webdev

Ads don't Belong on your Business Site

Back in the late 90s there was a range of free website hosting options - geocities, angelfire and tripod are the big 3 I remember straight off the top of my head. The business model was pretty simple, you got a free site, albeit with a pretty crappy url, and the host got to inject ads into the page. The first "site" ever I ever built was hosted by tripod and is still up, I have forgotten the login details so it hasn't been updated for 11 years.

Of the 3 stars of this business model, angelfire and tripod are still offering an ad supported version along with ad free, fee for service upgrades, but geocities is dead. Today, the business model has evolved, you can get a free but ad supported blogs (see Blogger.com or wordpress.com), email services (see gMail, Yahoo or Microsoft) or project hosting (see sourceforge, xp-dev or CodePlex) along with many other online services. For personal stuff I think this is fine, and the same goes for small not for profit organisations. On the other hand if you run a business and want to appear professional, profitable and "up with technology", then you don't want your email address to be [email protected], or your website to be acme-inc.freehostingco.com. It could be worse, you could be using an email address or hosting supplied by your ISP such as [email protected] and myisp.com.au/acme-inc. In the case of email, you can use google apps for domains and still look professional.

It is different if you are solely providing free (as in beer) content, such as video, news or a professional blog. This is a clear business model, fund free content via advertising, it has been used by print news, radio and television for decades. I also think it is fine for community based free/open source software projects to use it to get some additional revenue. It is different if you are a profit making business.

Not only does running ads on your site look unprofessional, you could be promoting the competition. Google targets their ads based on the content of the page. For example if you are a small shop and you have a page listing the types of products you offer, Google is likely to serve up ads on that page for those products. Do you really want an ad from a competitor showing up with "Cheap [item], free next day delivery"? How many high volume paying customers will you lose for that extra few dollars a month in Ad Sense revenue?

I find it more shocking on large corporate sites. Yes, they attract a lot of eye balls, but I pay my phone company enough money and they make large enough profits, that I shouldn't have to be subjected to ads on their corporate home page. It makes them look cheap. The same goes for smaller businesses.

In the case of a business blog, it should be part of your business website. If people find your blog and they like what they see, they are likely to click around your site to find out more about you. If you have your blog on blogger they are only likely to find other blog posts, and if you have a link to your business website, they will probably stop clicking once they hit your business site as it is completely different from your blog. If on the other hand it's all nicely integrated, your readers are able to move from your blog posts to your business content seamlessly - and so are more likely to become a customer, rather than another bounced visitor.

What are your options? Many hosts offer one click installers for setting up drupal, wordpress or other content management systems. With a bit of help from an online tutorial or 2 you should be able to get drupal up and running with a basic site and a theme from contrib. Sure it will look a bit cheap, but no worse than something on blogger. If you were to host it with dreamhost it is going to cost you around 120USD/130AUD for one year. Even if you have to pay someone to help you setup your CMS site, it will probably cost you less than 500USD in the first year for a basic setup. A basic setup will allow your business to project a professional image to the world. Add a professionally designed custom theme and site build for another 1850USD/2000AUD or so and you are set for a few years. Of course you will spend more if you want some to help with designing your information architecture, help with SEO, produce or proof content or suggest images etc. The investment is likely to pay for itself over that time in increased sales.

bye bye PHP 4

I have several servers running PHP 5 already, but as my laptop is my primary phpGroupWare development and test environment, it was running PHP 4.

I knew this day would come, I just didn't think it would be so soon. PHP4 has been dropped from ubuntu. Ubuntu has never shipped php4 in main, but until feisty it has been in available in the universe.This is no more.

The advantage of using PHP 5 on ubuntu is that it is in main, so has full security support.

I started using PHP 3 and I was pretty enthusiastic about making the jump to PHP4, but have held back on PHP 5 due to the problems with running phpGroupWare (and other scripts) under it. It looks like I no longer have any excuses,

Now that all the major distros ship PHP 5 and PHP 6 is around the corner, it is time to bury PHP 4. The world didn't end when register globals was turned off by default. Switching to PHP 5 won't kill us either, but holding back may.

Web 2.0 Design Patterns Gallery

Interesting web 2.0 design patterns. Might be something useful for phpGroupWare in it.

Coghead Screenshots

Cool looking browser based application development tool. Could be an interesting replacement for eTemplate in phpGroupWare.

Quick favicon.ico Creation

An easy way of creating favicons using the linux CLI - too easy

Evaluation of WYSIWYG editors

Good comparison of browser based RTEs

PHP Security Guide

A must read for any PHP developer

20 "must-have" Firefox extensions

Computer World article on "must have" firefox extensions. I didn't find many of them that useful, except the web developers list. Of those listed on the page, I have half of them installed. FireFTP is great if you don't have gnome-vfs available, the web developer already has a ruler in it so measure it is kinda redundant.

Next time I restart firefox I will try out ColorZilla which looks very handy.

Although a niche extension Tamper Data is part of my toolkit too.

Other addons of note that I use are:

  • Fox Clocks - keeping track of what time it is for various people I know
  • Flash block - avoid ads
  • Session Saver 2 - so I can keep my 50+ tabs when I restart firefox :)