DIY Web and Why It’s Not For Everyone

SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix are just three of the dozens of companies offering drag-and-drop web creation. Broadly speaking, the cost ranges from ‘free’, which means a limited set of presentation elements plus an advertising banner on your site (Wix runs banners, SquareSpace does not), perhaps less robust support from the company (support ticket only versus chat, for instance), to $300 and up per year, depending on the level of support, the sophistication of the templates, the amount of bandwidth and storage requirements. E-commerce deployment adds a significant cost dimension.

The interfaces for the three companies I mention here are simple to learn and use and the resulting website looks nice enough. There are limits to site and page customisation. Access to the developer’s platform with SquareSpace requires the higher-priced plans. From there, the stock templates can be customised by editing the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

Even so, the site cost is less than $400 a year, all in. So why hire a developer? Easy – time is money. Building a site of any level of complexity takes time.

Let’s say the purpose of a site is to feature a start-up public relations company. The newly-minted CEO signs up, chooses a template, builds a few pages, done, right? Wrong. What about newsletter or e-mail blast integration? Metrics reporting? Social media integration? What about developing effective content to magnetize natural search results? Who will manage these functions for the organisation so that the effort has some tangible, ongoing effect on the development of the brand?

A key role of the developer is to look at what the organisation needs in terms of brand identity and marketing and to suggest an overall strategy that culminates in an effective action plan. In order to remain effective, that plan must be maintain on an ongoing basis and reviewed periodically. That takes time, discipline, knowledge and some experience. In the example of the public relations start-up, who will fulfill that function? The CEO is busy drumming up new clients and managing existng ones to keep the lights on. The marketing/sales/HR/R&D/facilities manager is already wearing a coat-rack full of hats. Realistically, what will happen to the media marketing effort started so valiantly?

A very small company usually doesn’t need a developer, or marketing engineer, as I like to think of the role, on anything like a full-time basis. The level of support an organisation needs in this regard is dependent on what’s being done or made. An intern is not the answer. Sure, a novice with an expensive education should get you the cutting edge in all things media, but that’s just not the case. As a professional in your own area of business, you likely remember how shaky you were until you swept some experience under your belt. Who paid for that experience and for those mistakes? Your employer did back then, but now, you’re the employer and although we’re a few paragraphs further into this article, time is still money. Further, unless you’re experienced in marketing, advertising, content creation, systems analysis and all of the other knowledge and experience that goes into creating a real presence in media for your business, it’s likely you won’t have a clue as to what to look for or what to monitor when your intern or first-timer starts.

So, start with a marketing plan and understand the goals of your web presence further than, “I want to get more business.” Talk to actual web devs who know something about creative, marketing (which is not the same thing) and importantly, research. That’s probably not going to be Tim The IT Guy who runs a Warcraft blog. If your web presence is something more than a marketing vehicle, you’ll need to find developers that can deliver secure web-based applications that work. No, it’s not easy, but if it was, everybody would be doing it. And, in fact, everybody is doing it, just not doing it well. The challenge for the business professional is to be circumspect and humble enough to understand that he or she may not fully understand what’s needed in terms of expertise. Of course, you could hire a analyst like me to uncover your needs, propose unbiased solutions and help to move your plans in the right direction.

Web marketing and application development has matured to an actual discipline that can be very powerful for your business. Don’t sell you business short with a D-I-Y solution that, in all fairness, probably won’t help one little bit.

 

 

Flash Is Dead. Long Live Anything Else, Except Java

stop_signAdobe’s Flash was once a useful bit of software that web developers and designers could use to create visually compelling content for display in a browser or even as a stand-alone package. Flash lent itself well to game creation, too. But Apple didn’t like it and, as it turns out, Steve was right.

There was a time when you couldn’t load your favourite website because all the menus were written in Flash. The majority of audio and video content was delivered that way, too. The problem was (and is, for those that haven’t disabled Flash plug-ins on their outdated browsers) that Flash could deliver a bit more, like ransom-ware, to the user’s machine. Ransom-ware is a piece of software that when downloaded and run, will encrypt all of the files on a user’s computer and display a notice that demands payment to get a key to unlock the files. Don’t pay up and lose those files – permanently.

To be clear, Flash isn’t to blame for the nasty behaviour of internet criminals, but because of the many security holes exploited by web crooks over time, Flash has garnered a reputation as a significant security risk.

Firefox disables Flash by default. By the last quarter of 2016, Chrome and Safari will do the same. Edge, the Windows 10 browser, automatically pauses content not central to the user’s experience of a visited page. That leaves Internet Explorer as the lone hold out.

It’s easy enough to disable Flash entirely in Edge and Internet Explorer 11.

In Edge:

  • Click on the three dots that bring down the menu in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window.
  • Select ‘Settings’.
  • Scroll down and select ‘View Advanced Settings’  and toggle the switch ‘Use Adobe Flash Player’ to OFF.

In Internet Explorer 11:

  • Click the gear in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window.
  • Select ‘Manage Add-ons’. On the left-hand pane of the dialogue box that opens, select ‘All add-ons’ next to ‘Show’.
  • Find ‘Shockwave Active X Control’ and ‘Shockwave Flash Object’. Highlight each entry and click ‘Disable’ in the lower right-hand corner of the dialogue.

To see if Flash content is enabled in the browser, visit http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/. If there is no motion banner celebrating Flash, Flash is disabled.

So, see ‘ya, Flash. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to move on. We’ll go after Java next.

 

You Can Take It With You – Making Your Data Portable

Hello Kitty! Flash DriveWhether you’re a creative professional or you just need access to data, like images or documents, when you’re not at your computer, how to get it from here to there has evolved from the portable USB drive to the ubiquitous “thumb” or flash drive to solutions that don’t involve hardware that can be lost, broken or stolen.

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How To Set File Associations on Mac and PC

Double-clicking a file usually opens the file in an assigned application. We may not always want to use Picture Preview or QuickTime to open an image file, for instance, or to open picture files with Preview, and it can be quite annoying to have the “wrong” application open every time. Of course, we shouldn’t blame the stupid computer for keeping us from our fav pics and tunes because it’s, well, stupid and just doing what we tell it to, after all. Since we tell it what to do, we change tell it to do something else when we double-click a given file type.

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Anatomy Of A Password

Let’s take a vote. What’s the most popular password on the planet? Is it k9H3!R+? No, no, that’s not it. How about pancetta019? Nope: not it. The world’s most popular password, according to the U.K.’s Daily Globe and Mail is: 123456.

123456. Not much of a password, is it? Does it happen to be your password? Or is ‘password’ your password? Tsk, tsk.

It is a doubtless pain in the butt to remember a secure password and writing it down makes it all the less secure. There are some services that will remember a password for you, but the old saying goes something like this: “How can two people be sure that their secret is kept? If one of them is dead . . .”

So, it’s best to have a method of creating a secure password for yourself and to use it. First, some simple rules:

Avoid using passwords that can be found in the dictionary. Hackers can use dictionary lists as the basis for a hack.

The password should be not less than six characters.

Don’t use your name, birth date or any other personally-indentifiable bit of information in the password.

Always include a mix of alphanumeric (a through z), numeric (0 through 9) and special (#,$,!,@ and so forth) characters.

What would a password that follows these rules look like? For instance (and please don’t use this one):

Brahms91#

Easy to remember, hard to guess. Favourite composer, weight when you were 13 and your favourite special character. Easy to forget? Maybe specifically, but if you make up a formula to follow, your can have a different password for each login (recommended) and not actually have to remember the exact password, exactly.

Let’s say you like to make cupcakes and you don’t usually make them from scratch:

Crocker12!

Hmm. You use Betty Crocker cupcake mix, you make a dozen at a time and cupcakes are exciting! Same formula:

Baltimore50#

Hmm, again. Baltimore is the home of the King of Cupcakes, your favourite food channel cupcake-reality show, 50 is the number of pounds you hope you don’t gain from eating cupcakes and # is the pound sign. See? Easy.

So, there’s really no reason to not use a more secure form of password. I’ll be checking on you, -91ADclaudius^.^.