Good Web Hosting Matters

I never aspired to be a web hosting reseller.

It’s true. In fact, I never aimed to design websites for clients. My first commercial WordPress site was something my client had to twist my arm to have me do. It worked out because I had to twist her arm to let me design a logo for her.

This is what the website part of my business felt like then:

That was five years ago this summer. I have learned so much since then. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed and how quickly it has gone by. The world has changed since then. My business has changed. And believe it or not, my clients’ businesses and organizations have changed.

This is what the website part of my business feels like now:

While I didn’t really aspire to be a web designer or a hosting reseller, I have always aspired to do good work. I want the things I do for clients to provide clear value. I even want to provide long-term value. So instead of rolling on with the status quo, I’m starting to rethink the way I’m managing websites to better serve my clients.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few months as the realities of being more or less responsible for 45+ client websites settle in:

  • Websites can be fleeting. As permanent and stable as we wish them to be, they are still temporary. And even when they are static, they are dynamic. WordPress updates are released. There are updates to themes and plugins. It takes a decent amount of work, over time, for a website to remain available — even if the owner of the site never wishes to change it. In addition to that, in fewer than five years, I’ve already seen the business cycle and organizational consolidation result in shutting down websites.
  • Websites can be fragile. This is true because website are, by nature, held out to the public Internet. And the Internet can be a very harsh environment. If the sites of giants like Amazon and Facebook stumble through occasional downtime and problems, be assured that your identity website with a desired reach no bigger than your ZIP code will take a beating. How much more sites with national aspirations? It’s not so much that sites are delicate; the hazards are just relentless.
  • Websites can be frustrating. It’s a challenge to cling the search ranking mountain. It’s hard when you need x amount of traffic and you need to convert y% of those visitors in order to keep the lights on. It’s mind-numbing to find spammy links pop up out of nowhere on your site. It’s a hassle to forget where things are and get locked out of your own site. Yes, it happens!

Websites are still worth the headache.

Despite the challenges, most businesses and organizations find their website to be a critical part of communicating their identity to the world. A site with even a modest amount of traffic can result in thousands of impressions every year. For small businesses in a local market, there usually isn’t a more efficient marketing option.

Since websites are so important to my clients, they have become important to me. Instead of slapping together one or two sites once in a while, website development has grown into a substantial percentage of my business. While it made sense at one time to have a hands-off approach to domain name and hosting, I’m now re-evaluating how I’m doing everything concerning website hosting and management. I expect I’ll be providing clients significantly more value in the area of hosting. Will it cost more? Probably. But it will be worth it.

My clients have been so good to me over the years. They are worth my best efforts and the best solutions I can offer.

I’ll post again as I solidify my plans for a better hosting configuration.

Three More Reasons to Love Shopify for Small Retailers

We love implementing Shopify for small retailers. It was so good a few years ago that it was a slam dunk for most small-ish retail businesses that want to sell online. It’s still that, but it’s even better today. And AJ Design is a Shopify Partner with a growing base of small retail clients using the system.

Here are three quick new reasons for retailers to love Shopify even more:

1) Integration

Shopify is working on some seamless integrations with Amazon. Users will be able to log in with their Amazon account, and eventually Shopify merchants will be able to sell via This is big. Amazon is huge, and many small retailers may not feel they have any opportunity to compete with Amazon. Shopify is taking the bull by the horns and enabling their merchants to reach that massive customer base. Don’t try to beat Amazon. Let them do what they do best, and you keep doing what you do best. And when this integration is mature, you will have the opportunity to gain sales within the Amazon market. Read about what Shopify is planning here.

2) TaxJar

Filing sales tax isn’t too tough if you don’t mind working with the month’s order data in a spreadsheet and doing some math. But that’s something not practical for everyone. TaxJar simplifies filing sales tax. You might want to look into it if sales tax is a dread for you. Learn about TaxJar in the Shopify App market.

3) USPS Shipping Integration

If you ship a lot with USPS, the new USPS integration will help you save time and money. Remember when PayPal, eBay and USPS were integrated and you could print shipping labels directly from within eBay? Yeah, it’s that cool. Read more about Shopify’s USPS integration here.

If you are looking for someone to help you establish a Shopify website or POS system — or better yet, bothcontact AJ Design. Implementing Shopify for small retailers is a joy for us, and we are excited for the growth it brings to our clients.