You Need To Own Your Online Identity

[stag_dropcap font_size=”100px” style=”squared”]I[/stag_dropcap] was inspired to write this blog post based on an article that surfaced in my Facebook feed about Appetas, a restaurant website service, that up until now, offered restaurants a turn-key solution to having a website with useful integrated features such as menus, online ordering etc.  It’s not the worst idea in the world by any means, an affordable, easy solution for an industry that typically has low margins, and little to no internal resources for such a thing. But today’s announcement is exactly why I’ve consulted not only restaurants, but all businesses to stay away from turn-key solutions like this for one simple reason; you don’t own it.

Appetas announced today they were acquired by Google. Great for them, not so much for their customers. In their blog post announcing the acquisition, they are shutting down the service and will work with customers to find alternative solutions. How would you like to be one of these businesses that put your website and trust into these folks now to only be left having to find something else?

Clearly they had a successful product to have been acquired by Google, and I’m sure there is a place for this sort of product in the market. But as long as I am in a position to consult with businesses, I’ll never recommend this path. While using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., is a must in your overall online strategies, the fact is, you don’t own these platforms and you are at the mercy of the changes they make, and ultimately the shut downs that can happen. You can’t allow your entire online identity to be owned by others, which makes it that much more important that your website is owned by you. For you to control, for you to avoid being shut down and looking elsewhere.

Is it more expensive? Up front, yes, in the long run…not at all. The evolution of platforms like WordPress have made it easier and more affordable to get your own website up and running. Diversify your online presence, and make sure where you are isn’t entirely owned by others. Or you may end up like some of the unfortunate customers of Appetas.

5 Great Tools For Finding A Domain Name

I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial in nature and constantly am thinkingDomain_0 about new ideas for websites, blogs or businesses.  Needless to say that often has me frequently looking for good names to inspire me enough to go through with those ideas.  I always feel like if I can actually find an affordable name, it’s more likely that I’ll see them through.

Of course it goes without saying that finding a good domain name is incredibly hard these days.  Practically every .com you can think of is taken, but by using some incredibly useful tools and sites I’ve found over the years, with a little searching and patience, you’d be surprised at what you can find.

  1. DomainHole.com – This is a newer site that I’ve found recently that I really like.  They’ve got a really nice suite of domain tools, and one that combines them all that make searching quite simple.  Very nice layout and intuitive.  Even some crazy game you can play that involves available domain names.
  2. Wordoid.com – Sometimes you want a brand”able” or made up name that you can define.  This is a great tool to help you find something that is usually very difficult to find and helps you brainstorm a bit.
  3. SnapNames.com – If you’ve got a few more dollars you’re willing to spend this is a great marketplace to search for names that are often a bit higher in quality.  You can also search out newly or soon to expire domain names.
  4. Nameboy.com – Another tool I often use that lets you choose or combine words and provides a list of other suggested names you might want.
  5. Sedo.com – One of the largest aftermarket domain sites out there.  I often find myself searching here when I need something I know is going to require a few more bucks to get.  Great search tools.

What tools have you used that you’ve found useful?  Leave your suggestions in the comments section and I’ll update this blog post with the best user submissions.

5 Sure Fire Ways To Lose Website Visitors

I’m always surprised at how many sites use questionable tactics with theirimages websites that most certainly drive away readers.  In some cases these decisions are certainly centered around monetizing a site, but in others, they are simply mind boggling.  I’ve taken the past few months to really gather some feedback on how I’d like to evolve my blog in terms of making it more reader friendly and call to action oriented, but I can assure you that I would never consider any of the following tactics in any site I owned or consulted on.

  1. Make them click through multiple pages for lists.  This always drives me nuts.  I get the idea here.  You usually catch this with bigger name sites and really all they are trying to do is drive up their web traffic numbers.  Let’s be honest, it’s not a good user experience, so the only reason to make people click through a new page for every list item is for the site owner’s own benefit.
  2. Buy this, download this, or subscribe to this pop ups.  Pop up ads were all the rave back in the early days of the net, and the ugly beast seems to have been reawaken in the form of blog owners trying to get new subscribers  to their blogs.  Again, an awful user experience, and there are better ways to accomplish this (see Hello Bar).
  3. Sites that “disable” the browser back button.  This is just maddening.  What could possibly be the reason for adding JavaScript to your site to make it so that I can’t back out of your website?  Do you really think this is going to either stop me from leaving or encourage me to stay?  Not a chance.
  4. Go ad crazy.  I’m all for monetizing sites to continue to offer great free content, but not at the expense of monopolizing the screen real estate of a site.  Ads should compliment your site’s content, not be the focus.
  5. Make it difficult to consume your site.  Whether it be bad font choices, colors, poor navigation or a lack of search, the harder you make it for me to consume your site’s content, the more likely I’m out of there.

The How & Why I Re-Designed My Blog

For months I wanted to have my blog re-done, but I could never justify spending that much on something that quite frankly, didn’t really make me any money.  Great design costs quite a bit, and I just never felt my blog design was a high enough priority.  Of course I could go the free or premium theme route, but these days, they are all really looking quite the same and if I was going to change things up, I really wanted something unique that no one else could have.

Once I got the new job at Strategies 360, I felt the time was right.  My blog has opened up countless doors for me, so even though it does not directly make money for me, it most certainly indirectly does.  The time I’ve spent on this blog has certainly contributed to my success professionally.  I found a great Perth based website design company by simply researching WordPress theme designers on Google that was priced well, and had a great portfolio.

If you’re ever considering a custom design, there are some great steps I recommend to ensure you end up getting what you really want.

  1. Take the time to find a designer who’s portfolio resonates with you.  Chances are if you really like the sites they’ve designed, they possess a style that will match your likes.
  2. Be VERY specific about what you want.  I actually took additional time to create a list of blogs that I loved, and what specifically I liked about them.  This cut down tremendously on the mock-up back and forth.  In fact, my designer practically nailed it on the first try.
  3. Get multiple quotes from desired designers.  The business is always up and down and depending on when you hit a designer, he may be willing to take less if work is scarce, but don’t nickel and dime.  A great designer is worth every penny and too often this talent is under appreciated.

However if the price tag always seems too high, your next best bet are from resources like Themeforest.net and ElegantThemes.com, 2 of my favorite premium theme sites.

I’m happy with version 1 of my new site and would love your feedback.  I look forward to writing more and taking advantage of the new outfit.

5 Awful Website User Experiences

One of the most frustrating things I experience on a regular basis is bad website UI.  The worst443014_f496 thing about it is that most times, websites do them on purpose to increase click-throughs or drive traffic to their websites.

1. Paged Lists.  I’m a fan of lists, who isn’t.  They are easy to read, usually generate high traffic, and make collecting your thoughts easier.  But what drives me nuts is websites that actually put each item on it’s own page making you click through every one to read the entire article.  The premise here is simple.  The website owner is trying to increase their page views, which in theory, increases the value of their ad space.  It’s an awful user experience, and I usually turn away anytime I come across one.

2. Walled Content.  Unless your charging for your content (and justifiably so), don’t make users register on your site to access content.  We already have enough logins and passwords to manage, and don’t need any more.  Exception here is if you use Facebook Connect or the Twitter API to allow users to use their existing social media profiles to log in.

3. Opening Links In New Windows.  Ugh, I don’t need you to control my browsing experience.  If I want to open a new window, I’ll take care of mmmm’kay?  Usually some websites will have external links open new windows, but the biggest perpetrators are the ones who actually feel like opening new browser windows for the same site is a good user experience.  Ummmmm, no.

4. Pop Overs/Unders.  This is just uncalled for.  Seriously, you want to monetize your site?  Fine, slap some ads on the actual page, but don’t litter our screens with pop up ads.  In addition to being a terrible user experience, the click through rate on these types of ads is beyond abysmal.  Not even worth it.

5. Splash Pages/Ad Intros.  I don’t need an official announcement to your site, I already know where I’m going, and I definitely am not interested in an ad before visiting either, I get enough of that on TV.

Those are my top 5 website pet peeves.  What are yours?