‘Do It Yourself’ part of your website

I presented a seminar topic on web content to delegates of the annual OAAS convention last Friday. Posted here is a copy of the PowerPoint. (which I will apologize for as it is a little dry).

Content can be the ‘Do It Yourself’ part of your website. Unlike the other aspects where hiring a professional is recommended, content is very DIY, and therefore less costly than other forms of website development. The real cost of content is the time you have to put into it to be successful.

Over the next few days I’ll answer some of the questions which were asked at the seminar. Some relate to web content, other questions are simply general web development issues.

  • How much does it cost to have a website built?
  • Where are the cheapest hosts?
  • What is the relationship between images and text?
  • How important is content on the home page?

Cost cutting measures are being considered all throughout any business that is looking to pull through these economic times. Some might be looking at IT as a place to cut costs, but if your critical communications tools like email and telephony, aren’t reliable and interrupt your operations, the results can dramatically damage your financial outlook! There is a compelling business need for investment in robust email communication now more than ever. This is not the time to lose focus on the survivability of critical communication gateways. Recession amplifies the cost and consequences of business interruptions – to recover from disaster or an unplanned outage means consuming budget and time that companies can no longer afford.

Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your prospects and customers can make a difference in your future prosperity.

I’ll be speaking at the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies annual convention at the Royal York hotel on Friday. My topic is “content and how it is important to your fair or festival”.

Final Virus Termination

It appears as though I’ve finally removed the holiday virus from my PC. This post doesn’t have much to do with web marketing except that if I didn’t have a working computer, there wouldn’t be much of anything web from me.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is the best removal tool for this type of infection. If you’ve got malware, here’s how to get rid of it.

Please download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and save it to your desktop.alternate download link 1alternate download link 2
Make sure you are connected to the Internet.
Double-click on Download_mbam-setup.exe to install the application.
When the installation begins, follow the prompts and do not make any changes to default settings.
When installation has finished, make sure you leave both of these checked:
Update Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware
Launch Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware
Then click Finish.
MBAM will automatically start and you will be asked to update the program before performing a scan. If an update is found, the program will automatically update itself. Press the OK button to close that box and continue. If you encounter any problems while downloading the updates, manually download them from here and just double-click on mbam-rules.exe to install.
On the Scanner tab:
Make sure the “Perform Quick Scan” option is selected.
Then click on the Scan button.
If asked to select the drives to scan, leave all the drives selected and click on the Start Scan button.
The scan will begin and “Scan in progress” will show at the top. It may take some time to complete so please be patient.
When the scan is finished, a message box will say “The scan completed successfully. Click ‘Show Results’ to display all objects found”.
Click OK to close the message box and continue with the removal process.
Back at the main Scanner screen, click on the Show Results button to see a list of any malware that was found.
Make sure that everything is checked, and click Remove Selected.
When removal is completed, a log report will open in Notepad and you may be prompted to restart your computer. (see Note below)
The log is automatically saved and can be viewed by clicking the Logs tab in MBAM.
Note: If MBAM encounters a file that is difficult to remove, you will be presented with 1 of 2 prompts. Click OK to either and let MBAM proceed with the disinfection process. If asked to restart the computer, please do so immediately. Failure to reboot will prevent MBAM from removing all the malware.

Even the Webguy Gets a Virus

Over the holidays, my personal computer recieved an anwanted gift. I picked up a Trojan virus. It is completely my fault. It was a very difficult virus to remove. I want to give a shout out to my new friend Buckeye_Sam over at bleepingcomputers.com. He had some excellent advice that I will pass along here.

Here are some simple steps in order to keep your computer clean and secure:

1. Make your Internet Explorer more secure – This can be done by following these simple instructions:
Make your Internet Explorer more secure – This can be done by following these simple instructions:

  1. From within Internet Explorer click on the Tools menu and then click on Options.
  2. Click once on the Security tab
  3. Click once on the Internet icon so it becomes highlighted.
  4. Click once on the Custom Level button.
    1. Change the Download signed ActiveX controls to Prompt
    2. Change the Download unsigned ActiveX controls to Disable
    3. Change the Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe to Disable
    4. Change the Installation of desktop items to Prompt
    5. Change the Launching programs and files in an IFRAME to Prompt
    6. Change the Navigate sub-frames across different domains to Prompt
    7. When all these settings have been made, click on the OK button.

2. Use an AntiVirus Software – It is very important that your computer has an anti-virus software running on your machine. This alone can save you a lot of trouble with malware in the future. See this link for a listing of some online & their stand-alone antivirus programs:Virus, Spyware, and Malware Protection and Removal Resources

3. Update your AntiVirus Software – It is imperitive that you update your Antivirus software at least once a week (Even more if you wish). If you do not update your antivirus software then it will not be able to catch any of the new variants that may come out.

4. Use a Firewall – I can not stress how important it is that you use a Firewall on your computer. Without a firewall your computer is succeptible to being hacked and taken over. I am very serious about this and see it happen almost every day with my clients. Simply using a Firewall in its default configuration can lower your risk greatly.For a tutorial on Firewalls and a listing of some available ones see the link below:Understanding and Using Firewalls

5. Visit Microsoft’s Windows Update Site Frequently – It is important that you visit http://www.windowsupdate.com/ regularly. This will ensure your computer has always the latest security updates available installed on your computer. If there are new updates to install, install them immediately, reboot your computer, and revisit the site until there are no more critical updates.

6. Install Spybot – Search and Destroy – Install and download Spybot – Search and Destroy with its TeaTimer option. This will provide realtime spyware & hijacker protection on your computer alongside your virus protection. You should also scan your computer with program on a regular basis just as you would an antivirus software. A tutorial on installing & using this product can be found here:Using Spybot – Search & Destroy to remove Spyware , Malware, and Hijackers

7. Install Ad-Aware – Install and download Ad-Aware. ou should also scan your computer with program on a regular basis just as you would an antivirus software in conjunction with Spybot.A tutorial on installing & using this product can be found here:Using Ad-aware to remove Spyware, Malware, & Hijackers from Your Computer

8. Install SpywareBlaster – SpywareBlaster will added a large list of programs and sites into your Internet Explorer settings that will protect you from running and downloading known malicious programs.A tutorial on installing & using this product can be found here:Using SpywareBlaster to protect your computer from Spyware and Malware

9. Update all these programs regularly – Make sure you update all the programs I have listed regularly. Without regular updates you WILL NOT be protected when new malicious programs are released.

Thanks again Buckeye_Sam and the folks at bleepingcomputer.com.

Down for Everyone or Just Me?

You head for a Web site, but you get an error. I know you’ve said it: “Is the site down, or is it my problem?”Now there’s a way to find out. Type a Web site’s URL into Down for Everyone or Just Me? (a smartly named site, no?), and it will give you the scoop. Very handy — using it keeps you from bothering coworkers or members of your buddy list.
Fixes for Wi-Fi woes: If you use Wi-Fi, turning your router’s Quality of Service (QoS) settings on will definitely help with some applications.

A Robot Network Seeks to Enlist Your Computer

A fascinating — and horrifying — new article in The New York Times offers the lowdown on “zombie computers,” the half-a-million-or-so machines that are converted, assembled into systems called “botnets” and forced to do a shadowy figure’s bidding, namely in the form of automated programs that send the majority of e-mail spam, illegally seek financial information and install malicious software on still more PCs.
In 2003 and 2004 Microsoft was deeply shaken by a succession of malicious software worm programs with names like “Blaster” and “Sasser”, that raced through the Internet, sowing chaos within corporations and among home computer users. Blaster was a personal affront to the software firm that has long prided itself on its technology prowess. The program contained a hidden message mocking Microsoft’s co-founder: “billy gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software!!” The company maintains that its current software is less vulnerable, but even as it fixed some problems, the threat to the world’s computers has become far greater. Mr. Campana said that there had been ups and downs in the fight against a new kind of criminal who could hide virtually anywhere in the world and strike with devilish cleverness. “I come in every morning, and I think we’re making progress,” he said. At the same time, he said, botnets are not going to go away any time soon. “There are a lot of very smart people doing very bad things,” he said.

So what’s a user to do?
First, take Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool out for a ride. Then make sure your firewall is up and you’re up to date with all security patches.
Then pray. Because these zombies are hard to find, much less kill. Just last week, Secunia, a computer security firm, tested a dozen leading PC security suites and found that the best one detected only 64 out of 300 software vulnerabilities.

Browser Window Size

Have you noticed a horizontal scroll bar showing up more frequently in your web browser? More Web sites these days seem to be designed for larger monitors. However a larger monitor doesn’t necessarily mean a larger browser window.

I don’t keep my browser window maximized on my desktop. I find it to be a waste of real estate as most Web sites don’t fill the content area of my large screen. So I minimize my browser window to the size of an 800×600 resolution screen. This makes it easy to have multiple windows open at the same time.

Lately I’ve noticed many sites in my browser are activating the annoying horizontal scroll bar. It is an unpleasant surfing experience to have to scroll from left to right. Since my Internet Explorer window is set to a width of 800 pixels, apparently more web designers are producing layouts which require a canvas of 1024 pixels to display the page without horizontal scroll. Webmonkey.com has some good text about this topic.

MSN.ca is incorporating user selectable widow sizes. Page options at http://sympatico.msn.ca/ offer the narrow view (800×600) and wide screen view (1024×768) At MSN.ca, the visitor has a choice. This is the most clever solution to the problem of horizontal scrolling.

I hear often, “what size should I design my web page?” There are many answers to that question. Mainly, you want to find out what your visitors are using for a browser window size. Plus you can check the browser stats available at http://www.upsdell.com/BrowserNews/stat_trends.htm#browser

It is important to note that the display resolution says little about the size of the browser window, and users can normally resize the browser window. Consequently no particular browser window size should be assumed.

The safest size to ensure that nobody is scrolling horizontally is 800 pixels. You could have your site created for 1024 pixels if you think you’ll have content to fill it. The 1024 size will annoy some Visitors until they resize their browser windows to the larger layout. The best solution is to do it like MSN.ca and create a layout that can be manipulated by the user.

how to handle negative comments on your blog

In a post at his Web Strategy by Jeremiah blog, Jeremiah Owyang addresses a challenging scenario that often presents itself in social media these days: how to handle negative comments left by an unhappy customer on your site, forum or blog. The two-way nature of social media, according to Owyang, means you must face these basic realities:

  • Negative comments are a fact of life. You can’t please all your customers all the time; some will voice their complaints online.
  • Deleting negative comments makes things worse. Think a customer is disgruntled now? Wait until they take the discussion elsewhere with the additional, and valid, accusation of censorship.

A negative comment can have a positive outcome by following this advice from Owyang:

  • View negative comments as an alert system. By keeping close tabs on problems, you can manage them in real time. “Why wait for them to bubble up elsewhere on the Web?” he argues.
  • Impress unhappy customers with your response. “In most cases,” says Owyang, “these are individuals that want you to improve your product, so embrace them, acknowledge them, and get them involved in providing solutions.” They could leave the experience singing your praises.
  • Earn the trust of other customers. Having the confidence to encourage customer insight, whatever it is, tells observers you’re committed to responsive customer service.

“The savvy strategist will realize that by bringing the problems and issues closer to home, you’ll actually have a few advantages,” says Owyang. “By acknowledging and fixing these problems in public, you … can turn this into a very positive experience.”
Source: Web Strategy by Jeremiah. Click here for the post.

Web is tuned in with radio ads

Radio and the Internet are a perfect tag-team when it comes to boosting purchase intent, according to a study from Forum Research Group.

According to the study, 57% of radio listeners visited a website for further information based on an ad they heard on radio, with 60% of those people ultimately making a purchase. The study also found that 39% of Canadians 18+ listen to radio while online.

The findings are based on telephone interviews with 1,028 Canadians 18+ conducted in October of 2007.

The study also found that while total daily media time decreased in 2007, time spent with radio and the Internet increased by 5% and 17% respectively.

Google tops Microsoft as most visited

For the first time ever, Google has topped Microsoft’s web properties as the most visited in Canada.
In January, Google websites, including Google.ca and YouTube, reached 22.44 million unique visitors, slightly more than Microsoft sites, which had 22.42 million unique visitors, according to data from comScore Media Metrix released yesterday.
Google has been gaining on Microsoft’s sites, which include MSN and Hotmail, in recent years. Yahoo ranked third behind Google and Microsoft with 16.5 million unique Canadian visitors, followed by Facebook (15.3 million) and eBay (13.8 million). Rounding out the top 10 were: Wikipedia sites (11.7 million), AOL LLC (10.7 million), Yellow Pages Group (9.7 million), Amazon (9.5 million), Apple (8.7 million) and Canoe Network (8.6 million).
As of January, the total Internet audience in Canada was 23.8 million.
ComScore data also showed that Softvoyage.com, a travel industry site, was the fastest gaining web property, with a 53% jump in unique visitors in January compared to December 2007. It had 2.7 million visitors during January. It was followed by Workopolis.com and Monster Worldwide, which saw their visitors jump 49% and 41% respectively.
As for the most popular web categories, it seemed that after the Christmas break, reality started to set in for most Canadians. Sites devoted to taxes were tops, with a 44% increase in January over December. Number two was retail-health care (34%), followed by hotels/resorts (32%).