Open source software can bring many benefits to businesses.
The term “open source” refers to software that is designed and built to be publicly available, so that people may use, modify or share it as needed. This means that anyone can access and modify the source code – the engine room of the software.
One of the big advantages that draws people to open source software is that it is free. If I can use LibreOffice to create documents and presentations for free, why should I pay for Microsoft Office?
There are actually several advantages and disadvantages to using open source software in your business, so it’s important to weigh these up. If you’re making the decision to go with open source software, do so knowing how to make the best choices. Let’s take a closer look:
Free download: Get our checklist for choosing open source software
There are usually no or very few licensing fees. Open source software can also be installed on unlimited machines or devices, as opposed to limits set by licensing agreements.
Saves companies time and money by providing software that is ready to use. (You don’t have to spend months creating a proprietary code).
Open source means many experienced people have had access to code the software and fix bugs. This can also mean rapid fixes if anything goes wrong – you don’t have to wait for the next release from a software company.
You can customize open source software for your own needs. For example, you might create your own plugins or mix and match features to suit.
It tends to have good longevity. Anyone can access it so it is evolving continuously to suit current conditions.
Any security issues tend to be fixed promptly due to so many people being available to take care of them. (Sometimes you will wait a long time for vulnerabilities in licensed software to be fixed).
Disadvantages of open source software
Sometimes the GUI (Graphical User Interface – the bit you use on the front-end) is not particularly user-friendly. Many open source software focus on getting some kind of big job done, not so much on the interface.
You probably won’t have great support. Licensed softwares often have 24/7 support desks in case you have the need. There are forums for open source software which can be very helpful, but you’re still going to wait.
With anyone able to access the source code, there is a chance that some people with malicious intentions might do so, creating security vulnerabilities.
If you are reliant on open source software and there is a problem that needs immediate fixing, you may find that you need to pay considerable amounts to developers to get the issue fixed yourself.
If you’ve decided to go for open source software, or any other kind of software, the first thing we would do is make a list of all of your requirements that need to be met. This will help you to choose or eliminate options. Does it already have, or can you add the features that you need?
Once you have a short list of open source software options, here are a few things we would look for:
The track record or reputation of whoever is behind it
What do reviews say about the software? Who founded it and what is their background? Do they have a good track record for keeping open source projects going?
Sometimes people offload their open source projects or simply cease to work on them. That might be fine with you if you have the expertise to keep it going, but you will probably find all upkeep is now on you.
One clue that the software will probably be available and maintained into the future is if a company has developed a tool for in-house use, then opened it up. If they’re still using it in-house, then it’s probably here for the longer-term.
The security protocols and vulnerabilities
Look for regular updates to the software – what version is running and how long has it been going? Look for the last stable version. There is virtually no software that is without bugs, so if Version 1.0 is still in use a few months after launch, there’s a good chance that issues aren’t being picked up, or at least aren’t being fixed.
You’re looking for clear evidence of ongoing effort, that is, unless you’re quite happy to pick up the package as-is and deal with any bugs in-house. Given that you can access the source code, this option is available to you.
Your company has the skill set to deploy and maintain the software
One of the cons of open source software is that you don’t usually have readily-available support. You can turn to forums, but there is no one there waiting to answer support questions, unlike licensed, proprietary software.
This means that open source software is best deployed in a company that has the available skill set to maintain it themselves. What if you were reliant on the software for critical activities in your business? You need to have any issues fixed as soon as possible.
There are active communities
If a software is popular and has active communities around it, then it will be more likely that it is maintained. You’ll find that if it’s not the original developers, other groups of core users will take over maintenance.
You’re looking for regular contributors – if the software has not been updated in a long time, then there’s a good chance it’s about to die.
An active support community is also a very good sign. Look at popular open source software such as WordPress (which now powers at least 30% of websites) – there are huge communities around it and constant flow of information. While your choice of software might not be as big, you still need to see an engaged community.
Good documentation and clean coding
It’s always helpful to have clear documentation to help with implementing and maintaining the software. Documentation is also a good sign that the software project is being taken seriously and is intended to continue.
You should also examine the code base for the software (or get someone with the right experience to check it). You’re looking for clean coding that has clearly been well thought-out. This is a good indication that seasoned professionals are behind the software and that it has the potential to be maintained in-house.
Have an open source policy
If your company is going to use open source software, it’s a good idea to implement an open source policy. This helps to ensure that everyone understands how and when open source software is to be used. Having a policy helps you to maximize the benefits of open source software by enabling employees to use it effectively.
Your policy for open source software should also tackle how you will minimize any associated risk. Companies are often concerned with the implications, should anything go wrong with the software. You might include a risk assessment, using some of the key disadvantages outlined here as a starting point.
You should also clearly identify key stakeholders and outline your strategy for how open source software is selected, used and maintained. Make sure you have buy-in from all key stakeholders.
Get our checklist for choosing open source software here
Open source software can be a real gift to businesses, helping them to save into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a whole lot of time on proprietary development. Open source gives you access to all sorts of features and to improvements made by developers from all over the world.
Of course, the nature of open source means that it also comes with risks. It’s important to weigh up the risks and benefits, and establish criteria for assessing possible software choices. Lastly, establish a policy for open source software in your company. This helps to ensure orderly selection, implementation and maintenance.
Have you given much thought to your website speed?
For many people, you probably don’t really consider it until there is an issue. If you’re browsing online, it can be frustrating when a website doesn’t load as it should, or when it is too slow to load.
Website speed really matters, especially if you’re running a business where you rely on people completing transactions via the site. A slow website can lead to people giving up, meaning your website doesn’t do the job it was supposed to.
Let’s take a closer look at why website speed is important and what factors affect it:
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First of all, let’s throw in a couple of quick definitions for page and site speed, as the two are often confused:
Page speed = the measurement of how fast the content loads on an individual page
Site speed = the average page load time for a sampling of page views on your website.
Both the speed of individual pages and the average site speed are important considerations for your website. One primary reason is bounce rate. This is defined as the percentage of website visitors who navigate away from a website after viewing just one page. Obviously, your preference would be to have people continue to browse and to stay on your website as long as possible!
Pingdom conducted some tests to see how page load time impacts bounce rates. As you might expect, the longer the load time the higher the bounce rate. Importantly, look at the bounce rates for load speeds of up to five seconds (most websites can manage this), you can see that the more you’re able to keep load time below five seconds, the better.
If you sell products or services via your website, higher load speeds amount to bad news for your sales. They’re a quick deterrent to visitors exploring any further. Conventional wisdom has suggested for the last few years that page speeds should be less than two or three seconds; however interestingly over that time, Pingdom notes that average website size has steadily increased. This is one factor that can slow down your load speed.
Site speed and SEO
A second key factor for why website speed matters is because it is an SEO ranking factor for your website, and has been since at least 2010. What does this mean? Google says that site speed forms one of the signals used by its algorithm to determine how pages are ranked in search results.
Your website can be doubly penalized in search results if you have slow load speeds. There’s the use of speed itself as a ranking factor, but then there are other ranking factors that may be affected by speed, such as your site bounce rate. Google’s aim is to show the best-quality results to searchers – if they quickly leave a page, it is indicating to Google that the result wasn’t great.
Another potentially negative impact of slow speed on your site search results is the time allotted by search engines to crawl your website. This is the process by which the search engine inspects the pages of your site and creates an index of them. Obviously, you’d like all important pages to be crawled and indexed, but slow speed means that fewer pages can be crawled.
The bottom line? You need your average site speed as well as individual page speeds to be as quick as possible.
Multiple factors impact your website speed. The good news is that most of the time, there is something you can do about it if one or more of these factors are slowing your site speed.
Scripts and plugins
Plugins and scripts help you to add functionality or design factors to your website. They give you features such as advertising, pop-ups or needed background functions. Some of these features will be absolute must-haves for you, but scripts and plugins can also be behind slow website speeds.
For example, if you have a lot of plugins or scripts operating on your website at once, these will slow it down. Sometimes the overall quality of those plugins or scripts might not be up to par either. A poorly coded plugin can be a major weight on website speed.
We always recommend that you take a minimalist approach to scripts and plugins. This means only installing those that are absolutely necessary to operate your website as needed. It’s a good idea to make a list of what those functions and associated plugins are. If you suspect that plugins or scripts are slowing down your website, there are a couple of things you can do to fix it.
Firstly, if you have the skills you can test this for yourself. The process would be to test your website speed using a tool, such as Pingdom, then retest after uninstalling each plugin that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you find that there is a necessary plugin causing issues, you might need to look for a better alternative.
Secondly, you can hire an expert to sort out your website speed, especially if issues with coding or how to install or remove plugins aren’t your fort?. Someone who deals with these things every day will have a good idea of where to look first.
Besides plugins or scripts, it’s possible that the coding of your website is not up to a good standard. Sometimes you may find that the coding behind your website is overly bulky or cumbersome, slowing the whole thing down.
This can occur when an inexperienced developer works on your site, or when features, such as your theme, use bloated coding. What can you do about it? You may again want to get an expert to look over your website and tidy up any poor coding. Otherwise, potentially you may need to choose a new theme or eliminate some features.
Images or multimedia
The size of images or any multimedia you use can impede the load speed of your website. The bigger the file size, the slower your page load speeds.
It is best practice to compress images before uploading them to a website. Use JPG for most photos, or PNG for low-detail images, such as logos. As for any multimedia, if you can have that uploaded somewhere else, then embedded into your website, that will help to speed it up. For example, by uploading to YouTube then using the embed code on your site.
Use of browser caching
In this case, if you are not using browser caching it can slow your website speed down. Caching is the process of storing files locally so that they are retrieved faster in the future. This is used for content that is the least modified, such as images and external scripts.
Caching can be implemented with a plugin – there are a few good options if you’re running a WordPress website, for example.
Your choice of web hosting
The web hosting you choose for your website plays a big role in how well it performs. Do you know what you’re getting from your web host? Sometimes the cheap hosting deal isn’t a great value after all, especially if it means performance issues.
Some hosting options put you on servers with too many other websites, causing slow speeds when the load on those servers becomes too much. Sometimes you might find that the server technology itself is poor. Older servers might lead to site speed issues, too.
Another thing to look out for is any bandwidth limits that your host imposes. Your site could end up throttled if it meets limits, impacting user experience.
Content delivery network
This is another one where not using it can result in slower website speeds. A content delivery network (CDN) has data centers worldwide in order to store your website data locally.
What does this mean? Let’s say your site is hosted on a server here in St. Louis – if a customer in Europe were to browse your site, they’d ordinarily find it slower than someone browsing in the US. A CDN will store information closer to their location, so that it loads more quickly.
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Your website speed matters. A slow speed can turn visitors away, meaning you don’t achieve the goals that you’d like from the site. It can also impact your SEO. Site speed is a known ranking factor in search results.
Fortunately, if your website is slow, it doesn’t have to be fatal. There are some common issues that can contribute to slow load speeds which can be fixed.
What are you really getting when you hire a web hosting provider?
If you’ve ever tried a Google search for hosting, you would have found that you get inundated with results. Some sound cheap, some sound expensive and some you may not understand exactly what it is that they’re selling.
There are different types of web hosting and this can reflect in the price and what is included. It’s important to know what you’re looking at – which type of hosting will be the best fit for your needs?
Here is a breakdown of types of hosting and what they commonly include:
Free download: Get our checklist for finding a website host here
Website hosting can take many forms depending on your level of expertise, or the level of need that your website has. “Hosting” is simply the task of making a website available for visitors to use. This is done by storing the files of the associated website on a server.
Big companies with complex needs might use many of their own exclusive servers – think of a bank, for example. Small companies or hobby websites might pay for space on a “shared server”, where a hosting company manages it.
Shared hosting is at the very basic end of website hosting options. It’s usually one of the cheapest (sometimes even free) and is widely available. It works by having many websites rent space on the same server – sometimes there may be into the thousands of small websites on a server.
This type of hosting tends to be best for entry-level websites, such as blogs or small hobby sites. The positives for using this type of hosting is that the technical side is taken care of and that the cost is reduced considerably. Many websites on one server means that the cost to run that server is shared among the customers.
There are some major limitations that go with shared hosting, meaning that this is not a great option for many businesses. For example, shared resources equate to sharing the RAM (Random Access Memory) and CPU (Central Processing Unit) of the server. If some users of the server experience a sudden surge in traffic, this can lead to major delays in processing speed for everyone, or sometimes even websites going offline. Picture a major sale event, such as Cyber Monday; clearly, an ecommerce store should steer clear of this type of hosting!
There’s a term known as the “bad neighbor effect” to describe hiccups with hosting your website as a result of what others on the same server are doing. Most hosts work to mitigate this, but if you’re only paying $5 per month, they’re probably not working that hard on it…
Another thing to be aware of is that not all shared hosting providers meet the same standards. Some might cram as many websites as possible onto one server, leading to frequent issues. Some might use older technology which can also lead to technical difficulties. This is a good reason to look much further than price when it is time to choose a hosting option – what exactly are you getting? The old saying “you get what you pay for” tends to be true for hosting.
Here are some tips for what to look for with shared hosting:
How many visitors per month are you allowed?
How much storage do you get? This is file storage for your website – the bigger and more involved the website, the more GB of storage you need.
How much bandwidth do you get? This is a reflection of the amount of data that can transfer between your site, website users and the internet. An average blog uses only around 10 GB per month, but you also need to factor in a buffer for any traffic surges.
Is the host suitable for your type of website? For example, if you are running a WordPress website, we offer WordPress packages at Hostirian. This means that we have the specific technology that runs WordPress smoothly.
What support options are offered by the host? If you are self-managing your website, you might need help sometimes and it’s important to know that it will be available when you need it.
VPS stands for “Virtual Private Server.” This can be described as the next level up in shared hosting. It will cost you a bit more than the basic level, but you avoid some of the problems associated with shared hosting.
A VPS is a good step in-between shared hosting and getting your own dedicated server. While websites still share the hardware of the server, a VPS houses multiple separate virtual machines, which dedicate slices of computing technology. This means that you are much less at risk from the “bad neighbor” effect. If a website reaches its limit of allocated resources, the site might be throttled or go down, without impacting others on the server.
This makes VPS a good option for those who have the budget to pay the hosting charges and who get a decent amount of website traffic. If you get a lot of traffic and require a lot of storage space, VPS may not have enough for you.
The VPS environment also allows you to make changes to customize your environment. This isn’t possible on a shared server because all sites share the same environment. You also get the opportunity to scale if needed, simply by requesting an increase in the resources made available to you.
Tips for choosing VPS hosting are the same as our shared hosting tips, with a couple of additions:
Is management of the VPS fully-managed or self-managed? For example, most developers will opt to self-manage because this offers them greater flexibility. If self-managing is out of the question for you, make sure there is a fully-managed option.
Do you get root access? This allows you to implement things like scripts, automation and command controls.
Download our checklist for finding a website host here
This is just as it sounds – a dedicated server (or servers) all to yourself. These are for businesses or organizations that require a lot of space, and who prefer to do the management of the server themselves (although there is managed dedicated server hosting as well for those who cannot take on the management aspect).
Key advantages include that you get a lot of space and computing power to yourself. There are no bad neighbor issues (you have no neighbors) and no security issues potentially introduced by other websites.
You also get the most flexibility with this option. You can customize many aspects, including the operating system and other hardware elements.
The cons of dedicated servers include that they are more expensive than shared or VPS. Your company needs to have the knowledge and resources to manage the server – you might need to hire server admin at an additional cost. Some will find it a con that they are entirely responsible for the server. If there are any failures, you have to make decisions about monitoring and making other arrangements, whereas with other types of hosting, other modules can take over in case of failure.
Besides space, data speed and management of the server, here are some other things to check out:
The server technology. For example, does it use the latest fast NVMe SSD?
Security. What are the security protocols and how secure is the data center?
What tier is the server rated at? Tier 4 is the best, providing the least amount of downtime per year (99.99% uptime).
How is your data backed-up? Servers should not go live without a backup, as there is a danger of losing data.
The three types of hosting outlined are some of the most common and are all options that you can discuss with us. We also have Colocation as an option, which is where you rent the rack space in our data center, but bring in your own server hardware. This option is for those with the technical know-how to run their own hardware.
The type of hosting most suited to you very much depends on your budget and what you need performance-wise from your website. Some options also require you to have or have access to the technical knowledge to operate them.
There are pros and cons to each type of hosting, so it’s important to truly know what you are buying before you take the plunge. Feel free to contact us with any questions!
YunoHost is an all-in-one OS based on Debian. It is primarily designed for making self-hosting accessible to everyone. With YunoHost, it is easy to host your own mail server, web server, LDAP server, DNS server, backup server, CMS platform such as wordpress, or anything and everything easily with few mouse clicks
Connect to all apps simultaneously through the user portal
Includes a full email stack (Postfix, Dovecot, Rspamd, DKIM)
Instant messaging server (XMPP)
SSL certificate management system (intergrated with Let's Encrypt
Security systems (fail2ban, yunohost-firewall)
I instantly fell in love with YUNOHOST. It was so simple to get setup and running for kick ass apps like Rocketchat I can save a ton of money hosting my own apps instead of paying per user with single use application provider.
YunoHost was created in February 2012 after something like this:
"Shit, I'm too lazy to reconfigure my mail server... Beudbeud, how were you able to get your little server running with LDAP?"
YunoHost All that was needed was an administration interface for Beudbeud’s server to make something usable, so Kload decided to develop one. Finally, after automating several configurations and packaging in some web apps, YunoHost V1 was finished.
Noting the growing enthusiasm around yunoHost and around self-hosting in general, the original developers along with new contributors decided to start work on version 2, more extensible, more powerful, more easy-to-use, and one that makes a nice cup of fair-trade coffee for the elves of Lapland.
The utmost effort is made to keep YunoHost secure, and the communications encrypted, you can read more about this subject on the related page: https://yunohost.org/security
You get all the great tools from the original my.hostirian.com control panel with all the easy to configure and manage control from YUNOHost, coupled with state of the art NVMe virtual servers it is a fantastic solution.
You may have seen our NVMe product on our website and wondered what the big deal is.
What does “insanely fast” mean for you? How does it work and why is it better than regular SSD technology?
As a brief primer, NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a relatively recent technology protocol. It accesses high-speed storage media and has several advantages as compared to legacy protocols such as SATA.
The earlier SSDs that utilized SATA aimed to minimize any changes in the legacy HDD (Hard Disk Drive) enterprise storage systems. The limitation is that SATA was not designed for high-speed storage media. By contrast, NVMe utilizes parallel, low-latency data paths to media, offering higher performance and lower latencies. (Latency is the term we use to refer to the delay between requesting and receiving information).
What does this mean when you’re making a decision between choosing between NVMe and other technologies? Here are some clear advantages:
Many enterprise-level companies are data-heavy, requiring some serious heavy lifting from their computing solutions. For example, look at any company that might require a large data analytics load to be operating at any second. Or, consider a busy online trading platform, where thousands of requests per minute may need to be processed.
Any enterprise that is sensitive to data latency is a good candidate for NVMe technology. How does it achieve better speeds? It uses parallel, low-latency data paths within the back-end of flash arrays.
To give a specific example, legacy SCSI is a serial protocol, meaning that it can only talk to one disk device at a time. NVMe allows you to have up to 64,000 simultaneous requests and access storage capacity much more efficiently. The NVMe drives provide significantly more IOPS – Input – Output per second. What this means is the you can write more data per second to the hard drive and you can read more data per second.
In terms of cost, NVMe consumes a lot less power than other solutions and reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) for enterprises less as well.
Higher IOPS means better performance in the eyes of your website users. As you will know, user experience can make or break the success of a website. Our website visitors expect to be able to do what they need to within seconds and that the website renders well for them.
Imagine a lot of people arriving on a website at once. For example, if you run tax services and it is tax season, or if you have a popular ecommerce store and it is Cyber Monday. Legacy technologies can lead to significant performance issues when there are multiple site requests simultaneously.
Some websites operating on older technology will outright crash with heavy use, while others will slow down so significantly that users lose patience with them. Overall, not only is this a poor experience for the user, it can be costly to your business. The chances are people will leave if they can’t achieve what they need to quickly. NVMe provides more outputs per second, meaning your website renders faster in the browser of the user.
Consider the types of websites where data needs to be saved or uploaded too. If a user is hitting a “submit” button, NVMe allows this to happen much faster and assures them that their data has been received. This is because there are more inputs per second writing to the hard drive.
From the perspective of website users within the company as well, NVMe can provide a superior experience. Consider for example companies with large databases that want to pull a lot of information from the hard drive at any one time. Sometimes a “show all” command involves thousands, even millions of rows of data in a database. With legacy SSD technology, this will usually involve several minutes of waiting around, whereas NVMe cuts that wait time right down.
To give a specific example, we have some clients that use Quickbooks on their NVMe servers. They like them because they can pull up all of their customers much more quickly. They also report that generating invoices is a much quicker process than it used to be under older technology.
#3. Better bottom-line business benefits
We can infer from better customer experience and faster performance for the business that there will be better bottom-line benefits too. In fact, there is some data to suggest this is so.
To backtrack slightly, a lot comes down to customer expectation of performance. While internet speed and device performance have improved, they’ve also lead to increased expectations around website speed. Data shows though that websites have become more technology-heavy and have slowed down overall, especially when we look at large ecommerce sites and other traffic-heavy websites.
Research shows that 57% of website visitors will leave if the website doesn’t load after three seconds. 80% of those people will never return. Of that 80%, half are likely to tell other people of their bad experience. This means that not only is a slower website impacting the number of conversions you get, it’s affecting your overall reputation. Would a speed boost from NVMe be worth it from this perspective? We think so. You could potentially expect more revenues, more commissions and better overall customer service.
Even if your website is mostly used for internal purposes, you can get better benefits for your bottom-line. Consider the workload of team members and how it may be impacted by website speed. Are they waiting around for thousands of lines of data? Or, does the data arrive quickly allowing them to get through their work speedily.
Better business efficiency allows for more focus on activities that drive your bottom-line. We’d say that’s a great reason to opt for NVMe over other choices.
#4. NVMe has unique features
There are several features that are unique to NVMe and very helpful to businesses – we’ll mention just a couple here. One of those is that no custom device driver is required. Early SSD versions would often require the deployment of a completely new device driver to access the SSD any time a user upgraded their operating systems, or even made a simple security patch.
NVMe is supported as-is by all major modern operating systems. The standardized interface supports any NVMe from any manufacturer.
Another feature is that NVMe can increase device lifetime. With older SSD technology, SSDs have a finite lifetime dictated by the number of write operations known as program/erase (P/E) cycles NAND flash can endure. NVMe uses multi-stream writes which reduces device management writes to improve device lifetime.
“As NVMe technology matures, costs decline, and storage performance requirements rise, enterprises will move toward flash-based storage systems that implement NVMe end-to-end and can support mixed workloads. “There’s a TCO argument around a system for mixed workloads that’s built out of NVMe instead of SCSI. It still has flash, but it’s flash that you talk to over NVMe versus flash that you talk to over SCSI. You can build a more powerful system in a smaller footprint that uses less energy with the NVMe-based version,” Bergener says.”
The overall implication is that NVMe will eventually replace other storage options anyway. More and more enterprises are shifting to NVMe already, although it hasn’t yet reached the 50% threshold.
If you’re looking for new solutions anyway, you could look at NVMe as a future-proofing investment. If you want to be able to scale easily and require higher infrastructure density, then NVMe will deliver you the best possible performance. Importantly, NVMe is upgradable for newer storage technologies so you can be certain you’ve made a good choice for the long-term.
NVMe is next-level when you’re looking for superior and reliable website performance. Speed matters, and NVMe is what we’d describe as “insanely fast.”
If you’re making choices about your website infrastructure, we’d put NVMe near the top of the list as a solution. It has longevity, performance and a range of features that push it ahead of other solutions. To learn more about our NVMe hosting solution, click here.
Many of our clients see the appeal of a hands-off website.
You’ve got a lot of other activities to get through in the running of your business, and you don’t want your website to be another task on the pile. There are many different maintenance requirements that go into a website, and you don’t want to do any of them yourself.
This makes a lot of sense – a fully-managed website allows you to get on with the business of doing business. However, there are some important things you’ll need to manage to make sure your website is a success.
Having a fancy website won’t automatically mean that people turn up. You have to be savvy about marketing and messaging, which are things that your website hosting company do not usually do for you.
Here are some things to consider for your website:
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Did you know it takes about 50 milliseconds for visitors to your website to form an opinion of it? Within that flash of time, they want to be able to grasp what your site is about and whether your business might be of interest to them.
Messaging is something that you need to come up with for your business unless you’re also planning on hiring a separate marketing firm to take care of it (even then, they need to know what you’re trying to achieve in order to formulate the right messages!).
A common mistake that businesses make on their websites is trying to have a catchy slogan or interesting design, but not sending a clear message. Website visitors need to know what you do and who you do it for very quickly; otherwise, they may give up and leave.
Great homepage messaging considers the target audience and includes a value proposition for them. This means that you communicate with visitors how what you do or what you sell can make a positive impact on their lives.
You will need to work with your web host to ensure that your website displays the clear messaging that you want to communicate. It’s a good idea to define who your target audience is first, then come up with a few ways to communicate with them. Take a look at websites that do this successfully – for example, in the screenshot below, Evernote does a great job of stating exactly what they do succinctly and immediately.
Besides the messaging for your website, you need to look deeper at the rest of the content you will provide. Most web hosts will manage the website and put up content for you, but they won’t create the content themselves. You will need to either produce it yourself or hire a content strategist to do it for you.
Why does content matter so much? For starters, it can help to show your company in a good light. Your content can demonstrate your expertise and (should) deliver value for your target audience. When people gain something of value, they also start to trust your business and consider using your services.
Secondly, website content helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your website. Basically, the better-optimized your website is, the better it does in terms of search engine ranking. This means that when people type in a search term that is related to your business in Google, your website features somewhere in the results. It takes time to rank highly in results, but having good quality, relevant content helps.
What is “quality content?”
What exactly does “good quality” and “relevant” mean? Your content should answer to the needs of your target audience and be relevant to your business. For example, there would be no point in producing content on an irrelevant topic just because that topic is popular. If your website is for an accountancy service and you’re trying to game the system by putting up “funny cat pictures” it can come back to bite you in the form of being penalized by Google.
Google and the other search engines aim to deliver a quality experience to their users. This means that they want to display the most relevant results first. If you are an accountancy service, something like “how to prepare your small business for tax season” would be much more relevant, and needed by your clients. It’s much better for your business to attract qualified traffic too!
Of course, you can also look at the overall quality of the written content. The best content is technically well-written and delivers an actionable or thought-provoking message, without resorting to writing fluff. Consistency is also important, in terms of tone, quality and frequency, especially if you are producing a blog.
Many business owners look at this and say, “but I don’t have time, I want a hands-off website without having to commit to the content.” If this is you, then it is possible to outsource your content, but you’ll still want to ensure that your messaging and business goals are at the heart of it. You can then get your content person to work directly with your fully-managed web host.
“Build it and they will come” is not a theory that usually works with websites! You still need to work on the marketing side to make sure you get traffic and make your website a success.
A managed website does not include the marketing of that website. This is something that you will need to manage to make your website worthwhile. If you are a bricks-and-mortar operation, then that probably involves online and offline advertising methods.
Here are some examples:
Build an email list and regularly send out a newsletter or updates.
Setup pages on social media – be active with posting and engaging.
Consider paid advertising online. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon or Google advertising.
Claim your business listing on local directory sites (such as Yelp and Yellow Pages).
Use content marketing – create blog posts, guest post on other websites or syndicate content.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce to be featured in their local directory.
Get our quick guide to claiming local listings here
Include your website on business cards and brochures.
Sponsor local events.
Take out paid advertising in newspapers or magazines.
Send out direct mail campaigns.
Testing your website
How do you know which messaging or website layout gets the best results? How do you know overall whether your website is a success?
You can clearly define your target audience, make website layout and feature decisions, and ensure that your messaging and marketing activities seem to be a good fit, but you won’t really know unless you test out different elements of your website.
A/B testing is the most basic form of testing a website. It involves pitting one version (A) against another version (B) and checking if one does significantly better than the other. For example, you might test out headlines, calls to action, web copy, sign-up forms, your checkout flow, layout… there are a huge number of things you can test, so it’s a matter of focusing on what you think might get you the best uplift.
This doesn’t sound very “hands-off” does it? Fortunately, A/B testing is another thing you can outsource. Why would you bother with it? Because optimizing your website can make a huge difference to the results you get. For example, you might find that people weren’t checking out as often due to a long or difficult checkout flow. Testing a different flow may bring better results.
If you do decide to outsource A/B testing, one thing you will need to contribute is your goals for the site. This helps to focus the testing on the areas most likely to impact those goals. You can then work with your web hosting company to make any changes.
A hands-off website is the ideal situation for many businesses, but it’s important that you still partake in some activities that help your website to be more successful.
When you’re having your site fully managed, you can expect a website that operates well, is designed attractively and has requested changes made by your host. You will still need to get the tasks done that help to draw traffic to your website.
Some of these may be outsourced too, but it’s worth thinking about so that you make the most of your website investment. How will you achieve your desired website goals?
There are literally tens of thousands of WordPress themes, and at last glance there were over 11,000 just on Themeforest alone. Others like MOJO Marketplace is a huge marketplace for WordPress themes, services and plugins. They currently offer over 1100 WordPress themes themselves.
cRaZy fast websites
Navigating through all those themes can be daunting, yet at the end of the day, every webmaster just wants a website that is easy to find, immediately captures its visitor’s attention, draws them deeper into the site and performs really, really well. Like cRaZy fast.
Who needs extra complexity?
Who wants to trust their non-profit, e-commerce store or online magazine to just any ol’ theme? Not you, not me, not anyone. Websites are already complicated enough without adding another level or dimension of complexity to the process.
Hostirian allows its clients to install the theme of their choice
This is why Hostirian offers robust themes to its web hosting clients in multiple platforms, and allows them to install any theme of their desire.
One of the reasons we allow for the installation of any theme on our BUSINESS and WORDPRESS DEVELOPER PLANS is to give our clients unlimited flexibility in the design of their sites. The collection of themes that are available have been used by millions of webmasters, website developers, photographers, organizations and creative professionals to present a highly sophisticated appearance to their websites, combined with unparalleled functionality.
We recommend Elementor
Can’t find a theme you love or just want to enhance the one you have? We recommend joining over a million users who use Elementor, the #1 WordPress Page Builder. It’s significantly faster than other site builders as it allows you to design on the front end with immediate, real-time results. It’s also FREE and OPEN SOURCE, and it does not force you to learn code. Need it to display well across multiple devices? It’s underlying source code is compact and optimized for every device and screen.
Use in combination with your favorite theme
Use Elementor with your customized or favorite theme. Elementor allows you to change your themes and still keep all your designs. Elementor can be used to design any page or custom post type on WordPress.
Design is paramount
As we continue to enhance our web development offerings, we’ll look to emerging trends that promise to deliver the design look and style for real value-add and agility for our clients. Why? Design is a paramount element of any website, regardless of the code or method to create it.
Separate your website from the competition
Every website developer and business owner is forced to compete with their rivals to offer a compelling online user experience, where the intuitiveness and aesthetics of their sites favorably separate them from their competition. In essence, your visitors are judging your site against the site they just left.
What about SEO?
Will the design, functionality, aesthetics and value-add content of your website help you in SERPS (search engine results pages)? Absolutely, YES. Fantastic looking sites are the very basis of incredible digital experiences.
Hostirian is here to help
At Hostirian, we are committed to arming our clients with the information and tools they need to develop the best sites possible. We’re definitively excited and looking forward to all the fantastic looking websites our clients are going to build. As always, we’ll continue to scour the Internet looking for new methods to assist our clients to do what they do best, and that is to run successful businesses.
Here’s a networking tip for when you’re out and about spreading the word about your new business. Instead of chatting briefly and exchanging business cards, ask this, “If I were talking to someone who needed your services, what should I say to them?” This gives them the opportunity to give you their 30 second commercial touting their business. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their business.
Ask for ten of their business cards
Then ask them for 10 of their business cards instead of one. Why? Because it says to them that you’re interested in networking with them, instead of just marketing to them directly – like every other sales rep they’ve ever met. It sets you apart.
Reaching their sphere of influence
When you think about it, everyone has a sphere of influence. When you say word of mouth is the best way to grow your business, how do you get that prospect or client to spread the word about your business? It all starts by showing an interest in their business, providing solutions that help them, and above all – great customer service.
They just said, YES
You’ll never be able to reach their sphere of influence on your own. Ask them for referrals (their sphere of influence) immediately after the sale. They’ve just said YES to your product or service. They know, like and trust you. Take it one step further. Ask them to let the person they just referred to you know that you’ll be calling.
Ask for the referral
All sales reps know that you have to ask for the sale. The same principle applies in networking – you have to ask for the referral.
My gosh, there must be a thousand tutorials on how to set up WordPress, but most of them miss a few key points that can spell trouble down the line. I’ll list a few of the more important things to look for, but this is far from a complete list.
Poorly written themes and plug-ins can wreak havoc on your website
WordPress core files won’t typically cause any issues unless webmasters don’t keep pace with their revisions, but poorly written themes and plug-ins certainly can and frequently do create havoc. Why?
Not all themes and plug-ins are created equally
Thousands of different individuals and vendors have created plug-ins and built custom themes to improve the functionality and look of WordPress websites. Unfortunately, some are better coded than others, and many do not stay current or compatible with updated versions of WordPress (which we all know happens a LOT).
Before you start performing Internet speed tests, check your plug-ins
When you have, for instance 15 plugins installed on your site, and something bizarre kicks up its crazy head, like response time slowing to a crawl, many times it isn’t the server causing this issue, or the speed of your Internet connection. It’s one plug-in or theme throwing rocks as big as boulders at your site.
How do you know which one is the culprit? More often than not, unless a Google search uncovers a common problem across multiples sites, the way most recommended is to turn off your plug-ins one by one and re-test. It’s called Easter Egg troubleshooting.
Selecting the right plug-in
When you’re analyzing which plug-in to install, you’ll be presented with its version, the author’s name, when it was last updated, what version of WordPress it requires, which version of WordPress that it’s compatible with, how many active installations there are and its average rating from one to five stars based on total reviews.
You’ll also see its description, installation instructions, frequently asked questions (FAQ), screenshots, reviews and a link to its Homepage.
What to look for
Of course, the most important of these is its description. Does it add functionality to your website? From there, I recommend checking when it was last updated and is it compatible with your current version of WordPress.
What do the reviews say?
Read a few of the 5 star reviews AND the 1 star reviews. Sometimes, a one-star review will point out something that completely disqualifies using it on your site. Some examples:
Extremely slows down MySQL
Or the plugin was the main problem on my site.
Don’t forget to check how long ago that review was written. Maybe that issue was addressed in later revisions.
Themes, on the other hand, are a different breed
Just on Themeforest alone, there are over 11 thousand WordPress themes ranging in price from free to over sixty dollars. Most of the themes display their version numbers, and are updated just like WordPress from time to time.
Take note of total sales and comments
Some themes have sold thousands of times, but that doesn’t mean your website will look like any of the others. Most themes are highly customizable.
What you’ll need to look for is whether that theme is high resolution, is it widget ready, what browsers is it compatible with, what software versions of WordPress is it compatible with, what plugins will it work with, is it mobile responsive, is it well documented and what files are included.
Most themes have Live Previews
Absolutely look at some of your prospective themes in live preview mode. Be aware though that the images on that demo are generally not included and only serve as placeholders for presentation purposes.
If on ThemeForest, was the author of that theme an Elite Author
Has that author’s work ever been featured? And do they offer extended support, and if so, at what price? Does that author respond to support requests quickly and are his answers professional and value-add.
Don’t forget categories of themes
Thousands of WordPress themes have been written in different categories such as corporate, retail, entertainment, education, wedding and technology. You name it – there’s a category for it.
Pitfalls – smitfalls! You’ve got this covered now.
PS: Many of the issues created by coders can be overcome by simply hosting your website on an insanely fast web server, like Hostirian’s PCIe NVMe servers. They’re six times faster than SSD servers and many times faster than the server you’re probably using now.
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