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Please Remember to Register Your Own Domain Name

I've been around the Internet block for nearly 13 years now, and I'm still surprised when I see this trick. A developer is hired to build a new website, and they register the domain name for the customer. They not only register it, they make themselves the registrant. No big deal, right? If you say no, then I need you to read the following.

The registrant on the domain name is the person who legally owns the domain name. If you part ways with your developer who is the registrant of your domain, legally they don't have to give it back to you. They own it. Moving away from them, or moving your site, means you could lose your domain name. Unless of course they are nice, but 50% of the time they are not (in my experience).

PLEASE, if you are building a new site or changing your URL, register the domain yourself, and make yourself the administrative contact as well as the registrant. This puts you in control of your domain name. There are many places to do this inexpensively and easily. GoDaddy is one of my favorites, despite the incessant attempts to sell me more. Once you register the domain you can give the login to the developer so the technical information can be changed to point to your site. But after the developer logs in, change your password. Keep it to yourself.

If you don't know if you are the registrant on your domain, you can look it up in the Internic WhoIs database.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to contact me. One of my pet peeves is developers who hold people's sites and domains hostage. I'd be happy to assist you, free of charge, in regaining control of what is rightfully yours.

Why Have a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use?

The Web has truly become an interactive, on-going, world-wide conversation. No matter where you go online, all kinds of information is sent your way. And within the context of that information there are opportunities for you to provide input. Whether it is comments on a blog, suggestions through a contact form or simply taking a poll, you are part of the creation of online content.

It is very rare these days to have a site that is purely information. Most sites have some way of taking in information, and in some cases that information is used within the site content. It is therefore very important to include a privacy policy and terms of use in any site you create. These two pages provide you the opportunity to make your users aware of what their responsibilities are, and what your promises are.

What is a Privacy Policy?
A privacy policy talks about how information taken into a site is used by the company who owns the site. The most basic portion of a privacy policy talks about what the company does with email addresses that are submitted through comments or contact forms. If there is any means of gathering information on your site, you need to alert your users how that information might be used.

You can generate a free privacy policy template which will give you the basics for a good privacy policy. You can then edit the policy to suit your company's procedures.

What are Terms of Use?
Terms of use talk about the user's responsibility in using your website. It talks about copyright, linking, security, intellectual property rights, tone of comments and acceptance of the terms. The terms of use are most critical if you have a site that has user-generated content (i.e. commenting, wiki or message board). The privacy policy can be included in the terms of use if you would rather not have two separate pages, but it is advisable to keep them separate as this makes it easier for users to find your privacy policy.

You can create your own terms of use by using the free template at Clickdocs. You can download it in Word format and edit it as needed before posting it to your website.

Should You Use Twitter to Promote Your Business?

My clients often ask me the benefits of Twitter. My answer usually frames around "it depends on how much time you want to invest." Twitter is a casual conversation tool that engages our sense of ambient awareness. It's like the things you say to the people you meet in the elevator every day on the way to work. The more you chat, the more you will engage the people. Over time you can develop relationships with people, but what sort of relationship might you have at 140 characters a comment?

So much has been written on this subject it's really impossible to come up with something new. So instead I have compiled a group of articles that speak to this subject. There is no right answer when it comes to Twitter. Those who love it have found a way to make it work for them, and those who don't may not care or don't know how to make it work for them. Perhaps the following will assist in figuring out how Twitter can help you.

How To Get Started With Twitter:

Tips on Making the Most of Twitter for Business:

How Other Businesses Use Twitter:

Aren't Pre-Designed Templates Ugly?

Clients come to me for graphic design services because they need to market their business. Some clients want a customized design that is totally unique and created just for them. But other clients may crinkle their noses at the custom design fees that are part of their web quote.

Design snobs won't design for these clients because everything must a unique design or else it's not "quality" design. I love to design, but it's more important that my clients get what they need, not what I want to give them. So if budget is a big factor in their project, I offer them the option of a modified template.

But then clients ask me, "Aren't templates ugly?" I want to debunk this myth! While it's true that the majority of templates designed would not be considered very attractive, the truth is there are designers out there who are putting out beautiful templates for HTML and CMS websites. With a modicum of modifications, these templates can give the impression of custom design without a price tag. Here are some examples from our own projects:

This is the template: i-Lunar
This is the site we’ve built with it: Possibilities Unlimited

This is the template: JSN Epic
This is the site we’ve built with it: Sheasby, Cho & Middleton, attorneys at law

This is the template: JC-Perth
This is what we built with it: The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management

While it's fun to do a custom design and see it get built and shared, many of our clients who do not have unlimited web budgets. It's critical for them to have a web presence that is usable, attractive and effective. We want our clients to have the tools they need to succeed in business, and sometimes template design offers a workaround that facilitates a successful, attractive site within the budget the client can afford.

Why I Always Tell Clients to Add a Resource Page

Often when discussing initial information architecture with clients, I bring up the subject of a resource page. Sometimes it's followed by a scrunched brow from the client. I can hear them thinking, "But that's more work in research time..." Yes it is, but the purpose is to provide a resource for your clientele.

I recently read an article in about how small businesses can utilize the web to provide customer service that goes a long way in growing your company. Providing information in one location that clients can use over and over is an ideal way to get them to bookmark your site and come back for repeat visits. Even if they aren't using your services now, each visit reminds them that you are there to help.

A resource page does not have to be complicated. It can include:

  • Links to industry websites organized by topics
  • RSS feeds from newsworthy sites that are related to your industry
  • Document library with pertinent forms downloadable in PDF format
  • Links to regulating agencies or associations in your industry
  • Links to useful articles
  • A community forum where people can post questions and get answers from colleagues
  • An FAQ library where you answer questions about your company and industry

A resource page creates a connection between you and your clients
that can easily be grown by asking your users for suggestions and input. It's a small time investment compared to the positive impact it has on your service image.