Web Design Tips
Thursday, December 9th, 2010
If you’re a movie nerd like me, chances are you’ve visited Ain’t It Cool News on at least one occasion (or in my case, a few thousand occasions). It’s the leading source for entertainment news targeted at the “geek” crowd. It gets thousands of daily hits and has an Alexa Traffic Rank of 5,082.
In short, it’s a popular site.
And that’s why I was so surprised to see the site fail so miserably at launching a new design. Just this past week, AintItCool.com rolled out a new look for its website, and the results have been nothing short of disastrous.
Their homepage which displays news in a few different categories is all miscategorized and out of whack. The comments section is screwed up. There are all sorts of server issues. Content seems to disappear and reappear at random times.
To sum it up in internet geek terms: It’s a FAIL on every level. An EPIC FAIL, if you will.
So how could such a popular brand do such a terrible job at launching a new version of its site?
Apparently, they didn’t do a whole lot of testing before putting the new site up. In the site owner’s own words, it was a “hurried launch.” While I don’t know everything that’s going on behind the scenes at AintItCool.com, I can’t imagine why they’d hurry to launch their new website without taking the time to make sure it works the way it should.
Look, it’s understandable for there to be a few kinks here and there whenever you put up a new website. These things happen. But you can minimize the kinks by testing the site as much as possible before you put it live. And once it goes live and you notice the problems, you have to fix them as quickly as possible. You can’t expect visitors to idly sit by for days, waiting for it to be fixed.
There are lessons all of us can learn from AintItCool.com’s relaunch failures. It all boils down to paying attention to details, doing as much testing as possible, and correcting issues in a timely manner.
What tips would you offer to someone thinking about launching a website redesign?
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Are people leaving your website almost as quickly as they arrived? Bounces happen, but if you have an exceptionally high bounce rate, that’s an indication that your website isn’t functioning the way it should. Something is just not right, and until you correct it, you’ll never build a truly profitable and effective online presence.
So, what are some of the most common reasons visitors quickly bounce from a website?
- You’re targeting the wrong keywords—It’s quite possible that you’re targeting keywords that don’t exactly match the products or services you offer. In other words, people could be searching for one thing but end up finding your website instead. For example, someone might be searching for information on “windows” for their home and end up on a website about “Microsoft Windows.” Make sure you’re really targeting keywords that bring targeted visitors.
- Your website takes too long to load—If your website doesn’t display within a few seconds of someone clicking on it, you’re going to lose a lot of visitors. Web users are an impatient bunch. They want instant satisfaction, and if you can’t deliver it, they’ll find someone else who can.
- Your content doesn’t deliver on the link’s promise—You see this happen a lot with PPC ads. The ad will promise one thing, but when the user clicks the link, they’re taken to a page that has almost no connection with the ad’s promise. Always make sure you’re delivering what the visitors expect.
- They can’t find the information they’re looking for—Again, web users are impatient and want their information as quickly as possible. This means your website needs to have simple navigation, easy to scan content, and even a search bar if your website is large enough.
- They don’t trust you—Online shoppers are very skeptical by nature. And for good reason. With so many scams plaguing the internet, you can never be too careful. So how can you earn their trust? Having testimonials helps. So does eliminating risk and ditching the spammy copy. Check out more tips for convincing skeptical customers.
- You do something annoying—Pop-ups, autoplay audio and video, and walk-on spokespeople are just a few things that annoy me to no end. If you’re doing something intrusive and annoying when people land on your website, you can bet a lot of people will instantly back out.
- Your content doesn’t hook the reader—You only have a few short seconds to grab the attention of your website visitors. You need to hook them in with a strong, benefit-rich headline and powerful copy that demands to be read.
What are some other reasons visitors bounce quickly from websites?
Thursday, November 18th, 2010
I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy computing. I’m a junkie when it comes to computers. Even more, I really enjoy operating systems. For most of my life I have been using Microsoft operating systems. My generation is pretty cool because I got started right during the peek of things. In school, I used early versions of Windows including Windows 3.1.
When Windows 95 was released, I was truly impressed. Amazingly, Windows today still has that same format but dressed up significantly. Over the years though, I have become less tolerate of Windows. As more time went by, slowly I started to prefer other operating systems. I purchased my first Apple computer about two years ago and I think that was the moment when I finally realized that there was more to computers than just Microsoft Windows. Today, I prefer Linux, specifically Debian/Ubuntu. I now consider purchasing my MacBook Pro as a stepping stone to migrating away from Windows. I do like Mac OS X, but for me, I like to build and customize things. I don’t want to sound like I am downing Mac OS X, because I’m not. The operating system is absolutely amazing, and in my opinion, flawless!
The reason why I prefer Linux is because I’m a builder. I’m creative and I enjoy customizing and tweaking things. You can’t really do that with Mac OS. With my MacBook PRO, you push the power button and it just works. Which is great, but Apple is responsible for its greatness, not me. When I build a Linux OS, I’m responsible for making it work. Linux is much like art. You can customize your computer and include the programs you want, all from scratch. Getting everything to work right depends on you. In other words, your computer is built right when you have everything you want, the way you want. Working with Linux is a challenge, it’s rewarding, and it’s amazing once you have things running the way you want.
But what about Webmasters? What is the best operating system to use for webmastering? I’ve considered this question for quite some time. I guess it’s something that could be debated without a final conclusion, simply because it’s based on the opinion of individual users. With the three common operating systems available (Windows, Mac, and Linux) which one do you think provides the best user functionality for webmasters?
In my opinion, I can say that it’s between Mac and Linux. Windows is completely out of the equation. If you feel differently, I totally welcome you to express your thoughts on why you think its best operating. My opinion why Windows doesn’t compare to either Mac or Linux is lack of speed, security, and stability. Even with Windows completely optimized for maximum performance, it’s still much slower than Mac or Linux. I don’t like to keep my computers running when I’m not using them. I power them down and turn them off. I’m pretty sure that components and CPU processors are only rated for so many hours of use, plus it wastes electricity. I believe that my computers will last longer if I turn them off then they are not in use. And admittedly, I look more at it towards trying to reduce my electric bill compared to the “Green” aspects. Sorry!
On both Mac and Linux setups, you’re going to see super fast startup times. Mac, in my opinion, is the fastest. Linux out of the box, tends to come with a lot of programs installed, thus slowing it down slightly. Linux is still faster than Windows though. Another consideration is security. Windows computers are buggy and always subject to failure. That’s not a very comforting feeling as a webmaster who stores important content, data, and graphics on a personal computer.
But enough about what I think… what are your thoughts? As a webmaster, what is the best operating system to use and why? What tools do you have that are only available on the operating system use? Lastly, if you could no longer use your favorite operating system, which of the other two would you prefer to use and why? I welcome your comments and invite you to share your opinions.
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
If you want to know how to get a dedicated IP address on a shared web hosting account, here is an easy and affordable way to do that. Before I reveal the solution, first I think it’s important to understand why a dedicated IP address is needed. If you have a website for sharing pictures with mom and dad, or just for random things, getting a dedicated IP address really isn’t needed. If you are creating multiple sites for profit and depend on traffic from search engines, it’s possible that getting a dedicated IP can help increase your rankings.
Please note: I can not prove this to be true. In fact, people from Google deny that having a dedicated IP makes a difference compared to hosting sites with shared IP addresses. But, in my opinion… why risk it when it’s not really too difficult or expensive to have a dedicated IP address?
I suspect that when a website shares the same IP address with other websites, it can suffer from not having the best search engine visibility compared to being hosted with a dedicated IP address. In other words, if your website shares the same IP address with a website that has questionable content, I suspect that search engines won’t exactly BLACKLIST the IP address, but instead adjustments will be made to prevent the site with questionable content from gaining excellent search engine visibility. In my opinion, this puts your site at risk because it’s very possible that the adjustments made are based on the IP address rather than the actual site (domain name) using the IP address. Again, Google denies this as being true, but once again… in my opinion, why take a chance?
The solution around this is to get a web hosting account that offers a dedicated IP address. That way, all of your websites are separated and unaffected from websites that you don’t own or control. The problem is finding a cheap web hosting plan that offers a dedicated IP address. Most upgraded plans such as VPS hosting offer this, but with an increased price. Again, we’re looking for cheap and affordable. Shared web hosting is the way to go!
But while shared hosting is simple and affordable, unfortunately it isn’t often that shared accounts come with a dedicated IP address option. Many shared web hosting plans include an option to order an additional IP address, but those addresses are also shared too. The solution is to look for a web hosting plan that offers the option to order a dedicated IP address and/or an affordable SSL option.
A great example is HostGator’s shared Business Plan. This plan has a low cost and it includes a free dedicated IP address and private SSL. If you don’t want to order or upgrade to the business plan, you can also order their standard plan and request a dedicated IP address for an additional but very small fee. Do some research, because other companies offer a dedicated IP address options too. Many have high prices though, so keep a close eye on what you’re ordering.
Another trick is to look closely at the features and see if a private SSL option is available. If the private SSL option happens to be cheaper than the annual cost of having a dedicated IP address, then order the private SSL. The reason is because in order to have a private SSL setup, a dedicated IP address needs to be established. If this doesn’t occur, then the information is misleading. Even if the cost is slightly higher, it’s still worth it because you get a private SSL and a dedicated IP for a price slightly higher than the individual cost for one.
Of course, if you’re looking for some IP addresses on multiple C Classes (diversified), you should check out the hosting plans offered here at SEO Hosting. At the time of writing this article, you can get a class C IP address plan for $35/month. In my opinion, that is well worth the money. Especially, if you’re serious about search engine optimization and keeping your sites hosted in a secure environment that you have total control over.
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
It doesn’t happen too often, but there are times when you will be faced with the task of transferring your website and content from one server to another. A few reasons why you would need to do this come to mind. Perhaps your current web hosting provider lacks in good service and support. Maybe the quality of your connection is terrible. Or, maybe you have found a better deal somewhere else.
There are many reasons why you could find yourself in need to transfer your website and if you don’t know how to do it, life can quickly become miserable. Transferring your website from one server to another isn’t actually too difficult. Once your know the steps to take and how to execute them, transferring your website will be breeze.
I suspect that many people have tried to transfer their website using FTP. This method does work, but it can take a really long time. The reason why it can take a long time is because you have to download your content to your own personal computer and then upload it all back to the new server. Also, if your site runs on a database, such as WordPress and MySQL, you can’t get a copy of your database via FTP.
A better and faster way to transfer your website from one server to another is to use Secure Shell (SSH). For starters, you rule out the middleman… that’s you! Instead of downloading the copy of your website to your personal computer and uploading it to the new server, using SSH, you can bypass that process and transfer direct from your old server to the new server. This is useful for many reasons.
One immediate reason the comes to mind is that the transfer will constantly run. If you make transfers via FTP, your computer has to stay connected. The moment you shut your computer down, the connection is lost. With SSH, once you initiate the transfer, the connection between the two servers isn’t dependent on the connection of your personal computer.
Step One: Enable Secure Shell (SSH) Access
The first thing you want to do is make sure both of your web hosting accounts offer Secure Shell access. If you use HostGator, go here to enabled SSH. For BlueHost customers, go here. GoDaddy customers can go here. For all others, simply contact your web hosting provider for specific instructions on how to enable Secure Shell access.
Step Two: Download CLI / SSH Client Software
Next you will need to download a SSH client. Don’t worry… the program you need is free. There’s quite a few to choose from. Some cost money, but most are free, and will fit your needs perfectly. These programs looks similar to DOS and require similar commands. I know that many people avoid coding and programming, but honestly… using a SSH client isn’t that hard to do. It’s just a matter of knowing the right commands. And honestly, most people don’t memorize commands, they bookmark them and copy & paste them into the console. I want to share that because that was one of the main reasons why I avoided using command line programs for many years.
I assumed that I would need to actually be a programmer, and I would have to be fluent with the command and language. Once I discovered that most people don’t actually memorize the different commands and languages, I started to gain a bigger picture on how SSH can be useful to me. In fact, transferring my website from one server to another was one of the first things I learned how to do using SSH. And that’s the reason why I posted this article. It’s only a guess, but I suspect that this is one of the main reasons why many people gain an interest in using command line interface programs.
For Windows users, I recommend Putty. You can get a copy here. Choose the first option. For Mac and Linux users, your operating system already includes a program that works fine. For Mac users, open Finder, go to Applications, scroll down to Utilities and open the folder, scroll down and look for Terminal and open it. For Linux users using Ubuntu, open the Applications Menu, then open the Accessories menu, and then open Terminal.
Step Three: Login Via SSH To Your Existing Web Hosting Account
Now it’s time to start the transfer. Once again, in order to do this, you need to make sure SSH has been enabled on both web hosting accounts. Login to your existing web hosting account. The basic command to do this is:
ssh email@example.com or ssh username@ipaddress
Be sure to check with your web hosting provider as the commands will vary. For example, if you’re a HostGator customer, you will need to use this command:
ssh -p 2222 username@ipaddress
If you need additional support, HostGator customers can go here to learn more. For BlueHost customers, go here. Godaddy customers, go here. For all others, check with your web hosting provider for specific instructions.
Step Four: Start The Transfer
Once you are logged into your existing web hosting account, you can start the transfer process. Before you can initiate the transfer though, you need to know where your content is located on the existing server, and where you want to put the content on the new server. In most cases everything will be located in the public_html folder. You will be making the transfer using the SCP command, which stands for Secure Copy.
Type: pwd to figure out where you’re at on the server:
[garrycon@gator674 ~]$ pwd
Type: dir to figure out what directories are on your server:
[garrycon@gator674 ~]$ dir
access-logs etc mail public_ftp ruby webdisk
cgi-bin logs php.ini public_html tmp www
Type: cd public_html to “change directory” to public_html:
[garrycon@gator674 ~]$ cd public_html
Type: pwd again to verify your location on the server and to get the full address location:
[garrycon@gator674 ~/public_html]$ pwd
The address location will be needed when you enter the command to start the transfer. Verify the location you want to transfer your content to on your new server. In most cases, the location will be the same, public_html. To start the transfer use this command, but be sure to modify it to match your usernames, addresses, and locations for both servers:
scp -r folder/location/ firstname.lastname@example.org: /folder/
scp -r home/garrycon/public_html/ email@example.com: /home/garryconn/
That’s it! This will immediately start the transfer of your content from your old web server to your new one. Let me explain what this code means and what it does.
scp -r = Secure copy a directory. scp can copy individual files. scp-r is used to copy entire directories.
folder/ = The full path on your existing server to the content you want to transfer to your new server. Example, using home/garrycon/public_html/ will transfer everything in the public_html directory to the new server. If you have an add-on domain that you would like to transfer by itself, the code would be home/garrycon/public_html/add-on_domain.com/ This command will transfer the contents in your add-on_domain.com/ folder only.
firstname.lastname@example.org: = This is the username and address of your new server that you will be transferring your content to. This will make a secure connection from your existing server to your new server. An example is email@example.com:
/folder/location = This is the location where you want your content to go on the new server. In most cases this will match the existing location on your old server. public_html isn’t included is because doing so will result in your content being transfered to public_html/public_html.
This last part may be confusing, so I will explain it further. If your content is located on your existing server at /home/username/public_html and you want to transfer the public_html directory to your new server. The public_html directory should be located in your /home/username/ folder on your new server.
In other words, the entire code means this: With a secure connection, copy the directory that contains my content on the existing server. Login to my new server with a secure connection and paste the directory.
scp -r folder/ firstname.lastname@example.org:/folder/location
If you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to leave a comment. Keep an eye out for my next post while will explain how to transfer your MySQL database from one server to another.