Category Archives: Personal thoughts

Pros and cons of hosting on

wordpress-comWhen you choose a WordPress-based site, you need to decide whether you want to have a site that is hosted on, or whether you want to do a separate WordPress installation on an independent server.

The benefits of the first choice are fairly obvious. will host your site for you and do all the necessary updates as they occur. (WordPress sites need frequent updates – read more here.) You don’t have to get involved with the messy business of finding a domain name and a host on your own, then installing WordPress or hiring a developer before you can start add content to your site. Similarly, supplies you with a choice of “themes” or layout styles. You don’t have to find your own theme and install it yourself, or hire a developer to make one.

The drawbacks of using only start to emerge once you’re committed to them.

You will find that you cannot upload just any theme you find – you are limited to their selection. You can’t install any outside plugins, which can be quite an issue when you need to have something not offered among their own “built-in” plugins. You cannot use your site to sell any products or install any kind of shopping cart.

You can’t use Google Analytics on a site – they offer their own site stats. And you can only view the past month of stats, so you will be unable to compare the performance of your site and the number of visitors in previous months.

Site certification is done through an html tag rather than Google’s preferred method of Google Analytics. And in addition, doesn’t allow you to add additional users to their site stats. This means that other people – like members of your team or even your boss – cannot review the stats, as they can in Google Analytics.

From a visual persepctive, reserves the right to add their own content to your site, whether you want it or not. will display their own advertisements – or the ads of other companies – on your blog, unless you purchase an Ad-free Upgrade or a VIP Services account. Their footer credits and the toolbar may not be altered or removed regardless of upgrades purchased.

One of the most important drawbacks to using is the inability to perform even the most basic, organic search engine optimization (SEO) on sites. Instead, they offer three suggestions:

First, rather than allowing you to add keyword phrases in meta tags, and upload an xml sitemap through Google’s Webmaster Tools (both of which are absolutely fundamental to being cached by Google), claims that just the way they design their themes is enough to optimize your content for search engines!

Second, advises users who want to get better SEO results to continually publish new posts and pages. It is true that Google likes to see a site being updated – it tells the Google bots that the site is actively being used. But that is only one piece of doing SEO properly, and it certainly doesn’t take the place of meta tags.

Third, if you want better SEO results, encourages their users to promote their sites outside (for example, on other blogs and sites) as a way of improving results. Again, that is a far cry from doing even basic SEO work in the background of your code and letting Google know it’s there! This means that if you are not easily able to keep making posts and contacting other blogs – or simply don’t want to – effectively your site will do very poorly in Google’s results. Read more about suggestions for search results from at

Possibly most important of all, you need to realize that your website on is not your own. Although you will be generating all the content, including your own original writing and photos, by putting this material on you are automatically transferring ownership of all of it to Automattic, the company who provides the hosting service for Wasn’t that nice of you?

By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog.

Meanwhile, can also remove content from your site, re-use your content for their own purposes, or even take down your site if they feel for any reason at any time that they don’t want it on their server. This information is freely available in their Terms of Service. Imagine spending endless hours perfecting your site and adding content, only to have it disappear, with no compensation or regress!

Automattic has the right (though not the obligation) to, in Automattic’s sole discretion (i) refuse or remove any content that, in Automattic’s reasonable opinion, violates any Automattic policy or is in any way harmful or objectionable, or (ii) terminate or deny access to and use of the Website to any individual or entity for any reason, in Automattic’s sole discretion. Automattic will have no obligation to provide a refund of any amounts previously paid.

By having a website on, not only are you handing ownership of your site’s content over to Automattic, but if you’re developing the site on behalf of someone else, you will have to get permission from your employer or client to hand over their content and the copyright of the content to

If your employer has rights to intellectual property you create, you have either (i) received permission from your employer to post or make available the Content, including but not limited to any software, or (ii) secured from your employer a waiver as to all rights in or to the Content;

Don’t think by hosting with you have saved yourself any development headaches. One of the arguments most often made in favour of having host your site is that you will be able to avoid all the problems and issues that come up with having your own site on an independent server. However, if you have problems with your site, such as malware attachments or other issues with Google caching your pages, you will not be offered any help at all by These are serious and frequent issues, and this is the time when you NEED outside help!

Having your own WordPress site on an independent server can be an expensive and difficult business, especially if you or your developer uses free or purchased themes and built-in plugins which can lead to serious issues with modifications and updates. Why we don’t use free or purchased themes

But at least with an independent host and an independent installation of the WordPress software, you will know it’s your own website. You will know you own it in its entirety; that you can design any kind of theme you want and use any plugins you want; and that you can have an ecommerce site or simply just sell a few things from your site. You can track your visitors when and how you want. You’ll know that you can use proper SEO tools and do a proper submission to Google. You will not have unwanted ads or footer material placed on your site without your permission. And most of all, you will know that no one can remove your website from the Internet without even informing you.

How often should you change your website?

Some people change the appearance of their website every few months, while others keep the same site for years. This article discusses the pros and cons of updating or replacing your website.

Many really good HTML sites have stood the test of time since 2003 or 2004. These early sites are smaller than sites built today, but have solid design and good information architecture.

Two years ago, we began to notice that designs we had built only months previously were being replaced. Not just the design, but all the content thrown out and replaced within months. It was not just our sites. The majority of sites selected as winners of various website contests in 2011 had already been replaced with different designs by early 2012. Award-winning sites from 2012 are already being replaced with completely new sites in 2013.

Why are new sites being changed so frequently?

Web technologies have changed enormously in the past few years. Many people moved from HTML and Flash sites to content management sites built on platforms like WordPress or Joomla so they can do their own updating. Companies with Flash sites were forced to re-do their sites when Apple didn’t support Flash on the iPad and iPhone. People who used free platforms like WIX discovered they couldn’t do SEO work, their sites couldn’t be verified by Google (utterly critical to getting indexed and showing up in a search) and their site didn’t display on iPad and iPhone.

Most people today are redesigning their sites to adapt to mobile devices. Many companies who micro sites for mobile are already redoing them with responsive designs in 2012. Most of our work in the past year has been spent on designing responsive websites, where the content not only scales down but the layout of the content changes on smaller mobile screens.

WordPress is currently is the number one site-builder, and people with WordPress sites frequently change their designs. One reason is that WordPress allows you to change the “theme” or design of a site while keeping the content, menus and plugins intact.

We also see a fast turnover in WordPress design as a result of owners altering their sites. Not just adding content, but fundamentally altering the layout and design. Several expensive sites we built this year were immediately re-designed by their owners upon completion, simply because the owners wanted to try their own hand at “changing it up” – hacking the responsive designs, breaking links, altering URLs and installing incompatible plugins. Unfortunately WordPress makes it easy for anyone to alter their site design, usually to its detriment.

Other people just seek constant change. We’re often asked to look at sites and tell people what’s “wrong” with them. In most cases these sites have only recently been completed.

In other cases, site owners are approached by “SEO experts” who just plain wreak havoc on a site, drop user-friendly features and greatly change the appearance, throwing out proper usability and visitor experience.

Sample of website that has been copied and hacked by “SEO experts”

What’s wrong with changing your site as often as you feel like it?

Rebuilding your site too soon, especially if you don’t retain the same URLS, can be disastrous for your search engine results. Search engines need a good couple of years to make a profile of your site and a cache of back links (referring sites). In turn, referring sites can take months and years to acquire. When search engine optimization is done properly and organically, it takes time to “grow” the organic SEO.

One of the most valuable features of an older site is your Google Page Rank. Page rank takes years to build. Even when using 301 re-directs to ensure continuity between your old URLs and your new URLs, you will lose page rank.

Another valuable resource is repeat visitors. Repeat visitors are worth gold, and they may not be very happy to find your site changed. Branding means building up recognition and trust. If you follow large sites like Amazon, Old Navy or The New York Times for a while, you will soon see that despite all the money they could spend on new web design, their design alterations are done gradually and carefully so repeat visitors are not confused or annoyed.

For the sake of search engine continuity and branding, we often encourage new clients to keep their sites as is, perhaps with an updated heading, a slide show, or some social media links – features that will improve the visitor’s experience, but not necessarily at the expense of throwing out the whole site or changing the URLs.

So when should you change your website?

We recommend changing a site for the following reasons:

1. When the technologies used for your site are no longer compliant with modern web standards.

2. If your site is on a host or site-builder that does not support search engine optimization. Converting to WordPress is the best thing you can do for your search engine rankings.

3. If your site does not display well on mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets. When your market depends on visitors connecting through mobile devices, it’s time to move to a responsive design.

4. When you need a content management system to be able to add content yourself. If you need to frequently update your site content or want to start blogging, WordPress is the format of choice.

5. If you want to add features that are most easily done using plugins and widgets on a content management site. Building forms, calendars and other functional features from scratch on html sites is considerably more expensive and time-consuming than installing and modifying plugins on a CMS like WordPress.

6. If you need to increase your visitor interaction. Through the use of social media plugins, newsletter signups, visitor polls, Google maps and share widgets, content management platforms like WordPress offer valuable opportunities for increasing your social interaction with your visitors.

The best way to replace your site

When you replace your site, our best advice is to keep the following features intact for the sake of search engines and visitors.

1. Keep the same names for the URLs of the pages.
You want to retain all the search engine benefits your old site has gained, especially if your site is well-indexed on Google. Find out if your site has been well indexed by typing “” into a search box.

2. Add re-directs.
If the URLs of important pages have changed, be sure to re-direct them to the new pages so visitors who bookmarked your site don’t get error messages.

3. Keep your GA ID
Keep the same Google Analytics number by transferring the code to the new site.

4. Contact your referring sites.
If you change your domain name, even slightly, do a links search to see who is referring your site, then contact the designers or webmasters (typically in the footer) and ask that your old domain name be replaced with your new one. To find your referring sites, type “” into a search box.

5. Keep the most popular features of your site.
Check your Google Analytics to see what pages or content has been most popular. If you really don’t want to keep these pages, phase them out gradually from the new site rather than dropping them altogether. Remember that repeat visitors are a valuable commodity.

At Kits Media we believe that websites built with the latest technologies should support the addition of more pages and more features over a period of time. They should be carefully managed and monitored for visitors, search terms, back links, malware and updates during this time. We believe websites are most successful when they start with a long-term plan, and we welcome clients with the same approach.

Comprehensive list of reasons to change your site design
Excellent cautionary tales and tips for moving your site to a new host, retaining dynamic pages, changing urls and more
What you need to know about website re-directs following a site re-design
Outlines a plan for managing the goals, functionality and appearance of a new site design
Video presentation discusses when, why, and how you should redesign your website for both search engine crawlers and end users.
This older article provides some still current advice on changing the design of your site.

Pros and cons of cloud computing

There’s a lot of pressure today on businesses to adopt cloud hosting for both daily office work and websites. Cloud computing means that instead of knowing exactly where your software, documents and website files are located – on a server in a building on a street in Burnaby, for example, or in Utah or Ontario – your files are distributed and accessed from computers spread around the globe.

Cloud computing is heavily marketed for the following benefits. Companies can reduce their capital costs on hardware, software and licensing fees, and owners of large corporate websites may experience faster access and streaming of their content. The financial model for web hosting shifts from a static annual or monthly charge to a pay-by-use model. The cost of software and complications of local area networks are handled by the cloud host’s data centres, rather than your company’s IT people. Cloud computing offers expanded opportunities for wireless computing: because all applications and documents are globally distributed, they can be accessed from anywhere in the world that has wireless access.

But I have a lot of concerns about cloud hosting and I’m not alone. In August, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak expressed his own concerns about cloud hosting. This is from an industry leader whose own company has been one of the most prominent in the promotion of cloud computing. And many people agree with him.

With a static server, we know where your web files are stored. There is a physical location and address. With cloud hosting, some files could be on a server in England, some in Bangladesh, some in China – wherever server space and bandwidth is available at that split second.

Cloud-hosted companies assume a greater risk as a result of the many additional resources and connections required. When data is stored on multiple servers, often spanning several countries, issues quickly arise when any particular data centre is compromised. There are also issues around standardization, since there are no proper international standards for cloud technologies at this time.

There are also — and most importantly — huge security issues. Some of our clients express concern about the Privacy Act and hosting on an American server, but cloud computing is much worse. You really have no control over your files – they could be anywhere, including most third-world countries. The development of cloud computing resources in third world countries is increasingly encouraged and supported by large Western corporations. In return, there is an exponential increase in the number of people with permission to access the passwords and firewalls, and an increase in opportunities for hackers.

A good summary of the security issues is provided by Kurt Johnson in his article, Cloud Computing Hides Big Issues in Corporate Data Sharing on

Long before cloud computing, companies were sharing vital information with customers, partners, vendors, and contractors to make business processes run more efficiently and economically. They started with Web commerce, then moved into mobile applications and social networking. Each new information-sharing program opened up another hole in the corporate information security armor.

Cloud computing is another step on the continuum, and it also raises the stakes. Hosting vital data and applications on a cloud provider’s infrastructure puts vital information outside the corporate wall. Even more importantly, it creates a new set of users who have full access privileges to your data and applications — namely the cloud service administrators.

Too often, without realizing it, they rely on nothing more than trust to keep their data safe. They trust that the right people have the right access to vital information and will use it for the right things, yet they don’t really know who they’re trusting because they don’t know who all of those users are. Their service provider tells them to trust that they are managing user access effectively. Trust, in this context, is a flimsy defense.

Read more:

To Cloud or Not to Cloud – Pros and Cons

The Cloud and Africa: Indicators for the Growth of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing: The Business Persepctive – PDF

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons for Small Biz

Crowd-sourcing a logo with 99 designs is a crowdsourcing site for graphic design. Crowdsourcing means that designers across the globe compete for the winning design. In the process you receive dozens and possibly hundreds of designs. Several of our clients have been very successful securing a logo through 99designs, so we decided to try them ourselves.

You start by signing up for an account then answer questions about the style of logo you want. Visual examples as well as value scales are included. You can write a description of the logo you envision, and upload sample images. 99designs then asks you to choose the amount you want to pay. We decided to start with $299 and see how it went.

Each contest lasts 7 days. The first stage lasts 4 days or 96 hours. After receiving about 20 different logos in 24 hours, we were asked to “guarantee” the money to encourage more designers to participate. This meant we agreed to pay for at least one of the logos by the end of the contest, which definitely seemed fair.

Early samples of logo designs from

The designers who participated in our contest came from the east. The majority were located between Bulgaria and Malaysia. Most submissions came in during the night while we were sleeping in Vancouver.

99designs encourages you to look at completed contests and to invite designers whose work you like. This was extra effort but very worthwhile. I opened about 40 contests and looked for designs I liked. Most contests in the $299 range had an average of 20 designers per contest, with an average of 60 designs each.

When I saw a design I liked, I linked to the artist’s portfolio to see if I liked the other designs. In all, I contacted 31 designers and asked them to look at our project. About 15 people I did not contact also supplied designs. We felt I substantially increased the odds of getting a good design by inviting people, rather than leaving the contest to chance. $299 is at the low end of the scale for a logo design.

You can rate each design with one to five stars, but can chnge your ratings any time. I found this useful for organizing our favourites. You can also write the designer directly about each design, and give feedback or ask for small changes.

I had described us as a website development company in Kitsilano interested in symbols to do with computers, the ocean, mountains and/or trees. There were strong cultural differences in subject matter. Designs came in with palm trees, tropical sunsets and Caribbean-coloured oceans. Most of the mountains were very pointy, like volcanoes or the Himalayans. If I did it again, I would provide mainly visual samples instead of text.

Samples of final entries from among the 320 submitted

We were amazed and astounded by the talent of the participants. When you work with one designer, you might go through 10 or 20 variations before the designer gets fatigue. By crowdsourcing the logo, more than 25 designers were able to participate and to bounce off each other’s work. (Although this was a bit of a calamity when one of them would use the wrong colour scheme or a palm tree and others would copy it.)

At the end of 4 days, we had 198 entries from 25 designers – more than twice what we had anticipated. We chose 6 finalists (who together had created about half of the entries). We also chose 6 designs and posted voting contests on Facebook to get feedback from other people.

During the final three days, the 6 finalists continued to produce variations on their ideas. At this point the designs became quite similar. We ended up with 320 designs, and eventually chose one that had been created early in the contest. You can see the winning logo at the top of this page and a white version of it in the footer below. It was an excellent experience and I highly recommend 99designs if you’re looking for a logo.

Graphic designer or website developer?

You are planning a new website and wondering whether to use a graphic designer or a web developer. What’s the difference?

Most graphic designers have extensive knowledge and experience with print media. That is, they understand how to work with files that have large file resolutions, to align text and images in grids using desktop publishing programs, and make color separations and master pages. They can set CMYK and Pantone colour specifications for digital print production, and prepare files for traditional printing companies.

Unfortunately, the layout and design of your site depend on many factors that have nothing to do with its graphic design. Websites are created like jigsaw puzzles, not like posters. Think of them as many different pieces that are assembled in the browser via coded instructions, rather than a grid or layout program. The design needs to be planned by someone who understands how the design elements will work in the context of headers and footers, content areas and sidebars, as well as menu structures, widgets, plugins, tags, categories and scripts. Knowledge of web fonts – as opposed to typography – is also vital.

To create a website, a graphic designer needs to be familiar with optimizing files for the web, so they transfer quickly over the Internet and web pages load quickly. The content must be prepared for flexible images and fluid grids, because text and images on websites re-size according to the dimensions and orientation of each visitor’s monitor or cellphone. (You have to plan for people turning their iPad sideways, among many other considerations.)

In other words, a web design is not one single page, but multiple areas all coded separately. To be search-engine-friendly, all areas of the website need proper image titles, alt tags, css style sheets and media queries. Experienced web developers further test for differences between current browsers and older versions of browsers, including IE 7, IE 8, IE 9, Firefox and Chrome as well as Safari. They also understand (or should) how servers work and the most recent server technologies.

If you want your site to work efficiently on all devices, and for people to find it on the Internet, you need someone with the knowledge and experience of a seasoned website designer. This is not to say a graphic designer won’t succeed at getting something visible on the Internet  –  after all, anyone can make a website, just like anyone can cut your hair. But you may not reap the benefits of a site made by someone who understands how websites are interactive and configure themselves differently on different monitors and in different browsers.

There are some areas where you might use the services of a graphic designer to prepare files for your website. For example:

– Have a graphic designer create your logo. The logo will likely be used extensively in print media, so it’s best to have it created in the first place by someone who understands printing. It can easily be adapted to the web, but an image prepared for the web cannot be adapted to print media.

– For the same reason, a graphic designer could likewise prepare any elements of the website that will be used on business cards and brochures.

In addition:

– Be sure he or she understands the conventions of naming structures for Internet images, such as no spaces or symbols in the file names.

– If a graphic designer prepares images files for you on a Mac, be sure he or she understands the differences between how websites display on PCs, tablets and cell phones, in addition to how they look on Mac desktops, laptops, iPhones, iPads etc. There are profound differences in brightness and contrast.

Read more about differences in monitors and testing for different browsers

Additional reading
Understanding responsive design issues

How Much Code Should Web Designers Need to Know?

Should Canadian companies use Canadian hosts?

Should the host for your website or blog be geographically located in Canada? A lot of people believe this is essential but it’s not. In fact, it may work against you.

This short article describes some factors to consider if you’re looking for information about having a .ca domain name, wondering about the effectiveness of a .ca name for reaching Canadian consumers, wishing to support Canadian companies, or have privacy concerns.

Hosting is not the same thing as having a .ca name
Hosting has nothing to do with having a .ca name. You can register for a .ca name but still host outside Canada.

Having a .ca domain name is a good idea if:
• you have a service or company of interest mainly to people in Canada
• you provide services or products where Canadian branding is important
• you are not very interested in providing services outside Canada
• you have a strong reason why you want people to know your company is in Canada

You must register for a .ca name with a company in Canada that has been licensed to sell .ca names by CIRA. You must have a Canadian street address and phone. But you don’t need to host with the same company, and it may be preferable not to host in Canada.

Search engine optimization and .ca names
If you have reason to believe the majority of your market uses a Canadian search engine like, then having a .ca address may help your site come up on Canadian search engine results above sites outside Canada.

Be aware this also depends on how well your search engine optimization has been done. Proper search engine optimization using key words like Canada, Canadian, British Columbia, BC, Vancouver (or any other Canadian city) will result in similar rankings without having a .ca name. The .ca name alone is usually not sufficient.

Factors to consider when choosing a host
A host is a company that owns servers (computers) where your website files are stored. The choice of a host should be made on factors like the quality of their servers and their position on the Internet.

The majority of requests to servers in Canada are routed through the States and back again. You should think about the geographic location of your target market, and choose a host geographically located close to both your target market and the Internet backbone. A server’s proximity or “hops” to the internet backbone are equally important. A low number of hops ensures fast and efficient connections between your visitor’s computer and your server’s location.







The image above was taken from a traceroute program that connected a computer in Vancouver, BC to a host called Netfirms in Ontario. If your target market is in Vancouver BC and you host with Netfirms, your target market would have to make 15 Internet hops to reach their server (and 15 more for the files to be sent back to them). Conversely, if your clients are in BC, we can offer them a local server based in Vancouver.

Canadian hosts are not necessarily located in Canada
Many people host with companies because they advertise as Canadian companies, and people want to support businesses located in Canada. Canadian hosting companies, however, do not usually use servers in Canada. Most Canadian host companies use servers located outside Canada, usually in the UK or the States.

Popular hosts like (Arizona), Justhost (Utah), Hostmonster (Utah) and Fat Cow (Massachusetts) spend vast amounts of money promoting themselves as Canadian web hosts but in fact their servers are geographically located in the United States, as your own files will be as well.

In addition, many Canadian hosting companies outsource their support services to other countries. So signing up for a Canadian host because they advertise “superior Canadian service” really may not be to your advantage, because the representatives may actually be in foreign countries.

We regularly see companies charge insane amounts of money for plans they call “Gold”, “Platinum”, “Advanced” or other names assigned to a “level” of service. We frequently see Canadian companies charging more than $40/month for service that should cost less than $7/month, and there is no practical reason for it.

Concerns about the Patriot Act
Many people express concerns about the Patriot Act and its implications for the content on their websites. But if the pages of your website are public, the information is available to everyone anyways. If the information on your site is private, such as information stored in a database, only citizens of the US are subject to the Patriot Act. Neither citizens of the US nor hosts in the US are required by law to give up usernames and passwords.

Concerns about privacy
People who are concerned about hosting in Canada for reasons of “privacy” on the Internet often do not realize the amount of information that is already accessible about them on servers spread across the States.

Most people use online services that store enormous amounts of history about their activities. The information you post on your Facebook account, Linked in, Twitter or any of the hundreds of other social media accounts is stored on servers in the States. It is accessed and used by companies you’ll never know about.

If you use Google docs, Flickr or Youtube, your content is on American servers. If you use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail, copies of all of your emails are being stored on US servers. Credit card information for multinational corporations is routinely stored on US servers. Every time you register software or other online product, you are likely registering it on a US server. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics store your visitor information on US servers. If you belong to a professional organization, like the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce, your membership information and event photos are likely stored on a US server (in their case, Texas). By comparison, the information on most websites is pretty innocent and, by nature, in the public domain already. 

In summary, small companies and individuals should be more concerned about the quality and qualifications of the host’s servers, getting good value for their money (shared hosting for $9.95/month or less, with no limitations on storage or bandwidth), and the host’s geographic proximity to Internet hubs.

You can be #1 on Google – Myth #2


Maybe. A very, very, very remote maybe. And it is definitely not something that anyone can promise you. Here’s how it works.

If someone types a search term into Google and if a match for that term is found on your site, Google will continue to scan your site and evaluate more than 200 factors in less than a second.

These factors can include:
– who links to you
– what their status is (ie if a university or bank links to your site, their link will be more valuable than a link from a small company site)
– who you link to and how relevant their own content is to your content
– how long your site has been online
if it has been sufficiently optimized with meta data for search engines during the entire time it has been online
– how much traffic your site gets compared to other sites with the same search term
– if your content contains a complex enough mix of key words and phrases
– if you have at least 250 words of content on each page, the text is not repeated elsewhere, and the phrasing is original
– if your content is completely original and can’t be found on any other site (Google can tell in a split second)
– if your site has a large number of pages with a mix of information, pictures and tables (Google likes a mix)
– if the search phrase is used a sufficient number of times throughout your website but not TOO many times
– if Google can find verification codes, xml sitemaps and analytics for your site (these are missing on most sites, which will give you an advantage if they’re done right)

And these are only 12 of 200 other factors that Google weighs in relation to the content of your site. Many are unknown and never revealed. It’s even more staggering to think that this happens in less than a second.

While Google is forming an impression of your site, they are simultaneously scanning hundreds of thousands of other sites containing the same search term for the same 200 factors – and deciding where you fit in comparison to the other sites.

Their findings are further filtered through the searcher’s geographic location. Companies with sites closest to the visitor will be displayed first. The findings are also filtered by the searcher’s own previous searches, site visits and the sites their friends and coworkers have visited (the latter depending on the masses of history Google has been collecting about their online activities for years).

Finally you have your ranking in the list. Will you come up on page one if you are high in the ranking? Probably not… the first page of Google results only has 15 places. The first 3-10 are usually a combination of paid ads and Google Places listings. Which means that the chances of your site showing in the remaining spaces on the first page – called “organic” results – were just cut in half for most search terms.

Companies that guarantee results on page 1 of Google generally use link-mining methods that Google does not approve of. “Guaranteed SEO” people sell monthly accounts. You pay them to create hundreds of back links to your site every month (link farming), which can sometimes work to temporarily put you on page 1. But Google will gradually drop your site in their ranking – or remove it – and the back links will have to be re-submitted. Which means you’ll be paying for the same work over and over.

Read more

What does a web developer do all day?

A client commented a few weeks ago that I am “way into my work”, which is probably true. I’m holding a lot of stuff in my head at once.

Some people might think that web developers build one site at a time. That would be so nice. But that absolutely does not ever happen. There are normal, regular delays in our work flow as we wait for client approvals or materials. And the average day involves juggling a wide variety of tasks and issues as we work on very different kinds of problems.

I like to start the day by getting all the little things done first. If you’ve sent me a small request to add or remove some content, I’ll probably do that first. Next come the status reports as I talk to Jr. and Sr. Tech about our current projects. We have a quick consult to decide what we’ll each be doing, then separate for a while.

Today I didn’t have any clients come over because it’s Friday. I try to keep the day clear because there are usually a lot of small jobs to be finished up for the weekend. This morning I started with a couple of phone call “meetings”. The first was a review of a brand new site for a small school in downtown Vancouver that we finished two days ago. Normally I like to present the results in person but we’ve been working on this particular site without meeting the client. The client and I went through each page on the phone while I made notes of the additions and revisions. I left him with a to-do list of things to send me by email, then updated our work schedule for the day as well as his invoice, and sent him a copy. Since I was into the Invoice folder, I sent out a couple of others while I was there, and wrote a couple of reminder emails.

The second phone call came from a long-standing client, a wonderful man with a great sense of humour. He likes to send the text and photos for his company’s blog and have me assemble them. I’d been receiving content from him all week and had organized it into folders. There were a lot of images but he had nicely zipped them up for us. We discussed the next three blog posts, then I spent a couple of hours creating the first one and sending it to him for his approval. I worked in Photoshop to size theimages, then created new pages in Dreamweaver, and added and edited and tested the copy. One of the blogs was about a recent auction at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was a good read with beautiful photos. Meanwhile Sr. Tech was working on an online shop he’s added to a site, and answering the other phone.

After finishing up the post, I answered a few more emails then made an apologetic phone call to some realtors who came to see us last week. Their real estate website was originally built using a ready-made WordPress theme. It had gone through a great deal of additional modifications, including some plugins for real estate sites, and there were some problems with it. The dilemma now facing us was whether to push forward (because the site was very workable in most ways) or not to push forward (because we were bound to run into more snags picking up where the other developer had left off). We spent a lot of extra time trying to come to a decision and finally had to recommend a new build instead.

At this point I discovered some of the pictures I made yesterday for an online colouring book were “leaking”. This website has been a long-term project for an annual festival in Vancouver that hopefully will launch in the next two weeks. We’ve been adding fun widgets and games to the site to make it entertaining and to build excitement for the June event. It looks like I didn’t completely “close” some of the lines in the colouring images, so when an area was “painted” with colour, it flooded the adjacent section. Back to Photoshop to open the offending images, close the lines, crunch them through the software we bought to make the colouring program, and upload them again.

Time to check with Sr. Tech about the sites he’s working on. He’s been fielding requests from new clients so we go over the issues and concerns and make some decisions. We’ve launched a new site for a Zen Buddhist retreat in Pennsylvania this week, and a few questions have come back about the slide show I built on Wednesday. I work on this until we’re happy with it, then it’s time for my lunch time bike ride. It’s raining heavily and miserable, so we opt for some take-out sushi instead.

After lunch I review a small job for a folk band who would like to add a WordPress guestbook plugin, have us update their menu to include the new Guestbook for their visitors to sign, and add a bright green “star” shape linking to the guestbook from the homepage. Unfortunately the star image has to be uploaded through the back end and the link has to be hard-coded to the guest page URL. Meanwhile, the guestbook needs to match a sample site they sent. After spending some time identifying a couple of plugins that look good, I make the star and put the plugins aside to discuss with the others.

Next I tackled the search engine optimization on a site we built for an author. It needed a couple more hours of work to complete. I worked hand in hand with Google ad word tools to identify suitable phrases and add them to the code, then loaded an XML site map.

As I was finishing, I took a phone call from someone who needs to configure her email client to receive emails sent via the server for her site. Unfortunately we don’t actually do this work, although we will type out the information and send it to her. After being “blamed” several times for problems that were out of our control, we had to make the hard decision that we won’t help anyone install software or configure emails or register for a host. (Having said that, Sr. Tech is opening a can of worms again by offering hosting through Kits Media. He has gone to a great deal of trouble to set this up and is patiently waiting for me to create a nice interface for it.)

Next came a series of emails back and forth with a client who is thinking about compressing some of the videos uploaded earlier to their financial company’s website. We discussed using an Adobe compressor and building a Flash player, or loading them to Youtube and grabbing the embed code. After checking their Google Analytics, I discovered that only 6% of their clients are using an iPhone or iPad (which doesn’t display Flash), so their market demographics are not a problem. I recommended the Youtube solution however because she’ll be able upload and compress more videos in the future, and I can show her how to grab the embed code and add them to her pages. This is working out well because we re-built this site last year so she can manage a lot of their own updates. I spend some time on Youtube to create a ghost account, upload the videos and make them private, so only I can find them or get the embed code.

Suddenly an avalanche of emails –  it’s Preview time. Every two months since 1989 I’ve written 10 or 12 art reviews of local shows for a small gallery magazine. I start making folders to receive all the emails and images that will come in the next 24 hours.

Hard on the heels of the gallery information comes a late afternoon email from an accountant client. His site is also ready to go live and he’s spent the week reviewing the pages. His email has a list of changes which I read over and let him know I’ll start working on them. His review is extremely detailed and organized. It consists mostly of text replacements with a couple of PDF links. Lovely! It looks like we can get him online and looking good by Monday. I sort out the tasks to be done and get started on it.

Now it’s time for a stretch, a cup of tea, and a quick review of what we need to do next. TGIF!