Why I Will Never Use WebLink Ever Again

Written: March 7, 2015

I’ve been helping the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce for several years now with their membership site, and they need to have web features like:

The Chamber selected WebLink International as a system to handle these features, while the actual web site was built with WordPress. We integrated WordPress with WebLink International two years ago, and let the contract with WebLink expire on Mach 1st, 2015. Why will I never use WebLink International again?

WebLink

  1. Their backend software runs only a PC, not a Mac, and it is not web-based.
  2. Their user interface looks like something designed for programmers working on mainframe computers in the 1960s.
  3. I reported over two dozens bugs with their software, and the vast majority were never fixed at all, or even acknowledged as bugs worthy of fixing.
  4. They allow you integrate with WordPress through an arcane template system, however every time that you update a WordPress menu you have to re-generated an HTML template for use with WebLink.
  5. Simple event operations like repeating events are not supported.
  6. Integration with WordPress is do it yourself, make sure that you use RSS feeds to place WebLink content exactly where you want it to go.
  7. Migration of membership data is expensive, typically $1,000.00 or more. Importing members is purposely limited, so you have to pay them to do it.
  8. Your data lives on their server, not your web server.
  9. You have to setup a new subdomain to use their system, so ask for a web expert to help with this step.
  10. Learning their system will take office users about 30-50 hours, which is a lot of time and don’t expect to get a return on that investment.
  11. It’s a pre-built system, so you cannot put anything, anywhere, which severely limits your presentation.
  12. There’s no global search, instead there are separate searches for: Members, Events, Deals, Jobs, etc.
  13. Their pricing is expensive.
  14. Customer support is hostile. Rule #1, that’s not a bug, you don’t know how to use our system. Why would anyone want to do that anyway?
  15. They really don’t want you to integrate with Quicken, instead they want you to use their system for accounting instead.
  16. Their product is so lacking that they have to assign a program manager to your chamber, and that person’s job is to lower your expectations and deliver the bad news on why the bugs are not fixed, and the integration with WordPress doesn’t really exist.

That’s about enough for me right now, but you do get the general picture of why I will never use WebLink again, and why you should really dissuade anyone else from ever signing up with this outfit. Our users in the office had such an adverse experience with WebLink that the nickname became WebStink, now that description is appropriate.

I can say one thing that WebLink excels at, and that is they know how to sell their product and promote their product. You have been warned.

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Most Common Mistakes of Website Owners

Written: February 9, 2015

Kronda Adair is speaking on this topic at the Portland WordPress Meetup next Monday, February 16th, starting at 6:30PM. I haven’t seen her slides yet, although the title got me to thinking about my own experiences over the years working with many different website owners. Here’s my top 10 list of common mistakes and their remedies.

1. Choosing the wrong domain name

Let’s say that you are a commercial business and that your company name is ABC, however when you search for the domain name of www.abc.com it is already taken. Choosing www.abc.org would be a mistake, even if the domain name is available because the .org suffix is designed for non-profit companies, not commercial companies. Visit the wikipedia page for a complete list of top-level domains.

domain names

 

Short domain names are preferred to long names, and consider using hyphens in your domain name so that search engines can understand what you’re about (i.e. www.tualatin-real-estate.com instead of www.tualatinrealestate.com).

2. Using a Friend’s Web Hosting Business

There are probably thousands of different web hosting companies that you can choose from, so why not buy from a local buddy who operates out of his house? What happens when this friend goes out of business, leaves town, or forgets to pay his electric bill? I always recommend using a web hosting company that has 24/7 support, and that have live people that you can speak with to answer questions or concerns. My recommendations:

Another reason that I like 1and1.com is that they offer domain names, web hosting, SSL certificates, etc., all from one company, so I receive one bill each year instead of multiple bills from various vendors. It is also convenient for the website owner to also own their own domain name and web hosting account, instead of relying upon a third party.

1and1

3. Too many menu items

Apple computer is a large brand and well-known throughout the world. Look at their web site, it has just 9 menu choices. If you have more than 9 menu choices, it may be time to reconsider how you may simplify the navigation experience. If it takes too long for a visitor to read all of your menu choices, then they will likely just leave your web site in favor of one that has fewer choices that they understand.

Apple computer

Notice also how all of Apple’s menu names are a single word, think brevity here when choosing your menu names, this is not the place to have a sentence.

4. No Search Feature

Having a web site without a search feature may seem like a neat way to simplify the layout, however visitors really are looking for something quite specific when they visit your site and using a Search will help them find it faster than sequentially visiting and reading each page. Be convenient, and add a Search feature. WordPress users get Search as a built-in feature, so follow the leader in Content Management Systems and use Search.

5. Super-sized Logos

Large logos should be more impressive than small logos, right? Not really. Please visit some popular web sites and then measure the size of their logos: Intel, Apple, Nike, CNN. All of these prominent web sites have logos smaller than 120×120 pixels. Using a small logo will allow the maximum room for content, and content is what your visitors want to see, not a super-sized logo.

Logos

6. No Terms and Conditions

Lawyers and legalese, who needs them? You probably do, so please add a link in the footer of each web page for Terms & Conditions to let your visitors know what happens when they visit your site: Cookies, Email, Privacy, etc.

7. Not Mobile Ready

When the web first appeared in 1995 there were rudimentary web browsers, and everyone browsed from their desktop because mobile devices hadn’t been invented yet. Today in 2015 most of us use a Smart Phone with a web browser, so what happens when I visit your web site on my Samsung phone? Is your theme mobile ready where I don’t have to pinch, double-tap or scroll horizontally? Mobile visitors expect that your web site is mobile-ready and has a mobile menu icon that we fondly call the “hamburger”, it stays small until clicked and then it expands to show menu choices.

Hamburger menu

A modern web layout will be “responsive”, meaning that it will dynamically respond to the screen size available and work for: Desktop, Tablet and Mobile devices.

8. Stale Content

I visit www.cnn.com every single day because they are a news site, and they present headlines and sections of news that makes it easy for me to get updated, quickly. Imagine visiting a web site in 2015 and the footer still says 2011 on it? Now that is what I call stale content. The way to make it interesting for visitors to come back is to offer something new to inform them or entertain them. A blog is one popular technique to offer new content to your visitors, but you have to write something new at least once per month to be relevant.

9. Broken Links

You’re reading an interesting web page and there’s a link, great, clicking the link to learn more and then you suddenly get a 404 page not found, all because that was a broken link. There is a way to find all broken links and it’s free at: http://validator.w3.org/checklink. Another way to check for broken links and other ailments is to create a free Google Webmaster account and then Google will alert you to any syntax issues on your web site.

10. Slow Web Pages

We are impatient people, and expect that any web site should become visible in a few seconds. Having a web site that takes 45 seconds to load the Home page will certainly cause the majority of your precious visitors to simply exit the site, and go back to where they came from. To make your web pages load faster consider the following:

Summary

Now you know my top 10 list of what to avoid as website owner, so please consider attending Kronda’s talk on Monday to find out her list which will benefit your web presence.

Marketing Awareness for an Author

Written: January 27, 2015

Roland Smith is a local author that has written dozens of books, so we’ve come up with a marketing process to help build awareness for his new books. This month his book titled Beneath was just released, so to build awareness we’ve done the following steps:

His site is built with WordPress so we’re using a plugin called Newsletter to compose, send and track our email without having to use another separate tool, like Constant Contact.

On the Home page we define four slides to rotate through, each one may be clicked and is linked to a blog post.

The blog post is a book summary with links to purchase at three major stores.

On Facebook the banner is updated, and the Status is updated to talk about the new book. Notice that Roland has 26,636 Likes, and a Post Reach of some 912,140. Yes, he is getting noticed.

 

Paying for Utilities Online

Written: November 12, 2014

I’m attracted to all types of automatic bill payments, because it means one less check for me to write each month so that I can concentrate on running my business and household. Our garbage provider is Republic Services and they have allowed me to pay my monthly bill by using a Visa card, automatically. It just happens, and then I get an email reminder of the amount due each month, but no action is required on my part. So far so good.

Today I received an email alerting me that Republic Services is changing their payment system, and an invitation to click a link and get registered with the new system.

Republic Services

 

After clicking the link it brought me to a web page telling me that their web site was down:

Sorry

Hmm, this is the classic definition of a Catch 22. I’d love to signup with the new system, but their entire web site is down for maintenance. So what kind of company would issue an email with an inviting link, knowing that their web site was going to be down? Hmm, very poor timing or communication. But hey, Republic Services really knows how to pick up my garbage and recycle bins every Monday, like clockwork, so maybe I shouldn’t expect their IT department to have their act together.

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