Customer Spotlight – sfsalt.com

The San Francisco Salt Company, (sfsalt.com) has come a long way since they developed their first site with us in 2002. The founder, Lee Williamson, would balance long work days and in turn, tool long soaks in the tub each night. Feeling fresh and invigorated each morning he decided to spread the word of the amazing benefits of bathing in sea salts. Things took off quickly in 2002 and the San Francisco Bath Salt Company was formed focusing mainly on Bath Salts.

With the growing demand for gourmet salts, and continued requests by retail and wholesale customers, it was no surprise a few years later when we expanded with a second production facility dedicated to gourmet chef salts. They are now officially the San Francisco Salt Company.

Fast forward to 2015, San Francisco Salt Company is now a top Worldwide supplier of retail Bath and Gourmet Sea Salts. Furthermore they are one of the leading Wholesale and Bulk Bath Salt providers in the industry.

San Francisco Salt Company

Site Features:

  • Custom Design with integration into SiteBuilder CMS
  • Home Page Slide Show
  • Full featured Shopping cart
  • Hundreds of products
  • Worldwide sales
  • Sitebuilder Secure Platform

What is a Search Engine Friendly Web Site?

What is a Search Engine Friendly Website Design?

We are often asked, what does “search engine friendly design” mean?
It is essentially a website that is designed with no barriers that would block or reduce the effectiveness of the search engine bots (automated programs) from spidering or collecting important information from a Website and writing the information back to it’s database.
Many customer Websites we encounter have substantial barriers that must be eliminated before optimization can occur.
Furthermore, a search engine friendly site must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the search engines.
Google’s Webmaster guidelines can be found at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769
Some common barriers to avoid are:

  • Frames – This prevents effective crawling/indexing of the site
  • Splash or intro pages – Your home page is the most relevant to the search engines, don’t reduce your chances of being found by adding an intro (barrier) page.  Better idea: Integrate the element into into front page.
  • Lots of images and little written copy – There is nothing for the search engine to index or”grab” onto. Written copy is king for SEO!
  • Database driven sites using long, obfuscated query strings or Session ID’s. Search engines have hard time following these types of links. Some simple query strings are acceptable.
  • JavaScript navigation – While most search engine can follow JavaScript now, we recommend using CSS when applicable.
  • Avoid using Image maps
  • Trashy or incorrect Markup code – Make sure you code is clean!

Some elements that make up a search engine friendly site are:

  • All search engine relevant code is in place. Title tags, meta tags, H1, H2, tags, Alt tags, Bold tags Etc.
  • Effective, logical navigation elements
  • Use of heading and subheading tags
  • Copy that is creatively written for the end user but is also optimized for the keywords selected
  • Use styles instead of images where possible
  • Correct file naming conventions
  • Sitemap and/or Footer nav with regular hyperlinked text

 

Advanced Web Site Publishing designs all of our website to search engine friendly guidelines unless we are specifically required not to do so by the customer.

The most effective marketing campaign is one where we have the opportunity to build the site from the ground up using our search engine friendly process and then implement a search engine optimization campaign. This ensures everything is correct right out of the gate.
That being said, we have been able to bring the majority of site we work on into compliance by revising the architecture of the site.
For more information contact us.

Custom Web Design Process

This following is an overview of our custom web design process.

Initial Consultation/Pre Service Agreement:

  1. Discuss customers business goals and objectives for the website.
  2. Receive requirements document from customer.
  3. Review requirement document and contact customer with any questions or concerns.
  4. If, no requirement document is provided, we offer an option to work with the customer on a consulting basis to development one.  The requirements document is absolutely necessary when developing a custom application.
  5. Once site requirements are submitted and approved, we prepare and submit our proposal to the customer.
  6. Customer accepts or rejects the proposal

Service Agreement

  1. If the proposal is accepted, we fax over the service agreement.
  2. Service agreement needs to be signed and faxed back to us.
  3. We require half of the payment for the web site as Initial payment.  The final payment is due upon completion or on a specified date.  We accept checks or major credit cards (except Discover) as payment.  Payment may be made securely through our online form.

Design Specs (look and feel):

  1. We will need your logo in electronic format (no scans).  The preferred format is Photoshop .PSD or high quality .GIF or .JPG
  2. We typically base the color scheme of the site on the logo colors.  However, this is subjective and we can base it on complementary colors or colors of your choosing.
  3. We ask that you send us 4 or 5 sites that you like and tell us why.  You may like the colors on one, the layout on the other, the ease of navigation of another and so on.  This gives us an idea of the style that you like.  Another option is to just have us design it to one of our industry leading, professional specifications.
  4. Once we get a good idea of what you are looking for in the design, we start on the design composition or “comp”.  The “comp” is a single image, non-working representation of the site.
  5. We publish the comp online for you to review.
  6. At this time, the customer either approves the comp for production or asks for revisions.  All revisions to the design must be made at the comp stage.  Otherwise, the customer will incur additional charges.
  7. Once the comp is approved, we start the actual development of the site.

Content integration

  1. Once the comp is approved, the customer should start on the content development for all the pages of the site that is under development.
  2. Content development includes written copy and images that you may want to go on specific pages.  We recommend stock images unless you have a professional photographer.  We have resources that we can recommend for stock images.
  3. When the page copy is completed, the customer should specify where the content is to be integrated.  All copy needs to be sent to us in electronic format such a Microsoft Word .DOC format.  Images can be sent in .JPG format.
  4. When we receive the content, we start on the content integration.

Web Space (Hosting):

1.    We will need to setup your hosting account at this point so your site will have a place to reside.
2.    We can register your domain name for you if you haven’t already done this.
3.    We setup a hosting account on our servers in the Rackspace datacenter.
4.    The hosting plan will be based on your site requirements.  The business account is the most popular and can be upgraded if necessary.
5.    The customer will need to sign up for the hosting account online.
6.    Once sign up is complete, the hosting account will be online within a few hours.

Rackspace Datacenter information:

AWSP is partnered with Rackspace Data Centers.  Rackspace delivers mission critical hosting solutions for AWSP customers. You could dedicate precious time, resources and expertise to doing all the day-to-day tasks necessary to keep your servers, hardware and network up and running optimally. Or you could choose to let the experts at Rackspace and AWPS do it for you.
Rackspace supports AWSP by:

* The Fanatical Support Promise – our commitment to you. And it’s not an empty promise with nothing behind it. It’s actually part of our Master Service Agreement.
* Hosting With No Worries – unlike co-location hosting and other low-end hosting providers, Rackspace immediately reduces the strain on your IT people by taking on the day-to-day burdens of constantly and fully managing a web environment.
* Very Live, 24x7x365 Support – we don’t mean one person manning the desks at 2:00AM. It’s teams of experts working at any time on any day.
* Your Very Own Dedicated Team – you will know your dedicated Rackspace Support Team and, they’ll know you. More importantly, the team is built around your needs, not ours.
* Experts by Any Definition – hundreds of certified experts, consistent industry awards and recognition and strong technology partnerships.
* 100% Network Uptime Guarantee – our Zero-Downtime Network guarantees you get nothing less than 100% Network Uptime. We’re so confident in our guarantee that we didn’t have to fill it with loopholes.
·    1-Hour Hardware Replacement Guarantee – sooner or later hardware will break. When it breaks at Rackspace, it’s usually fixed before you even know something is wrong.

Testing and Live deployment:

Once your site is complete, we do thorough testing before moving it to our live server.
We make every effort to make sure you have adequate time to review all aspects of your site on our development server first.  After you review and approve the site, we then move it to the live server (your domain).  Once on the live server, we test again to be sure everything is perfect!
At this point, we turn the site over to you.

eCommerce Checklist – Are you Ready?

Thinking about selling a product, a product line or a variety of products on your Web site?  Here are a few things you will need to think about before and during the process of setting up your eCommerce Web site.

Choose the Right Shopping Cart Software

There are many off the shelf eCommerce solutions.  Some are free (open source) and some aren’t.  You want to choose a cart that:
1.  Has all the features you need now and in the future
2.  Is constantly updated,  upgraded, patched and improved
3.  Is supported by a development team.
4.  Is Secure.

There’s nothing worse that purchasing shopping cart software and then being unable to reach the developers or support when you have a problem.

Budget

You must determine what you are willing to spend for the options and functionality you need.
Shopping cart software costs range from free to tens of thousands of dollars. Developing a custom cart from the ground up can cost even more.
The free options may sound good at first until you run into problems or need support that is non-existent.  Which leads us to…

Support

Support of a cart is the probably the most important aspect. If you have a problem, (and you will) does the software provider provide live support?
Do they have a phone number on the site for support?
Do they charge for support.
You may be surprised by the number of software providers that do not even provide a phone number.

Cart/Server Setup

The shopping cart should be professionally installed on your server by a qualified server admin or the cart software programmer.  There are typically many server/cart configuration options that can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the environment.
A database will also need to be setup and tied into your cart.
Also be sure to choose a cart that is compatible with your server operating system.  Typically, Linux servers will run PHP and Perl solutions and Windows servers will use .ASP and .NET applications.

Choose whom you will use to ship your product

Typical Options:
UPS
FedEx
USPS (United States Postal Service)
DHL

Choose how you will calculate shipping cost
Some options would be:

Live rate lookup
Weight based table
Price based table

Live Rate Lookup
Our shopping cart software supports Live shipping rate lookup.  This means that it will return a shipping cost to the customer based on the actual product weight plus packaging.
(Setup varies depending on service selected)

We recommend the live lookup option if possible.
You will need to provide the weight for each product. (Including packaging)

Weight Based Table

Alternately, you can use a weight-based table.
Weight based Table Example:

Total Order size (weight) Shipping Price
0 – 29.99 = $9.50
30 – 59.99 = $4.50
60.00 and up Free ($0)

Cost Based Table
If you choose shipping rate by cost of the product, you will need to setup a shipping rate table and associated costs.

Example of a Cost based shipping table.

Total Order size (dollars) Shipping Price
$0-$24.95 = $9.00
$24.96-$49.99 = $5.00
$50.00 and up Free ($0)

Note:  The free is just an example of what you can offer.  You do not have to offer free shipping.

How will the package arrive at the shipping office?

Shipper picks up package from you on a regular basis
You deliver the package to the shipping office

This will impact your shipping cost.

Things to consider:

Package size can impact cost of shipping
Handling charge.  You have the option to add a handling charge
What countries will you ship to?

Note:  Shipping is a VERY important aspect of setting up your eCommerce shop.  Setting shipping rates too high is one of the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment.

Product Categories

You will need to determine how many product categories you are going to need and how many products will be in each category.  It’s best to start of small and add products over time.

Product Images

You will need product images.
We recommend a professional photographer.  It is essential that your photos be of top quality.  In some cases you may be able to get them from the manufacturer.
A poor quality image looks unprofessional and will not help sell your product.
However, if you choose to take the photos yourself, try and follow these guidelines

Use light backdrops (not white)
Try and use natural sunlight or studio lights that produce no shadows

You will need a thumbnail image and a larger detailed image.  There is a variety of good photo editing software on the market.  Paint Shop Pro is a good low cost, multi purpose editor.
Adobe Photoshop is the top of the line software tool for photo editing, retouching and compressing your images.  The choice of professionals.

Photo Naming Convention

Be sure and categorize the images and give them descriptive names.  If you use numbers, be sure that they correlate with the product description detail “Photo Name” (see below).  Typically save in .JPG format.

Delivery Options (if we are doing the work)

Burn to a CD or DVD and mail to us
Zip and email (if less than 5 megs)
FTP – Publish on your site in a specified directory and give us FTP access

Product Description

For each product, you will need a written description.

You will need a Short description (one sentence) and a Long description (paragraph or more).

You want to attract and intrigue potential shoppers so be sure to use interesting copy that is full of adjectives and possibly a bullet list of features in the long description.

Product Details

Depending on the cart used, you may have to adhere to the following format.  Use a Word document or Excel worksheet for each category. Please name the document/worksheet relevant to the category, i.e. name it Widgets, if the category is Widgets.

Category:
Item Name:
Description Short:
Description Long:
Photo Name:
Item or product #:
Sort Code:
Shipping Weight:
Price:
Keywords associated with product:
Options: (color/size/scent/etc.): (If applicable)

(If we are doing your work, please submit all the products and images at one time.)

Merchant Account/Taking Payments

What is needed to accept credit cards online?

You will need a merchant account and a payment gateway.

Options:
A.    If applicable, use your existing merchant account and setup an authorization gateway (authorize.net, Linkpoint, etc.) that will interface with your merchant account through your cart and handle the transactions in real time.

B.    Setup a new merchant account and payment gateway.  This is the most professional setup and will instill confidence in your customers.

C.    Interface with PayPal. (not recommended for serious eCommerce)  This is the absolute last choice.  This would be considered unprofessional and could cause you to lose business.  Consider this only if your are on the lowest budget.

If you need a merchant account, a gateway or both, AWSP can help.  We are an Authorize.net reseller and can offer you excellent rates.

Security

All transactions should be encrypted via SSL (Secure Socket Layer) This requires a security certificate to be installed on the server.  There is a variety of SSL vendors such as Verisign, Thawte, GeoTrust and many more.  This is an absolutely essential for any site accepting credit card payments online.

Other configurations
Take you time and go through all the configuration options.  Shopping carts are complex programs and there are often 10 or more page of configuration options.  Each option should be reviewed to determine if it’s right for your store/product.

Ultimately, setting up an eCommerce solution takes a lot of thought, time and effort.  Advanced Web Site Publishing has setup hundreds of eCommerce solutions. We are also experienced in all facets of running an eCommerce site.  Let us recommend the correct solution for you.
Contact support@awsp.com for more information.

Are Your Online Accounts Protected?

When you think of someone hacking your Computer, Website, email account or worse yet, bank account, what do you think of? Some geeky computer prodigy working out of his mother’s basement, meticulously hacking his way into any computer system? The hackers you see in movies and on TV are a far cry from reality.

Hackers, better know now as “Script Kiddies” now rely on “scripts” or automated programs that perform hacking tasks automatically. These scanning scripts are readily available to download.  They run against thousands of IP addresses 24/7 unattended. Once a vulnerability is found anywhere, it is flagged and then exploited.

One of the simplest ways for a hacker to compromise your account is called a Dictionary Attack.

A Dictionary Attack is when a script uses a dictionary file that includes every word in the dictionary to try and access your account. It runs and runs tirelessly trying to login using each word. This is the easiest form or attack because users still do not use strong passwords. Many people are in the habit of using easy, everyday words or names that are easily cracked.

The Next form of attack is called the the Hybrid Dictionary Attack. This stems from the fact the people use numbers or characters after simple words and names. So john1, john2, hello@, etc. are easily cracked using this method.

Finally, there is the brute Force Attack which is comprehensive attack on your password and can take weeks.

The point of all this is that you must use strong passwords to protect yourself from these advanced hacking programs.

A strong password should have alpha, numeric, upper & lower case characters.  A good example of a strong password is “Bl%6i@20Az” .  It may be hard to remember but it is worth the effort.  This simple method can protect you from potential disaster.

Password bit and length correlation is beyond the scope of this post.  Follow this link to learn more on Password Entropy and Length Correlations.

Is Your SiteBuilder Site Search Engine Friendly?

The SiteBuilder developers have worked very hard to make our online Website Builder responsive and search engine friendly, however,  there are changes you can make to circumvent  those efforts.

These are the top 5 things to consider.

  1. One of the worst things you can do is setup an intro screen or a “splash” page before you get to your main content. Many times this is Flash that has no readable content for the search engines to pickup. Your home page is the most relevant page to the search engines, do not waste it on a splash page.
  2. Using I-Frames. Do not place content in I-Frames. The search engines do not recognize this as on page content and will not index it.
  3. Do not use images instead of written text on your pages. Search engines cannot index text that is in an image. Make sure you do not overuse images where you could use written text or CSS that the search engine can index.
  4. Slow page load times. Google is starting to look at page load times. Heavy pages may be penalized. Therefore, you need to keep the page loading fast as possible.  If you need to put images on the page make sure they are optimized locally (jpg compressed to 60%) on your local machine before uploading  We highly recommend Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
    A JPG should always be compressed.  For instance, using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements a 1.3 meg photo can be compresses down to 60k without losing definition.  The quality setting should be set at 60 when compressing JPG images.  All good image editing software will have a similar feature.  A good image editing program is a must for web design.
  5. Pasting from Word and using HTML tables.
    a) Pasting from MS Word will also paste in the markup from Word which is not HTML .  This can throw the design and responsive nature of the site off.  If you paste from work, use the paste from Word tool that strips out the Word markup or paste to notepad, them copy from notepad and paste into your content area.   This effectively strips out the Word Code.
    b) Using HTML tables instead of CSS can cause the site to display improperly in devices, essentially mucking up the responsive nature of the site.  There is no need to use tables anymore.   CSS is the way to go to keep your site responsive.

These are just a few tips to give you a good foundation for starting your SEO program.

What is a Requirements Document?

When an off the shelf or purchased Web application doesn’t meet your needs, you will probably start thinking about custom development.  A few things you should think about first are:

  1. Cost.   Custom programming/application development from scratch is expensive.
  2. Have you thought the functionality of the application through thoroughly?
  3. If #1 is not an issue and you have a clear idea of what you want, the next step is to develop a requirements document.  This is one of the first things you need to provide to your developer for a quote on the development work.

What is a requirements document?

A requirement document defines the functionality of the application from the server platform to the last click of the mouse.
Depending on the complexity of your application, you may need to define the following in detail.

  • Project Overview (purpose/indented audience)
  • Server platform
  • Programming language
  • Specific project features
  • User interface (define in detail)
  • Admin Interface (define in detail)
  • Flow Charts
  • Decision tables
  • Navigation structures
  • Browser compatibility
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Assumptions

Why do I need a requirements document?

The requirements document ensures that the customer and the developer are communicating effectively to meet the common goal of creating a custom application.
Going back and adding/changing  the app in the final stages will extend the scope of the project and push the roll out date back.  There is nothing worse than hearing “It’s going to be another 10k to add that”.  Doing your homework up front prevents this from happening.

For sample requirement documents search Google for “web application requirements document template” or just click here.

– See more at: http://www.awsp.com/blog/web-design/requirements-document/#sthash.aLs6DHMP.dpuf

U.S. Coast Guard Engages AWSP for New Mission

The United States Coast Guard Bahamas/U.S Embassy office has engaged Advanced Web Site Publishing (AWSP) to help them visually depict the amount and types of cases they have worked on in their region during the course of one year.
Commander Billburg of the U.S. Coast Guard states “The SAR and AMIO picture is essential to understanding our multi-mission response ops and what really goes on around in the Bahamas.”Coast Guard In Bahamas

The Flash movie format will illustrate all Search and Rescues (SAR’s), Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations (AMIO) and Maritime Drug Interdictions in cooperation with OPBAT.

OPBAT is a combined Coast Guard, U.S. Army, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bahamian operation. The operation incorporates assets and personnel from each entity to combat drug smuggling to and from The Bahamas. OPBAT is a helicopter oriented effort that uses Coast Guard and Army HH60 aircraft, manned with DEA and Bahamian law enforcement agents, to interdict drug smugglers using the Bahamas as a transit zone. OPBAT forces are commonly used against drug air drops (or mothership hand offs) to waiting go-fast style boats. Aircraft and crews are stationed at locations throughout the Bahamas and are tasked by a central OPBAT command center in Nassau.

The Flash based movie will calculate a running tally of the lives saved and assisted plus it will give totals of:
The amount of drugs seized
The types of drugs seized
Arrests Made

Keith Hickman, President of Advanced Web Site Publishing stated, “We are very proud to be of assistance to the men and women who risk their lives to guard our countries borders. We will continue to work with the USCG and other government agencies that can use our expertise.”

 

chasing go boat

Chasing Drug Running “Go Boat”

 

AWSP Works with U. S. Coast Guard Station Houston

The United States Coast Guard selected us to build their Houston Air Station Website. After considering the specialized nature of their site we created a design that was visually appealing, flexible in scale and professional as well as organized in it’s content presentation. They were very pleased with their design and contracted us to maintain it as well.

Shortly after their new site was up, Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast and they needed a quick visual way to portray their active part in the rescue efforts. They asked us to create a birds eye view of their performance during that emergency response situation.

With nothing more than a spreadsheet list of helicopter arrivals and departures, we developed a “flash movie,” that shows a moving, depiction of the path of Hurricane Katrina, arrivals and departures of H-60’s and H-65 helicopters, dynamic number of helicopters in the cities, and a dynamic time line from August 28 to September 3, 2005 that comes complete with interactive pause and replay features.

Coast Guard officials say they are “very pleased with the results and realistic depiction of the coast guard helicopters dispatched during Hurricane Katrina ” and believe the program serves as a valuable tool that will aide in future emergency response planning.

Keith Hickman, owner of AWSP stated “This was an intriguing project that pulled raw data into a concise format that is easy to understand at a glance. We are proud to be able to assist the Coast Guard Air Station Houston”

In a letter to AWSP Lt. Vicencio writes:

“We are very pleased with the services provided by AWSP. Our website is very intuitive and the end result exceeded our expectations. AWSP proved to be a very valuable resource in assisting us to project a positive image and business presence on the web. We are extremely impressed with their web design and graphic design capabilities. Our site looks amazing and contains very useful information for our Coast Guard Personnel as well as the American Public.

Thanks for all your hard work!!”
Lt. Vicencio
U.S. Coast Guard
Air Station Houston

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Contact us for additional information.