Transferring a domain can be an adventure. Learn how to make it less painful.

One of my WordPress colleagues, Kathryn Presner writes an interesting newsletter full of web design tips. Her latest one discusses the process one should take to transfer a domain name from one registrar to another:

First, avoid doing a domain transfer when you’re very close to your renewal date. Give yourself lots of time, just in case something goes awry. A month is great – two weeks should be doable. A week is really cutting it close.

Be sure the domain is unlocked before starting the process, or your transfer will be denied. Domains are usually kept locked to prevent unauthorized transfers, so when you’re ready to initiate a transfer make sure to go into your domain control panel and unlock it.

Make sure the contact email in your current account is up-to-date. Much of the transfer process relies on email notifications at every step, and if you’re not getting notifications at the right address, it throws a huge wrench into the works. On the flip side, some registrars will deny a transfer if you’ve changed any registrant details within a few months of renewal, so be sure to look through your registrar’s transfer FAQ before changing any contact information.

For most types of domains, you will need a special code from your current registrar. Because nothing is simple in the world of domain transfers, the code goes by many different names: EPP, authorization code, AuthInfo code, transfer key, transfer secret, and so on. Not only that, but simply locating it may not be obvious! You may have to look around for a while to find it – and take note that some registrars provide it directly in your control panel, while others will only email it to you. Again, if you get stuck, your registrar’s transfer FAQ may provide clues.

Keep an eye on your email after you’ve submitted the transfer request
and when you get an email from your new registrar, be sure to choose the option to accept the transfer. You should also get an email from your old registrar and/or see a note in your control panel that a transfer is pending, at which point you can manually approve the transfer by logging into your control panel and clicking in the right place. If you don’t complete both these steps, your transfer will be either delayed by several days or blocked entirely.

Make a note of any services you may be using from your current registrar, such as domain parking, forwarding, email, custom DNS, or others. You will need to ensure that your new registrar offers the same services, and then once the transfer goes through, set up the equivalent services again. Be aware that there may be a time lag between when a service stops at your old registrar and when you can re-start it at your new registrar.

I know it seems like a lot to remember. Once you’ve done this a few times, it does go faster, but it’s always a bit of a rigamarole. Good luck to all in your domain-transfer adventures!

For more great web design tips make sure you subscribe to Zoonini’s newsletter or browse through back issues.

Keeping Your Web Info in Order

For some, building a website can be quite a big undertaking. Once you’ve done it once or twice, like anything, it gets easier. You’ve learned the lingo, understand the difference between domain registrar and hosting and have a good idea what your web designer will need from you.

One of the most crucial part is very simple, yet often overlook and that’s keeping everything about your website info in order. I’ve seen this problem happen many times when taking on new clients who dealt with a previous web designer. Transitioning to a new web designer can be painless or complicated, depending on how well you’re prepared.

All web designers see this and most of us offer similar advice. In this month’s copy of Zoonews, Kathryn Presner shares the following tips:

Domain registration – be sure you are listed as the domain registrant (not your web designer!) and that the email address on file is an active account. If your web designer’s email is listed as a contact instead of yours, make sure you switch it over to your own email address before you cut ties with your old designer. This is extremely important. I’ve heard of business owners who lost control of their domain name because they failed to do it.

Hosting account – keep handy all relevant details, including the name of your hosting company, the URL of your web-based control panel, and its username and password. Know your FTP (file transfer protocol) credentials, including your FTP host name, login and password. This information will allow your new designer to access your web server and website files.

Logo – have an electronic version of your current logo on hand. It should ideally be in a vector format (like Adobe Illustrator or EPS) on a transparent background, to ensure the greatest design flexibility.

Graphics – retain electronic versions of any images such as stock photos that you may wish to reuse.

E-commerce – know the login details of all e-commerce accounts you may have, such as PayPal and shopping cart systems. Be sure you have access to the accounts, and that they’re registered in your name.

Keep on file in an easy-to-remember place all other information and documents related to your website. It’ll simplify your life – and that of your new web designer – more than you can imagine.

Kathryn Presner runs a web design company, Zoonini Web Services in Montreal. She’s also spoken at several WordCamps and is a moderator on the WordPress Support Forums.

Social Media works if you make it work for you

Almost every week, I’m asked questions on the merit of social media. People are curious about why one would need to use facebook or twitter. My usual response is that social media works, but it only works if you make it work for you.

Of course it takes time and effort and you will need to moderate your social media accounts. Could you hire someone to do that for you? Sure, but you could also hire someone to look after your kids and raise them.  Is that what you want?

In order to clearly explain what I mean by “making it work for you” I thought I would share what my process is and how I make it work for me.

Fortunately, I started early. I’ve been blogging since 2004, so blogging is part of my social media strategy. This strategy is no more than a word though. I don’t have a blogging schedule and I’m not very discipline. I write blog posts when I have something to say but I always write on topic.

Read more…

Bluelime Media Design Principles

I had the pleasure of attending the Interlink Conference last Friday and loved every minute of it. The speakers were all very knowledgeable and gave excellent presentations. Following the event, I hopped on a plane and headed down to Portland for the World Domination Summit (WDS). Although both conferences covered very different topics, the main message that I got from that three day weekend, was simple – be yourself and be the best you can.

Whitney Hess gave a great presentation on the Principles of UX Design. In her talk she challenged the audience to read companies’ design principles and guess who they were. Some of these were then discussed and mocked a bit. Facebook claims that transparency is an important principle of theirs, yet, we’ve witnessed the opposite on many occasions. Charles and Ray Eames have a delightful list of principles and these are clearly felt in their designs. I’ve never been to Burning Man, but my friend Kathleen immediately guessed them to be behind this ambitious list of design principles.

Although the topic of WDS wasn’t Web design, similar set of discussions happened throughout the rest of the weekend. Whether you call them business principles or design principles, the principles you live by are what define you and make you who you are. On the flight back to Vancouver, I took a pen and paper and decided to make my own list. I probably should have done this 8 years ago when I started this company, but better late than never. So here is my list:

Bluelime Media Design Principles

  • Do good work
  • Code to standard and best practices
  • Keep files organized and easy to understand
  • Always look for better ways
  • Update client work even if they don’t ask
  • Find the easiest/best solution for the client
  • Suggest alternate designer or developer if I can’t do the work
  • Help others
  • Teach
  • Connect people
  • Be positive

Open Web Vancouver opens with a Pirate Party and a look at Women in Open Source

I must confess, I wasn’t expecting much from the Open Web Vancouver conference. I read the schedule, and perhaps the strong emphasis on Drupal turned me off, but I didn’t find myself salivating like I do when I go to An Event Apart‘s website. And as the saying goes, you pay for what you get; so how good can a $150 conference be? Today’s conference proved me wrong.

This morning’s session was opened by two keynote speakers and left me inspired and eager to learn more about the Open Source community.

The first keynote was given by Rick Falkvinge on one of Sweden’s political party, the Pirate Party, whose platform is to reform laws regarding copyrights and patents and other civil liberties issues. The Pirate Party succeeded in gaining popularity and attention simply by using the Internet and very little money. In fact their campaign budget during the last election consisted of only $50K. As a result of the communication tools and methods they’ve used, they are now the political party with the largest percentage of voters 30 years old and younger. This of course as alarmed other politicians who have never been able to reach out to this age group.

Now that the Pirate Party has secured a seat in the European Parliament, it will be interesting to see if other political parties start discussing issues such as privacy and file sharing. Just like Al Gore has put Global Warming on everyone’s mind, Rick Falvinge is spreading the word about what needs to be done to create a better online world for all of us and he deserved the standing ovation which followed his presentation.

Following this great keynote, came Angie Byron who spoke about Women in Open Source or rather lack of. I was a bit surprised that this topic was chosen and discussed. I’ve been working as a so called “geek” for a over a decade and never experienced any sexism at work or conference and Angie admitted herself that until she started researching the numbers, didn’t think there was a problem either. Turns out the percentage of women in Open Source is staggeringly low. The reasons and solutions that were discussed were obvious and applicable to all minorities, not just women. At least they felt obvious to me, but a few hours later, I read about the incident at Flashbelt‘s conference just a few days ago. It seems like a lot of boys think that the saying boys will be boys still stands and should simply be accepted.

Angie provided great advice on how to create a safe and inviting community and how to stop tolerating bullshit. The gem, for me, were her views on contribution to Open Source. Having worked with Open Source during all of my coding years, I’ve realised that I’ve used the stuff, but never really contributed. Providing contribution whether it be marketing, documenting, designing and of course coding, is a great way to empower yourself and feel like you are part of the team.

I look forward to learn more during tomorrow’s event.

Upcoming Social Media Events

One of the many benefits of living in Vancouver is that we have a great community of Social Networking experts. In the next few weeks, there are numerous upcoming seminars and workshops which you may want to attend.

Social Media Marketing Training in Vancouver and Victoria

Capulet Communications are leaders when it comes to Social Media Marketing. Following a very successful workshop at UBC Continuing Education this past winter, they’ve now scheduled two new sessions. The first in Victoria will be on April 30 and Vancouver on May 28. Having heard both Julie and Darren speak on many occasions and having read their eBook Getting to First Base: A Social Media Marketing Playbook, I highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in learning how to use their blog, twitter, facebook, etc… and raising their visibility online.
Full details on the workshops can be found on their website.

Mental Health Camp

Following a very popular session at this year’s Northern Voice Conference panel session called Coping Digitally, a few passionate bloggers have put together a full day event. The purpose of the event is to discuss the many ways social media and blogging can help remove the stigma of mental illness. Registration for this event is free and will be held on April 25. Full details and a list of speakers can be found on their website.

THIRD TUESDAY APRIL: Tris Hussey

Next Tuesday, April 21, Republic will host this month’s Third Tuesday event. Tris Hussey, Social Media Concierge and New Media Specialist will discuss the importance of getting your message out. He will look at the different ways to get your message out and which ones work best. Third Tuesday events are also free of charge and you can sign up by becoming a member of the meet up group.

Using the Web for a Good Cause

A few days ago, while under the weather, Darren thought about the future of Soap Operas. This reminded me of something similar which I consider to be out of date. I’ve often wonder why charitable organizations insist on calling me at home to ask for money. Personally, I just treat these organizations the same as telemarketers. Tut, tut you say..I know, I know, but I just don’t like being disturbed at dinner time and thus refuse to donate to anyone who requests by phone.

Raising money is tough, but the Web seems to be a pretty effective means. I’m just wrapping up the most wonderful book called “Three Cups of Tea“. At the end of the book, the authors lists how we can continue the work started by Greg Mortenson and how we can help. Of course spreading the word about the book and letting everyone know that they should read it is the best way, but visiting their website and the charitable organization’s website, are other ways to get further information. Additionally, by following the link on their website, all purchases of the book and all other Amazon purchases will generate 7% of proceeds to the Central Asia Institute. Kudos to Amazon!

Other organizations have made it quite easy for users to create profiles and raise money. Just a few weeks ago, a friend mentioned that he was participating in a 24 hour yoga relay to raise money for kids suffering from Aids and HIV. He simply sent an email, I clicked the link, inserted my credit card details, and now my name and contribution amount appears next to a thermometer on the charity site. Easy as pie.

My friend Karis, sent me an email just a few minutes ago telling me about the Animal Rescue not getting enough daily clicks on their website to get free food donated to rescued animals. I’m not sure logistically how this works, but simply by clicking the link, the site is able to raise money. This kind of button as been used on many charity sites.

These methods of raising money seem pretty good to me. Do we still need “telemarketers” calling us at home?

Viral Marketing: Go Backstage for Free Music

If “Free is the future of business“, then the folks at Backstage have created an interesting marketing tool for all the Radiohead wanna-bes out there. They offer musicians a platform for sharing free music and gathering a database of interested listeners. For the rest of us, it means a few free tracks in exchange for our e-mail address and for recommending the page to a friend. You fill out a quick form, and the downloads are yours.

At first I was irked by the requirement to give a friend’s e-mail address in the form. But then I realized that’s the hook their model is hanging on. You probably have a friend who likes the same music as you, and since you’re recommending a freebie, and Backstage promises not to spam them, they’ll probably forgive you for sharing their address… Probably. There’s a bit of a leap of faith in that assumption. I think this requirement to share a friend’s address will affect their uptake on the offer somewhat but it also makes viral marketing more effective than it would be otherwise. So the net effect is probably a positive one for them.

What do you think?

Backstage Free Music Downloads

Online Customer Service-An Oxymoron?

Online customer service is not as hard as you think. It’s not quite as simple as smiling when someone enters a retail store, but you certainly can convey that your business is focused on meeting customer needs.

Websites have been around long enough that it’s easy to compare and see which ones make it easy to do business and which are causing their customers grief. Try it yourself. Go to a few sites you have never visited before and see how easy it is to locate specific information. Then go to a few of the rock star online retailers and see how they do the job.

There are a lot of rules to good online customer service. Here are a couple of my favourites.

  1. First stop, create a site that is easy to use. And I don’t mean easy for you or your coder. I mean it needs to be dead easy for your site visitors to use. Frankly, even if you’re the one building it, your opinion doesn’t matter nearly as much as your prospective visitors’ needs do.
  2. Make sure there is a way to contact your company available from the home page and every other page in the site. And don’t bury it in text at the bottom! Make it bright yellow if you have to, but make it stand out. Often this is done somewhere in the top right quadrant of the page and many site visitors look here first.
  3. If you’re selling online, let people know the price before they input their personal information. Would you pull out your credit card and ring through a purchase before you know the price in a bricks and mortar store? Many site visitors will opt out of the selling process if they have to provide their personal data before seeing the full price of the product, including shipping.

In a nutshell, make it easy and you’re more likely to make the sale.