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Frequently Asked QuestionsIt's a complex business... questions are good.

This business moves quickly and changes are a way of life. But there are some basic questions that everyone needs some answers to.

We have lots of experiencewith sites which are rich in content, need clear organization and which need to be well understood by Google and Bing. We have also built many e-commerce and membership-driven sites, usually with specialized business logic for ordering or shipping of products. No two of these projects are ever completely alike.

We really like dealing with sites that either have a lot of content to organize, or which need to regularly add more material such as blog or article collections. We do a lot of work in getting our clients' sites to be understood by search engines such as Google and Bing. This is called organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it's something we really enjoy helping set up for our clients.

When we founded this company way back in Ye Olde Days (2005) we were very frustrated by the low quality sites we saw, for which small business owners were paying top dollar. At that point we also began to see the great importance that search engines were starting to play in the way that users were finding information online.

In those days, graphic artists were normally the people building web sites. They looked amazing but at that time very few designers understood the web as a new medium. Sites were treated like static magazine or print ads. This also made the sites nearly invisible to search engines in those days.

We decided that the future of the web was to make sure they could be easily read by search engines. It took a few years but eventually this proved to be the case. A site can be pretty, but first it must work for both human readers and search engines.

We developed our business to follow that mantra. We also made a serious effort to find and work with business owners who where keen to co-operate on these projects and learn along with us. To date, our most successful projects are those where the client understands the need to put search-engine-friendly content on the same level as providing attractive and regularly updated material for their human readers.

Oh... and a sense of humour usually helps too!

A Content Management System is a program that is used to manage your web site. It allows users to update their site easily and without learning code. That content could be text or images and may be in the form of articles, products for sale, service descriptions, portfolio items, "about us" info, etc. We can also use the CMS to control some physical aspects of the site such as the number of articles to display on some pages, or how many products or images should be presented on a page, etc.

The real value of using a CMS includes:

  • Updating your own site whenever you want for $0 (we're in Ontario so we still need to charge tax on that...)
  • Not paying for each small update to be done by specialist web developers.
  • Increases the regularityand ease of site updates.
  • Extends to normal useful life of a web site.
  • Lets the owner add content without worrying about messing up the site layout.
  • Turns web site management into a normal business process.

When we build a site with a CMS, we customize it for the needs and workflow of that client. We do everything we can to make it easy for them to easily update and maintain their own content without having to think too much about styling, fonts and other design concerns. Since we've built a set of display rules for the site, the site owners just need to add the content - the CMS does the rest.

We currently use two types of CMS tools on our sites. There's a very simple one we use for the SPARK starter sites, and a more flexible and robust one used on larger sites.

Only in very special circumstances. Over the years we've discovered that inheriting pre-existing sites is generally not a winning idea. There is often a real reason why the site owner is looking for a new web support team. Sites which are poorly built - or even just poorly planned - are very difficult to fix or edit. In many cases it's easier and cheaper to rebuild a whole site than try to make an existing one do something that it wasn't well designed for.

We also will not take on sites which use WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! or any CMS other than our selected tools.

No. These are all good systems for specific applications and projects. However, several years ago we discovered an excellent Canadian-made CMS product which we just love! Unlike these better-known systems, the CMSBuilder tool lets us create custom-fit sites for our clients. This means that our clients don't get saddled with controls and extra bits that they don't need - or which confuse their workflow.

We build custom web sites for our clients. Part of our value is a site which matches their business process. This CMS lets us build only the parts that our clients actually need. It means we have to understand their business process, but the result is simpler to use, and easier to adjust in the long run.

The large, one-size-fits-all CMS tools make it very easy for less technical providers to quickly "build a web site". There are many additional plug-ins that can be used to extend the functions of the site. But in our experience many of these plug-ins are poorly coded and can represent significant security concerns - particularly as they are often not maintained and tested with the same care as the main program. All web sites are under constant attack and no site is 100% proof against a skilled, determined exploiter. However, there's no reason to make things easy on these nasty people.

It also means that our projects are more portable. If our clients feel that we're not living up to their expectations, they can shop the maintenance of their project around elsewhere. All they need to look for is a person or team with a general web developer's skill-set - and not a highly specialized Drupal or WordPress engineer to look after their site for them. Of course, we hope that this step is not necessary, but you never know. This way our clients are better served.

We will help with small sections or structural text such as site navigation. But longer blocks of text such as main pages, articles, product info, about-us text and so on is not included. We can happily recommend excellent copywriters and editors who would be pleased to offer you their services.

Generally not. We've web developers and designers who believe in doing what we're good at. We also feel that most social media efforts should be a direct and personal relationship between people. This means that a business manager should represent their business directly and personally to their clients - even on social media. Getting a third-party involved breaks up that relationship and is another reason why we don't provide that service.

We offer a range of hosting services as a reseller of tested 3rd-party providers.

Hosting is an essential service for any web project. It is the specialty computer used to house your web site and, normally, your email too. It's a tricky and demanding business which should be managed by full-time professionals.

Although we don't provide the hosting services ourselves, we have reseller relationships with several top-tier hosting providers. We often help place our client projects on a suitable hosting service and then act as the first point of contact, support and billing for them.

We do also provide hosting for other service providers such as graphic artists or freelance web designers.

Search Engine Optimization is a very important aspect of web site design and development. For some projects, this can be the most important business strategy to consider. For most sites, it's one of the top considerations.

We specialize in "organic" SEO for our projects. This means that once we understand the business process, we build the CMS to help the site content be easily read by search engines such as Google and Bing. Using a customized CMS helps the site owner by putting the right content in the right place to be read by both humans and search engines. Just by updating their site in the normal way, the owner is putting an organic SEO plan into action.

Since organic SEO is combination of proper site coding, technology choices and quality content. we need to work with the site owners. We provide a well-built site, using proven tools and approaches. The site owner provides regular infusions of quality original content. That combination results in the best value over the lifetime of the project. It also works very well in combination with sensible social media strategies and commercial Pay-Per-Click advertising.

It depends a bit on the project. For most sites, we provide both a personal tour and training session for the CMS which will manage the site. For our custom-built sites, we also provide a tutorial video which includes reminders of how to add content, images, links, bullet lists, etc. in most articles.

We also regularly offer classes and workshops on specific web-related topics through some of our partner locations such as Fanshawe College and the London Small Business Centre. These classes are usually on the topics of Search Engine Optimization or online strategies for small businesses.

If you have an organization, team or group and would like to arrange an in-service date for, please drop us a line with the details of what you have in mind.

Sorry, no. We might source the email hosting for your business through one of our hosting partners. And we will happily create the email accounts you need on that server. However, there are too many different email clients out there to become conversant with all of them. And since we normally can't see your device, it's exceptionally difficult to walk you through the set-up process.

We will provide you all the server settings that are needed to connect your email account using your choice of software. If you use those settings, you will have your email up and running in a few minutes.

Of course not. Most do, but sometimes the unexpected does happen. The projects that work best are the ones where we are able to communicate openly with the client. We need to know what the client really wants and sometimes getting that information can be a challenge. We've sometimes been accused of providing too much information to the client - we can live with that criticism. It's not aimed at confusing anyone, but we know what it's like to have important information withheld when a decision needs to be made. So we do our best to help site owners know their options - including pros & cons.

When we provide a service to our clients, we charge for it.

We generally charge by the hour for consulting, research, coding, graphic arts, site updates and answering questions. In a nutshell, if we're asked to spend time on a project, we charge for it... just like any business.

The exceptions to the hourly rate are:

  1. When we're first designing and building a web site. Based on the specific functions and cosmetics of the site,  we normally provide a range estimate for that whole project. This is normally slightly better than our hourly rate since we're going a lot of closely related work.
  1. We are also now charging a small monthly retainer fee for larger or more complex projects. These sites often need a bit of regular care which is covered by these retainers.

We invoice either at the end of a small task, or at the end of the month for ongoing projects. Larger projects have milestones payments built into the service agreement.

We could say it's because we're pretty good at what we do. We could also say that with several decades of experience we get a lot done in a short amount of time. We could even say that with all that experience we don't just do what we're told, but also consider the future issues and "what if" situations. We (on occasion) even say that we're not as expensive as the larger firms that need to pay rent downtown and support for stylish decor, a receptionist, coffee services, foosball tables, etc. Though we'd actually really like a foosball table.

We could say all those things...but let's just leave it at this: we believe that we offer great value. And we use to that money to stay in business.

Email is always a good start. You can use our contact form.

An old-fashioned phone call will also work. We're normally open for business between 9:30AM and 5PM Monday through Friday. We do try to keep Fridays clear to finish  client work in time for the weekend - so we make appointments if you need us on Fridays. We're sometimes in conference with clients, or out teaching classes and workshops - so please just leave a message if we don't answer right away.

We do not provide after-hours or weekend appointments or phone support.

The solopreneur start-up is a familiar story for us. Over the years we've had many small business owners come to us after the web site their friends set up for them have become a problem. There's often an issue with getting the site updated, or some features have become unusable, or something similar. Worse still, the site wasn't properly secured and now is full of malware and is being actively blocked by Google as a digital Typhoid Mary.

It would have been so much better if they had built a simple, maintainable and properly secured site in the first place. But the cost of doing so seemed too high at the time.

To help with this, we've launched the SPARK project. This provides a simple, properly built, SEO-friendly, mobile-responsive and entirely functional web site for a micro-biz or project. There's a simple CMS so you can can update your content whenever you like. The designs are basic but contemporary and simply work. The price is fixed and reasonable. No frills, no fuss, no problem. Find out more about your Spark project for small business start-ups.