Category Archives: Establishing a Web presence

Create and sell custom products with Cafe Press

I just stumbled across a very interesting site that I thought I should share with my readers. It’s a site called Cafe Press. This site offers a wide variety of print-on-demand products from clothing to housewares and other gifts. You can add your own images to the products to create your very own styles, logos, catch-phrases, etc., which you can sell online in your very own Cafe Press store. The best part about Cafe Press is that you don’t have to spend any money to get started. Because Cafe Press doesn’t produce any products until someone orders them, there are no setup fees or minimum purchases required. Without spending any money, you can create as many custom products as you want, and sell them in your own, personalized online shops.

Each product has a “base price” that covers all of the costs of manufacture and production. To make money, simply set a “markup” price that you will earn as commission on sales of your product(s) (Just a word to the wise…be reasonable: I saw a thong for sale for $200 while I was browsing the site!). That’s all there is to it. It was so easy to get started that I’ve already created my own online shop with a few products that are available for immediate purchase, which I’ve included below as an example of what you can do. Of course, you can also buy your own products directly for the base price, without paying the markup. Read more»

Changes to Microsoft Office Live Small Business

Earlier this year, Microsoft Office Live Small Business (Originally Microsoft Office Live) launched several improvements to their service. I use this service to host my own Web site (LockworldHerald.com), and I’ve blogged about it in the past. Although they no longer offer free domain name registration, they do continue to offer free Web site hosting (which is typically far more expensive than the domain name registration anyway). In the past, I found the service to be very useful to establish an online presence for myself, but was continually frustrated at how difficult it was to edit pages using the built-in page editor. In the end, I simply uploaded all of my Web pages manually to the “Documents” folder – the only folder I had any access to. This allowed me to create my own pages by writing my own HTML codes, but was getting difficult to manage as the number of files grew.

The new improvements to the site now allow even free account holders to design their site using their own Web design tools (I typically use WordPad  or Nvu, but other Web authoring/design tools can be used as well). This new structure allows me to keep my site more organized, but more importantly, it gives me access to the top-level of my site. There are certain Web services that require authentication by checking for files in the root directory (Like Google Web Apps and Delorie). In addition to making such services available, having access to the root directory also gives me the ability to create a robots.txt file that can tell search engine bots to avoid indexing certain file types or folders. Since I use a lot of AjaxIncludes scripting, this is a very nice way to keep all of those partial Web pages out of the search engine results.
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Building interactivity into your Web site

070722-finalThe final design and content of your Web site will, quite naturally, depend on your purpose and your audience. While it is fine for many Web sites to be composed primarily of written content and photographs or images, modern Web surfers prefer to interact with your site in some way, especially if they find your site useful or interesting. A few weeks ago, I discussed ways for you to create an RSS feed for your site. This is a quick and easy way to provide a very basic level of interaction for your visitors. By subscribing to your feed, they can stay up to date with the latest news or information about the site. You can even expand on this by using a service such as Feedburner to allow users to subscribe to your feed via e-mail. This is a great way to help your visitors stay informed about your site, but it is, by nature, a one-sided method of interaction. You push out your content, but you can’t get much back from your visitors. The best you can hope for is to get some basic statistics about how many subscribers you have (If you use a service like Feedburner).
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Embedding external content into your Web site

Now that you’ve created your own Web site and possibly your own Blog or RSS feed, it’s time to make the most of your new online presence. If you are an expert Web designer, and like to do your own coding, you are free to start building your site as you see fit. However, most of us probably don’t want to take the time to build everything from scratch, so many people are tempted to turn to pre-created content that can be embedded directly into their Web sites in the form of widgets or gadgets – little snippets of HTML codes that can add customizable Web modules or enhanced functionality to the site. You have to be willing to make changes to the HTML codes of your pages to add any of these little widgets, so if you aren’t familiar with writing HTML codes or aren’t willing to experiment, this post may not really be for you.

There are a nearly unlimited number of widgets and gadgets that can be embedded into your site to quickly turn your blank page into a rich, eye-catching, content-filled page for your visitors. Most of these widgets will provide you with the necessary instructions for inserting the appropriate codes into your Web page, so I won’t go into the details here. Although it might seem intimidating at first, there are some ways to make it easier. If you are using Microsoft Office Live Basics, you can use the Page Editor to add small snippets of HTML codes anywhere you want to on your page quite easily. Please note, however, that if the widget code you are trying to embed should contain the “<iframe>” code to work on your site. If it contains a “<script>” tag in it, it probably will not work. I’ll discuss this in a little more detail at the end of today’s post, and provide a possible workaround if you really need to use a particular script-based widget.
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Expanding your reach

Now that you have successfully created your own personal Web site for your self, your family, or your small business, it is time to expand your reach. If you are using Microsoft Office Live Basics to create and maintain your site free of charge, you will quickly realize that there are certain key Web features that are not really offered through this free service. Two of the most important of these key features are the ability to create a blog or other RSS feed, and the ability to restrict access to certain portions of your site.

RSS feeds: Keep your visitors coming back for more
One of the most common ways to expand the reach of your Web site is to offer an RSS feed. This can be in the form of a blog, such as this one, in which you share your ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc. Alternatively, it could be in the form of an update about your site. For example, you can create an RSS feed to notify subscribers about new products you offer, news about your site or your services, or other content modifications related to your site. People can subscribe to your feed to keep informed about what’s happening with your site, or your latest thoughts and ideas.
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Register your domain name for free

If you’ve been following along with this blog, you’ve already thought about whether you need to establish a presence on the Web, thought about some of the options for creating a personal Web page, and have decided on your online identity. Now, you’re ready to build your very own Web site with your own custom domain name.

Registering your own unique domain name allows you to secure your place on the Internet. Although there are a wide variety of domain name registration services out there, you can generally expect they will share two things in common:

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