Choosing the Right Web Designer

So, you’ve finally decided that you need a web site for your business? Well, there are a few key-points to remember BEFORE you make one of the most crucial decisions for your business.

Choosing the right designer for your new business web site:

When it comes to choosing the right web designer for your web site, you should always shop around first to check out all of the available options. There are many web design companies out there to choose from. And most of them are pretty good at what they do.

Always ask to see samples of a web designer’s previous work and examine their portfolio. This will help you get a better feel for the style of sites any particular web designer is capable of doing. Most of the time, web designers have their own unique style and you can easily spot which designs they’ve done in the past. I mean, it’s similar to any other artist’s style; you can definitely spot their previous works based on the general layout, color scheme, and over-all visual appearance of the sites.

Experience is also a key factor here. Just like any other craft, web designers get better with experience. So naturally, you’ll be better off by choosing a web designer who has more experience under his or her belt.

Another key point you should define is whether or not the web designer can make you a 100% custom web site. Or will it be just a basic template web design that 100’s or even 1,000’s of people already have across the Internet. Pretty much anybody these days can create a basic HTML web page in Microsoft Word or Publisher and change the title of it to reflect their Branson business. But you must ask yourself: “is this really what I’m looking for”?

Web sites that are truly custom built will stand out more the rest of the basic template web designs that so many people are using these days. A custom web design will catch the eye of your potential customers and show them that you have a really professional web presence and you mean business.

A lot of web designers these days choose to do the template web sites for one of 2 reasons:

It’s cheaper to use a basic template web design. They might be lacking the necessary skills needed to develop a fully custom web site. Whatever the case may be, make sure you go with a designer who is capable of creating a custom web design for you. It will inevitably cost you more for a custom site. But it is totally worth the extra money spent. Trust me, in the end you will be much happier with your web site if it is a site that’s unique and created for just your business and not everybody else’s.

Communication with a potential web designer is also critical in the development of your web site. You need to be perfectly clear and define your goals up-front, before you actually sign a web design service contract with a designer. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money and make sure you get it in writing! I have a 9-page web site design contract that I use every single time I design a new web site. Included in this contract is an itemized list of all work that is to be performed during the development of the web site. Things like the exact number of pages, the exact number of graphics to be designed, whether or not I need to create a logo, the estimated time before completion, whether or not routine site maintenance will be performed after the site is 6 months or 1 year old, etc.

Defining these things will help you in the long run and will also make sure you and the web designer are on the same page.

I also use what I call my “web design planning worksheet”. This worksheet gives “milestones” or deadlines for each phase of the web design project. Things like “In 2 weeks the general layout will be done” and “2 weeks after that, the site will be coded and launched” and then “In one moth after the web site is launched, we will evaluate it to see what needs to be adjusted”, etc. (these are just examples, by the way. the details included in one of my actual worksheets gives exact dates and more specific milestones).

And what about the web hosting for your new web site? Usually, a web designer will provide some kind of insight as to which hosting company they recommend. Web designers in general have a preference for a hosting company that they know will be a good choice for your web site and they should assist you in making this selection.

Fortunately, we have our own web server here at Digital Spiral Web Design so we can do all of the hosting ourselves. This is very beneficial because we can make sure the web server stays up and running and if there is any maintenance that needs to be performed on the server, we can do it ourselves in a timely manner. Plus, we will always cut a deal for our web site hosting services to any new business who chooses us to do their web design.

Will your new web site require any specialized web programming? Well, the answer to that question is based solely on the needs of your Branson web site. What kind of site will it be? Does it need a shopping cart for e-commerce? Will you be implementing any special web applications or online forms for your viewers to fill out? Will it be a web site that requires your viewers to fill out registrations and sign up so they can login? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then chances are you’ll need a web designer who can also program.

Web developers and designers must be skilled in the art of web PROGRAMMING (something that is very different from regular web DESIGN). Web programming involves the implementation of different web programming languages like JAVA, PHP, Flash, SQL, or.NET. All of these web programming languages need highly skilled individuals to code them and develop web programs with them.

I personally love PHP! I use it for pretty much everything. I won’t go into the details of PHP in this article (I would have to write an entire book about it to cover all of it). But with PHP, I can create pretty much any web application that is logically possible.

So, make sure you choose a web designer who is also capable of coding any special functions that your new web site needs. This decision needs to be discussed and gone over by any potential web designer you might use to create your Branson web site.

And finally, you should always check with the potential web designer’s previous clients to make sure they give him or her a good reference. Remember: it just like any other service. You need to verify a web designer’s references and make sure they can do what they say they can do.

So, just to summarize all of the tips I’ve mentioned:

Ask questions, questions, and more questions before you choose a web designer. Clearly define your goals from the beginning. Ask to see the web designer’s portfolio and samples of their previous work. Make sure they can help you with choosing a web hosting provider. Get documentation to show exactly how many pages will be included in the project and the estimated time before completion. If your Branson web site requires special web programming, make sure the designer can handle it. I hope this article helps anybody who is getting ready to have a new web site designed. A good web site can really do wonders for your business!

Used Computers Are a Great Way to Save Money

New computers are expensive, even the entry-level ones, which prevents many people from owning a computer. With so much of normal life revolving around computers the need for access to a computer increases every day. Want to buy a book? You will need a computer because all the book stores are closing. Want to take night classes? Many are only offered online. Want discounts on your monthly bills? Many companies offer discounts if you opt to receive an electronic bill instead of a paper bill.

One solution is to use the free computers available at public libraries. This is great service if you need to use them and are available to use them during library business hours. Borrowing a computer from family and friends is another option but that gets old in hurry.

Another solution is buying a used computer. The average computer user does not need a high-end computer with the latest and fastest processor so a few year old computer is more than adequate. Fortunately for these people there is no shortage of people looking to sell computers that are in great condition and only a few years old.

Many people get a new computer every couple years either because they just want the latest and greatest technology or because they need to processing power for graphics design or engineering applications. These are the ideal people to buy a used computer from because there is a good chance that when they bought the computer a couple years ago it was the top of the line model with the fastest processor available. A computer purchased a couple years ago with the fastest processor available at the time becomes obsolete a lot slower for the average user.

There are relatively few components in a computer that are prone to failure which makes the due diligence process before buying a used computer fairly simple. A few simple tests and thorough inspection are sufficient in most instances and do not require a computer technician and can be performed by persons with basic knowledge of computers.

Hard drive

A computer’s hard drive is vital to its operation and its failure can mean more than just a non functioning computer. It can also mean loss of data stored on it. Backing up important files is good practice for any computer user but especially someone buying a used computer. Affordable back up options include burning files to DVD if the computer has a DVD burner and USB thumb drives.

Hard drives are one of only a couple computer components with moving parts so they can wear out. A hard drive that makes excessive noise or a noise whose volume or pitch varies is not a good thing. The best time to listen to a hard drive is while it is reading or writing data such as while the computer is booting up.

Cooling fan

Several components in a computer and on a mother board generate significant heat so computers have fans to keep them cool. If computer’s fan is not working there is a good chance that some damage has been done to its components. Excessive dust and dirt on the cooling fins of a CPU can prevent the CPU from cooling properly thus increasing the likelihood the CPU may be damaged. To determine if a fan is in good condition listen for an even, low-pitched hum.

Operating system

Reboot a computer several times to test the operating system. It should not take an overly long time to boot up and it should not hang up or pause during the boot process.

Project Management Software – Selecting the Best Software

The use of project management software has become a necessity to every business today. Project management describes what the plan is and securing the right people and resource to plan, perform and deliver a project on time and on budget. The software has been widely used for handling projects efficiently and effectively to any type of industry such as IT, construction, architecture, sales and marketing, surveying, etc.

People involve in the management process are called the project team which includes the project manager and the team members. They use applications and tools to analyze, plan, schedule, track and manage projects to improve productivity and carry out the whole process of management. The software allows your company to get projects up-to-date, stay up-to-date and organize the data. Just remember that the software only assists the project team in the success of the project, everyone needs to work on every task and to whatever needs to be done. A project cannot be executed properly if one is working with the wrong plans.

The importance of project management has become more remarkable in today’s business life. The best project management software is actually one that meets or suits the requirements for the completion of the project. The main points of selecting the software should perform these important tasks:

    • Project Management Priorities – when evaluating a business software, it’s best that you have a better understanding of the project management activities from time to time. This helps in determining whether or not the software is capable of solving any problems your business will encounter. Applying current management practices to the project management software will help to identify how a problem can be resolved by using the software. Breakdowns of what a project needs can also picture out how both projects and the software fit with each other.
    • Assess Future Project Management Requirements – although it’s quite difficult to predict how a software adjust over time, it is possible to understand the flexibility that the software accommodates. A flexible software allows a company to grow. Software that are simple to use may or may not have the ability to match the needs of a company as it grows. The more flexible the software is, the more options a company will have to accommodate situations. An effective project management solution accommodates change and meet changing demands of businesses without degrading existing projects.
    • Accounting Software Integration – the ability of one software to synchronize business data with other software is an essential component for a project management software. A software which can integrate other software systems to work together is much better since company may be using an existing application and would want it to be sync to their choice of software. In fact, selecting the software which can integrate other applications can reduce costs due to a reduction of data setup.
  • Software Vendor/Client Relationship – The software vendor and the client must establish a supportive relationship mutually. When selecting a project management software, one must factor into consideration how responsive and competent the software vendor and its support for the intention to serve. The company or business should also notice how willing to help the vendor and the support when there are questions and when problems arise and how promptly they follow-up. The vendor should be an active participant in supporting their clients.

If for instance the company is currently using a software and wants to migrate into a new one, they should identify how such a switch to a system will be addressed and to whether such steps be taken. The switch can be costly when a company wishes to transfer the data from the current software to the selected software. Therefore it is best for such company to analyze how much effort is needed to switch to a new software.

Wireless Internet for Laptops: The Norm Today

Wireless Internet for laptops is considered the norm in this generation because it has become more increasingly easy to access the Internet anywhere and anytime. So if you have a notebook or a laptop with you, you would want it connected to the Internet so you can do whatever you want to do on the internet that may be surfing, chatting, do voice dialing, sending e-mails, blogging and so on and so forth.

Previously, the Internet could only have access to the internet by having it connected by wire or cable. The best feature of portable computers like the laptops and notebooks is that you can bring it anywhere with you. Yet before due to the cable length and availability mobility of the laptops were limited. However as technology advances it has made it possible for internet on laptops to be accessed anywhere. Wi-Fi laptops can be enjoyed in great distance as long as the service length is permitted you will have the privilege to use the internet.

Wireless Internet For Laptops: Devices

In modern technology times they have invented a built-in hardware to access the Internet wirelessly. Your probably familiar with Wi-Fi zones (Wi-Fi for laptop or 3G mobile) or commercial areas that are generally located in popular shopping malls and major public places that are crowded. These commercial places where people usually do work or people tend to stay are hot spots that have Wi-Fi set up for wireless internet connections for laptops. These hotspots are awesome places where y you can have internet access on your laptop. These places provide recognition for wireless transmissions availability. If your laptop happens to not have an integrated built in wireless hardware equipment; then you need to buy a LAN card. You must know which type of LAN card is compatible to your laptop; or you can try the nearest computer store in your area.

Apart from having a built in LAN / wireless network adapters that enable wireless access to Internet, there are also USB devices (USB modem for laptop) that connect you and enable you to have internet access. Mobile service providers sell these USB devices. It’s quite simple you just simply plug in the USB and you will have access on the internet. You just have to make sure that your location is a place where there is cell phone signals; a place where you can call and be called. If not you cannot access the internet because the internet travels through these signal areas.

How Wireless Internet for Laptops Work

We all do not need to have a full knowledge of how the wireless internet works for laptops but it would be nice to know some facts about it as long as there aren’t so many technical terms that will overwhelm and confuse you. We have simplified it in layman’s terms.

At the office, or in your home, there are these little boxes that are called routers. The router is designed to allow more than one computer to have internet access. It has a port which you connect your cable Internet service connection. Apart from this port of entry, there are other ports (4 or more) that you connect to other devices or other computers that also need of access to the internet. In this way, all computers can have the privilege of being connected to each other and have access to the Internet at any time they want.

A great number of the latest routers now have wireless capabilities. This is the router (s) protruding on its sides which sends out signals and internet data to computers near that device. So if you want, you can remove the cables completely and continue to use the same internet connection the same quality and speed. You just have to have the proper equipment, commonly a different wireless internet card with its own antenna installed on your laptop or pc. Particularly laptops use USB types that can be plugged into vacant ports.

You must have been informed about Wi-Fi hotspots and Wi-Fi zones, or WiMAX. They are often located in shopping malls and cafes where people can surf the web while eating or drinking coffee. These commercial places and handy locations have routers or the like that transmit Internet data to all computers within the area it is permitted to do so.

Another type of service is available and it is used by mobile phones. You will need to buy a type of USB hardware that connects to your laptop using your Internet connection. The information gets through by reception via the cellular transmitter towers placed all over the location or in via satellite.

Now as you have read you have gained some knowledge about the basics of the wireless internet and how it is used and how it works. Now you can enjoy the Wi-Fi knowing of its complex principles.

6 Yoga Business Management Software Must-Have Features

Did you become a yoga studio owner and teacher because you love administrating your business and being glued to the computer? I bet not. Most yoga business owners start a yoga studio and teach yoga because they love yoga and sharing it with other people.

The trouble is that running a yoga business can get in the way of doing what you love – teaching yoga. After all, a yoga studio is a business that has customers (students), employees (contracted teachers and/or staff), financial reporting, and of course you must attract students through marketing in order to grow and maintain your business.

One way to increase revenues and profits while reducing the amount of time you spend administrating your yoga business is getting 6 software features that integrate together. When you have these 6 features integrated, your time administrating will decrease, and you can very possibly increase your revenues (with less work and more time teaching).

Here are 6 Must-Have Yoga Business Management Software Features:

1. Robust Scheduling Capability

Your class and private session schedule is the heart of your yoga business. It makes sense then, to use great scheduling software. There’s all kinds of decent scheduling software you can use, but in my view, it’s best to get scheduling software that automates bookings and integrates with your email autoresponder software and credit card processing (to get paid up front automatically). Let me explain.

First, you need scheduling software that creates a central database. When updated, all your posted digital calendars update automatically. For example, you may have calendars posted throughout your website and of course on your computer. It’s much fast to make changes to one calendar than several.

Second, get scheduling software that enables students to log in and book private sessions or reserve class spots. Better yet, get this calendaring system to integrate with credit card processing so you can have students pay online when they book.

Third, get yoga scheduling software that integrates with your email autoresponder software (not sure what this is, then read on). This is a powerful feature if you require class reservation and/or book private sessions. For example, you can program the email software to automatically send out email messages to your students and/or a waiting list if someone cancels. This way you reduce no-shows and class spots.

2. Centralized Student Contact Database

If you’re like a lot of small business owners, you may be tracking your students with spreadsheets. I love Excel, but turning excel into a database is inefficient. Instead, get yoga business software that includes a properly programmed database for student contact information.

Once all your student contact information is in the database, you can integrate your contacts with your email software, and financial reporting (who attends and purchases what and when – which can be very helpful information).

3. Email Autoresponder Integration

An email autoresponder software program enables you to send out e-mails at pre-defined times. You can pre-load a bunch of e-mail messages that are sent on a date you specify. When a new student attends your studio and signs up to your list, that will trigger your series of email messages.

Of course you can also broadcast messages immediately giving notice of sales, class vacancies, events, etc.

The key with choosing the right email software is that it integrates seamlessly with your scheduling software. If someone cancels, it triggers an email message to your students and/or waiting list so that you can fill the vacancies quickly without your involvement.

4. Credit Card Processing and E-Commerce Capability

Setting up credit card processing is a hassle. The right “on-the-cloud” software gives you credit card processing without all the hardware (saves on the leasing costs). Instead, you simply process credit card payments in the computer.

Better yet is getting credit card processing that integrates with your scheduling software so students can automatically pay online when they book class packages. This gets you the money up front and you didn’t have to take the time to process payment.

Finally, a really robust yoga business software platform includes an e-commerce option so you can sell retail goods in your studio and online. I understand retail sales won’t be your biggest earner, but extra revenue never hurts.

Moreover, you can then get creative with offering class packages and memberships and sell them directly on your website.

Don’t forget about gift cards – this is great for revenue and referrals. Be sure the software you get can create, package, and process gift cards.

5. Payroll Management

If you have a few teachers who are independent contractors, do you struggle tracking how much they’re owed. Some of the remuneration arrangements are complicated such as flat fees plus a percent of the take. Also, simply tracking all the classes a particular teacher teaches can keep you busy.

Get software that integrates with your scheduling software so you automatically track who teaches which classes and then automatically tallies your payroll based on the remuneration details you input into the system. Good software will tally the most complicated remuneration arrangements such as a percent of the take upon a certain number of students plus flat fees or an hourly rate.

6. Student Swipe Cards and/or Tag Capability

I’ve seen all kinds of sign up systems in yoga studios. Some use pen and paper. Others manually input attendees into the computer as students arrive. Then there’s some studios that issue swipe cards or tags which enable students (or a staff person) to scan the card for attendance. Which is faster and more convenient for your students? In my view swipe cards are the best. There’s a reason huge health gyms (and small gyms) use swipe technology.

If you’re going to set up your yoga studio business with a great software platform, then why not add swipe technology? It looks professional and is convenient for you and your students.

One other feature I strongly recommend, and that’s getting yoga business software that’s “on the cloud.” By this I mean software that’s hosted on the servers of the software provider. This way you don’t have to deal with installing and networking software. Moreover, you can access your software wherever you have Internet.

This feature alone can save you a great deal of time and money in installation and software networking costs. In fact, if you’re a larger studio with several computers, you then don’t require a server for your software