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Domain Name Rip Offs

October 16th, 2010

I just received a letter in the mail – a "bargain" – offering to sell me the "rustymangodesign.com" domain name at a fantastic price. Not only that but if I paid straight for the name, I would receive a portable DVD player as part of the deal. Too good to refuse?

Until you read the price.

This letter offered me the domain name for the price of $235.00. I had to read over it twice because surely I had missed something. $235? For a domain name that I could easily register myself for $19.90 / year at Digital Pacific (my choice of domain / server providers)? With the left over cash, I could have easily bought TWO DVD players.

How can they get away with that?

Because it is not illegal, just a major rip-off. This company exists purely due to the naivety of domain owners around Australia – people who don't know better.

I'm writing this entry to my blog to warn my clients – if you have a domain name and one of these letters turns up in your mail box; throw it in the bin straight away. Save yourself some money and register the domain name through a reputable dealer. If you are not sure, contact me for further advice and I'll point you in the right direction.

A Truly Interactive Internet

August 31st, 2010

I've been thinking about this one for a while now – how long will our internet be restricted to reading information from a screen?

I think I have seen the answer to this question and the surprising thing is – it's in a games console. The new X-Box 360 which is being launched later this year comes with a great new feature called Kinect. Essentially Kinect is a camera and motion sensor that you sit below your display and it reads your body movements. Unlike the Wii, you don't need to be holding anything to use the games, it will simply watch your actions and determine movements from there. Pretty cool, huh?

Reminds me of Tom Cruise's character in the Minority Report except he had to use specially designed gloves.

Imagine five/ten years in the future – you can stand in front of your own virtual screen (physical screens will be so passe) and surf the world wide web from there. Want to look at a particular part of the world? Grab the floating globe, give it a spin and zoom in your destination. There's that hotel you want to book into – enter their virtual reception and book a room.

Take physical walkthroughs of the Louvre or the Tate Gallery. Sit in Parliament House and ask questions during question time.

Sounds good to me. There would be a few minor niggles to sort out first. I wouldn't want to always interact with my hands or standing up for that matter. Maybe integrated voice control could be included.

Depending on the implementation of the new Kinect system, this all could become a reality in the near future. I'm looking forward to it – though I may have to upgrade my web design skills.

So you want a website?

April 10th, 2010

You've decided to take the plunge and get your business or organisation online. Then you had a look on the internet and found a local designer that you would like to work with (see my previous blog). What comes next?

If you don't know the answer to that question and the world of websites is a bit of a mystery to you, the following information should get you on your way:

Step One: Establish Goal / Purpose

Anyone establishing a website should have a clear idea of why they are building an online presence. Is it to generate sales? Allow customers to buy online? Disseminate information to community members? Take bookings online? Write down your perceived goal or purpose and talk it over with your colleagues, customers and friends. Get their opinions and ideas as well.

While you're at it, work out who your target audience will be. Do you want to aim for a large demographic or the youth market for example? Write this down as well. Your designer will need this information in order to create a site that not only is functional but is appealing to the right audience.

Step Two: Develop your Brief and content

You know have a purpose. At this stage, some people may feel more comfortable to contact their designer and begin working with them straight away, developing the content as the site progresses. This can be dangerous and may lead to an adhoc feel to your website.

A far better approach is to grab some sheets of paper and start physically laying out your site.

  • On the first piece of paper, re-write your goal / purpose. Underneath, list down the pages your site requires (i.e. home, contact, news, etc). This will form your navigation menus.
  • When your list is complete, put each page heading onto its own piece of paper.
  • Fill out these pages with all the ideas for each heading including notes on content and the imagery required. It may be useful to bring someone else in at this stage (colleague, friend, etc) and brainstorm for a while.
  • When you have exhausted all ideas, walk away for a while (could be an hour or even a couple of days). Relax, Chill out.
  • With a refreshed mind, look through your notes again and scribble away. You may even cross some ideas out!

When you are completely happy with the ideas produced, move onto the next step.

Step Three: Web Designer / Developer

Grab all your notes and head over to your friendly local developer – (I know a great one in Innisfail :-)
For more information on this step, read my previous post "Tips for working with a Graphic Designer".

Step Four: Domain Names / Server / Merchant Account

All websites need a domain name. This is the address that people type in to find your site (for example mine is www.rustymangdesign.com.au). If you are a company, you can purchase a .com or a .com.au domain. If you are part of an organisation, you can purchase a .org domain. Sites such as Digital Pacific have a domain name search page which allows you to search for a domain. The results will tell you if the domain name is available and how much it will cost.

Your site also needs server space. This is the physical place all your website files are stored. Your domain name simply tells the world where these files are. If your site requires the entry of sensitive data, ie credit card information, you will need to pay a little extra for a secured site certificate.

Finally, if you are running an online store, you may need to contact your bank and set up a merchant account so that you can receive payments online. Alternatively you could use Paypal which takes care of all your banking for you and you don't have to worry about your customer’s credit card information being stolen.

Step Five: Go live and promote

When your designer is finished and the site is online, go out and tell everyone about it. Being carefully not to spam anyone, get visitors by emailing your friends and family. Get them to tell others.

To drive your site further, create reciprocal links with other sites, preferably sites that complement each other. For example, I link to Sue Wickes, a specialist in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), a service that I don't provide.

On that note, your designer should have submitted your site to Google at least. For better results, see a specialist in SEO to push your site higher in the search rankings.

A site that doesn't generate visitors is not worth having, so get out there and get some.

Tips for working with a Graphic Designer

March 26th, 2010

Creating a new brand, logo or website for your company or organisation can be very difficult. What can be even harder is handing that task over to a graphic designer and allowing them to create it for you. A huge element of trust is required. Here's some tips to make it easier:

Know your Designer
Don't hand over anything until you have fully "checked out" the graphic designer you want to employ. Any worth-while designer will have a online-portfolio of past projects for you to browse. If you like the style of previous work and firmly believe that the designer has the skills or flair that you require, go on to the next step…

Inform your Designer
Tell your designer everything about the brand / website you want to create. Tell them your choice of colours, what feel you want the site to impart, the call to action you are hoping to inspire, your target audience, sites / logos that you like, sites / logos that you don't like, how many pages you require, what type of content…. Don't leave anything out – a designer with the full picture can create something very close to your vision if you give them all the information they require. Of course, during the design process your designer will contact you for more information but give them as much as you can straight up.

Trust your Designer
Once you have fully briefed your designer, it's time to let them get on with the job. You have seen their work, you have engaged them to design the project for you, now it is time to step back and let them come up with something special for you. Most designers will create a number of "mock ups" for you and will provide these for your perusal and final decision.

Consult with your Designer
You will need to look through the provided "mock ups" with the designer. Try to examine the designs from your clients point of view as this is how they have been designed to work. If small changes are required, ask your designer to carry these out and consult with you again. If you are not happy with the results produced, speak up! Graphic Designers are very proud of their work but would rather produce a efficient design that will work for your company / organisation than settle for a non-working design. Most will return to the drawing board with your suggestions and come up with more great ideas for you.

Finally…..
The key ingredient to a great design is communication. If you have clearly thought out your requirements and ideas in advance, pass these onto your graphic designer. By working in conjunction with them, you will hopefully end up with something special that will exceed your expectations.

Managing a site using WordPress???

February 26th, 2010

So much for my new’s year resolution of updating my blog at least once a fortnight. Fortunately I have been inundated with websites to create (word of mouth advertising is really starting to work for me) so my own site has been a little neglected.

A number of new clients have requested a CMS (Content Management System) to be included in the framework for their sites. This allows anyone with password access and an internet connection to update their own content without the need to install extra software.

My choice of CMS is WordPress, originally designed as a Blogging program. In recent times, web designers have been altering WordPress code, creating extra plugins and designing themes that allow it to be used for the creation of entire sites. There is a huge support community continually adding extra features and best of all, it is completely free.

I have experimented with a number of CMS programs including Joomla however for clients who may not be computer savvy, WordPress is very easy to learn with an interface that is very basic, not confusing.

A couple of links that may be of use to potential WordPress users:

Dean’s FCKEditor – Changes the basic text controls to an interface similar to Microsoft.

CorvidWorks has an excellent tutorial on adding your WordPress content to the front page of your standard site.

DYI Theme is a great “bare” bones theme by Randa Clay that is quite easy to alter to your own needs.

Top 5 ways to get TRAFFIC for your website.

November 15th, 2009

There is absolutely no point in creating a website if no-one is going to visit. Do you need more traffic / more business from your website? Then read on….

5. Get Social

twitter-bird-6There is a million ways to get social on the internet but only the big three are worth contemplating – MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

MySpace and Facebook allow you to create pages for your business from which you can derive traffic for your site. People can join as Fans and listen your “blogs” and converse with you. Why would you bother? If people can find you on a social network, surely they could find your real site. Build a blog and/or chat room into your business website instead.

Twitter is a different kind of beast. Using Twitter, you can establish yourself in networks that are actually interested in you (they “follow” you). By adding tweets that are relevant and link to your site, you could generate a small following for your business.

Be warned however that social media rarely leads to actual sales. A serious prospect would more likely find your business in a search engine or advertisement.

4. Pay for Traffic

The monolith we know as Google makes millions out of this every year. Website owners, just like you, pay Google AdWords for link placement on the right hand of the screen in relevant Google search results. This is known as Pay per Click. When potential visitors click on your Google AdWords, you pay Google a specified amount. If you choose this method to drive traffic to your site, be sure to limit your monthly expenditure or it could prove very costly. I personally ignore these AdWords so as a website owner; I tend to use other free methods instead.

3. Reciprocal Linkage

Links to your site from others are very important for two reasons. One, they get traffic for your site and two, they push up your Google PageRank (see my previous post for more information). Reciprocal links are very easy to set up – simply contact other webmasters in your industry or client base and offer to link to their site if they link to yours. Example: One of my clients, Bluewater Harbour Motel, is setting up a links page for accommodation around Australia and asking other sites to do the same. Not in the immediate area of course, that could be detrimental to business. Best of all, once the page has been set up, reciprocal linking is free!

2. Return Traffic

Give your site visitors something to return for. If you write quality articles in your blog regularly, you may encourage return visits. If you are a photography site, allow monthly calendars featuring your photos to be downloaded as desktop wallpapers. Conduct polls, forums, online meetings, anything to encourage people to return. Regular visitors will pass on your links to their contacts and you will benefit from the snowball effect.

1. Search Traffic

This is the best type of traffic to get. When you are found using a search engine, it means the visitor is genuinely seeking out your services and is a potential client. A good ranking in the search engines is hard to get if you have a lot of competition. To achieve a first page listing in a search engine, you will either need to learn about search engine optimization (SEO) or pay someone to optimize your site and check out the competitors. Front page on Google is achievable but not easy. Example: Using search phrase “Web Design Innisfail” it was fairly easy for Rusty Mango Design to achieve #1. I’ve set aside a fair bit of time in the coming weeks in order to conquer the search phrase “Web Design Cairns”. There is lot of competition therefore I need to look at what phrases are working and how I can optimize my site to grab that elusive market.

Developing a Strong BRAND

November 8th, 2009

In addition to my web site designs, I have been asked on occasion to create logos for various companies. Some people think that logos are simply something pretty to put on stationery and websites. However, if you stop and think about logos, there is much more to them.

Logos form part of the brand for a business. A strong brand is one of the many keys to success as the scramble for customers gets harder every day. Here’s an example:- What automatically comes to mind when you think hamburgers? You certainly don’t think about the local fish shop. MacDonalds has spent millions ensuring that those golden arches are seen everywhere and are synonymous with fast food.

It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.

To create a successful brand, you need to delve deeply into your core business and the perceptions of your clients and potential clients. Look at what you do and what your customers want you to do.

The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:
• Delivers the message clearly
• Confirms your credibility
• Connects your target prospects emotionally
• Motivates the buyer
• Concretes User Loyalty

You do this by integrating your brand strategies through your company at every point of public contact.

Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot.

Why you NEED a website!

November 1st, 2009

It might seem strange for a web designer to blog on this topic. After all, I make websites and I want people to pay me for making websites. I’m not going to dissuade anyone from creating a web presence. But I continually get asked by new clients “Do you think I really need a website?” and my answer predictably is YES.

There are several very good reasons for getting a business or organisation online. Some of them are quite obvious. For example, a motel must have a website. If they don’t, they will miss most of their potential clientele. Tourism operators must have a site for the same reason. Anyone planning a trip or holidays rarely leaves home without planning ahead and the most informed travel agent around is living in your computer.

Another compulsion to get online for some businesses is simply based on what the competition is doing. If you’re not online, you can count that your competition will be. You’d be surprised at the variety of businesses that are online – from lawn services through to your local delicatessen.

What about not-for-profit organisations? They definitely need a site. What better way to repay your sponsors then getting an article in the local newspaper with a web address at the bottom. People go to visit the site and there’s the sponsors logos across the screen, linked to their websites. You can run membership drives for your organisation utilising online forms and surveys. Most importantly of all, you can tell everyone about the work you do and how they should get involved.

In a economic climate where advertising may not seem an option for some businesses and organisation, a web site is a cheap and effective alternative but only if it is utilised properly. After all, if no-one can find your site or it doesn’t convey an effective message – what’s the point?

What’s wrong with Australian E-Retailers?

October 26th, 2009

I’ve just been reading the latest issue of NETT magazine (if you’re into online business – subscribe to it now, it’s full of need-to-know information). In his editorial, Josh Mehlman talks about the online shopping habits of Australians and it spurred me onto a little bit of research of my own. Last year, 6.7 million Australians bought something online. That sounds great doesn’t it? That is until Editor Josh tells you that 43% of that 6.7 million bought their wares from a retailer outside of the country. That’s 2.8 million people taking their money and sending it overseas.

Why?

Simple answer – a majority of online retailers in Australia (and their web designers to a degree) are ignorant of the shopping needs and wants of the average consumer.

Put put yourself in the average online shopper’s shoes. What you want when you go online shopping?
• A fast loading site that is easy to navigate.
• Free shipping if possible – if not, clearly displayed charges.
• Express checkout, not a dozen screens to work through.
• Various options for payment.
• And last but not least, GREAT PRICES.

Honestly, the last point is the kicker. If you can buy something cheaper overseas, why buy it here? I understand that it may not be possible in some cases however the online store is supposed to get rid of the middle men thus reducing the cost.

The web designer can play a major part in the flow of the online shop (note: always include a search option in large online stores) however the store owner must keep the above points in mind at times when moving a store online. It would be great to get those 2.8 million people back to spending their money in Australia.

(Reference: Nett Magazine October 2009)

Two easy steps to BOOST your site in Google.

October 19th, 2009

Ever been offered the Google toolbar? Always knocked it back thinking that it is just a gimmick or worse, spyware? I’ll let you in on a secret…. that toolbar can be a powerful asset in boosting the appeal of your site on Google.

Most of the toolbar I don’t even look at. Just one section – PageRank.

The PageRank is a major player in the algorithm that Google uses to work out a site’s placing in a search response. It needs to be fully explained for it to be understood clearly…

Your site starts with a PageRank of zero – no-one even knows it exists. You could submit your site to Google at this point however it would take months for it to even appear and even then you couldn’t guarantee search placement. Your friend has a site that has a PageRank of four and agrees to link to your site (of course you link back to him – its only polite). Automatically your site “inherits” some of the PageRank importance from your friends site.

You expand further and contact other web masters who also offer reciprocal links on their site. Once again, you “inherit” some of their importance. Before you know it, your site has a PageRank of four and is appearing on the first page of search results.

You can track this progress via the PageRank section on the Google toolbar. Keep building those reciprocal links and watch your site climb.
However this is only the first step in getting your site to the top.

One of the other tactics you can attempt (I’m not going to tell you them all – I do need the business) is tweeking the page titles of your site. Make them relevant to the search terms that your clients would use in Google. For example, I want to extract web design business in Cairns so my site title includes the words “web design” and “Cairns”. Simple isn’t it. Check your site statistics for an idea of the words that people are currently using to find your site – most tracking stats will have a list of the most common words used.

Can’t be bothered to do this? Easy fix…. contact Rusty Mango Design and we’ll do it for you