fault is yours, then you pay. If the designer makes a mistake, you can bloody well count on them taking the hit.

If everyone is open and honest and the process is all-inclusive, there should be no reason for changes down the line. One thing to watch for is the subjectivity of “design-by-committee.”

Design can be subjective. One person likes red, the next likes blue. One has a childhood trauma about clowns and the next wants prancing glitter unicorns on everything in the world. Put that all together and you have one strange web site. While you may decide that all of your employees should have a say in the web site design, act as the boss and make the final decisions as to what YOU want to see for YOUR business. It is possible to distill opinions into a sound direction but it is also important to recognize the expertise of the designer or firm you have hired. They will not just try to saddle you with the easiest way out. If they do their job correctly and provide you with what you NEED to be successful, then you will want to use them in the future. If you don’t succeed, then the designer or firm must create another client relationship, instead of retaining a growing bond with you and your future needs.

It is respect for each other, along with great service and communication that will lead to great and profitable relationships for both parties. THAT is a sound business principle everyone can agree upon.

Technology Marches On

If you haven’t noticed, the web changes at least every year. What you probably don’t know is why. Programming languages evolve, apps are introduced and technological links between computers, phones and digital pads keep evolving. It’s just like your own cell phone. It seems to be obsolete a week after you buy it. Well, the reason you get the phone for free, with a two-year activation is because the phone IS obsolete and the phone company wants you to buy the newest phone with the newest technology while you are trapped into a long contract.

A designer doesn’t have the same devious plan for your web site, in fact, technology advances excites creative geeks and you will be urged to use the latest technology. Consider the advantages of that technology for several reasons.

  1. You will not have to update your site as quickly as using technology that is a year or more older.
  2. You site will function better with changing browsers and apps for mobile web as well.
  3. Your SEO will be improved.
  4. Your consumer experience will be increased and it will lead to greater sales.
  5. You’ll eventually need to catch up with technology again and you’ll have a trust for the designer’s knowledge of web technology.

As mentioned before, if you have any questions about your site or what this technology can do for you, just ask. Your designer or design firm wants to help you and wants you to be happy. If they didn’t, I suppose they would be a branch of the government… like the Motor Vehicles Department.