Steps In Designing A Commercial Website

Designing a quality, unique website requires the right combination of art, technology, and communication skills. It is vitally important to the success of any professional website project for the client to be actively involved in helping the designer identify and understand their true wants and needs. Web designers act as both creative coach and translator of ideas. Turning ideas into concepts, incorporating customer feedback, and prototyping rapidly creates a hands-on, evolutionary workflow for the customer, producing maximum results and a pleasant customer experience.
 
Step 1: Learn a little (or a lot) about the client’s business

Once a client has committed to building a new website, it’s time to dig in and learn a little about the business and the specific requirements. This can be done through a simple questionnaire for smaller sites, or may require many hours of consultation for larger ones. Some of the questions asked include: website goals and objectives, target audience, color and style preferences, examples of preferred websites, etc. If a client already has specific text and images that they would like to have included (maybe from an existing brochure or catalog) it is time to share the files and information with the designer, and the designer will in turn review it and share an objective opinion on the usefulness and quality of the customer supplied materials. If a domain name does not already exist for the site, this would be a good time to decide on a name and have it registered. The designer can help as little or as much as necessary in this area. Once all information has been received, work will commence immediately on the custom website design. Idea sharing and customer involvement is always welcomed and encouraged.

Step 2: Review design concepts and pick a direction

Normally, a customer will have initial design concepts to review within a few days. Some projects can take substantially longer to reach this initial stage, depending on the level of research and discovery being done for the customer in other related and possibly interdependent areas, such as designing a new corporate identity (logo and entire brand) or building an information systems solution into the website. The design and layout of the home page and first-level inner pages come first. This offers the customer a view of the possibilities and how different ideas work together at different levels. Then, one will be selected for further refinement. Existing works by the designer can often be used as a starting ground and modified to create a unique, yet familiar, look and feel. In the case that the customer is indecisive or doesn’t fall in love with one of the initial concepts, additional designs will be presented. After a design and layout concept has been chosen, revisions to that design and layout concept will be made until the customer is completely satisfied.

Step 3: Review revisions and ask for feedback

Once the design and layout has been approved and finalized, detailed content will be entered utilizing the selected design guidelines for consistency and beauty. Content can be supplied in almost any electronic format such as email, Word or even scanned text. In the case of larger consultative web projects, content can be created for the customer as part of an overall marketing and branding campaign. For images, content can be shot by the design team, supplied by the client, or in some cases purchased or custom created by the designer. There is also the option of choosing imagery from a gallery of quality royalty-free work at no additional cost. Just describe what is wanted, and the designer will pick the perfect images for the job. Or, if preferred, the client may choose the images themselves and the designer will certainly assist in the process a level with which the customer is comfortable. Customer supplied content can be supplied as soon as it is acquired – there’s no reason to wait until the web pages have been designed. In fact, often times the best design concepts are born of the content.

Step 4: Finalize your website.

All concepts and revisions can be viewed online and there is always an open channel of communication to the designer. Once the customer is completely satisfied with the finished website, high-quality website hosting is offered, or the website can be implemented at a third party host of the client’s choosing, as long as appropriate security access and necessary software tools are available.

Web Hosting Review : Bluehost.com

Website hosting nowsadays is very competitive. Many web hosting companies offer tonnes of features at very competitive prices. With so many choices in mind, how do you choose the right host? I have tried many hosts over the years and finally landed on one that I feel has the most complete features that I need at the best possible price, ie BlueHost.
 
Features
BlueHost provides hosting features that surpass the needs of large commercial websites:10 Gigabyte Hosting Space
Host 6 Domains on 1 Account!!!
2,500 POP/Imap Email Accounts
250 GIGS of Transfer
SSL, FTP, Stats
CGI, PHP, MySQL
2000/2002/2003 Front Page Extensions
Free Domain Forever!
Superb/Responsive Support Engineers 

Reliability and Performance
So far, I have no problems with the speed and reliability of the server. Most of my sites hosted by them were never down. If you have google toolbar installed, just take a look at their page rank. Bluehost has a page rank of 8 which is rare for a web hosting company. This just shows how popular they are in the web. If you look at their awards page, you will realized that they have a long history of awards. This is a plus point because it shows that they care about their customers and more importantly, their performance is consistent.

Support
They have a good support section in the website.  Based on my experience, most of their emails are answered within 2 working days. Though not the fastest around, their replies are honest and professional. Some hosts will answer you in such a way that you need to pay them more money to get your problems solved. Click here to visit their site.

How To Get Quality Traffic To Your Website

You must have heard of the term “Quality Links”. How about “Quality Traffic”? “Quality links” means that the one way links coming to your website are from reliable sources and the content is related to yours. For example, if your website is about web design and a link pointing to your site from the web design section of msn website is considered as a quality link. “Quality Traffic” means that the people who come to your website via whatever channels are actually looking for something and have better chances of using your services. They are looking for something specific and your website can provide the answer and make them stay longer. Quality links are important in search engine optimisation as to Quality Traffic to sales generation.
 
Forum / Blog
By participating in forums, you are exposing your url to anyone who is reading your post. For example, if you provide web design service, you might want to be more active in the web design section of the forum because you know that the people who are reading your post are people who are interested in web design. The clicks from these people are usually more valuable than clicks from any other tom, dick and harry. I would recommend using only one link in your signature to avoid confusion. Some people use alot of links in their signature for SEO purposes and that actually defeats the whole idea of getting quality traffic.

Many people leave their urls when participating in blog discussions. Like forums, people who take time to read the blog are interested in the topic. Depending on the popularity of the blog, your url in the blog comments may provide you with quality traffic.

Article Submission
Article submission to websites and discussion groups can reap great rewards. If your article is unique and good, it might be duplicated in many websites and invites alot of targeted readers. If the readers are impressed with the content, the chances of them reading the bio at the end would be high, and hence there is a good chance that they will click on your url. Many people write articles for different reasons and I find that many people like to stuff links in their content and bio. I, too operate an article website and sometimes, I saw an article so well written that I wanted to use it in my website but the bio spoiled everything. There were too many links in the author bio. I can understand from the search engine optimisation perspective of putting links in the bio but it will become harmful to my website (I am stingy about out-going links) and annoying for the reader if the bio is stuffed with links. Some links aren’t even related to the author.

Online Advertisement / PPC Programs
Another proven technique is to advertise urls or banners in established websites. If you noticed, Dell loves to advertise their products in MSN. Just imagine how many people are surfing msn everyday and how many people are looking at the banner…Intelligent use of words and banners can lead to high volume of targeted leads to your website. Such advertisements can be effective but very costly. Therefore, most people tend to use Pay-Per-Click (PPC) programs whereby your urls will only be displayed when certain keywords are searched. The most notorious of all PPC programs is Google Adwords.

Good SERPS
Let us not all forget that the best way to get quality leads is via organic search engine results. Though it takes alot of hardwork and time to be ranked well in major search engines, the effort will be rewarded in a long run. Once you are ranked well in the Google especially, quality traffic becomes almost unstoppable.

Offline Advertisement
This is an area that is often overlooked. Sometimes words of mouth can be even more effective than all of the techniques mentioned above. I remembered how friendster used to spread like a virus sometime ago and everyone were talking about it everyday in schools, colleges..etc. This is how powerful peer pressure can be. As long as something becomes popular, everybody will go for it. Many traditional advertising techniques such as putting your urls in brochures, magazines, stands, t-shirts, cars…etc still works. Of all the offline advertising techniques, I found newspaper ads really effective especially if the newspaper is really popular. Offline advertisements may well worked better for people who do not use search engines alot.

There are other ways to get traffic but most of them are not really effective. I will list 2 commonly used techniques nowsadays:

Guaranteed Targeted Hits
There are companies that promised certain amount of quality hits for certain amount of money. This service is very attractive for new website owners because it is hard for a new website to get traffic. How does it work? By using pop-up advertisements. There are also unethical companies using automated scripts to generate hits. A quick way to determine if this technique works for you is to check your web statistics. If all the visitors from the “Guaranteed Targeted Hits” program does not go beyond the landing page or generate sales, then you should consider quitting the program. There are also cases that this technique actually works for some webmasters. For me, I will block all “pop-ups”, “pop-downs”, “pop-unders”…etc whatever.

Hits Exchange Network
Some websites offer hit exchanges, ie you visit my website and I visit yours. It usually works on a point system. The more websites you visit, the more points you get and the system will show your links more frequently, bringing in more hits for you. There is usually a timer to make sure that you visit the site for at least 20 or 30secs before you can move on to the next. I must admit that this is a very good and cheap way to get free traffic but the traffic is not targeted. Most users in the network visit your site just to get points and they do not take your content seriously. I have joined many such networks and none actually works for me.

Conclusion
Quality Online Traffic is important for anyone who provides an online service or runs an online business. Visitors who arrived at your site with a purpose are more likely to make purchases. This article discussed some of the common ways to bring in quality traffic for your website, some online and some offline. There are of cause many other ways not covered in this article.

PHP: Things To Take Note When Writing Login Scripts

Almost every website nowsadays will have some sort of a login system. If you decide to write a login script yourself in PHP, this article will provide some important pointers on the security of the script you are writing. This article will talk on a common login hacking technique known as The SQL Injection Attack. This is not new in the programmer’s world but worth taking note especially when you are new to programming.There are hackers everywhere, so beware! 
 
When the user submits a form consisting of the username and password, all the variables will be store in the $_POST array after submitting. You can get the values of the array easily using:

$usr = $_POST[‘username’];
$pwd = $_POST[‘password’];

Where “username” and “password” are the names of the textfields in your form.

How do you deal with these values?
You probably verify it against your database. If the username and password matches at least one record in the database, you will let this user proceed on to the secure area, else you will probably throw an error, prompting the user to re-login. During the verification process, your SQL statement might look like this:

SELECT * FROM `user_table`  where username=’$usr’ AND password=’$pwd’

Re-looking at the SQL statement, if someone leaves username empty and writes “ ‘  OR username LIKE ‘%” in the password field, then your whole SQL statement becomes:

SELECT * FROM `user_table`  where username=’ ‘ AND password=’ ‘ OR username LIKE ‘ % ‘

This statement means selecting all the records in the table. If your criteria of letting the user proceed is that the return number of records is more than 0 (at least one user found), then this SQL statement will return all records, meaning that the user will be able to slip pass through the verification process. This type of hacking is famously known as The SQL injection attacks.

One good way to prevent this from happening is to make sure the $_POST array is safe from escape strings such as ‘ and “. You can filter your $_POST array using

$usr = mysql_real_escape_string($_POST[‘username’]);
$pwd = mysql_real_escape_string($_POST[‘password’]);

There are of course other ways to do it but the idea is to let you know that you have to be very careful in handling the data retrieved from forms, epecially more so for usernames and passwords.

Important Linux Directories

There are many variants of Linux used in different computer systems today. Luckily, most Linux developers employ a common naming and utilization scheme that makes different variants of Linux easy to use and maintain. This article will discuss some important and common directories in many popular Linux distributions.
 
/home
Each user of a Linux system is assigned a special directory, called “home” direectory, that represents their private space on the system. For example, if a user of the system is called tom, the home directory of tom will be /home/tom. Tom has the right to create any files and directories under his home directory. This is also the default location when tom logs into the system.

/root
This is the home directory of the adminstrator or super user.

/tmp
In addition to personal hard disk space in the home directories, users are also given special access to shared temporary space in the /tmp directory. Linux systems often implement quotas on user accounts to prevent anyone from using too much disk space. The /tmp directory allows all users access to additional space to meet short term needs without charging the space against their quota. All files placed in this directory are deleted automatically after a few days.

/etc
This directory stores all the configuration files needed for the operating system. For example, startup configuration scripts are found in /etc/rc.d and network configuration scripts are found in /etc/sysconfig. Normal users cannot modify the files in /etc.

/bin and /usr/bin
Most system commands are stored as binary files only in machine readable format. Commands appropriate for use by ordinary users are either placed in the /bin or /usr/bin directory. Core commands like rm, mv, ls, cd go into /bin while supplementary utilities like compilers, firefox browser and openoffice go into /usr/bin.

/sbin and /usr/sbin
Like /bin and /usr/bin, /sbin and /usr/sbin store commands to be used only by the super user, ie root user. These include commands for attaching and removing hardware, starting and stopping the system…etc.

/var
This directory stores all the frequently changed files in the system. For example, incoming, outgoing mails, system logs, websites, ftp file archives…etc.

Conlcusion
There are only a few directories to know to really start using Linux. If you understand what the main directories are, then exploring the sub-direectories becomes much easier. If you are lost while navigating the directories, always use “cd /” to return back the the root, “cd ..” to go up one level or use “pwd” to find out where you are. Another command “which xxx” tells you where certain commands are located.