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Justin's
Web Design

Justin's Web Design

Affordable websites for local small businesses

Should I get an app for my small business?

phone-1601Every once and a while, someone will ask me if I can build them an app. Depending on how complicated the app is, this is something I can do; however, it’s not always a good idea.

In order to decide if it makes sense for you to get an app for your small business, it’s a good idea to consider the following questions.

What extra value will this app provide to the end user?

As a business owner, it’s appealing to have your app installed on your customer’s phone. The real question, however, is “Why would someone install the app?” Many of the most basic and affordable apps, to create, provide little or no more value than a mobile website.

Do you have the kind of business that is a natural fit for an app?

If you are running a restaurant, you could use an app for things like notifications of specials and a virtual punch card. If you are a plumber, it’s much more difficult to find those things that make your app useful. (See the previous question).

Is this a good use of your money?

It’s uncommon to spend less than $1200 on an app; even the inexpensive ones are regularly more than $2500. If you have a brilliant idea for a custom app, it might even cost 10’s of thousands of dollars or more. Considering the other, more cost effective, ways of accomplishing the same things, an app is mostly a poor investment for a small business.

This is just a quick post because the questions came up again recently. What are your thoughts on it? Do you still have questions or are unsure? Please let me know. I’m happy to update this with further information.

Busy Bee Daycare Aloha

2016-07-30-Busy-Bee-SS-01I just launched a website for Busy Bee Daycare in Aloha, OR. This is an example of one of my basic website package websites, and it’s the second preschool/daycare site I’ve built in the last month or so. The other one is Little Scholars University in Forest Grove Oregon.

Company Info:
Busy Bee Daycare
URL: www.BusyBeeDaycareAloha.com/
Phone: 503-915-7554
Address: 718 SW 215th Ave, Aloha OR 97003

Little Scholars Preschool in Forest Grove, OR

2016-07-30-Little-ScholarsI recently launched a website for Little Scholars Preschool in Forest Grove, OR. This is one of two preschool/daycare sites I’ve setup in the last month or so. The other one is Busy Bee Daycare in Aloha.

Company Information:
Little Scholars University
URL: www.ForestGrovePreschool.com
Phone: 503-430-0482
Address: 2217 16th Ave, Forest Grove, OR 97116

Local Web Designer

US-MapA local web designer is someone who builds websites and is geographically close to you, right? Maybe, but let’s look at an alternative concept of what local might mean in this context.

Serving small local businesses

Perhaps it’s about who you serve and your expertise, instead of physical proximity. Since inception, the focus of Justin’s Web Design has been serving small businesses who are local in nature. In other words, if you run a small company with local customers (i.e. roofer, plumber, carpet cleaner, etc.), you have specific needs. Developing the expertise and systems to serve those needs is a big factor that separates JWD from the competition.

Buying local is almost as important as…

…selling local. As a local business owner, one of the best things you can do for your local economy is to sell. Just as buying local helps bring money into the economy, the flip side of the coin is selling local. In order to do that well, you need an exceptional web presence. If you can find a trusted adviser to help you with that locally, great! If not, or if the local solutions aren’t affordable, it’s important that you not let that keep you from doing your part–selling local.

The Beaverton connection

This company was founded and run in Beaverton, OR for the first five years of its existence. Even now, a large percentage of my customers are in the Portland area. A big reason for this is that most of my business comes from word-of-mouth. Additionally, I rank well in the search engines for keywords related to Beaverton web design.

Current location

Currently (as of 4/18/2016), I’m in Reedsport, OR. Reedsport is between Florence and Coos Bay on the Oregon coast. I moved here to be closer to family in order to help with a medical situation.

Logistics

In this day and age, most people are comfortable with working primarily over the phone and by email. That said, I have some other great tools that allow me to work from any location without compromising customer service. I can do screen sharing, and video conferencing for those who want the face-to-face experience. Overall, my systems allow me to get more done in less time and therefore save you money.

Long-term relationship

This is a good place to explain another key difference between JWD and the competition. Most developers are focused, almost completely, on the ‘big ticket’ initial sale. If your initial budget is too low, they don’t even want to deal with you. If you clear that initial hurdle, it can be difficult to get support once the project is complete. More importantly, those developers are no longer actively involved in helping you keep your site up-to-date and secure.

My packages are configured with a long-term business relationship in mind. The key principle is the necessity for you to have a trusted professional to continually help you with your web presence.

To summarize

While my physical location varies, I am always here to help you with your local business, and in turn that will help your local community. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Organizing Consultant Website – Suzanne Lehman

Originally posted on Google+

Justin led me through the process of creating a new website for my organizing business with incredible skill and patience. He made clear all my options, and shared valuable suggestions about what to focus on in terms of content and graphics. Reliability is super important in this process. He was quick to respond to my many emails and he met every single deadline we set. In addition, the aesthetic quality of the new website truly exceeded my expectations. He designed a beautiful site, with great functionality, at an amazing price. Justin is a real pro. I would hire him again in a heartbeat.

Suzanne Lehman
Suzanne Lehman Personalized Organizing Solutions

Salon Website – Potions Salon

Originally posted on Google+

Justin is very helpful and can break things down so you can get the full picture. He often sends out helpful tips, and is always willing to make changes to our site in a reasonable time frame. Instead of just doing the minimum required, Justin takes the time to guide you the best path for your business.

Venis Taherizadegan
Potions Salon

Local Web Developer

The question often comes up, regarding where I’m located. As of the writing of this article, I’m living on the Oregon coast (Reedsport Oregon). I started my business and spent the first 7 years in Beaverton. A big percentage of my clientele is still in the Portland area, and I maintain my membership with the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce.

I’ve been fortunate enough, to find this vocation, and enough success, to allow me to be location independent. In other words, I can do my work from just about anywhere. So the question remains, “Am I a local web designer?”

The answer depends on how you look at it. If you are asking if we can sit down at a coffee house and have a meeting, the answer is no, unless your close by or willing to travel. That said, I’m a very good local web developer using a different definition.

My whole business has been optimized to serve small local businesses. Not only businesses that are local to me, but all the businesses that are serving a local community in America. If you have a little restaurant, or you’re a plumber, and you need help promoting your business locally, that’s where I can help. And, that’s true whether you’re in Key Largo, Flagstaff, or Beaverton.

So if you are looking for a rock solid business person, to be your webmaster over the long-haul, you can count on me. If you require proximity, I’m probably not your best choice.

Website Upgrades: Is my site secure?

Please take note of this warning advisory: Due to recent technical changes and increased hacker activity, your website may be at risk.

virtual computer lockWhile any aging website can be susceptible to hacking, this article is specifically intended for those running older versions of WordPress. WordPress is one of the most popular platforms for building websites. With the flexibility and functionality provided by WordPress, it’s not hard to understand why it’s a favorite tool. Of course, with the good, comes the not so good…

Over the past few months, it has become increasingly evident that it is crucial to keep your WordPress installation and its plugins up-to-date. Remember, WordPress is the engine that runs your website. Each year, in order to protect against increasingly sophisticated and determined hackers, WordPress makes three or four major revisions to its program and adds a dozen or so new security patches. In addition, each of its plugins — the small programs that run within WordPress for extra functionality — also gets updated.

In plain English: It is absolutely essential that WordPress updates be applied to your website on a regular, ongoing basis — for your security and convenience as well as that of visitors to your site.

If your site seems to be running smoothly, you may be asking, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” So long as your site is working, is updating really necessary? The short answer is “yes.” A neglected website isn’t like a car in need of an oil change that gradually runs rougher and rougher, emitting black smoke and making weird noises, giving you plenty of warning before the engine is seriously damaged. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) your website will probably work just fine without the protection of updates — right up to the moment it crashes and/or is hacked. Once that happens, repairing it will be time-intensive and expensive.

While there are “upgrade buttons” available in WordPress, the process actually requires a high level of technical proficiency, so it’s not generally recommended as a DYI project. If you are considering tackling the upgrade of your site, please click here to read my article, “What you should know before upgrading WordPress yourself.

Help Computer SupportAlternatively, you may prefer to engage one of our professional maintenance/upgrade technicians to bring your site up-to-date and keep it that way. If you are interested in this option, you are welcome to simply shoot me an email or give me a call, and I’ll be glad to send you a cost estimate, based on the age and complexity of your particular site.

You may also want to take this opportunity to add new features to your site or even to do a full facelift. Just let me know what you are considering, and I’ll be happy to discuss the options with you.

Please feel free to call (503-828-1763) or email me with any questions.

What you need to know before upgrading WordPress yourself

On the surface it may seem that upgrading WordPress is simple. Click a few buttons, and *poof* you are upgraded. The truth is, upgrading a site correctly is considerably more complicated than it may appear. It is also essential to recognize that if you happen to make a mistake while undertaking the process, you may actually lose your site entirely.

So, please be sure that you fully understand the following information and advice before attempting to upgrade WordPress yourself.

Backup

Every set of instructions for upgrading WordPress starts with backing up. Often you are told to back up the WordPress files, and the WordPress database, but there are also many plugins and systems that need to be backed up.

Most instructions for back up fail to mention one important detail about doing back up which is this: In addition to knowing how to back up your site’s components, you also need know how to restore your website from the backup data, if something goes wrong. If you don’t know how to restore your site from its backup, and you have a major problem, the downtime and expense of hiring a professional to resurrect your site (and then upgrade it correctly) are likely to be costly. If you are not fully confident in your ability to cope with such issues yourself, you may do well to simply choose the less costly and frustrating option of simply engaging a professional to do the upgrade for you.

Note: If you do attempt to do an upgrade, and you do run into problems and then can’t restore your site from backup, you should promptly contact your host. In some cases your host may be able to do a server-level backup restoration for a nominal cost. It’s essential to request this service as soon as possible, because automatic host-backups are conducted frequently. If you call for help after the host has already backed up your new broken version, they won’t be able to restore your old working version.

Check current functionality

An often overlooked step in preparation for upgrading is to first check all working details of your site to make sure everything is currently functioning correctly. If you run the upgrade without having first carefully looked at every aspect of the site, if a problem shows up, you won’t know if it was already there or is a result of the update. This confusion can make troubleshooting much more difficult.

Check for server space

Before upgrading, you should verify that you have plenty of disk space available within your hosting account. If you are saving your backup to your hosting space, check the space after running the backup, as it will take up quite a bit of space. You want to have at least 100mb of space available before running the upgrade. If you run out, you will have problems. If you run out of space, you may not be able to restore your backup.

Upgrade order

It’s best to run the update in a specific order. You should upgrade your plugins first, WordPress second, and lastly themes. After upgrading WordPress, some plugins may need to be upgraded again.

Check plugin upgrade functionality

The most common problem people run into when upgrading is that they have a plugin that’s not compatible with the newest version of WordPress. You might expect this would simply affect the functionality of the offending plugin, but it often crashes WordPress altogether. It’s important to research your plugins and replace any that won’t be compatible with the new version of WordPress. Replacing a plugin requires that you understand exactly what it does so that you can find a suitable, compatible alternative.

Note: When choosing a plugin (to replace an incompatible one or to add functionality to your site), it’s important to find one that’s well supported. You want one that has a lot of downloads, good ratings and that has been recently updated. Often older plugins that meet these criteria are the most reliable. There’s also some advantage to choosing a plugin that has a paid upgrade option, even if you’ll only be using the free version. This gives you a potential avenue for obtaining more support in case of a problem, and if the author is making money from the plugin, he or she is more likely to keep it up-to-date.

Check functionality after update

Before you start checking your site, be sure that cache is disabled. It’s possible for everything to look ok on your screen because it’s actually a cached version of your old site.

You’ll want to check each page on the site. Keep an eye out for shortcodes. A shortcode is an instruction within square brackets, such as: [EXAMPLE=YXZ]. When looking at a site, the shortcode shouldn’t be visible. If you can see the shortcode, it’s an indication that a plugin isn’t working or conflicts with a shortcode used by the theme.

Don’t forget to check forms, photo galleries (clicking on each image, etc.), and any other dynamic features on your pages. If you have mobile functionality, you should test the site on a smartphone as well.

Once you are satisfied that your site is working properly, you can turn your cache back on, and you’re done.

If you do run into a problem, you’ll have to determine if it’s specific to a plugin or if it’s caused by something else. Depending on your level of expertise, you may need to call in an expert. You’ll want to make that decision quickly, because troubleshooting becomes more difficult the longer you wait. This is why it is so important to promptly, carefully check your website after updating it.

Disclaimer: Please note, that this is not a “how-to” guide for upgrading WordPress.

There’s a reason this is article is called, “What you need to know…” and not “How to….” Its purpose is simply to help ensure that you understand the scope of the process and the technical skills required to upgrade WordPress. If you do not have a solid understanding and the necessary skills to perform all the elements in this process correctly, you are urged to not attempt to run your own update.

If you do decide to do an upgrade and want to learn how to do so in detail, you can search Google and YouTube for tutorials. You should review several tutorials to get a good overview. Focus on those that are most recent, as the upgrade process varies somewhat with each new version.

Note: Consider the age of your current WordPress version. The older versions are more likely to have problems in the upgrading process. If you are updating a version that is more than five major revisions behind the current version, you can expect to have some serious issues. Click here (https://wordpress.org/news/category/releases/) for version release information.

All professionals are not alike

The above information represents our best practices protocols for running upgrades. That said, not every web developer will follow all of these guidelines. Some prefer to just do a backup, immediately start upgrading everything, and then fix things as they go wrong. We don’t recommend this approach for two reasons: First, it often results in excessive downtime for your site, and second, it generally takes longer than just having a system in place that will prevent problems before they happen.

Note: As professionals at Justin’s Web Design, we have more tools and systems for eliminating problems than are available to the average person. For example, when updating a very old, and/or complicated site, we’ll often clone the site and then run the updates in a temporary location. This is the most secure way to run an update, because the live site is not altered and remains fully intact.

Maintenance

The best way to prevent issues and keep your site running well is to have it professionally maintained. Instead of doing major updates infrequently, having monthly maintenance keeps your site consistently current and protected by the most recent updates. Having a professional maintaining your site also gives you the peace of mind of knowing that a knowledgeable technician is on the front lines if you run into a problem. Additionally, a good, proactive webmaster will look for opportunities to make your site run better and be more secure.

If it ain’t broke…

If your site seems to be running smoothly, you may be asking, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” So long as your site is working, is updating really necessary? The short answer is “yes.” A neglected website isn’t like a car in need of an oil change that gradually runs rougher and rougher, emitting black smoke and making weird noises, giving you plenty of warning before the engine is seriously damaged. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) your website will probably work just fine without the protection of updates — right up to the moment it crashes and/or is hacked. Once that happens, repairing it will be time-intensive and expensive.

Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of what is involved in updating WordPress. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

About the author

A professional web developer since 1998, Justin Feral-McWhirter launched Justin’s Web Design in 2005. In building more than 100 WordPress sites, his focus has always been creating cost-effective solutions for small businesses. To that end, Justin’s Web Design technicians developed an affordable, professional WordPress website maintenance program, which is now utilized by dozens of satisfied clients.

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