Finding the Best Website Development Agency

As a business, finding the right web development company is not easy; as there are lots around offering state of the art services at record low prices.

Not to mention offshore companies based in Spain, India and the US – why not work with them. They are after all cheaper (mostly) and may be able to do a better job.

Using a local web development agency.

The main benefit with working with a local agency is that you can visit them and discuss the project face to face. Having an initial meeting with the agency will ensure they are competent and also help in communicating what the project is.

What about using an offshore web agency?

Quality – this would be hard to control if you cannot meet the agency. Skype and webenars are all well and good, but nothing beats a face to face for being able to communicate and discuss.

Remembering that only 10% of communication is verbal, talking on the phone or via e-mail means that the web agency misses 90%.

Which agency if you opt for a UK agency?

There is criteria that most companies look for when choosing a web agency

  • Do they understand the project?
  • Have they experience of your industry?
  • What will it cost?

These are the main things that come up when looking for a web company.

Meet with the agency (as mentioned) is the best way to a/ get a feel for the agency and if they are the sort of agency for you b/ they do understand your project. Many companies will say they understand when they really do not (as no one wants to tell a customer ‘we do not understand’ – could loose the client) understand.

If the agency has worked in your sector previously then they are much better equipped to tackle your project, contribute to is and also second guess to problem solve.

Comparing quotes from local web development companies is really the best way of finding out what the market price is. All companies charge differently and some are quite expensive – to avoid paying over the odds it is advised to get a few quotes.

How to Choose the Right Web Hosting Company

You have made up your mind that you will buy a domain name (or several) and take out web hosting from a website hosting provider.

First some considerations about the domain name(s)

Domain names do not really have anything to do with web hosting and can be registered independently from the hosting package. There are advantages if you have domain name and hosting separate. For example, if the hosting company you selected fails to provide a good service, all you need to do is find a better website hosting company and change the domain name settings. If you have domain name and hosting with the same company and the company ceases trading, the last thing they think about is your hosting or domain name. By having them separate, you are lowering the risk.

Disadvantages of registering the domain name with your hosting company

Many website hosting companies offer to register domain names on your behalf. You think that your domain name is with your hosting company, when, in fact, they register it through some third party registrar for you. You then receive an invoice in 2 years time from a company you never heard of, ignore it, and in the worst case lose your domain name.

Furthermore, in many cases, you will not get access to your domain name details nor will you be given a domain name control panel. Why do you need a domain name control panel? You need to be able to update the contact information for your domain name(s). If you move house for example and do not update you domain name details and for some reason you need to change registrar etc. (or because your web hosting company ceased trading), you are in danger of losing your domain name because you cannot prove any longer that you are the owner of a certain domain name.

Also, a domain name control panel allows you to change email forwarding, web forwarding, and most importantly, the domain name servers, as well as some other settings. Check out 123-Reg if you want to find out more about that.

Larger hosting providers

Have a good look around online and check out different providers. There are many large hosting companies out there such as 1and1. The advantage of registering with a large hosting company is that they have hardly any downtime and their servers will be fast and up-to-date with the latest spam protection etc. Website hosting can be costly though if you register with a large web hosting company and if you want any additional services, you will have to pay for them. Support can be an issue too – you usually have to fight through hundreds of “Frequently Asked Questions” before you are allowed to send an email to their support team. You might also have to call a Premium Rate phone number if you need to speak to someone urgently. These rates can rate from £0.50 to £2 per minute (!) or even more. In most cases, you will receive good support, but in some cases you might be put through to an unexperienced person who has to speak to their supervisor to double-check things frequently – and all that at a premium rate!

The biggest problem with large web hosting providers is that if you miss the annual payment and do not react to their payment reminders – they will remove your website, your account, without further notice. In some cases, there will not be any chance to recover your website. With a large web hosting company, your website is just a number in a very large pool of websites. If they lose your custom, so what!

Web hosting with a smaller web hosting provider

If you find a reliable smaller web hosting provider, chances are that you will receive a personal service, and support questions are answered with a lot more detail and a lot quicker. Most likely, you can call a UK landline or an 0845 or 0870 number which is a lot cheaper than £2 per minute. In some cases, you might be able to receive a reply to your support question – which you sent on a Saturday evening – that same night.

If you miss your payment with a smaller web hosting company, they will most likely call you personally and remind you on your late payment. They are keen to keep you as a customer and will probably not remove your account and your website immediately.

Web Statistics

Ask the web hosting company if they provide extensive website statistics. You want to know how many visitors have accessed your website, what search terms they used to find your website in Google and other search engines, how many visitors you have per day, on a certain day of the week, and so on. Please also ask if you can have access to the website log files. You might think that adding a website hit counter will provide enough information, but that is actually the most inaccurate method of counting your website visitors – and apart from that they look tacky and unprofessional. Your web hosting company should provide statistics that are at least as comprehensive as Webalizer and if statistics are important for you, you need to have access to your log files which can then be analyzed with statistics analysing software (such as Surfstats).

E-Mail issues to watch out for

Before you take out sign up with a hosting company, ask them if they provide SMTP/POP3 which you need to set up email accounts. If you want one or several e-mail addresses with your website – such as [email protected] – the web hosting company needs to provide SMTP/POP3 setup. Some web hosting companies only allow you to receive emails sent to [email protected], but they will not allow you to use these e-mail addresses to send e-mails from. They will simply argue that you can use your Internet Service Provider E-Mail address – such as [email protected] This does not look professional at all, and you should avoid web hosting companies that do not provide SMTP/POP3 service.

Backups

Check with your web hosting company how often backups are made. Usually, backups are made on a daily basis. If you have a large online store on your website and the server room at the web hosting premises is on fire, you will lose all your work if they do not back up their web server files. So please check if they have a backup routine in place.

Free Webhosting with your internet service provider

Please do not use this! Your internet service provider company provide an internet connection. That is what they specialise in. They sometimes “throw in” free web hosting for up to 100 MB or even more. They normally do not provide SMTP / POP3 setup for the sending / receiving of emails related to your website (such as [email protected] ), nor will they provide databases, server scripting language support and such like. Usually, you can only upload websites developed in pure HTML, and in some cases you will not be able to use FTP software for uploading your files and managing your files on the web server. Your business website will probably use some sort of server-side scripting language – such as ASP, PHP etc. and maybe use a database such as MySQL. If your website is with your Internet Service Provider, the support for this service can be poor and the account can sometimes not be upgraded to include server-side scripting languages, and/or databases.

Web Hosting Costs

Web Hosting costs can vary greatly. You can take out web hosting for as little as £15 per year, or you can get web hosting, including 5 email addresses, 100 MB web space (which is a lot for a small business presence) for as little as £30 per year (check out Plugsocket). If you buy a web design magazine, you will see many adverts from bigger web hosting companies. Check out their prices, their policies, and maybe give them a call – you will find out how long it takes until your call is answered.

Do not jump in because it is cheap, and conversely, do not think the service must be great because it is expensive. Check out what is on offer and then make an informed decision.

Website Design Services

If you have ever had an involvement with a website design company, you may well have experienced a great deal of mis-communication, mis-interpretation and missed deadlines.

What seems like the simplest of notions, turns into a 6 month headache.

As an integral part of a web design agency, i would like to offer up some suggestions as to why this can happen.

Let me firstly give you the web agencies argument, then i will reveal how this whole sorry process can be avoided and save you hundreds if not thousands of pounds at the same time.

An agency works to a spec document, usually prepared by the client or as a joint effort. A paper sitemap is created so we can see the site hierarchy and what links to where.

When this phase is complete, our web designers will begin to create a graphical interface to display your content in the best possible way.

This is where the first MAJOR problem occurs.

As professional web designers, we will proceed to create a website that delivers your business or personal goals, this has a direct impact on site design and layout.

Let me give you an example:

If we are tasked with creating an ecommerce site for selling a product, we will create a homepage where the visitor is guided into the sales process, every click they make takes them further down the path to the sale, after all, an ecommerce website should sell right?

Not according to some clients no, far better in their eyes, to have a beautifully sculpted landing page showcasing the latest and greatest web 2.0 or flash movie intro, culminating in the inevitable ‘click here to enter’ button, centred on the page.

To hell with search engine optimisation, they want their site to look the best!

This is always a bad start to a client / designer relationship and sets alarm bells ringing at web design hq with distant cries of ‘Oh no. we’ve got another one..’ emanating from the design office.

Sure, if you’re a big brand looking to release and market a new product then knock yourself out, but for Joe Bloggs paperclip sales? I think not.

This brings me to my second point – logo’s.

Do you really think that your company is SO important to the end user that they MUST be subjected to the monstrously oversized logo you are forcing the design team to integrate. What’s more, after we submit the site to you for initial sign off – 99% percent of the time we are sat waiting for the ‘can you just make the logo a bit bigger’ phone call.

Your site should be about the product or service, it’s not about your logo, keep this in mind next time you think half a page is ‘reasonable’ logo space.

It’s amazing how many clients play at ‘designer’ once the ball starts rolling.

So after wasting days or weeks on design tweaks that detract from your business goals, we finally submit and give you what you want, a site based on ‘this great site i saw on xyz.com’, a site i should mention that is already old fashioned and already out of date. We work for the future, not the past.

Just to point out that i’m not ranting here, this is cold hard fact, drawn from actual daily experiences.

The next stage can be even more disastrous, the integrating of content.

Now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of the project, the promise of content and imagery suddenly seems like a distant dream. We hear week upon week that the content is nearly finished, but it isn’t, it isn’t even started.

Many clients are under the illusion that writing content is easy, until they begin the task. Nobody likes writing content. Every word or paragraph is important and can be the difference between delivering the right or wrong message to your audience.

It’s not unusual for a web design agency to wait 6 months for content to materialise, it’s even less unusual for us to be asked to write the content. Why not just ask us to do this in the first place?

All the procrastrination is costing money.

For those that do bite the bullet and write the content themselves, they become lost in the Sitemap, many convince themselves that the sitemap is actually incorrect and that a new one should be generated?

This has massive implications, the web site design could well have to be broken down and re-started in order to accommodate the ‘small changes’ to the structure.

It’s not unusual to re-start a project several times, as the real aims of a website finally dawn on the client. By this time, the ever humble web agency is so brow beaten, that they simply agree, in the hope that the project will at some stage be put to bed.

I can fully empathise with the client, i realise that intervention isn’t intentionally done to upset the applecart, it’s just a lack if education and i don’t mean that in an offensive way.

To really drive this point home, imagine that you are a roofing contractor, highly specialised and having gone through years of professional training. You are half way through fitting my new fandangled roof when i casually pop outside and tell you that i think it will look better if you put it on upside down.

Now here’s the good part.

There is a new breed of web design agency surfacing. One where the client is rewarded for allowing the agency to perform their task without interruptions.
The client is asked to create a list of page titles and create content for those pages in advance. The also collect and imagery they wish to use. Design wise they provide a suggested colour scheme and a list of website they find inspiring (for design cues). Lastly they provide a list of keywords that will shape the tone of the site i.e fun, modern, contemporary, corporate.

All this material is submitted to the agency and that is the last input the client has.
The agency can then use the submitted material to create a fully functional website within a very short timeframe.

The client has to trust that both his submitted information is correct and that the agency will do a professional job.
The clients reward for this is a huge cost saving, sometimes thousands of pounds on a single project.

The agency is allowed to provide a professional service with a lightning fast turnaround time.
Now in the real world, there will always be clients out there who want to control the web design process, but for those who recognise that the job should be left to the experts, the rewards are multiple.
It certainly pays to be prepared doesn’t it?

10 Things You Should Check While Selecting a Web Hosting Company

One of the most important factors for the success of a website or blog is to select the right web hosting company. It is essential to choose the right host or all your hard work might go in vain and even worse, lost! There are thousands of hosting service providers and one of the most crucial questions for any webmaster is to select the right host. Below are 10 points to guide you on selecting the right hosting company:

1. Reliability: The first and foremost criteria in selecting a host is the reliability of the company. The worst scenario for a webmaster is that the host suddenly shuts down one night and all your data and hard work is lost in vain. To avoid such situations, it is important to always opt for reputed and reliable hosting service providers.

2. Price: The second most important factor is the price as it needs to suit your planned budget. The price differs as per the contract length and the hosting resources in most hosts. So, the right ploy is to plan both of them accordingly. For a new webmaster, I would advise you to go for 12 month contract and to start with a basic plan for the web host. As your website grows, you can upgrade your plan and opt for longer contract terms.

3. Uptime: Uptime of a web host is one of the most important that should be taken into consideration while selecting a web hosting company. If your website is down most of the time, then it will never be able to get established properly. So, opt for a hosting which has an uptime of 99.8% at the minimum.

4. Bandwidth: Bandwidth is a deciding factor if your website eats up a lot of bandwidth. Bandwidth is calculated monthly and it is the total amount of data transfer that takes places from your website. Many reputed web hosts provide unlimited bandwidth nowadays and it is advisable to opt for them.

5. Space: Does the hosting provider have enough space for your needs? If you use a lot of static objects such as images and files in your website then it is advisable to go for web hosts with high disk space if not unlimited.

6. Speed: Speed is mostly ignored while choosing a web hosting company but very few realize that it is one of the most important factors in the growth of a website. Website visitors leave a slow loading site a lot faster compared to a fast loading website. Even Google and other search engines take website speed into consideration. So, you should always select a fast web host instead of a low loading one.

7. Control Panel: Control Panel is important for administering the hosting account and maintaining it. cPanel is the hosting panel that we recommend due to its ease of use and features.

8. Installed Packages: If you are planning to use a definite script for your website, then it is important to check the requirements of the script. PHP5, MySQL, GD Library, CGI support etc. are some of the basic requirements for most scripts. Many have their custom requirements too and so make sure that the host supports all the requirements of your script.

9. Features: It is always better to opt for hosts which provides additional features. So, read about all the features and benefits of the web host before signing up with them.

10. Email: If you need email for the domain then it is advisable to make sure that the web hosting company supports email accounts and enabled access to POP and IMAP Email. A nice webmail client like RoundCube or Horde helps in reading the emails from inside your hosting panel.

Hope that the above points would help you in selecting the right hosting company.

Cheap Car Auctions – Discover the Best Places to Buy Your Favorite Luxury Cars at Dirt Cheap Prices

If you are looking to buy luxury cars at cheap prices then online cheap car auctions can help you to get your dream car at your home quickly and safely. Have you ever wondered how your next door neighbor is able to afford new shiny Lamborghini with all the latest accessories? Do you really dream of driving such luxury cars everyday? Read further to discover the truth of how your neighbor or any other common man can afford to buy such costly cars at dirt cheap prices.

The answer to your question is the government vehicle auctions. These auctions are held by government all across the country everyday. This is the place where you can buy variety of luxury cars from BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Honda, Cadillac, Acura to Lexus, Nissan, Ferrari and many more at almost fraction of their original prices.

How government is selling these luxury cars at such low prices?

The cars which government is selling through auctions often comes from various criminals. Government usually seize these types of illegal luxury high end cars and other vehicles as a result of criminal investigations.

The government needs to spend a lot of money for maintenance of these high end cars. Plus these cars occupy lot of government properties which can be used for other development purpose. This is the reason government authorities usually sell these cars through auctions at such low prices.

Why should you buy the cars at these cheap car auctions?

1) You get the opportunity to buy variety of luxury high end cars at dirt cheap prices

2) Any person with a valid license can take part in these auctions

3) Very few people know about these types of government auctions. This is why you stand a good chance to win the auction and get your dream car quickly at your home.

4) There are few government car auction websites available online which provides you the opportunity to find all the ongoing auctions all across the country and to place the bid on any type of car you want from the comfort of your home.