When it comes to building your company's web site, there are two basic ways to build it. The first method is to use a program like Dreamweaver to build the template, menu, and pages using HTML. Each page becomes a separate HTML file, and all of the HTML files are interconnected. For basic sites, this method is fine.
If you want to have more control over your site, you will want to use a Content Management System (CMS). Compared to the first method, where each page becomes a separate HTML file, a CMS-powered site will store each page into a database. This way, all of your content is stored in rows and columns, which makes it much easier to manage. For example, you could display the latest 5 articles on your home page. If your site is built using a database, you can tell the home page to look inside the database for the most recent 5 articles, instead of creating all of the links by hand in HTML. A real time saver!
There are two basic types of CMS software. One is a commercial license, where a software company charges a setup fee, plus maintenance, for using their software. This Enterprise-level software typically costs a few thousand dollars for the setup fee, and a couple hundred a month for maintenance. Examples of commercially licensed CMS software include Ektron and Red Dot.
The other type of CMS software is Open Source. Open Source software is free to use, and free to customize. It is supported by an online community of developers - thousands of nerds from all over the world (like me) develop, support, maintain, and upgrade the software so that they can use it for their own purposes. Frequently, a client who needs an open-source plugin will fund the initial project, and makes the resulting software freely available. Some developers also build commercial plugins which can be purchased, typically for less than $100. Examples of such Open Source CMS packages include Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, and OSCommerce.
Also, a CMS-powered site will be easier to enhance, upgrade, or re-skin in the future. Many CMS packages will have basic functions like search, rss feeds, and image uploading capabilities built-in. Also, a strong CMS platform (my personal favorite is Joomla) will have a plugin system which will allow you to add features to your site such as eCommerce, photo galleries, client extranets, online communities, discussion forums, and more.
It appears that Google Maps / Google Local Business Center has updated their listings service to include reporting and other data - neat! (see below) If your business is not listed in Google's local business center, you can add your listing here.
We are writing to let you know about an important update to your Google Local Business Center account (log in at www.google.com/lbc).
Your account now has a new interface designed to show you more about how customers interact with your verified business listing. A new reporting dashboard shows statistics about your business listing, like how many users saw your business as a local search result, zip codes where driving directions requests come from, and the top search queries for which your business appeared. Here is a sample of your data:
Business: Covington Creations, LLC
Impressions in the last 30 days: 282
This information and more can also be found here: www.google.com/lbc.
The Google Maps Team
Tip: You can now hire us to manage your Google Local Business listing data, along with other social media and website optimization requirements.
Our project proposals typically include time to customize the site’s design and workflow, load the site's
content, and provide training so that our clients are able to update their sites once the project is
completed. We've had a number of people asking if they could save money on a web project by:
YES! Our new Joomla Setup & Installation package is $750. Hourly support as low as $75:
Here's how it works:
Note: You DO NOT need a PayPal account to complete the transaction.
We now offer online payments for our hosting clients using PayPal. Further, the rate is $120 per year if
you pay for the full year up front. To make a hosting payment:
Note: You DO NOT need a PayPal account to complete the transaction.
On May 30, 2009, I will be participating in the Crohns & Colitis Foundation Walk in Philadelphia. Funding research for Crohns & Colitis is a very important issue as it affects many people - and there is no cure. Please click on the link below to make a donation and support this cause.
[Please Sponsor Me! Make a donation online.]
Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis is CCFA’s national evening walk and celebration and the nation’s largest event dedicated to finding cures for digestive diseases. Participants will enjoy a casual 2-3 mile stroll and raise money for crucial research that wouldn’t even have been possible a few short years ago, bringing us closer to a future free from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Throughout the year, Take Steps enables patient families to join together with their local community to build visibility and awareness about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis while raising critical funds for research. Over 1.4 million American adults and children are affected by these digestive diseases. While many suffer in silence, Take Steps brings together this community in a fun and energetic atmosphere, encouraging them to make noise and be heard.
One in every 200 people suffer daily with digestive diseases. With the support of communities nationwide, CCFA has raised much needed funds that, through research, have brought us closer to a cure. For those living with these chronic diseases, life is a roller coaster of active and remitting disease. However, the opportunity to make life more manageable for patients who live day to day with intense pain, the threat of long term hospital stays and multiple surgeries has never been greater. Please join me or donate to my efforts to support CCFA in finding a cure!
As a business owner, it is frustrating to think that there are potential clients browsing my web site that I may never know about or meet. These people may have found my site by accident, and they might have received my direct mail piece which has motivated them to log onto your site.
What can we find out about these people? Our first stop is Google Analytics, which is a free visitor tracking tool. You could literally spend all day going through the data that Google gives you. My favorite place to "snipe for sales leads" is the Google Analytics "Network Location" report. For starters, this is how we access this data:
In an effort to increase the quality of our services, we are conducting a survey in order to collect feedback from all our clients. If we work with multiple contacts in your organization, we ask that each person submit a survey:
The survey should only take a few minutes of your time and is greatly appreciated. We look forward to working with you in the future.
-Nathan Covington, CEO
In an article released earlier this month, the French Police reported saving millions of euros by adopting Ubuntu, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Windows. This is because open-source software is free to use. It is developed by thousands of like-minded computer nerds (like me) who collaborate to build powerful, effective software.
Open source content management system software is a great way to take control of your web site, and unlike 10 years ago, it won't cost you $20,000 to hire a developer to build it from scratch. Contact us to learn how open source software can help make your web site work for you!
Google has released a video explaining the logic behind bidding on keywords using Adwords:
"Our Chief Economist, Hal Varian, explains the AdWords Ad Auction and how your max CPC bid and quality score determine how much you pay for a click on Google.com."
Disclaimer: Whenever he says, "Google wants to make a good experience for both the advertiser and the user so that they come back and use our services in the future" - he really means, "Google wants to keep advertisers and users connected through their revenue machine."
I've been an AT&T Mobile customer since 1998. In December 2008, I decided to switch from their 'personal' line of accounts into a 'business' account. This was due to better pricing and service/support for business accounts, and since my cell number is also my work & home lines, it made sense. At the time.
Since then, I have had 2 negative experiences with ATT's business "premiere" support team. First, they charged me twice for the month of December. No big deal, only an hour later with a few of their billing support people and they credited my account. Nice.
Then, I realized that they kept sending me bills in the mail. I had paperless billing, and autopay, set up before I switched over to their business plans. Now that I am under a new billing account number, I had to enter my credit card information again, no big deal. Then, when I logged into my account and tried to enable "paperless billing," the control panel choked on my request by saying "A General Error has occurred, please contact customer care." So I did, about 4 times. During these 4 calls, I spent several more hours on the phone with their tech support people, all of which promised that they could fix the issue, and nobody delivered. I have 2 "ticket numbers" in their system about this.
Last Friday, I ended up giving their tech support crew MY LOGIN AND PASSWORD so that they could log into my account and read the error message themselves. It's like they didn't believe me. They entered ANOTHER support ticket, and promised that their IT department would have the issue resolved in 72 hours. Now that it's been a week, I figured I'd write this general letter to AT&T to let you know that I am not going to call back again about this. You can feel free to keep mailing me paper bills, at your expense, I just don't care any more.
It shouldn't be this difficult to help the environment.
Facebook has recently launched a new application that allows people to post comments using their Facebook accounts to 3rd-party sites.
This means two things:
Please contact us if you are interested in adding this functionality to your site!
Note: The software demonstrated below can be adapted to power any existing Web site or customized to specification. For more information, contact us.
I just made a bunch of these nifty tutorial videos to show how easy it can be to update your own web site without any programming skills. To see the rest of them, click here.
Schlosser Steel Buildings came to us with an existing web site and wanted to know about making updates, sprucing it up, and reorganizing the content. We started by converting the site from a standard HTML site to a content management system. We proceeded to fine-tune and build content. Then, we made the overall page wider to better fit today's larger wide-screens.
a. Case Studies, not Projects
Originally, all of the featured projects were contained under "Projects." Each project had a few pictures, and you would need to visit 5 or 6 different pages just to see all of the projects. During the site renovation, we changed "Projects" to "Case Studies." A slight tweak in the menu makes a big change in overall perception.
b. Tabbed Content
For the "Case Studies" and "Products" sections, we added a nifty feature called "AJAX Tabs" to help organize and present the content. These tabs allowed us to add lots of content without making you scroll 3 or 4 miles down the page to see it all. Nice!
c. Search & Site Map
Let's make it as easy as possible for people to navigate the site. For those who can't manage the newly simplified navigation menu, let's add a quick and easy site search function. Studies show that half of all web surfers use Search instead of menus - is your site this easy to navigate?
d. Client Login
We also added a "Client Login" capability to the site. For starters, having a client login on your site will impress people. Even if it's not functional. However, the SS Buildings client login IS functional, and it's a great tool for collaborating with clients and partners - sharing files, information, and more. A small investment in your company's technology can improve productivity and deliver a great ROI.
"It was time for the Lambertville House to update its web site. After listening to a presentation by Nate Covington at the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, I decided to break with tradition and work with a new web builder. My objectives were quite clear, I wanted to streamline the site and increase search engine optimization. After meeting with Nate I was confident that he was going to work hard to understand what was needed to communicate our message to our customers. Nate was a patient listener and it was obvious from the start of the project that he wanted to make sure the finished product would exceed my expectations. The professionalism, attention to detail and overall quality of work has been a pleasure. Nate has provided guidance and useful tools to enhance and promote our site in an easy to understand format. I highly recommend Covington Creations and Nate who is reliable and creative. We look forward to a long standing working relationship."
- Mary Ellen Mason, Proprietor, Lambertville House
We felt the first thing that had to go was the daunting navigation menu because was too long and wordy to let people make easy choices.
We wanted to keep the existing look & feel, but made a few changes:
We added "breadcrumbs" to the top of every page; that way, visitors have a quick and simple way to navigate the site. Plus, it gives plenty of extra text links for the search engines to enjoy. Best of all, the breadcrumb menu is automatically generated by the custom-tailored content management system that powers the site.
b. Lightbox (Thumbnails)
Throughout the site, there are small thumbnails that enlarge to show a full-size picture. The best part? They're also automatically generated by our fancy control panel. Want to swap out the pictures? Just upload new ones to a folder on the web server and, bang. Done.
c. Blog. RSS Feeds. Social Bookmarking.
We added an Announcements section to the Lambertville House site and equipped it with all of the latest goodies. First, adding content regularly to the site will feed Google wonderful content to chew up and help gain exposure for the site. Second, social bookmarking links on all of the new articles allow viewers to share the articles through services like Facebook, Digg, Technorati, and Del.icio.us. The best part? You guessed it. Automatically generated by the CMS software.
d. Search, Site Map
Let's make it as easy as possible for people to navigate the site. For those who can't manage the newly simplified navigation menu, let's add a quick and easy site search function. Studies show that half of all web surfers use Search instead of menus. Also, the site map gives visitors a hierarchal view of the content while feeding Google some more links.
This is part 2 of my "Maximizing Google's Free Services" series. In case you missed the first one, it was about Google Alerts.
Did you know that you can often use Google's "Cached" feature to look at an archived version of a web page? It often comes in handy if you accidentally delete something from a site that needs to be recovered. To use the feature, simply click on the "Cached" link below any Google search result:
Since I spent most of last night reinstalling Windows XP on my MacBook Pro, I figured I'd toss a friendly "how to" article on here to possibly help other people out who find themselves in the same situation: In order to use SP3 with Boot Camp, you need to install Boot Camp 2.1 (Drivers, etc) on the Windows XP Installation FIRST. Note: This does not affect the "Boot Camp Assistant" which is loaded on OSX.
Last week's post about using Google Alerts was a great lead-in for today's post: A real-life example of how using Google Alerts can keep you ahead of the curve:
I've decided to do a bunch of articles on how to use Google to build your business. And this article is applicable for any business; it doesn't matter if you have a web site or not...
This first article will explain Google Alerts - how it works, how you can use it, and why you should have been doing it months ago.
EDIT: To see a demonstration of the Joomla RSGallery2 Community Edition, click here.
NOTE: One of the great things about Open Source software is that there are... thousands... of other nerds (like me!) around the world who develop new things, and share. I am excited to finally be able to make a contribution!
This project started when a client asked me to build an online community for artists to (a) pay a subscription / membership fee, (b) post their work in selected galleries, and (c) communicate with eachother. No problem, I love these types of projects.
WARNING! If you are not a Joomla Developer, anything below this line may cause injury.
At the time, the 2 best options were either RSGallery2 or Gallery2 (bridged). Since neither option really had what we were looking for, some customizations were in order. We have also tested this configuration to work with other components like Fireboard, JEvents, Acajoom, SH404, and more.
http://www.covingtoncreations.com/downloads/ (requires registration)