Friends often send me questions about their tech troubles. To keep a log of my answers and to minimize repeating myself, I’m going to start recording them (stripped of identifying information) here under the category of “Q&A.” No, this doesn’t make me a professional advisor, and standard free advice guidelines still apply: you get what you pay for. Enjoy!

Question:

Hi Sarah,

I just started working for a small realty company. What we’re trying to accomplish in the near future is to create a web presence for her site. I know a little about this, but we’re trying to direct people looking for homes in the area to her site. We’re thinking keywords on Google, thinking about buying domain names that re-direct to her site, but I don’t really understand how to implement it. If you could give me a little more insight, that would be great!

Thank you,
Pal Who Needs a Site

Answer:

Hey Pal Who Needs a Site,

So, my first question would be, what does she want on her site? If she just wants static text with a description of who she is, what she does, and a sales pitch, then that’s easy. Just have someone with a little expertise throw together a website for her. I’ve spelled out an overview of that process here:

http://websites.sarahdopp.com

…and in that scenario, if she’s serious about directing people to the site, she probably wants to invest some cash in an online ad campaign (since there’s probably a LOT of people vying for those obvious “[region] real estate” -style keywords. Do some google searches now to check out your competition). If that’s the case, I can recommend this excellent firm who’ll make sure her campaign investment actually yields a decent ROI, and also make sure she’s doing all the “little things” right:

http://www.findmefaster.com

If she wants to actually display updated listings of homes on her site, then that requires some serious technology. I did a site like that last summer ( http://www.michaelshower.com ) and it was a bear to customize to work the way we wanted. In that scenario, you should find a company that specializes in real estate websites that display MLS listings, and expect to pay a decent amount for it, in addition to a monthly fee for the listing service. And on top of that, she should probably still invest in the ad campaign, unless she’ll have some prominent directory listings that people can find her through.

That give you an overview?

Sarah

Response:

You’re amazing. Thanks.

For those of you who’ve seen me in the last year and a half (but not in the last month) you may be surprised to hear that I have hair on top of my head now.

It’s short and cute and kinda spikey some days, and I haven’t decided yet if i want to keep it, so I recommend not coming up to me and saying, “Oh, thank god, you finally grew your hair out! You know, I really never liked it shaved…”

You are, however, allowed to come up to me and tell me that I look gorgeous in any hairstyle (or lack thereof), and that you supremely admire my neverending interestingness. That’s acceptable.

hair

(and for the confused and curious… i used to look more like this.)

I was in a meeting last week trying to sell a website to a certain multinational conglomerate corporation that shall remain nameless, when the issue of worst case scenarios came up.

“What happens in the worst case scenario… ” the client representative started to ask, but then trailed off.

I offered to finish his thought: “You mean, if there’s a nuclear war, and our company is vaporized, and every other company in the world except for yours is suddenly gone, and you don’t know who’s going to take care of your website?”

He looked shocked and scared for a moment, but then pondered my point and replied by topping me: “No, I think the worst case scenario is the Internet disappears.”

He won. I turned white and went silent. I opened my mouth to reply with more wit, but no words could come out. The Internet? Disappear? WHAT?! How would I LIVE!? I WOULDN’T! EVERYTHING I DO AND KNOW IS ENTIRELY BASED ON THE INTERNET! I scraped for words, “But… but… but the Internet can’t diseappear!”

He laughed at me.

One of my colleagues offered support to the suggestion. “Actually, Stanford’s talking about killing the Internet and starting new with a clean slate…”

I glared at him…

…and spent the rest of the meeting visualizing a desolate post-nuclear apocolypse world that still had Internet.  Because there is no end to Internet.  It just is.

As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, Web without end…

This just made my day:

http://www.lightsphere.com/dev/web20.html

Impressively simple, yet disturbingly relevant.

I’ve been recently reminded that if you don’t tell the Universe (or Blogosphere, if you will) what you need, it doesn’t know what to give you. So here’s what’s missing in my life.

I’m looking for…

  • A converter that transfers content smoothly back and forth between:
    • WEB: DokuWiki syntax, XHTML, copy-the-text-from-my-browser-page
    • TRADITIONAL: Word Doc format w/styles (ideal) or RTF
  • Graphic designers and web programmers who
    • work quickly and accurately.
    • learn new skills efficiently on their own.
    • are available for immediate contract work (projects last anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months).
    • can work on-site in the SF East Bay (BART-accessible offices).
    • have experience with corporate websites, backed up by references and portfolio pieces.

    (You can consider this an unofficial job posting. Please email me for more info only if you fit this criteria.)

  • A To-Do List system that allows me to
    • log AND categorize tasks via SMS text-messaging
    • view and use the lists easily in a mobile web browser (or a Palm OS application, which would actually resolve the first need, too).
    • view and use the lists on my Mac in an application outside of a web browser (kinda like Twitterific for Twitter.  Does anyone make something like this for Remember the Milk?).
    • categorize, prioritize, and set deadlines for tasks (the ability to put one task in multiple categories would also help).
    • view finished tasks an archived area, away from the unfinished tasks
  • A Treo (Palm OS) application for blogging, specifically to
    • WordPress (with category control)
    • Livejournal (with custom filter control)
  • A pair of shoes that
    • fits a left foot, high arch, size 10, wide toes, narrow ankle
    • fits a right foot, low arch, size 10 1/2, wide toes, narrow ankle
    • wears comfortably for lots of walking
    • looks good in the office with brown or black pants

    (I’m wearing hiking sandals to client meetings, people — this is becoming ridiculous!)

  • Renter’s Insurance that
    • I can sign up for easily over the internet
    • doesn’t require that I already have an account with the company (I don’t have car insurance or AAA — that seems to rule out a lot of the easy options).
  • An investment account service that
    • I can manage easily over the Internet.
    • doesn’t treat me like I know everything about Wall Street.
    • doesn’t treat me like I’m an idiot.
    • has lots of user-focused interface options that make my life easier.
    • basically functions on Web 2.0 principles.

You now know all of my weaknesses. If we were in battle, you would easily win. But since we’re friends, how about you just throw me a bone?

Or maybe it’s time you put your Wish List out to the Universe/Blogosphere, too?