Can a Blog be used for your Business Website?

We are always seeking web options for website creation that best fit the needs of our clients: ease of use, breadth of features, flexibility, and security. For many cases, WordPress is a great and quick solution for business websites.

What is WordPress?
While WordPress started in 2003 as a tool for online blogging, years of contributions by developers from around the world, WordPress is much more than a blogging tool.

Here’s what you can do, without any customization:

1. Content-management: A user-friendly password-protected dashboard provides quick and easy web access to manage and update your website content. Techie-type capabilities are available, but if this is not your concern, you never need to worry about it.

Content-management includes:

  • Make Posts. Posts are articles that are displayed on a web page chronologically. These include a headline, author, date and an area to post text as short or as long as you like. In these articles you can add pictures. Similar to the menu options for paragraph, text, and picture formatting in Microsoft Word, a WYSIWYG panel provides similar formatting options. Posts appear chronologically either on your blog home page or a page dedicated to posts.
  • Make Pages. In addition to chronological articles, you can create single page entries that can be edited like a post. Unlike a post each page becomes a new menu item. And, you can create sub-menus for each page.
  • Dashboard. The WordPress dashboard is where you can manage your blog and its content. Included in the dashboard is the ability to install themes, plug-in, and manage widgets. Sounds a bit like a foreign language, but with about an hour consultation or just poking around the dashboard and some googling, you will be able to navigate your dashboard and understand these terms about as well as you can manage a remote control for your television.

2. SEO solution - Search Engine Optimization – meaning you want your site and its content to be found in google searches – is built-in.

Are all WordPress sites created equal?

No, not all blogs are created equal. We say this from experience having had to rescue many WordPress sites that have been hacked and designers who don’t have the programming expertise to properly “skin”/design a WordPress site and customize plugins. The basic blog software is set up with the components listed above. While, this seems like a lot, there is much, much more you can do.

Since August 2011, over 22% of all new websites use WordPress. Developers have contributed over 17,000 plug-ins providing the ability to expand features from galleries, to ecommerce, to event registration, to almost anything you can think of—a developer has thought of or is working on it.

The advantage of these plug-ins is that they are modular components that you can “plug-in” to your website without having to build calendars, event registrations, full e-commerce sites, etc from scratch. You get the power of a database to organize your content that can be assembled and re-assembled when needed.

WordPress Template & Ecommerce







WordPress Full conversion site  (and donation database)







WordPress as blog

Can a fairy-tale teach us about the web-development?

The mother of the three little pigs did not say “beware of the wolf” before she sent her darlings out to seek their fortunes, but she did tell them that whatever each may do, do it the best that you can.

Each little pig did encounter the big bad wolf and as the story goes, those piggies that tried the quick and cheap route with the houses of straw and sticks got eaten.

As much as he huffed and puffed, the wolf could not blow in the well constructed house of bricks. Even when the wolf tried to get in through the chimney, he fell down into the little pig’s kettle.

In the house made of brick, this little pig invited his mother over for supper that evening.

The web has its share of wolves huffing and puffing blowing down websites left and right. SPAM, identity theft, credit card scams, data hostage-taking occur regularly because websites are poorly built.

A website needs to stand up to high volume and to hackers. Just like a physical building must be structurally sound, the same rules apply to systems architecture on the web: quality of materials, integrity of the contractor, and the skills of the designer and engineer all count if a structure is to remain solid.

This article was inspired by a client who came to us after their website was hacked. They had an online tracking system that worked great and had even won an award. Even better, the website was put behind an encrypted security layer and password-protected. All appeared well, but the house was poorly designed. The systems architecture was faulty: the security layer, albeit comforting, could be (excuse me-was) circumvented because the same password could be used for secured and non-secured areas  and you did not even need a password if you had the skill set of typical 15 year-old hacker.

This is one of many examples of poor systems architecture. You do not even need to have a website with a database to run into trouble, online mail forms get scribbled and hacked all the time.

The story of the Three Little Pigs teaches us important lessons that can be applied to the web. Like the house of straw, most people build their first website based solely on the lowest price offered–quick and cheap.

When disaster strikes, the next website is built in panic mode. Choices made in this state usually fail as well.

By the third time, knowledge and reason have been attained and a robust, secure, scalable website gets launched.

Also, it is important to note, the wolf did not go after the biggest house, he went after ALL the houses. On the web, hackers do not care how big or little your website may be, only that if they can take the house down they will.<

To keep your virtual house and business standing, you may have to pay a little more and take a bit more time getting started.  As our mothers’ have always told us, in the end you will be rewarded for doing it the best that you can.

How to assign value to a job

One of our team then related the story of a Boiler “tapper” in 17th century Scotland.  To make a major repair to an industrial boiler in those days it first had to be drained through a drilled hole, a process called “tapping.” It was important that the person who did the “tapping” had to be an expert or the boiler could be ruined and forever unusable. One famous 75-year old Boiler “tapper” completed his work at a factory with consummate skill to the customers delighted satisfaction.  He forwarded his bill for payment that succinctly described the skill he had acquired over a lifetime.  It simply said  “For tapping” boiler – one pound. For knowing where to ‘tap’ boiler 100 pounds.”

Keys to your domain: Ownership and Registration

Getting a website requires getting into the web System. The genesis of this System starts with DNS, the Domain Name System. Following are a few key points that you will keep your domain in the system and website up.

To get started with a website, the first thing needed is a domain name, such as, which can be purchased at a domain registrar, where it is registered so that no one can use your domain.

Then, you need to assign your domain a nameserver. A name server includes the information that directs people to the hosting service where your website pages will reside.

Think of your domain nameserver like a telephone number.  If your dns or name server is pointed to a place where your web pages are not residing you will not see them and you will not get email. Every hosting company has an application that reads and directs your domain name to your website pages when it is used by somebody on the Internet. When a sequence of letters is typed into a web browser it is like dialing into a switchboard, a bunch of information about that domain gets relayed to various places—most important of which is your hosting provider where browsers and customers get access to your website.

Along with your domain name is email. Most hosting providers include email service with their hosting packages. With your hosting information you will receive SMTP information that is required for receiving and sending information from your desktop email. For high volume email, an email server designed for email rather than web and email, can be set up to traffic company email more efficiently. In this case, your domain’s MX record-Mail Exchange-can be assigned a server designed for handling email. When you set up your email, you will be asked to include the correct information for your outgoing and incoming SMTP server. This information is based on where your MX record is pointing by your host.

The process for getting started includes:

  1. Register a domain name called domain registrar.
  2. Select a host where your website pages reside. An isp or hosting services-here you will be given a nameserver to give your domain registrar so that when people enter your domain name you are contacting the correct location for your website
  3. Set up email for your domain. Either follow the instructions given to you by your host or
    ask your host to update your MX record to another SMTP server.
  4. Where things go wrong:
    1. If you forget to renew your domain name with your domain registrar you will lose access to your website. If you wait too long, someone else can buy it.

    2. If you don’t register a domain name in your name, then you do not own it. Often a developer will set this up for somebody, but without your name and credentials as the registering party, you have no control over what happens. This is not a tech job—registering a domain name is an administrative responsibility that requires correct contact information along with payment.

    3. Server problems. If your host experiences any problems, power or hardware failures—even with all the ups back up systems and precautions in place, a machine is a machine.

    Additionally, server issues can be software not hardware related. Out-dated software or a poorly designed website can result in someone hacking and taking down your website.

    4. Email. A separate conversation

    5. Internet. If your service provider, Time Warner, Verizon, etc is not working in your neighborhood, you will not be able to get access to your website or email—or anyone else’s for that matter.

    And, always check power. I had a client call because email had stopped. I asked if she could get to google, she could not. I heard a colleague in her office yell out, lights are off, power is out! This will also affect your domain access—but only for you in your office. :)

    SUMMARY: To get a website you have get your domain in the web system-
    1. Purchase a domain from a registrar
    2. Get the nameserver information pointed to your hosting service.
    3. If you have hired a developer to set up your website for you, both the domain registrar and hosting company are important. The payment and registration information should be done by you and in your name.
    4. Keep all of this information in a file. If there is a problem you will need to know (a) name of your service provide (b) name of your registrar (and login information) (c) name of your host and hosting log-in information.

    Best not to lose the keys that got your website launched in the first place.

Social Media Presentation

The following presentation was made at LaGuardia Community College for new entreprenuers. While there are many social media websites, what is important to understand is how similar they each are to one another.

You will be rewarded if you follow the underlying principles of collaboration and participation ie when using social media be sociable–it is built into the algorithms!

Creating a Website: Design!

Creating a Website

I have been told and I try my best to follow this principle: Less is More

Your audience is tired and busy, and design needs to quickly capture their attention. Get to your message in one sentence and from this let the design encapsulate your creed. Design includes your text, color, images, font, and page layout.

A great example of this: What I want from a Restaurant Website, What I get instead.

If the process of design were only so easy, following is an overview of the conversation that will take place with your designer, the content management options and the implementation process.

To best communicate your website needs to your designer, answer the following questions:

  1. Website goals: In one statement, state the single most important purpose of your website.
  2. List your secondary website goals. (Just as your organization has different departments to meet its goals, think about how your website can service different areas of your business or organization.)
  3. Who is your audience? List the information you need to provide on your website for each of these groups. (Map out all the different groups that will go to your website. What information do they care most about?)
  4. How do you want your audience to use the website? (Examples: Shopping, donations, download information, submit content, social networking, etc)
  5. What services can you provide online that will make your organization more efficient? (Example: We want visitors to … Ways that we can accomplish this include…
  6. What do you think will motivate your users to take the actions listed in number 5?
  7. How will you measure the success of your new site? (Examples: Sales, enhanced company efficiencies, greater participation frequency of visits etc)
  8. If you already have a website, what are areas of your current site that are working and not working and why? (List what is missing on your current website that you need added or modified.)
  9. List websites that deliver content that most matches your organization’s services. (Think about how these sites are successful or not successful)
  10. List websites that visually capture the look and feel that you would like to create for your organization.
  11. List websites that visually you do not like and describe why.

Website Software (Web Publishing Tools):

Based on how you expect to use your website, a wide array of software packages are available.

Some options include:

  • Blogs: (Web Log) Businesses use blogs for marketing, branding and public relations. Individuals use blogs to share thoughts with friends and family. Blogs are a simple and inexpensive solution to getting your own media and voice online. And, if you don’t have a website and not sure how you want to invest in this resource yet, blogs are a great inexpensive starting place.
  • Community and Content Management Systems: People come to websites for content and there are many managment systems to help you with this task. And, website content can flourish with user driven content. There is no reason not to have both using many of the avaialble community software packages that come bundled with calendar, forum, galleris, blogging components and much more. There is a wide-variety of softare to choose from Simple Machines Forum, InvisionPower, Drupal, and much more.
  • Online Sales (Ecommerce): Start selling amd collecting money online.

Please contact us if would like to learn about any of the tools currently available for website developement.

Implementation Process:

These steps can include

  1. create a flowchart and documention of your website and its naviagation and content.
  2. design mock pages of the home page and main content areas. For SEO friendly websites the more text the better and should be considered during this phase.
  3. cut up the final approved mockups for the web, first as html and/or to “skin” for the software application you have selected.
  4. integrate and/or customize software modules into the design or “skin”.
  5. test on all browsers.

Website Maintenance:

Websites require that content is kept current, users and visitors are contacted, marketing is conducted both offline and online, and the software is kept up-to-date.

Developing a website is a very exciting and rewarding process. To get started developing your website, contact us.

A, B, C’s of taking payments online

They say, many roads lead to Rome, but for online payments everyone has to start from the same place before options open up, all sites must have:

SSL page

1)  secure web page to take a payment (you know the little lock and https in the url-known as SSL a secure socket layer),

2) a payment gateway (takes the payment online), and

3) a payment processor the entity that works with the banks and the credit card companies who will in the end deposit the funds to your bank account.

The next step is to decide whether you are building a lemonade stand or a store. If you choose store, big or small doesn’t matter.

For the the sale of just a few items with low volume sales or single donation links, will allow you to build a lemonade stand with no set up costs, really you don’t even need a programmer, you don’t even need to worry about a secure web page, all of the transactions happens on the paypal website. You just copy and paste the information they give you to your web page.

The reason why I call this the lemonade stand is because you are dealing with a very limited inventory that does not require a lot of updates or sorting, the volume is low so you don’t need much tracking, and chances are high that a lock box and your receipts that you take home with you when you fold up your table is enough.

To become an online store, following are the ongoing investments that should be taken into consideration and added into your business spreadsheets along with all your other investments and risk:

One Time:

Design and software configuration set up based on your sales needs and tracking.

Ongoing Costs:

  1. Software maintenance: Upgrades to your software as new releases are made available. (prices vary)
  2. Domain registration and hosting: Annual renewal. ($29 for domain, hosting varies annual or monthly)
  3. SSL (Secured Socket Layer): are cryptographic protocols that provide security and data integrity for communications over TCP/IP networks such as the Internet. This socket layer (notice on any secure form url address becomes HTTPS) ensures that any information entered on these pages are encrypted and cannot be viewed by anyone without authorization. These pages require a static ip address as well as a certificate that certifies your web page has been secured. (Annual renewal varies from $125 +)
  4. Additional hosting fees for secure website: SSL monthly hosting and Static IP hosting. Annual or monthly fees.
  5. Feature updates: programming work for changes that may be needed to your website.
  6. Encryption software such as pgp or gpg.

The question that always comes up: “I am a small shop, do I really need all of this ssl and encryption stuff?” Answer: “Yes!”

The larger you get, then, the Credit Card Processing Industry has additional requirements to make sure that you are not exposing them to risk. For over a certain volume in sales you will need to move to closed, single client only server arrangement and third party scanning companies are required to scan your site quarterly and review your security policies and procedures.


When taking sensitive information such as credit card data, security is not an afterthought. ICI web services are compliant with HIPPA, COPPA, Visa CISP, and PCI regulations.

Looking for more information on this topic: Web Hosting, Wikipedia >>

Follow the money: How is money taken and processed online

Merchant Services

To take credit card information online you need a Payment Gateway and a Merchant Account with a Payment Processor. When installling and configuring your software, ICI will link your ecommerce pages to either your Merchant Account or your Payment Gateway. Sometimes a Payment Gateway will offer a merchant account. Regardless, these are two separate entities that make online payments happen.


You apply for Merchant Account through a Payment Processor, which grants you the ability to take credit card information online or offline.

A merchant account is the contract under which an acquiring bank extends a line of credit to a merchant, who wishes to accept payment card transactions of a particular card association brand. Without such a contract, one cannot accept payments by any of the major credit card brands. Applying for a merchant account is similar to a bank application. Please allow time for the process to take place.

A Payment Gateway is an online service that facilitates the transfer of information between a payment portal (such as a website, mobile phone or IVR service) and the payment processor.

Here is how it works: From your secure encrypted payment page, a customer’s sales information is sent encrypted to your Payment Gateway. The Payment Gateway determines whether the payment information is correct. If OK, the Payment Gateway sends the information to your Merchant Account who then deposits the money from the transaction directly to your bank account.

When choosing a Payment Gateway and Merchant Account, you are looking for the lowest transaction and processing fee as well as the how quickly the cash will get to you bank account.

Rates vary, but to give you some notion of the cost as well as the questions to ask:

Setup Fee: Free ~$100 – $500
License Fee: Free ~$199 – $1299
Application Fee: Free ~$50 – $295
Programming Fee: Free ~$50 – $295
Discount Rate: Free ~2.25% – 3.95%
Transaction Fee: $0.30 – $0.50
Statement Fee: Free ~$10.00 – $25.00
Customer Service Fee: Free ~$10.00 – $15.00
Internet Gateway Fee: Free ~$20.00 – $35.00
Check by Phone Software: $195.00 – $295.00
Check Recovery Service: $99.00 – $299.00
Credit Restrictions

Rates are negotiable based on type of industry and volume of sales.


To take payments on your website, your web page must integrate components of your online payment gateway. Paypal is easily configured to a web page, some of the others allow for more complicated configuration with your website ecommerce software and tracking based on your needs.

Popular Merchant Gateways

Looking for more information on this topic: Payment Gateway, Wikipedia >>

Ecommerce Applications


Generating revenue online is a great way to exand and even to start a business. Following is an overview of what is required to perform online sales and options to investigate to see what will work best for your online store

Ecommerce Applications

Software applications provide a variety of tools for the sales of large inventory items that include inventory, tracking, sales, management tools. If you are only selling one or two items, you may not need a software application, but you will need read about hosting and security (or use paypal). The application you choose should be based on the type of sales you are looking to do and which online sales services will enhance sales and generate the most revenue.

Following are some widely available applications. Cost is based on the sophistication of the design, size of inventory, and custom tools and tracking needs for merchants, and the experience of the programmer. I mention this because, while easy to configure, those with more years and knowledge understand the vulnerabilities of working with some of these systems and have the experience to make sure that data is secure. It is the difference between a pilot flying with years of experience versus a pilot who needs a wizard panel to show him step by step what to do.

Questions to ask:

  • Flexibility-when I need to make changes, is it possible?
  • Security-what are the known vulnerabilities of this software package?
  • Usability-can my staff manage this system or is a programmer required to run reports and modify inventory?
  • Design-is this template driven or am I able to custom design the look and feel of the website pages?
  • Availability-can the website perform under high volume of orders?

Common Ecommerce Applications

For high availability, high security, non-php shopping cart solutions, contact ICI.