Basic Web Literacy For Small Businesses

The web doesn’t HAVE to look like this.

In my line of work, it pays to know a bit about the digital world. In fact, it’s absolutely expected by most “normal” people that anyone who works mostly online somehow knows how to hack, code, program, develop, design and wireframe any sort of website, native app or digital service.

This is almost always a complete fabrication. Now, I can buy a URL, install WordPress, copy and paste code from cool widgets on other sites, publish an RSS feed and handle my email, but most people, even those who consider themselves digitally inclined, can’t do half of that.

Thankfully, they don’t need to. With services like Pagely, much of the hassle is taken out of creating and maintaining websites (email answering service not included) but it’s still important that every professional, especially small business owners who insist on being involved in as much as they can, have a basic literacy for anything internet or web related.

Like a series of tubes with ones and zeros.

Buy a URL
If you’re even a semi-public figure, buy your name. If you’re a business, but your business name and a few variations. If you’re an entrepreneur who may one day make a living based on your reputation, buy your name and/or a business name that you can use as a home base online. Having a Facebook page and profile along with a Twitter handle isn’t enough, because you don’t own any of the data on those sites. If they shut down, you’re hosed.

Install WordPress (or set up a site)
WordPress certainly isn’t for everyone. GoDaddy’s Website Tonight service is fantastic for anyone who wants the world to know they designed their site ALL BY THEMSELVES and likely wouldn’t, even if they could afford to, pay someone to construct a quality site that looks and functions well (#sarcasm). And if your WordPress install isn’t what you wanted, there are a plethora of willing and able creative people you can call.

Once figured out, it will all look easy.

Copy and paste cool stuff
While we certainly don’t condone stealing, there are times when I’ve re-used cool icons or layout ideas from other sites that I like. I liked Phoenix Real Estate Guy’s RSS icon as few site versions ago, so I grabbed that. I liked Evo Terra’s something (I can’t remember) on his site, so I sent an email to tell him I was “borrowing” it. Remember to a) always ask permission when you can and b) give whoever you borrowed from some link love. And yes, most HTML on my personal site has been copied and then modified. No reason to reinvent the wheel, right?

RSS feeds
An RSS feed is a subscription service. Instead of having to repeatedly check a site to find out if there is any new content, sites with built-in RSS (WordPress does it automatically at can deliver new content to subscribers’ email inboxes or RSS reader. If you want to track subscriptions, head to Feedburner and set it up through there.

Results not typical.

Handle email
I know the service provider gave you an email address, but wouldn’t you feel a little more professional if your email was hosted on your domain so you could give me instead of as your email address? Doesn’t sound nice? Oh, and you want to use IMAP, especially if you have a smartphone. POP doesn’t work well if you want to access your email from multiple devices.

What are some basic-to-us terms that you wish more of your clients knew?