Who needs a web site? [top]
by Torre DeVito

Companies with products or services that can be sold online certainly do. They can reach more customers, twenty-four hours a day, every day.
For example: Antique stores, pawnshops, bookstores, gift shops, travel agents, and more.

Companies with products or services that can be marketed online certainly do. They will be found by those who prefer to let their mouse do the walking and don't look in the yellow pages. They will have more credibility displaying a web address on their signage and in their print ads.
For example: Rental property managers, cleaning companies, and locksmiths.

Companies that take orders for pickup or delivery do. They can take orders online, and deliver or have the customer come pick up the product.
For example: Restaurants and Grocery stores

Companies that take appointments do. They can have the customer book their own appointments online.
Doctors offices, hairdressers, Bed & breakfast, and so on.

Artists do. They can highlight their creative works, whether it is photography, writing, sculpting or other forms of expression. A gallery can show small "thumbnails" of their work that, when clicked upon, can take the viewer to a larger image with such information as the work's title, medium, size and price.

Authors do. They can create a fan base for their works. Books, along with selected excerpts, can be used to deliver information to readers on their past work and upcoming publications. An on-line forum can be used to create excitement about an author's work, and help develop a wider audience for future projects.

Clubs and organizations do. They can highlight their upcoming events, show pictures of recent gatherings and attract new members through a listing of exciting offerings. E-mail contacts and links to similar interests can serve to help foster camaraderie and build a substantial database for mailings.

Churches and Synagogues do. They can provide a calendar of events to their members, along with histories, leadership profiles and sermon topics. Newsletters and special mailings can be achieved with little postage charges through an on-line mailing list.

Individuals do. They can give information on their families, opinions about various subjects and show pictures of their vacations. They might want to review movies, television and music. They might show their recent craft projects or their children's latest drawings.

Do I really need a website? [top]
by Torre DeVito

Should your business have a website, even if your business is small and sells products or services you don't think can be sold online? Absolutely!

A large portion of future business revenues will be derived from online transactions or from offline transactions that were the result of online marketing efforts. Internet marketing research firms predict that the number of online consumers will grow at a rate of 30 to 50 percent over the next few years. These numbers alone should be enough to persuade you that your business should have a website.

If your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly have a site. It is like suddenly opening thousands of stores in your customers own living rooms and offices, stores that are opened 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no employees, little overhead, and no security cameras, because it is impossible to shoplift from a website.

If your product doesn't lend itself to online sales, you should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.

Even if it really can't be sold online it can be marketed. More than 20 million shoppers are now online, taking virtual tours, reading product specifications, watching movie trailers and listening to short samples of music.

By the way, even if you feel your product doesn't lend itself to easy online sales, don't be so sure. Nowadays, there's very little that can't be sold over the Internet. More than 20 million shoppers are now online, booking flights and hotel reservations; renting cars, movies, games and furniture; purchasing everything from books to computers to cars to real estate to jet airplanes to natural gas. If it can be sold, someone will figure out how to sell it online.

Be creative, maybe you don't ship, but they can order take out; or maybe your primary service has ancillary products that you can sell as a secondary source of income, like the meat market that sells knives, cutting boards, spices and Grills from its website, or the rental property management company that sells ads on its site to companies that provide local services, such as locksmiths, cab companies, insurance companies, and so on.

It is not enough just to have a website. You must have a professional-looking site if you want to be taken seriously. Since many consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like a near-sighted one-eyed baboon designed it, your chance at making a good first impression will be lost.

With a well-designed site, even a new, small to medium operation can project the image and professionalism of a more seasoned and much larger company. The inverse is also true. I've seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.

When it comes to benefiting from a website, size does not matter. Whether you are a sole proprietorship or a million-employee corporate giant, if you don't have a website, you're losing business to other companies that do.

Eight Website Pitfalls, and How to Avoid Them [top]
by Torre DeVito

Clutter: Too much noise, too much text, and too little white space mean that customers ignore the content. Customers often scan pages quickly, only reading titles or input prompts until they reach the content they want. Be concise, break text up with headings, not too many fonts and consider the reading level of your audience.

Confusing navigation: Buttons and menu items should be apparent, links should look like links. Text should not look like buttons or links. Customers do not typically read and digest information in linear order and should be able to move between sections easily.

Company-centricism: Customers are task-oriented. They don't know (or care) about departmental structures, or company jargon. Look at your site as an outsider would, by function or task. Use clear, generic labeling and try to minimize the use of company or industry jargon, acronyms or abbreviations unless context is provided.

Design by committee: Though teamwork is essential to the success of a website, requiring group consensus for decision making will stop a project in its tracks.

Bells and whistles: How a site looks is not as important as the content and the organization of that content. Establish the site layout before attempting to finalize design.

High-maintenance pages: Static pages based on dynamic information are quickly outdated. Include dynamic data only if it is needed, and provide a way to maintain it.

Back patting: Don't tell customers how great your products are, show them. Keep introductory material to a minimum and focus on your programs or services.

Overcomplicating: Designers tend to approach a site as if it should spring whole-formed from their head before it is published. Remember, a website is forever a work in progress and should be approached as such. Publish the information at hand, and the site can expand and revised as needed according to user feedback.

A General Style Guide For Numbers, Measurements, Dates, And Acronyms In Technical Web Content [top]
by Torre DeVito

Numbers followed by units of measure should never be written out.

Single digit numbers ( zero through nine) should usually be written out.

References to numbers as they appear in text should be in quotes, or bold, and should match the way they are represented in that text.

Numbers that start a sentence should be written out

Single digits compared with multiple digits do not need to be written out:

Numbers enumerating nouns that are defined by a number should be written out.

Units of measurements
Abbreviations of units should not be followed by a period unless they are at the end of a sentence.

Abbreviations of units should be lower case except in the following situations:

Units of measure named for a person should be upper case (e.g.: kHz).

Bytes are abbreviated B, bits b (e.g.: 5 GB hard drive and 1Gb Ethernet.

Metric abbreviations are case-sensitive, so uppercase and lowercase letters have different meanings

The plural of the abbreviation of unit of measure is the same as the singular (i.e.: never add an "s")

Units of computer memory
The computer industry commonly refers to:

The above units of computer memory are distinctly different from the metric abbreviations:-

This is why units of computer memory should never be written out as "kilo", "mega" or "giga"

There should always be one blank space between a number and a unit (preferably a non-breaking space)

Whenever possible, give numerical values in comparisons and explanations to avoid ambiguity:

Only compare the value of items if they are of the same unit of measurement (i.e.: Don't compare apples to oranges).

As a related matter, use the same units of measurement in comparisons.

Use the dd Mon yyyy format because it is less ambiguous, and globaly recognizable.

Use a non-breaking space between the day and month, and between the month and year.

Common acronyms

If an acronym is not in the above list it must be written out upon first usage and followed by the acronym in parenthesis

Six steps to improving your wireless security [top]
by Torre DeVito

Not securing your wireless network is like leaving the front door open to your home: it might give someone free access to your broadband connection which might slow down your network, or it might give them access to the personal data and content on your computer's hard disk drive. Since a wireless network uses radio signals instead of wires to connect the different systems to your network, it is important to remember that the signal does not end within your house; it can reach across the street to your neighbor's house, where it will be acessable to your neighbor's computer - or worse- to a car parked down the street, where anyone with a laptop can receive it.

To improve your wireless network security you may only need to take a few simple actions. To do so you will first need to access your wireless Typically your wireless router configuration utility can be accessed from a browser by typing the IP address of your wireless router into your browser's address field. The interface may vary slightly between products from different manufacturers so you will need to refer to the documentation that came with your wireless router or wireless access point for step-by-step instructions on how to perform the following steps.

  1. Do not broadcast your SSID if possible.
    Every wireless network is assigned a name called a service set identifier (SSID). The SSID differentiates one network from another so that multiple independent wireless networks can operate in the same physical area. Most wireless routers broadcast the SSID. Potentially, an intruder can use software to sniff out this SSID as a first step to logging onto your network. You may be able to configure your wireless router so that it does not broadcast your SSID, making it difficult to detect. Not all wireless routers or access points support this feature, especially older ones. Even if you do not broadcast your SSID it is still possible for someone to capture your wireless communication and get the SSID from there. Hiding your SSID may not be a perfect method to secure your network, but it is still good practice to hide it.

  2. Change the factory-default service set identifier (SSID).
    Wireless router manufacturers often set the SSID to a default value. Even if your router is not broadcasting your SSID, intruders may be able to find it by trying default settings. These default settings have become well known (many can be found on the Internet), so leaving the default setting may allow intruders to access your wireless network. Do not use any personal identifiable information in your SSID; instead, use something less personal that you will remember. Also note that the SSID is case-sensitive in most cases so if you want to be really cautious, use a combination of upper and lower case letters. If they are allowed, you may want to add some numbers as well.

  3. Change the default password.
    Since the default passwords for most brands of wireless routers are published on the Internet where anyone can find them, you should change your password. A secure password should use a combination of numbers and letters and be at least eight characters long.

  4. Enable encryption.
    This is the single most important step in securing your wireless communication. Wireless Protected Access - Pre-Shared Key (WPA-PSK) is the suggested encryption method for a home network. If your equipment is compatible with WPA-PSK, your key can be up to 63 characters long, but eight to twelve characters should be sufficient. If WPA-PSK is unavailable, you can use WEP. WEP is not quite as secure as WPA-PSK, but it still provides some protection. Whichever encryption method you employ, you will be prompted to enter in a string of characters to use as an encryption key. Some wireless routers require the use of hexadecimal encryption keys instead of alphanumeric.

  5. Use a software firewall on all computers connected to your network.
    A firewall is software or hardware that isolates your system or network from unauthorized network traffic. Though most wireless routers already have a hardware firewall to prevent outside attempts to get into your network, it is a good idea to run firewall software on every computer as well. This is another line of defense against an unauthorized computer that might have slipped passed the wireless router by appearing as just another trusted system within your network. This will not keep them from using your Internet connection, but it should help keep them off your hard disk drive. A software firewall will also protect your system from spyware and some viruses, but is not a replacement for antivirus programs. Several firewall programs have a free version for noncommercial use.
  6. Limit access to shared files and folders on your computers.
    Set passwords on file shares and provide access only to authenticated users. You can then set up the same user accounts on each of your machines so that your own computers can still share files easily.

With these six steps you can protect your network, your data, and your privacy from the casual would-be intruder. If someone is really determined to gain access to your network, however, there are no guarantees. The good news is, with wireless security as lax as it is, if you provide basic security for your network, intruders will likely move on to easier targets.