Posts Tagged ‘site logistics’

Mar 14
2011

Update – Feb 21, 2013: The other day, a client of ours got an analytics alert that their site traffic had completely disappeared. They started freaking out.  We set up their site, so naturally, they called us blaming us!  After further investigation, we went to their domain, and found that it had expired (they forgot to renew it!).  Thus, the domain wasn’t pointing to their site, so their analytics code wasn’t getting triggered. If they had known how domains, DNS’s, hosting really worked, they could have immediately addressed the issue avoiding panic!  This post is will help you understand what really is going on with your domain and website so you can avoid the same issue.

(P.S. The google analytics alerts really minimized the amount of damage and lost sales by letting us all know asap that their traffic dropped.  Don’t forget to set those up.  If you don’t know how, we can help!  Contact us here for a Google Analytics audit!)

ready-for-analytics-banner

While we usually focus on subjects like web analytics, web design, and marketing optimization, we do occasionally get questions from site owners and marketing managers (who want to launch campaign sites or microsites) asking what’s technically involved in making a site live.

Imagine you’ve spent thousands of dollars creating a website that you’re expecting to return millions!  You’re ready to launch!  But the inevitable question is “how the heck do I do that???!!!!”  As far as you’re concerned, the Internet is this weird space dimension where all these websites are floating around.  You usually just type an address that ends in a “.com” and the website you need magically appears on the screen.  “How do I get MY SITE to do THAT?!”

Hopefully this post will explain as simply as possible how to get your website “live” so you can start getting that cash!

Let’s start with some basic definitions and concepts.

  • Your Website – your website is actually just a bunch of files, images, flash files, php files, html files, and more, sitting on a computer somewhere.   These computers are called “Servers”.   It basically displays information based on html code or instructions (hypertext markup language or “html” – a language that tells browsers how to display data). Each server has an “ip address”, which is simply a bunch of numbers assigned to a server (like 69.199.xxx.xxxx).  When your server/website is set up and you type its ip address in your browser, your site will pop up just as if you entered your web address.  Trick now is to get your website address to do that!
  • Hosted Servers – If you don’t know what type of server to buy, how to set it up, or you simply don’t have the capital to purchase a server – join the club.  Don’t worry – most people simply rent server space for a low monthly fee from third party hosting companies. An example of a hosting company is Crystaltech.
  • Domain – Your domain is the text-based address that you would like to point to your site.  For example, “www.yourdomain.com”.  You can “register” (which basically means you’re renting it) a domain from a selection of many domain registrars.  An example of a domain registrar is GoDaddy or Network Solutions.  If your domain hasn’t already been registered by someone else, pay the low yearly fee and the website address is yours for as long as you want it.
  • Domain Name Servers (DNS) – These are special servers and pretty much all they do is hold a bunch of records associated with domains (called DNS Zone Records).  These records map the domains to their corresponding ip addresses.   When you enter a domain in a browser, you’re essentially forwarded to these nameservers, and like a rolodex, it finds the domain’s record and then forwards you to the right places (the right server or ip address).  Multiple places, like your domain registrar and most likely your website’s hosting company, have nameservers that contain these records.   An example of what a name server might look like ns1.domainregistrar.com.

Let’s tie all these together in the following diagram:

dns faq

 

  • (Item 1) Someone types your domain (www.yourdomain.com) into a web browser.
  • They are forwarded to the appropriate nameserver (log into your  domain registrar control panel to see what is assigned to it or change it).  The nameserver can either be the default one provided by your domain registrar (Item 2a) or another one you specify.  Once it reaches the nameserver, it will find your record.  If set up correctly, the “A” Record is the record that contains the ip address of your site, telling it where to forward.
  • www.yourdomain.com will be forwarded to the ip address in the “A” record (Item 3).
  • Other important records include your “mail” and “mx” records.   If a surfer types in “mail.yourdomain.com”, it will look for the “mail” record and be forwarded to the ip address of the login interface for your mail server (which may be located at your hosting company or somewhere else you decide that may have more mail space).   The MX Record tells your server where to send emails that have an address like address@yourdomain.com.  Thus, these need to be configured correctly.
  • Finally, you can also create what are called CNAMES.  For example, if you want “blog.yourdomain.com” to a different site or a special blog you have somewhere else, create a CNAME “blog” and forward it to the appropriate site, perhaps a wordpress or tumblr blog.  Maybe you want “store.yourdomain.com” to go to your store – then you’ll set up “store” to forward wherever.  Etc.

Making Your Site Live

Bottom line: “what do I have to do to make my site live????”  Now that we know how the process works, you hopefully can see there are 2 options:

Option 1) Access the DNS Zone Record on the nameserver that your domain is currently pointing to (usually the default nameserver is provided by the domain registrar) and change each record manually to forward to the correct servers and ip addresses (usually, the most important records are the “A” record to forward to your ip address to get the site live and your mail/mx records) (Item 2a).

Option 2) Log into your DNS and change the nameserver to one that already has all the correct addresses filled in its DNS Zone records.  As mentioned, usually, your hosting company will have such a nameserver (Item 2b).

Your site is now live!  Now all you need is to figure out what to do with all the ROI you’re gonna get!!!

Farid

Jan 21
2008

In the last few weeks we completed work on migrating a couple of clients sites from an old content management system to a new one, and man it took some really effort to get it done! We had a thorough website migration plan in place and the execution went fairly well (although we had some minor glitches but those were manageable). I thought to share the outline of the migration plan with our blog readers.

Before migrating to a new site you should assess and measure the performance of the old site in using various data sources including the analytics tool implemented on the site (e.g. Google Analytics). Below you’ll find few reports that could guide you in what areas of the old site requires more attention in migration.

Traffic sources:
Referring traffic: we recommend you create pages with the same URL structure (or use 301 redirects) so that the referral traffic doesn’t end up with a page not found (bad user experience).

Top organic keywords: review the keywords that are bringing you organic traffic (and potentially conversions) and have a plan to ensure that you’ll continue to rank on such keywords and more importantly get traffic from this ranking (make sure you migrate title and meta tags, pay attention to all SEO factors that led to your ranking, etc).

Content:
Top content: you might want to transfer these pages from the old site to the new site without any changes, especially if these pages were bringing good traffic (traffic that had low bounce rate, relatively high conversion, etc).

Top exit pages: take this opportunity to improve these pages as you transfer them to the new site.
Site overlay: it will help you to identify which sections on the web page attracted clicks (and clicks that led to achieving site objectives), and accordingly great care should be taken into migration these sections.

Site search:
Usage: Identifying the number of people using the site search will help you in deciding placement of the search box and possibly upgrading to a more sophisticated search feature.
Search terms: you could use the search terms that visitors type as a way to understand the customer intent and thus making what people are searching for very prominent or easily accessible on the new site.

Goals:

Reverse goal path: It will identify which pages lead visitors to convert. (these pages should be transferred to the new site with a lot of attention).

Funnel visualization: It will help you identify pages that need improvement (pages where visitors exited the funnel).

The above points are just some sample reports you might want to run and provide useful data to your design and implementation teams.

Oct 01
2006

Normally for a project that is either being scoped as custom or requires integration, a website development company needs to invest some time into making sure the project and work required is well understood before proceeding to offer a formal quote. We have learned through our experience that bypassing this step is detrimental to the success of the project. We’re looking at this from the client’s perspective and from our own. It helps us to know exactly what we’re committing to and the client also will have a clearer picture of what we’re building so there are no surprises.

Other companies may provide a ballpark figure or estimate based on past integrations they have done but the risk factor in that type of an estimate is very large, and usually results in a strained client/vendor relationship because of additional charges that come up when assumptions are proven incorrect. We prefer to quote based on requirements, not assumptions, and we take the necessary steps to ensure that all possible requirements are documented clearly and understood – this method has proven to work each and every time.

Typically, there are a number of questions especially with the integration part being related to the eCommerce and how that will relate to one another especially with the information being dynamic and transactions dependent upon this information. Some samples of questions related to integration are:

  • What is the nature of the data?
  • In what format can the data be provided?
  • Ensure data maps directly to destination or platform?
  • Within the data set, which items are updated and why?
  • Is the data constant, or are there additions and deletions?
  • How should destination handle additions and deletions?
  • How should destination handle exceptions?
  • What monitoring or notification needs to be in place?

There are a number of other questions that we usually encounter when diving into this a little further. For us at the preliminary stage of scoping, the analysis may reveal that more things to consider or that the work is straightforward. One thing guaranteed is that there will definitely be a more accurate proposal.

For further information on scoping custom or integration projects, feel free to contact one of our internet consultants at www.E-Nor.com.

Jul 19
2006

Client Background/General Information

1. e-Commerce Knowledge
Implemented an eCommerce solution previously?
–> If yes,
- The name of the solution?
- Was the solution implemented in house or with a web development company?
- Was the solution maintained (e.g. products uploaded) in house or through a web development company?
–> If no, level of familiarity with eCommerce?
- Very familiar
- Somewhat familiar
- Not familiar

2. Is the client replacing an existing eCommerce solution?
- Why?
- What features not working?

3. Client infrastructure
- Where products are produced, packaged & shipped?
- Describe existing non-eCommerce, sales and fulfillment cycles

4. Design Preferences
- Template Design (inexpensive, quick-turnaround, non-unique look & feel)
- Custom Design (expensive, 4+ weeks at least, unique look & feel)

5. Timeline
- Fastest way to deployment:
- Out-of-the-box solution (no custom development whatsoever)
- Template Design
- Client readiness (content, images, infrastructure, payment gateway, etc.)

Identify all aspects of eCommerce
A. Products
- How many products?
- How many categories?
- How many sub-categories?
- Do products come in various styles (e.g. difference colors, different sizes)
- Do you have all product description, images, pricing available?
- If yes, what format (e.g. hard copy, excel spreadsheet, etc.)
- If no, is all the information accessible form a third party?

B. Product updates
- How often do you update your product info (description, pricing, images, etc.)?
- How is product information gathered (manual, catalog, etc.)?

C. Shipping
- Do you have a preference for a shipping carrier, Fedex, UPS, USPS, Royal Mail or others?
- How do you intend on charging for shipping
- How do you intend on processing shipping, using a carriers integrated tool (e.g. UPS WorldShip)

D. Taxes
- Do you have any specific taxes requirements

E. Payment Processing/Online payment gateway
a. Do you have an existing online payment gateway?
i. If yes, please list
ii. If no, do you have a preference which gateway to use (authorize.net, VeriSign, WorldPay, HSBC, etc.)

F. Languages
- The solution default language is XYZ. Do you require your eCommerce solution to support more than one language, if so, please list.

G. Customer types
- Retail?
- Wholesales?
- Others (e.g. members)?

H. Pricing
- What is your pricing model?
- Volume Pricing?
- Do you offer different pricing for each customer type?

I. Inventory
- Inventory Management System?
- Do you intend on integrating the eCommerce solution with your Inventory Management system?

J. Accounting
- Accounting System?
- Do you intend on integrating the eCommerce solution with your accounting system?

K. Ordering
- Do you require the capability of ordering from the system admin interface?

L. Order fulfillment
- Do you manage and ship products in-house or through a third party?
- If you use a third party, do you require an automated integration with the third party?

M. Reports
- In addition to customer and products reports, are there any additional reports required?

N. Feature set
- Favorite Products
- Related Products
- Feature Products
- New Products
- Wish list
- Gift Certificate
- Gift Wrapping
- Multi-currency
- Login/account information/previous orders
- Search
- Others?

O. Other features – Do you plan on having:
- Auction
- Gift Registry
- Download on Demand
- System Admin ordering interface
- Others?

P. How do you plan on marketing the business?
- Do you intend on implementing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your site? (to allow for SEO friendly pages and other SEO considerations)
- Other Internet Marketing programs such as Pay-Per-Click, e-mail marketing, banners?
- How do you currently market the business offline? Have you considered Integrated Marketing Solutions to maximize your ROI?

Q. Post Project Considerations
- Web Hosting requirements: look for reliable eCommerce, secure hosting
- On-going eCommerce solution updates and website maintenance