5 things small businesses forget when planning for a new or redesigned website

by Jeff Graber, Media Services Executive – Network Management Group, Inc.

There is a lot to think about when planning for a new website or a redesign of a current website. There’s marketing, design, branding, accessibility, and a ton of other things that go into a successful website. But there are some things that are frequently left out or forgotten in the planning process. I have put together a short list of some of the more critical things that are often excluded from the planning process:

1. Mobility

By now, the decision of investing in a mobile website is becoming very obvious. The use of mobile devices for web browsing doubled in 2012, while smartphones and tablets became even more popular and powerful. Some of the characteristics of a
n effective mobile website include fast loading time, navigation optimized for touchscreens, and an easy contact option such as a call button. Having a mobile website keeps mobile visitors engaged longer because information becomes easier to find and frustrations associated with loading delay and formatting go away.

2. Search Engine Visibility

Another important characteristic of your website is how easy it can be found in search engines like Google and Bing. If you are not taking specific measures to ensure visibility in search engines for certain keywords, then you will not be found by people searching for your products or services on the web. Some things to consider when optimizing your website for search engines include locations where you primarily do business and the products or services you provide.

3. Content Sources

Something a lot of businesses don’t think about when planning for their website is where the content will come from. Will employees write website content in-house? Will content come from marketing materials that have already been written? Will content creation be outsourced to professional copywriters? These questions should be answered during the planning process, not after a website is built or redesigned. And remember, the quality of your content is a reflection of your business. So make sure your content is easy to digest, well worded, and grammatically correct.

4. Content Management Solution

Once you have a plan for where you content is coming from, you will need a way to manage your content and get it to your website. This is where a content management system comes in. A content management system stores your content and allows your website to pull from and display it. With a content management system you can update content on your website without having any web development knowledge or experience. A complete content management system should include easy online access with a secure login, options for publishing now or in the future, and version control.

5. Backup & Recovery

Finally, the most critical consideration for your website is backup and recovery. If your website goes down you will need a way to obtain your data and get it back up quickly. Your website backup plan should fit into your business continuity plan. Some options to consider for a reliable backup solution are offsite backup, file backup as well as database backup, daily/nightly incremental backup, and restore procedures.

If you are planning for a new or redesigned website, NMGI is here to help with these and other website considerations. If you would like more information, give us a call at (620) 664-6000 or visit our website at http://www.nmgi.com/services/webcare.

Sources:

http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_mobile.asp

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Security Best Practices

In light of the recent security breach of the LinkedIn website and passwords, NMGI would like remind clients to take every measure possible to ensure the safety of your information.

In case you are not sure where to start, we have listed some  best practices to insure account security and privacy:

Changing Your Password:

  • Never change your password by following a link in an email that you did not request, since those links might be compromised and redirect you to the wrong place.
  • If you don’t remember your password, you can often get password help by clicking on the Forgot password link on the Sign in page of most websites.
  • In order for passwords to be effective, you should aim to update your online account passwords every few months or at least once a quarter.

Creating a Strong Password:

  • Use encrypted password management software to keep track of all of your passwords.
  • Variety – Don’t use the same password on all the sites you visit.
  • Don’t use a word from the dictionary.
  • Length – Select strong passwords that can’t easily be guessed with 10 or more characters.
  • Think of a meaningful phrase, song or quote and turn it into a complex password using the first letter of each word.
  • Complexity – Randomly add capital letters, punctuation or symbols.
  • Substitute numbers for letters that look similar (for example, substitute “0″ for “o” or “3″ for “E”.
  • Never give your password to others or write it down.

A few other account security and privacy best practices to keep in mind are:

  • Sign out of your account after you use a publicly shared computer.
  • Keep your antivirus software up to date.
  • Don’t put your email address, address or phone number on public profiles.
  • Only connect to people you know and trust.
  • Report any privacy issues to Customer Service.

*Modified from LinkedIn.com

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Controlling Social Media in the Business Environment

Social_media_icons

Everywhere you turn, you hear something about “Follow us on Twitter,” or “Like my Facebook Page.” Social media is a communications platform that is here to stay, and if you’re like many business owners, you’re wondering “what does this mean for me and my business? How do I use it in my business without it becoming a distraction?”

Social media should be a part of your business’s marketing plan, and controlling employees’ usage on these sites will help keep them productive instead of allowing them to use company time for personal interaction.

But now that businesses are effectively using social media as a marketing and communications tool, the question becomes whether to allow employees to use social media while at work or on work equipment.

Social media can be a distraction and it poses IT security risks. These sites are known to bring viruses and malware into organizations, so if you decide to allow employees to use social media for business or personal reasons, there are options to mitigate the risks.

One step is to craft and distribute an Acceptable Use Policy to all employees. This policy should clearly define:

  • Where employees can and cannot go online

  • What types of files employees can and cannot download to your network or upload onto social media sites

  • When and to what extent they are allowed to use the Internet for personal matters

  • Which types of activities are strictly forbidden

  • What the consequences are of violating these policies

  • Another step would be to make sure you put the appropriate controls on your employees’ computers.

It’s nearly impossible to police every activity your employees do online, but installing a Web filter is an easy way to control who can access social media sites and other websites that are not related to business. Web filters also block Internet applications that you don’t want your employees using at work and offer additional protection against malware and viruses.

These controls can be as loose or tight as you want them. You can offer access to specific employees and can even determine what time they are allowed to access these sites. For example, you could decide that your staff is allowed to access Facebook only from noon to 1 p.m. during their lunch period. Or you can decide that just your marketing staff can access it all day, every day. It’s a flexible system, so it’s really up to you to decide.

Additionally, web filters offer Internet usage reporting, which will give you a high-level look at your bandwidth consumption, how much time your employees are spending on non-business related Web activities, what sites they are visiting, as well as your exposure to viruses.

When dealing with potential security threats, it is always best to address the situation before something bad happens.

Your IT administrator, or outsourced IT department, can easily set up any of these systems, which will help secure your business from social media-related viruses and problems.

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5 Ways To Make Your Website More Mobile Device Friendly

One of the big things on business owners’ minds when it comes to their website is making it usable on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Here are some ways to make it easier for your viewers to get valuable information from your website while using a mobile device.

Enlarge Click-able Elements

It is important to keep in mind that nobody’s index finger is as accurate as a mouse pointer. To make it easier for your visitors to use your site, make click-able features like navigation, buttons, and form fields large enough to press.

Simplify Navigation

Though usable on non-mobile devices, drop-down navigation can be the most annoying feature of a website when viewed on a mobile device. This is because there is no way to “hover” over items on a touch screen. Some devices have made it possible to show hover events when an elements pressed and held for a couple seconds, but not everyone has this capability. Your best bet is to lose the drop-downs and go with something simpler.

Also, make sure your navigation is text-based and not graphic-based. Even though mobile networks have made great improvements when it comes to bandwidth, loading is still not as speedy or reliable as a fixed data connection. This means images may not load quickly, making navigation difficult to use.

 

Do Not Use Flash

Using flash to display featured content, video, audio, etc. may look sleek on a monitor. However, it is not viewable on most mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad. Without getting technical, here are some JavaScript based alternatives to using flash on your website:

Reduce Clutter

Because of reduced loading speed on mobile devices, it is important to make sure your website is light-weight. This means limiting the amount of graphics, advertisements, and irrelevant content that is displayed on each page of your website. Not only will this help your site load faster, but it will give it a cleaner look on mobile browsers; making it easier for visitors to find information.

Get a Mobile Site

If some of the options above are not enough to make your website mobile device friendly, getting a separate mobile site may be your best option. Having a separate mobile site ensures that all pages of your website will render in mobile browsers without issues. Just make sure the visitor is redirected to the mobile site when viewing from a mobile device. Here are some examples of mobile web addresses you could use for your mobile site:

m.yourcompany.com
mobile.yourcompany.com
www.yourcompany.mobi
www.yourcompany.com/mobile

If you have any questions about your website being supported on mobile browsers, contact the Media Services Team and Network Management Group, Inc.

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