Managed Web Hosting

EduCyber offers something called managed web hosting but we have a unique way of handling it. Whereas other firms offering this service automate, automate, automate; we take the time to look at your site. We log in and make sure that your plugins are up-to-date.

We update plugins and core files to make sure your site is secure and has the latest features available. That alone is a huge comfort for our clients. We recently acquired a new hosting client who has a WordPress site and was scared to update the plugins in case something broke. We did the updates for him and verified that everything was working. We even discovered several plugins that weren’t being used. By uninstalling them we sped up the site and made it more efficient.

We provide several layers of security. Our web servers have a firewall that stops most of those with nefarious intent. For our WordPress customers we use a special plugin that stops hackers who try to get to the backend by guessing passwords for common user names like “admin”. With these and other tools not one of our sites has been hacked in years. We continue to follow and implement best practices when it comes to security to keep our customers sites up and secure.

We implement analytics. The tool of choice for several years has been Google Analytics. We make sure each site has analytics installed and functions. Then we even go through site performance every six months to help you understand what is happening on your site so you can make informed decisions about changes or proposed changes to your site.

We actively look for ways to help your site perform better. Since page speed is one of the things search engines look for, we make sure you are aware of what needs to be done to improve the speed or we will even go in and do it for you.

Since our tag line is “We partner with our customers to engage their visitors and convert them into clients” we work to make that partnering bit real. We want you to succeed. We do more than want though. We take concrete steps for you to help your site and your business be better with our managed web hosting service.

If you are already an EduCyber managed web hosting customer, who should you tell about us? If you are not yet a customer, give us a call today at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the process started.

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Site Security Takes Main Stage

Since at least 2014 Google has been encouraging websites to go secure by using https (installing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate). Just recently they have indicated that it is becoming increasingly important in their search ranking algorithm.

What does that mean? It means you should change your site to SSL. It is not a difficult process. First you install the certificate and then you tell your pages to all use SSL only.  Need help? We can handle it for our hosting clients quite easily and even if you’re not our client, we can probably help you out.

A few years ago Google made all of its search secure. Check it out for yourself. When you go to google.com, you’ll find yourself at https://www.google.com. There will always be that https. The general assumption was, because it was encrypting the data, it would affect the speed, even if it was just a little.  But it didn’t. So if there is no change in performance in going from non-secure to secure, why not make the whole Internet secure? That seems to be Google’s plan and it isn’t a bad one.  Once Google realized it didn’t really affect the speed for their site, they began increasing the expectation of security in their search algorithm. And it has reached the point where sites focusing on search rankings really need to make their site secure.

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Becoming a Customer (Part 2)

Can your web site design (not the content) help you get more customers?

In our first article on <becoming a customer>, we discussed the content aspect – having a clear call to action on your site. In this article, we are going to investigate whether the visual design elements of a site can help your visitors become customers.

You should always have a clear call to action

I remember the very first user testing we did years ago. We identified a person who would be a great potential customer for our new client and had him go through their existing website, sharing his stream of consciousness as he navigated the site through the tasks we gave him. The web site’s “clear call to action” was a flashing red button in the right column. Our tester mentioned it only briefly – “I’m not looking at the ads in the right column”.

Ouch.

That customer learned a good lesson that day. People were ignoring their call to action. Think about how ads work today on many websites, especially news sites. They used to have banner ads and right column (and left column) ads. Now most of them use inline ads. You read a paragraph. You are interested. You want to read more. As you scroll down the page, you see the inline ad and then your content. You have just interacted with the ad – an ad you may have skipped had it not been right in line with the content.

This is actually one of the exciting parts of what we do in this business. Design matters! Sometimes (often times) it is a subtle change that makes all the difference. Change a button from blue to green and suddenly people start filling out your form. Move the secure transaction logo next to the complete transaction button and suddenly people start buying your products. Move your call to action from a side column to inline with your content and the phone starts ringing.

Suddenly becoming a customer is easier for people on your website. And if you’d like help making your design work FOR you, you should work with us.

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Becoming a Customer (Part 1)

Have you ever thought about how you interact with web sites?

When we speak with potential clients, they rarely have stopped to think about how they want visitors to interact with their site. But what does it mean to become a customer? That, ultimately is what every business owner wants from their website.

Social media websites have it easy – some would say too easy. To become a customer all you have to do is create a free account and start sharing. A cousin of mine just joined Facebook last week. Within minutes of joining, he was able to be posting and sharing. Facebook had just acquired another customer that they can then sell ads to – and make money.

If you aren’t clear on your goals, neither is your customer

But what about a service company? How do you want visitors to interact with you? Too often I look at a web site and it has a pleasant enough look and it displays information. And when I talk to the business owner and ask “What is your goal for your web site?” the answer is “I want to educate (or inform) the visitor.”

But isn’t it really more than that? Very rarely, unless we’re talking to a school, is the goal to educate. Almost always, even for the schools, the goal of the site is to acquire more customers. For social media sites, that can be as simple as having a new person with an account. For ecommerce sites, the goal is pretty obvious, successfully complete the checkout process after putting “stuff” in your shopping cart.

But there are many other very good goals. If you have a long sales cycle, you might be getting a huge win every time someone signs up for your newsletter. If you are a consultant, your goal may be for someone to fill out a form before downloading a white paper or other document. If you are in the trades like a plumber or electrician, having someone schedule an appointment online could mean you just got another customer. For many businesses, simply getting the phone to ring is a win. If that’s the case, make sure you have a clear call to action focused on why calling you is a great idea.

EduCyber can help you get a clear call to action – why not work with us?

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Building Websites on WordPress

A few short years ago we built most of our websites on pages that were more or less static. If a customer wanted to try something called blogging, we would add a piece of software into the site that allowed them to do this.

We had also been building sites on Content Management Software (CMS) like Joomla and Drupal. While the romance of users being able to update the content was consistently dangled before us, we found pretty consistently that users didn’t like or simply didn’t get how to use the backend interface.

In the meantime, this blogging software called WordPress was getting more and more powerful and users loved it. It had that elusive trait called “intuitiveness”. Users didn’t have to think. They could just put their content in and save or update it.

Before long we started building more and more of our sites completely on WordPress. It has grown to a very large user base (58.5 MILLION sites) and growing.

There are two great features of WordPress that fit very nicely with how EduCyber builds websites:

  1. EduCyber custom-designs every web site we build. Rather than starting with a template and shoving your content into it, we design the look and optimize it for conversion. Once we’ve got the look established, we create a template based on that look rather than vice-versa. WordPress has a flexible template system that allows us to approach design from this perspective.
  2. EduCyber develops powerful database-driven web sites. WordPress has great database features. We use those features and often add to it our own open-source software – onWord – to create web sites that have a variety of features – membership management, ecommerce, and more.

So if you are in the market for a custom-designed, database-driven website, why not give us a call?

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Change Your Perspective

I just took a look at my schedule. Next week I have lunch with Brian DeLaet twice. The problem you see is that I am Brian DeLaet.  Two different colleagues have sent me calendar invitations to have lunch with them. The problem is they didn’t think about it from my perspective.

So my calendar now says I’m having lunch with Brian. Not as helpful as I’d like. Now I have to open up the invitation to see who it is that Brian is dining with.

And a lot of businesses treat their customers the same way. They start off with the perspective that if you’ve arrived – either in person or online – then you’re “in” and they skip over foundational parts of the relationship. It becomes all about “us” – the company, rather than being all about “me” – the customer.

We experienced that today with a software company. We received a username and a password for the software we purchased. There was no mention of how or where to use this information. Just the codes. After some not insignificant searching, we discovered that once we had created an account on vendors site, we could use the codes to get access to the software and registration keys. Ooops. No one told us that.

So what is a business to do? Review your process from beginning to end and test it. Make sure it is customer friendly every step of the way. And a lot of businesses take this step. But this is only the first step. Every process gets changed over time. It gets “improved” when a new manager changes one part of the process but when another manager changes a different part of the process, bad things can happen.

What you need to do is build in a continuous review of your process. For example, if you sign up for EduNotes (our newsletter) you’ll likely be told to expect it weekly when in fact it is now only twice a month. Oops. That is a process that we are reviewing (should be fixed by the time you receive this) so that we are creating the correct expectations for people.

Obviously this applies in every aspect of business but here are just a few of the processes you should check on your web site:

  • First and foremost, the sales funnel – are you guiding visitors down the best path for them to do business with you? Are calls to action clear and prominent?
  • Is the sign up for your email newsletter smooth, clear, and setting the right expectations?
  • How can I find your contact information?
  • How can I find your physical location?
  • If your site is set up for ecommerce, is it easy to put things in my shopping cart?
  • Is it easy to check out?
  • If your site is generating leads, are the forms easy to fill out? Are you asking for too much information?
  • Are the images on your site appropriate and do they facilitate your processes?
  • If you have complex activity (users in forums, members interacting, data being shared) are the instructions clear?
  • If you want people to engage with you via social media, are the links prominent and working? (I clicked a Twitter link last week that took me to twitter.com instead of to a user’s page)

Let me close with one last example illustrating the need to review and streamline your processes.

  1. I received an email from a vendor saying I need to renew a service for a client.
  2. I clicked the link they provided in the email and filled out the form.
  3. I received an email saying I filled out the wrong form and directing me to the right form.
  4. The next time I got a similar email, I remembered the link was wrong but couldn’t find the correct link.
  5. I started a chat with the vendor and was directed yet a different form.
  6. Suspecting something was amiss, I did a Google search, and found the form I’d used previously.
  7. I asked the support person about this other form and was told either one would work!
  8. I requested that the correct link be put in my emails moving forward so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again.
  9. I was told that would happen. Stay tuned to find out if it does.
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Top Five Mistakes in Web Design

With the explosion of the web – from new sites to new friends / pages on Facebook to new followers on Twitter and new connections on LinkedIn, there are distractions and sites screaming out for our attention all over the place. So how does a professional website design agency do it right? Well here are five mistakes we avoid:

  1. Not having a call to action
    The biggest problem we see is web sites that don’t have a clear call to action. Without a next step, people will visit, view and leave. Without contacting you, buying from you, becoming your customer. Sometimes the next step is to click to the next page – that’s ok. The key is to have a next step and many very reputable sites don’t have this crucial feature.
  2. Having too many calls to action
    Having too many calls is just as bad as not having any call to action. Two to four choices is best. If you cram 32 calls to action (I know a site that has that many), you lose people. Divide those 32 calls into four groups of eight each and present four calls to action on the home page and then perhaps give them all eight on the next but you’ll also likely see that you can combine two or more of the items into one, giving your visitors fewer choices. Remember the key is to not make the visitor have to think.
  3. Making the site all graphics
    Print designers make beautiful web sites. But they are often all graphics or flash which might make the website less usable and will definitely leave it ranked lower in search engines. The dirty little secret is that search engines index content and the best content to index is text. Putting the text into the graphics give you (or your designer) complete control over the look of the site but also makes it highly likely that Google won’t index that text, thus hurting your search rankings.
  4. Not providing context – navigation or breadcrumbs
    Many web site owners envision their site as all visitors starting on the home page and navigating through from there to the next level and the next is a logical progression. However with search being what it is, visitors coming through search may end up deep into your web site as their first page. Therefore it is incumbent on website owners / developers to clearly show the context of what page you’re on. This can be done through navigation devices such as highlighting the page you’re on in the navigation or even through breadcrumbs – displaying towards the top of the page where you at and the way back “home”.
  5. Providing too much or duplicate information
    Just last week I was on a site that looked like it was a lot bigger than what it was. There were lots of different calls to action but they all took me to the same form – a basic contact form. Having all kinds of differently labeled links going to the same place is not useful. Providing a lot more information than is necessary is not useful. Cut down on the prose and shoot for bulleted or numbered lists to get your point across. In the same way that you don’t want lots of different links pointing to the same place, you don’t want to have the same information in more than one place on the site. We see businesses making this mistake frequently. It becomes embarrassing when one section of the site mentions a conference on Thursday and Friday and another refers to the same conference but says it is on Friday and Saturday. People don’t know which to believe and it ends up hurting your credibility. Remember to Keep It Straight & Simple (KISS).

If you can avoid these five mistakes on your web site, your visitors will be much more likely to have a productive and enjoyable experience and you will be much more likely to capture their business.

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Design for Usability

икониWe spend a lot of time talking about web site usability with our customers. But the first question we have to answer is “What is web site usability?”

So let’s figure out what it is. As a web design firm we work hard to make our sites visually pleasing but a good web site is far more than pretty. It needs to be usable. In a nutshell, that means that the web visitor needs to be able to EASILY take the next step. A good negative example is, if you are trying to capture more subscribers to your newsletter and the sign up form requires them to give their physical address, your site is not very usable. To add people to your newsletter list, the only thing required is a valid email address. A positive example would be to have a simple form asking only for their email address.

The easily part of the description is very important. I’ve been on web sites where every possible thing you can do is displayed on the front page. With dozens of choices, people likely make the choice to leave to find a site with fewer choices. A good way to remedy that is divide your choices into three groups and then give visitors three choices instead of 40. Once they’ve made that first choice you can then divide up the remaining choices under that group and have them select again or you can present all the remaining choices.

Let’s take a number example to see how people think. Can you imagine remembering dozens of 10 digit numbers? 3,032,682,245 is a long number to remember. But if I tell you it is my phone number (303) 268-2245, I suddenly only have 3 sets of numbers to remember. Fewer choices work better when remembering phone numbers and they also work better when building web sites.

So to make your web site more usable, remember these two points:

  1. Make it easy for visitors to take the next step – give them the information they need and don’t ask for information you don’t need.
  2. Give them only a few choices (2 – 5) or they will be overwhelmed and probably not make the choice you want them to.
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Good Design Can Get in the Way of a Great Web Site

One of the most common mistakes in web site design today is the design itself. The most common “abuser” of this is the firm that comes out of the graphic design world and decides to start doing web sites (but there are other perpetrators as well).

How does this happen? It’s simple actually. A stunningly beautiful or moving design is put together. And it looks really good. But when it becomes the web site two things don’t happen:

  1. There is no next step. It looks good but the web site visitor has no idea what to do once they get there. Every good web site and even every good web page should have a next step. But with just a nice design, there often is no call to action or next step for the visitor to take. So they leave.
  2. There is nothing for the search engines to see. With a design that has complete control over what the user sees, there is no content for the search engines to index. With a heavily graphic web site, even written content becomes a part of the image – that way you can show the precise font – but then the search engines either don’t index it or index it differently than they do written content.

So don’t let a good design get in the way of a great web site. Instead incorporate the elements of your good design into the site but also make sure that it is usable (has a next step) and that it is searchable (search engine optimized). Then you’ll be on your way to success.икони

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What Makes a Good Web Site Good?

We design web sites. We do this all day long, every day. One of my primary roles is working with the client to establish the goal and the look.  Frequently the client comes to us with  “I want these features on the site and I want this element and this element”. As we talk through it though, it turns out that the features they want have nothing to do with their business goals. So my question is “What makes a good website good?”

The single most important aspect of web design is focus. We need to be able to focus the web visitor on something. EduCyber has chosen to focus that attention on the call to action. By first creating a focus – many web sites don’t really have a focus – and then having that focus be on the call to action, we help web visitors determine whether the site provides what they want.

We’ve all heard that we only have a second or two to capture people’s attention. Why waste that time showing them something unrelated to you or your business? Often the home page call to action is simply an invitation to click deeper into the site. A realtor might feature one prominent link for buyers and another for sellers. An insurance company might feature one link for homeowners, another for auto and a third for life insurance. Whatever the call to action is, the design should focus on that.

The second most important aspect of web design is depth. In this case, I’m speaking of visual depth. This makes the web site more visually engaging and is more likely therefore to pull in the visitors attention. Providing depth in a site can be accomplished in a variety of ways from drop shadows to juxtaposition of elements to arrangement of lines and objects.

Often depth is one of those intangibles that make a visitor say “I like this site” if it has depth or “This site just doesn’t work” if depth is lacking.

There are many facets to good web site design but getting these two points right will set you on the path to a good web site that is good for business.Икони

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