Posts Tagged "technologies"

What Features Do You Need on Your Website?

The right web space features can provide excitement, convenience and many other beneficial aspects for your visitors. However, the wrong features can have precisely the opposite effect. When a site is bogged down with features which don’t work properly, aren’t properly maintained or are simply in the way, visitors are likely to look elsewhere. Here, we’ll take a quick look at how to choose the best feature for your web space, along with a few which you absolutely don’t want to waste time on.

Determining the Best Features for Your Site

For nearly every site, there are a few basic features which are essential. If you run a business site of any kind, you need a reliable, trustworthy e-commerce feature to ensure smooth, easy transactions.

If you want your site to be interactive, you need a feature or features which allow for customer input. This might come in the form of a blog, a forum or a chat space – choose the feature which best reflects and complements your own unique business. Once that interactive feature is in place, be sure to maintain it properly—respond in a timely manner and ensure that it’s running well at all times.

Checking out sites which are similar to yours can be a huge time-saver when it comes to selecting features. Visit the web space of a company you are familiar with, and take a close look at which features they offer. If the company is selling a product or service which is similar to your own and is run in a similar manner, chances are good that the same features will be beneficial to your site as well. Taking a look at the most popular packaged plans can also give you a good idea of what may benefit your site. Check out the options here to get started.

Considering your target market is another very important step in choosing features. If your demographic consists of tech-savvy younger consumers, feel free to go crazy and add the most cutting-edge, up-to-date features you can find. Only add features you feel comfortable maintaining, however—those tech-savvy visitors will only be annoyed if they find a feature which isn’t running properly.

If, on the other hand, your target market spans several demographics, you must consider the possibility that many of your visitors may not be as computer-literate as you are. If you sell a product, it may be purchased as a gift—by somebody’s 90-year-old grandmother. If there’s even a chance that your site will attract visitors who are less than savvy when it comes to computer use, keep your essential features as simple as possible. You can still use any feature you think will be beneficial. Simply place the more cutting-edge features below the fold, or someplace else where they can be easily found, but where they won’t create confusion.

What You Don’t Need

Regardless of the type of web space you’re creating or maintaining, there are a couple of features you simply don’t need. They tend to annoy and turn away more customers than anything else, and they don’t have any real value.

Flash intros may be one of the most annoying features on the internet. These introductions were a great way to introduce visitors to your site and showcase your creativity—ten years ago. These days, they’re highly annoying, especially if they can’t be turned off. Ditch them if you have them, and don’t even think about creating a new one.

Auto-play video or audio is nearly as annoying as a Flash intro. We’ve all encountered these from time to time—irritating and inexplicably loud clips of sound, video or both which launch automatically when we visit a site. If you’re like most, you frantically click until you can shut them up. Don’t force your visitors through the same annoying process—avoid auto-play like the plague.

Going Mobile

One last component of your site which can’t be ignored is mobile compatibility. While it’s not technically a ‘feature,’ it’s something you need to have in order to reach more customers and keep them happy. With the increasing numbers of site visitors using smartphones and tablets, mobile compatibility is swiftly becoming a must instead of a nice ‘extra.’ If your site isn’t easily viewable on mobile devices, you’re cutting yourself off from a huge demographic of potential visitors and customers. Choosing the right features is essential to the success of your site, so start your research today and begin building the best possible web space for your business!

How to Choose a Web Space Provider

As a small business owner, you already know that jumping into a big business decision without proper groundwork is a bad idea. You’ve probably put a great deal of time and effort into other aspects of your business, so why should your web space be any different? These principles apply to every type of web space, including bloggers and other non-business sites. Here, we’ll review the most common rookie mistakes, as well as easy ways to avoid the hassle. Choosing one of our top recommendations can eliminate many of these mistakes from the beginning.

Shop Around

We shop for bargains everywhere…don’t make the common mistake of jumping on board with the first web space package you stumble across. This happens so often because many of us simply lack a background in tech knowledge. While you don’t need an IT degree to purchase a sensible web space package, you do need to take a bit of time to comparison-shop. Even if the first package you find does happen to be a great deal, resist the urge to purchase. The package will still be there after you’ve shopped around a bit.

Research your options just like you would research before any large purchase. Compare basic features and their prices, along with the more uncommon features you feel will benefit your web space. There’s no magic number when it comes to comparison shopping, but it’s a good idea to review at least three to five companies before making a decision.

Choosing the Best Features

A big part of creating the best possible web space for your business is choosing the right features. There are tons of site features available to you, from common to downright strange. Knowing which features will best benefit your business is key to making smart purchasing decisions.

You can start researching this step by visiting sites which offer similar products or services to your own. Bloggers can approach it in much the same way; visit and study blogs which you enjoy, find entertaining and visually appealing.

Study all these sites, taking the best features from each. Think about how each feature will benefit your visitors, and how it will generate more business or traffic. In addition, think about cost and maintenance. A great feature which is never updated or maintained won’t draw visitors—it’ll drive them away.

For those just starting out, it’s best to start small. Begin with a web space package which isn’t quite bare-bones, but doesn’t pile on the extras either. These mid-level packages give you room to grow without overwhelming you with maintenance tasks and higher costs.

Preparation is Key

Before your web space goes ‘live,’ it should be tested, re-tested and tested several more times. Test every single feature, using a variety of devices, browsers and platforms. In short, ensure that each and every potential visitor will be able to take full advantage of every feature. Once you’re up and running, this thorough testing should be carried out on a regular basis to keep up with updates and fixes. Properly maintaining your web space does require a bit of dedication on your part, but the increased business and visitor traffic you see will be well worth the effort. If your site is live and hasn’t been thoroughly tested, now’s the time!

Top 10 WordPress Plugins

WordPress’s basic feature set makes it a top-notch blogging platform, but the software isn’t limited to that. There are all sorts of plugins that can enhance and extend its functionality. Let’s look into ten of those.

Jetpack

While it’s generally an inferior option to hosting a WordPress site on your own web space, the hosted solution provided by WordPress.com does include a number of interesting social features. Additional stats, email subscriptions, and social networking integration are just three of these features; there’s a huge list of everything included at the link. Jetpack is a massive upgrade to WordPress’s ability to build and retain community, and can be useful for almost anyone.

Tumblr Importer

Not every worthwhile plugin is as feature-packed as Jetpack; some are more utilitarian. Tumblr Importer does just that: it imports posts from a Tumblr blog to your new WordPress installation. If you were using Tumblr before setting up your own web space, this means that you can effortlessly carry content over. Your users will never know that this plugin is there—but it does its job, and that’s what matters.

Hotfix

If everything is going well, Hotfix does nothing. Literally, nothing. That’s okay, because this plugin is intended for when things don’t go well—it patches known bugs in the installed version of WordPress that have yet to be fixed in a core release. It’s not a substitute for a WordPress update, but it can help immensely with security while you’re waiting on that update.

Akismet

Spam is ubiquitous in comment threads and email inboxes the world over; that doesn’t mean you can’t combat it, though. Akismet is a web service that identifies comments as spam via a sophisticated pattern recognition algorithm, pulled from its data on every site using the service. It’ll go a long way to making your site’s comments worth using.

Google Analytics for WordPress

If you want advanced data on your site’s visitors, Google Analytics provides some of the best tools available. This plugin ties that functionality into WordPress, allowing you to customize and target your content or advertising for its viewers.

bbPress

If you want to foster community among your users, a message board is a great way to do that—but most of the existing forum software is hard to use and set up on your own web space. bbPress ties that functionality into WordPress, giving it a fully functional message board.

Google XML Sitemaps

Your content is only worth as much as its viewers, and most of those viewers will be encountering it through a search engine. XML sitemaps allow search engines to better explore and catalog your site, increasing its visibility. This plugin generates a sitemap automatically, in real time. All of your pages are included and made available to search engines, without any effort on your part.

Ultimate TinyMCE

WordPress has a basic WYSIWYG text editor for your posts, but by default you’ll have to use HTML to do anything really impressive with the formatting. Ultimate TinyMCE beefs up the options of that text editor, and enables you to do far more entirely from within the graphical interface. It’s great for non-technical users.

NextGEN Gallery

If your site uses a lot of images, a properly organized image gallery can be a good way to make those available to users. NextGEN Gallery integrates a powerful, easy-to-use image gallery solution into WordPress, and makes presentation of visual content much easier on you.

WP Super Cache

By default, WordPress runs resource-intensive PHP scripts to generate every page served to your users. WP Super Cache stores the HTML results of those scripts, and—unless the page has been updated—will serve these static HTML versions to users if possible. It’s the same result on the user’s end, but it conserves your web server’s resources.

Windows Web Space

For a novice, Windows might seem to be an appealing server operating system. After all, it’s probably what you use on your desktop or laptop; why not choose web space that uses an environment that you’re more familiar with?

However, this isn’t as good an idea as it seems. Desktops and servers are two very different things. Windows is great on your desktop. But on your server, the standard operating system in use is Linux. In fact, when providers offer web hosting but don’t mention the server operating system, they’re likely referring to a Linux server.

Linux is a free, open-source operating system, originally based on the Unix specification. Linux distributions—typically Apache, but others are perfectly viable—simply beat Windows on the metrics that matter here. Most notably, it’s far more stable when running a large number of processes.

Processes

The Windows NT kernel’s stability degradation with process count isn’t a huge deal for personal use; you’ll never be running enough software simultaneously for it to be relevant. However, a large-scale server, like those used by the big web hosting companies, has to run numerous instances of the PHP parser, various database engines, and a host of other specialized software. Windows is significantly more prone to downtime under these circumstances.

Modularity

Linux is much more modular than Windows, too. This is helpful both for performance and security. With respect to performance, it means that servers can run a minimal subset of the operating system, with only the software they need. For you, this means that you can be allotted more CPU time and memory at the same cost to your host. On the other hand, even with the recent efforts to minimize the resource footprint on server versions of Windows, it’s still much clunkier and more bloated than its competition—which means that you’re looking at worse results for your money.

Security

Back to security, Windows has a similar problem—more complexity, in terms of the features that are currently running, means more opportunity for security flaws. Linux dodges this bullet, plus it benefits from its open-source development model, which corrects security holes with lightning speed.

Conclusion

Are there times when you want to use web space on a server that runs Windows? Well, yes; there are some limited circumstances where you need to use Windows-based web space in spite of its flaws. If you intend to use proprietary Microsoft technologies like ASP.NET, your best bet is still a Windows server. Linux-based implementations do exist for many of these, but they’re far from flawless, and as such most web hosts don’t bother. Barring special cases along these lines, though, there’s really no reason to bother with Windows as a server operating system.

Your user interface will be the same either way—typically, an online control panel. You won’t be using a desktop environment. Windows web space isn’t necessarily going to be any more familiar or easy to use than a Linux system, and it fares much worse on both performance and security. This means a greater total cost of operation, which is passed on to you in the form of greater prices or reduced service. Unless you need something that only Windows web hosting can offer, it’s better to go for Linux.

PHP Web Space

HTML is an incredibly powerful tool for creating webpages in its own right. But it’s limited. It’s just a markup language. You can’t do any complex calculations with HTML alone, because it doesn’t execute. You need a scripting language for that—and one of the best is PHP.

What is PHP?

PHP has become the de facto standard language for web applications because of its combination of ease of use and power. PHP code is run entirely server-side, allowing CPU-intensive tasks to be performed without worrying about your users’ ability to handle them. This means that—given good web space—complex applications don’t need to place any more burden on their users than ordinary web pages.

If you have the ability to write your own PHP code, then of course that opens up an incredible number of options for you. You can do almost anything, given that you have the skills and resources.

Using PHP Platforms

But if you can’t code in PHP, there are huge numbers of high-quality scripts available to you, both open-source and proprietary. There are forums like the free MyBB or the paid XenForo. There are blogging platforms like WordPress. You can even set up an entire website with ease using a PHP-powered CMS like the free, open-source e107.

For more advanced users, you can set up a wiki with a solution like MediaWiki, or even use a full-fledged e-commerce system like Magento. Any of these can easily be extended with plug-ins or themes, as well. Using PHP, it’s very easy to create a website that fits your precise needs.

PHP Web Space

But what does your web space need to have available if you want to run PHP-based apps? Well, for starters, there’s the obvious: your hosting provider needs to run a recent version of the PHP parser.

The current version is 5.4.12, as of the time of this writing—though you may want to check that information yourself. Your host needs to be running as recent a version of PHP as possible for best results; most current apps don’t absolutely require the latest and greatest version, but older, unsupported versions can hamper performance and create security holes.

Databases

Databases are critical too. Simple applications can work with flat files, but larger ones need to be able to quickly and easily organize and work with large amounts of data. SQL variants are the most common variety of database engines that you’ll need support for if you just want to run existing scripts.

In particular, SQLite and MySQL are compatible with the vast majority of publicly-available PHP software packages. Your web space should provide you with a well-maintained SQL server running up-to-date versions of the software in question. You should also have the ability to create and use several databases. At least three databases are good. Unlimited is better, even if you don’t intend to use them immediately. It’s about room to grow. Your plans can and will change as time goes on, and you should have the ability to expand your website the same way you expand your business.