SailfishWeb Blog

Doing Battle With Service

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tank Service is the part of the web site that you would imagine has always been part of web service. Items like, "Would you add this page?", "Can you change this text?", and "Swap out that picture with this one."

This was fine and dandy up until about 2005. Around that time, a new web site was created called It was the first push of a major web site where anyone could sign up for free, it was easy and you could post anything you wanted to in terms of text and picture. In other words, people could make changes themselves. How cool.

Ever since, the business has been looking for this feature and ultimately trading it with the service part. I want to be able to add pages myself. I want to make those text changes myself. I want to be able to swap out that picture myself.

There's nothing wrong with this. This is one of the driving forces behind content management systems or CMS's.

Now when it comes to businesses, someone has be responsible for making these changes. This means that Don has to be told and understand that it's his responsibility to make changes to the web site or his part of the web site. He has to understand how do do so.

What happens is that everyone can make some changes but Suzi in such and such department doesn't want to. And Marilyn in another department doesn't want to learn all that "new web site stuff." And Dennis in marketing tries but he never does it right, leaves the pics at 300dpi and it takes forever for the page to load.

Soon parts of the web site are correct, some are wrong, some are missing and the whole thing is mess. This is where service can come in handy.

The Price of Hosting

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The price of hosting varies between web site host companies. Here are a few factors to consider.

The server that the web site is on is going to have to be maintained. Just like your regular computer or smart phone, periodically the item must be updated. These updates include security packages, bug fixes and newer technology.

Sometimes these updates go as planned any everything works great. Sometime, they don't go as planned and items get broken.

Well, the same thing goes for servers. Someone has to actually update the server and ensure that it is running correctly. This takes skill, knowledge and time. Paying someone so that you don't have to is a very good idea.

I remember talking to an aircraft broker vendor who supplied technology in that industry. While on the phone, he said that I should go to his web site; www dot his-web-site-name slash support. So I tried.


The web site came up but nothing was there. I told him such and he nearly went ballistic in my presence.

He started explaining that they host their web site locally in the office on a Windows 2000 Server. He further explained that it periodically gets hacked into and they have to restore from backup to get it working again.

There are so many items wrong with his story, I don't know where to begin. Self hosting? Windows 2000? Self maintenance? Only option is to restore from backup rather than fixing the security issue?

They will spend hours trying to fix this correctly. What they should do is outsource their web hosting to a trusted partner. Having a good host is worth the servers weight in gold.


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Is your super host, super bad?
Is your super host, super bad?
Hosting is hard to explain to businesses who never have been involved in a web site project before.

Basically, a web site is going to be running every month on a 24/7 basis. Therefore, you as a business must pay every month to keep it going. This doesn't include "unlimited free changes" to your web site. It includes one item, the web site is turned on and running.

Well, on the surface it's simple. There to tons of options to choose from when you consider low-end options. They wow you with fancy ads, the promise tons of space and, my favorite claim, unlimited bandwidth (which doesn't exist).

But you start to hear the horror stories of these low end hosts, you may consider other options.Stories like what?

I had one client hosting over seas in Europe. Bad idea. One night, the web site shutdown. They couldn't get a hold of anyone. After a few days, they called us asking what we could do. We had them up and running in 24 hours. Moral of the story, don't host overseas. Better yet, host in your own time zone.

Another client had their site go down, this time state-side. They tried calling but the host doesn't take phone calls. They tried emailing but the email bounced back. What's a business supposed to do?

Some servers actually get physically stolen from their location.

Some servers go belly up and there's no backup of the data.

Sadly, most servers get hacked or broken into.

Having a local company hosting your site, who proactively maintains the server and backs it up is worth the server's weight in gold.

CMS Expo

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Doug Kruhm at CMS Expo in 2010
SailfishWeb at CMS Expo in 2010

Here's a short break from our tour of explanation of business web sites to talk about web site conventions.

I love conventions. Mainly because I make friends with other people who are just like me. It gives me a sense that I'm not alone in the world. Most of them are more successful in terms of business stature, so it works out for us.

They also don't mind sharing information. They share what works like payment schedules, scope of work and contract clauses. They also share what doesn't work like building on faith, giving discounts for friends, and large office space.

SailfishWeb was born from these ideas. From other sucessful businesses in other areas of the world, bringing ideas and sharing them with members who are "a part of the club."

My favorite convention is the CMS Expo in Chicago. We went in 2010 and started meeting others who we still keep in contact with today.

A CMS is a Content Management System. Basically, it manages the content on the web site. It allows companies to make changes themselves. More importantly, it seperates the content of the site from the design of the site. This means that as a web site grows and changes, the content can remain the same but still change the look and feel of the web site.

It exposes us to great CMS's like Joomla, Drupal, Plone, WordPress and EZ Publish. We meet wonderful people like Jen Kramer, Ryan Cozimek, Rick Blalock, Jonathan Lackey, Cory Webb, Kyle Ledbetter and Avery Cohen.

We'll be going again in 2011 as I just got the invite. If you are going to be there, let us know so we can meetup and say hello.

Price of Design: Part II

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Don't play around with parts missing.

The design of a web site is like redoing a kitchen; you don't know how much it's going to cost until you know how big it is. Just like each kitchen is different, each project is different. Consequently, pricing a web site design requires finding out more details about the project.

Just as redoing a·kitchen, the largest cost of web design is in the customization. With a kitchen, you have two options. Sticking with standards already built or completely customized.

With a kitchen, if you stick with what's already built and provided at places like Home Depot and Lowes, the price is lower, the design looks good and the build time is shorter but you are limited to what they have. In addition, your kitchen may look very similar to your neighbors as they shopped the same place you did.

If you customize a kitchen, the price grows because you have to hire a carpenter and order raw materials. Also, the timeline lengthens but you are unlimited to what you can do. The look and feel of the kitchen is completely yours.

These two options are available in web design as well. If you stick to what's provided, this is a template. The other option is customization.

Templates are a very good option. The price is right, they look good and they are well tested. This means we know they are going to work in a variety of different places like on a desktop computer, on a laptop, on a phone and on an Ipad. You still have to get the template working, which is sometimes harder than it seems.

However, large businesses should never use a template unless you can be certain of it's uniquness. A large business web site can't look exactly like another as it's obviously asking for all sorts of trouble including legal. Besides, it's just tacky.

The Design: Part I

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What does this pic say about your target client?

The design of your web site is more than meets the eye. It tells your customers and potential clients the same items other web sites tell you.

Have you ever gone on vacation to a place you've never been? You going to spend a significant amount of money. You can only spend it one time. Once it's been spent, it's gone. There's no second chances here.

What do you do? You talk to family and friends and see if anyone has any recommendations. You do your own research. Most of the time, this research is on the web. You are considering your options and narrowing them down based primarily on web elements, whether these elements are recommendations or design.

Looking at pictures, looking at web sites, forming your own opinions from these items. What do these items tell you? What do the details tell you? How does the site make you feel? Can you complain about the web site?

This is how you need to approach your web site design. People are judging you based on web site design. It isn't fair but it's true.

Here's a simple LOOK & FEEL chart we sometimes use to get people thinking. Circle what you want:

Fun Serious
Light Dark
Personal Corporate
Affordable Luxury
Modern Time Tested
Youthful Aged
Spring Summer
Autumn Winter

If you as a business owner spend very little dollars on your site, let me tell you something, it usually shows. If you spend very little time on your web site, let me tell you something, it usually shows.

Show your customers that you care. Spend time, effort, energy and dollars into your web site.

3 Parts of Web Site Service

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There are 3 main parts to pay for when you decide to tackle a web site project.

Design (& Setup)

The first part is the design. The design says much about your company. It legitimizes you before you even meet your client. It tells them if your company is a hobby or a professional service. If it's professional, it should look like it.

Professional designs are gathered either by ready-built templates or by custom design. And if you're a business owner, let me give you a tip... don't design it yourself. Please. Every business owner designed web sites look terrible.

Ready-built templates are affordable. But don't be surprised if you find another web site looking just like yours. Custom designs are great but they can be costly and usually come with some bugs as they typically aren't thoroughly tested.

Businesses should have a professional custom built design to match their overall marketing plan.


The second part is the hosting. Web sites must run everyday without failing. Web sites live on servers. This means your web site has to be on a server that is on everyday without failing. In short, this is hosting.

Most people will pay for this on a monthly basis. Cost depends on services offered, internet speed to the server and backup equipment in place.

Businesses should have business hosting either a fully dedicated server or servers dedicated to hosting business web sites only.


The third part is web site service. Do you want to call someone or just email them? Do you want them to pick up right away or can it wait 2 days? Do you want them to make changes right away or do you want quoted every time you change something?

These are the questions you have to ask when it comes to service.

Businesses should have a monthly retainer with a web company who is ready to respond and make changes right away.

Total Cost

The total cost of the web site is a combination of these three main parts; design, hosting and service.

Over this next week, I'll talk about the combinations of these three parts.

Web Sites Take Work

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I meet people everyday and in the course of conversation, the subject of occupation arises. I spout off my mantra-ed elevator pitch and· tell them I run a small but dedicated web site company for small to medium sized businesses.

The responses I get vary but there's a certain section of people that "have this hobby." Or they "have this idea." Or they think "there should be a web site that...". And fill in the crazy blank.

I'll ask a few feigned questions to see how much they have thought about their dream web site. If they have thought about it thoroughly, they start rattleing off details like you wouldn't believe. If they haven't thought about it at all, they'll just say "That's it. A web site that" and they'll repeat their eariler claim to visionary stardom.

There is no stortage of ideas. There isn't a shortage of desire. There isn't even a shortage of money. There is only a shortage of work.

I think I'll start asking, "Is this a dream, a hobby or a goal. If it's a dream, you'll just talk about it every time I see you but you'll never do anything about it. If it's a hobby, as all hobbies, you'll throw money at it, work at it here and there, progress will be slow and you'll probably lose money on the deal. If it's a goal, you'll budget money for it and schedule time for it."

I am convinced the only difference is the budgeting of money and the scheduling of time.

Decide what your web site is to you. Even if you just have a blog, schedule time to work on it every week because that's what it takes.

How Much Control

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One question that we keep bumping into is, "How much control should we give the client."

The question of control isn't a power struggle, we are way beyond that point in our careers. The question of control is a matter of time, effort and energy.

We want to be able to allow the client to make changes but we don't want to be spending our days teaching how to's and html. We want the client to be able to feel as is they have the power to change something if they want to. We don't want to spend hours fixing something they broke.

We already heard the words, "All I did was..." and "I tried to move it a little to the right." Seemingly harmless words but the truth is that everything was working fine and then suddenly everything wasn't. Someone is going to have to fix what is broken.

Who should pay that cost? The client? But then again, we're trying to make our clients happy. Us? But then again doing work for free is no option.

"But we already pay you." Yeah, clients pay for access for us to work on their site. We really don't have anything in place that says we have to stop doing everything and give the focus on them for the next 4 hours because a client was tinkering around with their site.

To answer the question, we usually give access to make text and wording changes. They can also add articles and pictures as people would on a blog or social media web site.

We usually reserve the access to major changes only for qualified staff. Major changes are removing, adding or deleting any type of web block or section of the web site. We also put menus into this category, so any menu changes are restricted as well.

This is a fair balance for both client and web master. Client can add and change what they need. And that makes everyone happy.

If Billion $ Companies Can Get Attacked, What About Your's?

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Wired reports that web sites such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Amazon were successfully hacked recently. Consequently, arrests were made in the Netherlands of a 16-year-old boy.

Here's the report:

Along with other info, Mastercard has posted the following on their homepage:

"MasterCard has made significant progress in restoring full-service to its corporate website."

Here's a couple of thoughts from the recent news:

  • web sites are powerful. In this particular case, we're talking national security, jail time and law makers.
  • web sites are global. There's no way around it. Once you go web, you're global.
  • if these billion dollar companies can have issues, so can you.
  • web sites are immediate. Once you push the button, there's no turning back.

As a small or medium sized business, you need to have a web partner that can assist at time of disaster. Also you need to internally have some type of "publishing" structure that ensures that only desired material gets published. Finally, you need to have high-end hosting with a reputible company that can provide personalized service.

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