Entrepreneurs Developing Web Sites Must Address These Top 5 Potential Pitfalls

Note my choice of words for this post’s title. In particular, pitfall… The issues discussed here could be a problem, but with careful planning, they don’t have to be. Hopefully raising your awareness is sufficient to help you address them.

I’ve ordered these in the most likely order you will encounter the issue. Of course, when planning a web site in advance, you can address most all of them at the same time by doing good planning.

Purchasing a Domain Name

No web site exists without an address to get to it, and that means a domain name. It’s what ties your marketing materials together, it binds your online & off-line marketing together. It’s your email address. It’s everywhere! Why would you use someone else’s brand to label your product? You MUST own your domain name! There are two important points in that short phrase. First, it must be Your domain name–identified and related to your business, whether it be your current business name or variation of, or a fanciful name you plan on marketing off-line to build as your brand image, e.g., Yahoo! Second, make sure when the name is purchased or registered, that you, as principle of your company, are shown as the Owner. Third-parties are OK for administrative & technical contacts, but You must be the Owner. There are many sad stories about someone walking away from a business and taking it’s well-known web address with them. If you don’t own it, you don’t have control.

Choosing a Web Host

I know entrepreneurs are commonly on a shoe-string budget, but that is no excuse to choose a fly-by-night web host, just because they are cheap or run by a friend. Your business’ online image will be made or lost based on the 24×7 support that a web host must provide. Depending on the services you plan on delivering on the web, the level of host must be appropriate. The average $5 host won’t cut the mustard long-term. Shared hosting is only a starting place, you must have a plan to get your own dedicated host in the long term. No matter what size your business is, eventually. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a good middle ground for most businesses with medium web traffic. Heavy-hitters, i.e., business whose business is the web, need a dedicated server. Big bucks maybe, but worth it. It’s also not all about the server. The available bandwidth (how fast and how many independent connections to the Internet) to the hosting facility, the back-up systems, the back-up generator & UPS systems that are the infrastructure of a web host are just as important to you.

Web Standards

The web has been here long enough now for some standards to have been developed. This allows different people to choose different tools and yet all of us work together. In the web world, the key is the web browser and the leaders have over the years tried to do things their own way. Yes, there was commonality in the basics, but they tried to sell you on using their browser by adding features that other vendors did not have and could not understand. So, if one site developed with one browser in mind you better have that one if you wanted to access the content! Finally, they have (mostly) realized that agreeing on web standards is to everyone’s benefit. You benefit in developing your web site by only having to build to the standard–you don’t have to recreate your design multiple times to address all the major browsers. The key standards are those developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They are ever expanding and being advanced, but at least the core vendors are working together on a common path. A second benefit of this, is improved accessibility to your site by the visually or motor impaired. Web Standards-based designs can easily be made Section 508 compliant. If you plan on doing business with the Federal Government, you can be required to have your web site compliant with Section 508. This same ability also allows you to be prepared for change in the future for new types of devices re-purposing the content on the Internet.

Getting Help

Unless your business is web development, you should be contracting out the setup, design and maintenance of your web site. It might be fun to get your hands on the knobs and tweak the design, but if you are not an expert in web development or graphic design, your focus on the web site must be it’s CONTENT. That is where your business expertise should be focused–on your business! Not on what makes the web site look good or even makes it work. It’s the old story, do what you do best, and hire the best to do the rest! Experienced web professionals can do what you need done in much less time than you can and probably do it better. Meanwhile, you can be doing what you do best, running your business!

Keep it Fresh!

Once you have a good web site up & running, don’t let it languish! It needs to have it’s content kept up-to-date, even if you don’t have a changing product line, you should have something like a blog that requires updating on a regular basis so there is a sense of motion and change on your site. You need to track what results your site is getting using web analytics, and tie it to any web-based or off-line sales you make if you can, to determine your ROI. Your web site should easily pay it’s own way, if only in your marketing image–which is of value itself. Oh, and about every 12-18 months it should get a fresh coat of paint! I.e., a small redesign of the site based on feedback from your customers over the past period. Particularly addressing any usability issues that have been discovered. Change makes visitors keep coming back. If I get used to seeing something different every time I visit, I visit more often! You build brand image in your customer’s mind.

Hope everyone has enjoyed this recap of these potential pitfalls, and hopefully can now avoid them! Watch for more detail on each of these areas here in the future.

This post has been my entry to the latest Group Writing Project from Darren Rowse at ProBlogger. Be sure to check out more on the project, and visit the other authors that are contributing to the project. Here’s the summary pages so far:

Why Your Website Needs Branding

While spending my time developing the new theme for this site, the reason for developing it was upper most in my mind. There are a lot of nice free or inexpensive generic templates available. However, if you want to be recognized, your look must be different. You must stand out from the crowd in many ways to succeed as a business. For your web site, the first impact and impression you get to make is the look & feel of your site. It comes even before your visitors read any text on the site! If it is not unique, your potential customers won’t be able to tell you apart! A possible competitor could go out and obtain the very same template and confuse your customers, simply by imitating your look.

Branding is almost an over-used term these days, but it still represents a core part of a successful business. Your business must be recognizable and identifiable so you can take credit for your work where it is due. But, remember that branding does not begin with the look of your site. It begins with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Ed Roach over at Small Business Branding has a great post on what to do if you are Drowning in Competition. In it he describes the use of USP as helping you eliminate your competition by narrowly defining your target niche. While Ed calls it “Unique Selling Point,” the concept is the same. I learned it many years ago from multiple influential sources, so we agree on what it means, if not the phrase.

You must make your business identifiable by what you do and how you do it. There should be no one out there doing the same thing you do!

Andy LaPointe, also at Small Business Branding, asks if your business’ Brand has Graduated from Kindergarten, he points out three key factors in defining your USP: Industry, Geography & Product. He points out you don’t have much control in defining your niche at the Industry level, and limited control at the Geographic level. But you have 100% control at the level of defining your product! No matter what you product is, whether it be physical goods or a service, how you define it is what makes your business unique. You must make decisions at this level before you get far in your business. Or in developing your web site.

Your USP gives you a state of mind in designing your web site. I wanted to acknowledge my desire to be free and recognize how I could be of service to others by developing this resource site. I’ve always been a teacher in my life, sometimes in the classroom, but often on the job to my co-workers. I love doing workshops and making technical presentations to an interested and interactive audience. This site is meant to demonstrate my skill both technically and philosophically with my attitude for sharing what I know, or helping others find out what they need to know that I might not–yet! I love learning, and have often said that life without learning would be too dull. In a technical field such as the web, you must continually learn to keep ahead or even survive. A long time fan of Stephen Covey, I share in his belief, presented in his book First Things First, that the fulfillment of the four human needs and capacities “to Live, to Love, to Learn and to Leave a Legacy” is vital for both our personal & professional success.

Your brand may change over time, as will your web site. If we don’t change, we stagnate. That is why there has been so much turnover in companies on the web, some kept pace, others burned out, and others put up a web site to say they had one and forgot about it. Be the first, not the last. Decide what your current brand is, close your eyes and visualize it. Then open your eyes and get to work creating your vision.

Earthy WordPress Theme Launched!

Yeah! It’s done! Well, is a web site ever done? Don’t answer that!  🙂

It’s live, anyway. I’m pleased with the general look, though a few of my visitors may feel lost for a while! The design was focused on creating something new & unique that would be identifiable with this site, as well as functional. I dropped a few items on my earlier to-do lists after review, and have delayed others. In the coming weeks I will point out how certain things were accomplished, the plug-ins used, and all the details.  For now, I’m just going to sit back and relax a bit, and focus on why were all right blogs–the content!

I invite feedback on the new look & feel of the site. Please leave comments and share what you think. I know there are some little glitches that showed up in the launch, like that Technorati Rank graphic not wanting to center… it is on my server at home! That’s strange. But, now that I can sit back and take it all in, I can focus on fine-tuning as we go. Thanks for being patient while I got this completed. I look forward to hearing everyone’s comments.

Tab Delay and a Successful University Site Launch

Well, I thought I was going to make it tonight, but I guess not. Most work is done, but I decided to change the approach I was using on the CSS tabs… So, it’s taking me a wee more time than I planned to get that just right. Everything else is ready, except the last minute things like dropping in the stats tracking codes. I want to save a copy of the theme without the codes, so it could be distributed if someone actually liked it… 🙂

While my own site isn’t ready, we did have a successful switch over to our new site design at work, so at least something went right today! Look forward to finishing tomorrow…

ProBlogger Group Writing Project

Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has announced a new Group Writing Project to be started in the next 24 hours. This is just to get everyone primed and aware of the project, as last time there was about four days to write and publish your post. So, check out ProBlogger’s last group writing project so you are familiar with how it works, and be ready! I look forward to participating in this project myself. Sometimes, we need outside sources of subject material to write on, although I’m sure the project will be similar in concept to the last one, where you write in your niche, but use the style of post Darren specifies. Whatever the rules are specifically, I’m sure it will allow you to write in your area of expertise and target niche of your blog. I’m a big believer in defining the focus of your market, and then going for it with all you’ve got. The more finely targeted your market, the easier it is to serve your customers, and be the best at what you do!

Redesign Status Update

I’ve made good progress on the latest to-do list:

  • Review plugin use and confirm all are setup
  • Make notes of configuration changes that need to be done inside WordPress admin tool after installation of the template
  • Setup tabs with rounded borders using graphics
  • Check pages for IE support code & GIF graphics for rounded corners
  • Add Latest Posts to sidebar
  • Widen sidebar
  • Finalize color choice in post metadata
  • Consider post date ‘calendar’ format graphic or color change
  • Expand About page content
  • Posts by Category page needs format still
  • Posts by Date page needs format
  • Custom Category Templates for each of standard categories (Tools & Techniques) with header lead-in to content
  • Update blogroll and breakdown by category, perhaps using built-in link management system?
  • Add RSS Feed icon & links near top & remove from footer
  • Confirm RSS auto-discovery code is in header
  • About section in sidebar, with photo?
  • Ranking links (Alexa & Technorati)
  • Blogflux links (uptime, directory, mapstats)
  • Feedburner chiclet
  • Stats link codes
  • SEO code
  • Review online version for customizations to back-port to new design
  • Affiliate links (Sedo) others? HitsLink?
  • Last 50 entries on Archive page
  • Mullet Home page?
  • Review for standards compliance

I’ve made good progress, so I should be able to launch the new design tomorrow night. Funny, we are also launching a new site at the university tomorrow night–luckily I’ve scripted that so it should only take a few seconds to cut-over to the new design. We are just planning on doing it Sunday night so it will be up Monday morning when people come in as was announced. I guess you can consider this blog the same way! Weekends are normally a slower time for views of the blog, especially on Saturday, though this weeks stats are looking pretty good! Hopefully my visitors on Monday will have time to leave comments on the new design. I’ll do a launch post when it goes live tomorrow to celebrate the launch, then Monday I’ll post a specific request for feedback. I’ll really be glad to be able to get back to thinking about content, than about the design and structure of  the blog, though that’s some of what I will be doing! Keep watching…

Final To Do List for Site Redesign

Here’s where we are so far in our progress on the earlier established to-do list:

  • Install copy of WordPress on development box
  • Import backup of live site content to provide some content for the development site
  • Create a bare-bones set of template files
  • Review the default CSS before beginning development of custom CSS for new template
  • Setup CSS for basic layout
    • 2-Column wide left, narrow right, approximately 75% – 25% split
    • Site width: 1024px (current width ~800px)
    • This gives almost the same relative widths as the current template, but with an increased overall width, resulting in a wider left column (and right) to give more room for graphics & code as desired.
    • Header will be short, ~ 5% +/- of screen height
    • Footer will be one or two text lines
  • Select color scheme
  • Select photo / graphic / logo for header and develop site-wide navigation in header

I’ve accomplished all the items on the initial plan! Until I was writing this, I hadn’t realized that all the original goals had been accomplished. That’s nice to realize! Goes to show that putting your plans and goals in writing and monitoring them can sometimes lead you to see progress in areas you didn’t realize you were making. That’s a subject for a whole other post. Too much philosophy for this one!

While I have accomplished the original goals, it does not mean that I haven’t changed and/or expanded on them while in progress. Or there may be some minor implementation issues left to finalize.

Here’s what I see still needs to be complete before launch of this redesign:

  • Review plugin use and confirm all are setup
  • Make notes of configuration changes that need to be done inside WordPress admin tool after installation of the template
  • Setup tabs with rounded borders using graphics
  • Check pages for IE support code & GIF graphics for rounded corners
  • Add Latest Posts to sidebar
  • Widen sidebar
  • Finalize color choice in post metadata
  • Consider post date ‘calendar’ format graphic or color change
  •  Expand About page content
  • Posts by Category page needs format still
  • Posts by Date page needs format
  •  Custom Category Templates for each of standard categories (Tools & Techniques) with header lead-in to content
  • Update blogroll and breakdown by category, perhaps using built-in link management system?
  • Add RSS Feed icon & links near top & remove from footer
  • Confirm RSS auto-discovery code is in header
  • About section in sidebar, with photo?
  • Ranking links (Alexa & Technorati)
  • Blogflux links (uptime, directory, mapstats)
  • Feedburner chiclet
  • Stats link codes
  • SEO code
  • Review online version for customizations to back-port to new design
  • Affiliate links (Sedo) others? HitsLink?
  • Last 50 entries on Archive page
  • Mullet Home page?
  • Review for standards compliance

As you can see, even though I have accomplished a lot, there is still much to do. But, most of it is little stuff in general, the details you don’t see or think of, until you get farther along in any project. This is one of the reasons project planning is not an exact science. While an architect can design a house, the carpenter that builds it still have to make a lot of decisions on how to implement the design. Here, I’m the designer and the carpenter.

Redesign Update

I’ve been working on finalizing the new template tonight. I’ve got all the secondary pages (archives, blogroll, about) updated to use the new design. Simple really, just add a new CSS class where it belongs, and all is done naturally! That is the way CSS should be used. Of course, I created some new template pages, one as a customized archives page with a few tweaks, and I decided to move the blogroll to it’s own page. It was just too long for the sidebar. I do plan on shortening it… I can’t keep up with them all now!

This leaves me more room in the sidebar for other ‘toys’, or affiliate marketing links. I might make a ‘top 5 of the week’ selection of blogs that make the slot with extra promotion. Lots of opportunity now that I have the space.I’m not sure everyone will like my color palette choice, as it is a departure from most sites I see with lighter palettes or midrange brighter colors. I know I didn’t want black, but I wanted something ‘earthy’ to go with the header photo. I was also considering a deep blue theme.

This pass was more about getting into the architecture of WordPress and seeing what is possible at the simple level. Once I have it live, I can describe some of the details on how things were done. With the primary arrangement complete, I can tweak as I find it necessary. Us techies can’t keep our hands off the engine…  But, this is my ‘daily driver’ too, so I don’t want to wreck it! Came close earlier tonight on the development box… my screen went solid green! More about that when we get back to the program. Hope to take this live over the weekend.

April Stats Update – Google Analytics, 103 Bees & StatCounter

This is the one you have been waiting for… The heads-to-head comparison of Google Analytics with some competitors, 103 Bees and StatCounter. All three web analytic products, are free at the level I am using them. All of them require their own JavaScript code to be installed in the pages and are totally dependent on that code for measuring any results. If a browser either does not understand JavaScript, or has it disabled, it will not be accurately counted. For this purpose, I have separated these products from the true ‘log analysis’ products I covered yesterday, Urchin & Analog. However, based on the statistics at W3Schools on global browser usage, they find about 94% of users have JavaScript enabled. As their methodology is not described, and they have a disclaimer as to reliablity & local variation, this must be taken into account. Urchin, and other products, has the ability to combine the techniques of log analysis & JavaScript browser sensing. I wish I had access to that level of functionality in my Media Temple account. The Urchin Help pages at Google have a good description on the benefit of using a combined technique.

Well, enough stalling! Here’s the numbers!

Google Analytics

  Visitors New Visitors (%) Visits Pageviews Avg PV/Visit
Month Total 198   231 463  
Average per Day 6.6 80% 7.7 15.4 2.04

103 Bees

103 Bees doesn’t give too much detail, but it tries to capture search-terms (as does Goolge Analytics and StatCounter) providing a means of adding them to a ‘To Do’ list. Sound familiar? Think HitTail. Everybody is trying to do it, but I still like HitTail better as it tries to do more analysis on the words by making specific suggestions. More on that in another post! I wish I hadn’t missed their promo deal that ended April 30th, I was planning on taking advantage of it, but got distracted working on the template. Oh well! Hope the rest of you weren’t sleeping!

Total 336
Average 11.2


Finally, there is StatCounter. StatCounter gives a lot of detail, like Google Analytics, in a very easy to navigate interface. It’s free if you don’t mind losing the detailed level of analysis that a large log file gets you. Up to 100 log entries is free, and then you can purchase 1,000 or 10,000 or more log entries to allow you to get more detailed analysis. Summary data is always available. StatCounter also confirmed the 94% JavaScript enabled browser figure from above for my site. Though I would really like to know how they figure that when they only get a log entry when it’s enabled… that’s a good trick that I will have to ask them. If it could see the log entries from the web server’s point of view, then it could compare one method vs. the other.

  Page Loads Uniques First Time Returning
Total 355 247 203 44
Average 11.8 8.2 6.8 1.5

Note, StatCounter’s totals are low since I didn’t start them until April 7. I’ll give a full update the end of May. At least we can compare the daily averages.


While I would think I could make the following equivalences for terms used, the numbers still don’t line up!

  • Google Pageviews to StatCounter Page Loads (15.4 vs. 11.8 average)
  • Google Visitors to StatCounter Uniques, and possibly 103 Bee’s Visits (6.6 vs 8.2 vs 11.2)
  • Google New Visitor percent to StatCounter (First Time / Uniques)

However, comparing the numbers really doesn’t support a close correlation here! Only possibly for the new visitor percentage, Google’s 80% vs StatCounter’s 83%. Close. As this is a small amount of data, and there was missing data for the beginning of the month for StatCounter, I will withhold any deep opinion on accuracy just yet. However, the variation certainly makes one think…

I added FeedBurner Site Stats yesterday, and paid for an account with HitsLink (I had used there 30-day free analysis a few years ago, and still had an account setup.) I’ll see how they stack up against a continued comparison of the other contenders for May. As I am remembering, I do like HitsLink. Now, I’m interested in seeing who is more accurate. I will also compare the overall page views to the lo-based analysis in an upcoming summary.

April Statistics Update – Urchin vs. Analog

Well, it’s been one month since I started working seriously on developing this site, so it’s time for a little recap of the numbers.


First, since I’m running my site at Media Temple, the account includes Urchin for web analytics. (Note, Google purchased Urchin some time ago, and at last report was planning on releasing an upgrade of the product. But, I find that the interface of Google Analytics and Urchin are extremely similar. You can draw your own conclusions.) However, I don’t look at it much as it is limited to being account-wide. I host three different domain names under the same account, and it does not give an easy way to separate out the data. So, these numbers are inclusive of the other domains–which are minimal traffic really, but they do influence the numbers.

Urchin Data from MT
Date Range: 04/01/2007 – 04/30/2007
Total Sessions 3,535.00
Total Pageviews 10,451.00
Total Hits 16,003.00
Total Bytes Transferred 125.96 MB
Average Sessions Per Day 117.83
Average Pageviews Per Day 348.37
Average Hits Per Day 533.43
Average Bytes Transferred Per Day 4.20 MB
Average Pageviews Per Session 2.96
Average Hits Per Session 4.53
Average Bytes Per Session 36.49 KB
Average Length of Session 00:06:39


Next up is the overall statistics from Analog, which is based on downloaded logs from Media Temple. Analog is the original Open Source product of Dr. Steven Turner, now a principle with ClickTracks, another log analysis product. The logs there are not kept forever, as I like to do so I can do long-term analysis, but only for 10days. I thought I had missed downloading some of the logs since I was missing April 6-10, however, in looking at the Urchin stats, I see the same days show zero hits also. So, something must have been going on with the logging on the site.

I’ve used analog for years on other sites, and it is very configurable to get the numbers you want, however you have to develop the right ‘question’ to ask first. I’ve developed custom configuration files to run for different time periods: daily, weekly, and monthly. I went back and ran the daily reports for every day in April, so I can review the details, but for this report I’m just going to quote from the overall summary of the monthly analysis. I’ve configured Analog to exclude the other domains in my logs, as well as hits from my own browser, so it is explicitly for external access to Chasing A Dream.

  April 1 – 30 Last 7 days
Successful requests 7,653 2,469
Average successful requests per day 256 352
Successful requests for pages 4,822 1,641
Average successful requests for pages per day 161 234
Failed requests 347 96
Redirected requests 670 226
Distinct files requested 396 251
Distinct hosts served 584 265
Corrupt logfile lines 1  
Unwanted logfile entries 16,842  
Data transferred (megabytes) 81.07 26.45
Average data transferred per day (megabytes) 2.72 3.78

Making a big assumption here, which is not good to do–we are going to equate the terms from these two reports as follows:

  • Urchin’s “Total Pageviews” = Analog’s “Successful requests for pages”
  • Urchin’s “Total Hits” = Analog’s “Successful requests”
  • Urchin’s “Total Bytes Transferred” = Analog’s “Data transferred”

So the head-to-head comparison is as follows:

Urchin Analog
Hits 16,003 7,653
Pageviews 10,451 4,822
Bytes 125.96 MB 81.07 MB

As you can see, it’s hard to analyze these head-to-head when the basic numbers are so out-of-line with each other. In my general review of the details of both reports, I felt that the other sites were not contributing significantly to the difference, but was basing it on the variation in the way the programs did their counting. This may not be true. So, I’m going to pause a moment and run the same Analog report, without making any exclusions, so it should be based on the same data as Urchin. BRB…

Here is the comparison with the revised numbers for Analog:

Urchin Analog Difference %
Hits 16,003 15,458 3.5%
Pageviews 10,451 8,734 19.7%
Bytes 125.96 MB 124.09 MB 1.5%

That’s much better. But, note there are still differences! I’ve added the percentage difference based on the Analog numbers so you can see how much variability there is, particularly in the Pageview analysis. While the definition of ‘hits’ and ‘bytes’ are fairly clear cut–though not necessarily the same to everyone as we see–the definition of what exactly constitutes a ‘pageview’ is still up for debate. At least between Urchin and Analog. Analog at least gives us clear definitions of what it’s terms mean, and Dr. Turner explains exactly what you can & cannot get out of web analytics.

I’ve got more details coming on the other products I’ve been comparing, but if you are itching for more, now, I sugget you check out Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics Tools Comparison: A Recommendation.