The limits of free support

The internet is an amazingly place full of many different technologies, developed by many different organisations, over a period of many years.

How can we best support our customers to have an awesome web experience, interacting well with all other systems, while at the same time offering great value.

Our understand that our customers want us to be experts in all website related technologies, and we make our very best effort to do this, but the internet keeps moving, changing, adapting, and it can be hard to maintain knowledge across all aspects, all of the time.

In fact our own system has grown so much over the last 17+ years, that no one team member can know every feature of our own CMS system in detail. 

Let's consider the context of the world we operate in. 

Web Browsers and Operating Systems 

There are hundreds of different web browsers, running on different computer operating systems, different devices, with different screen resolutions. Also each user may be running different versions of each application. All of those computers, devices, and applications were developed by other parties. We make a best effort to ensure our website templates will display on all possible devices. For example

  • Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, FireFox, Opera, etc
  • Windows 7, Windows, 8, Windows 10, running on ( 1024 wide notebook screen, or 1920 wide screen )
  • Ipad, iphone, mac air , mac desktop
  • Android phone (samsung, nexus, other) , Android Table, Android OS (gingerbread,icecream,jellybean,kitkat,lollipop,marshmallow,nougat)
  • Chrome Book
  • etc

Email Clients

There are hundreds of different email client applications, running on different computers, on different operating systems, and different mobile devices. Each user may be running a different version of each application. Each user may also have installed different applications that attempt to scan their incoming email and filter out spam and phishing attempts. Each user may have a different network configuration, connected to a different ISP, via a different modem, and perhaps configured with DNS trickery to give access to oveseas television streaming services.

Email travels through many different paths, but all of these steps potentially cause issues

  • Email sender composes their email via many different email clients or web based email services.
  • The email first has to exit the senders email program, then firewall, then OS, then local network, then modem, then ISP gateways, then make it's way to the appropriate permittted SMTP server relevant to the senders email address.
  • The SMTP server checks the registry whois, that finds the DNS settings for the recipient domains mail server, then sends the mail to that MX server. 
  • The MX server may consider many different rules as to if it will receive or reject an email. Most recently, SPF records determine if the sender really is the sender. The content is considered for it's spaminess. The MX server also considers if the senders mail server is black listed. Generally, all email is sent via shared mail servers, so some email might not get through if someone elses email address has recently been hacked. All ISP's and mail servers suffer short term black listing from time to time. 
  • Eventually we need to wait for the recipient to receive their email, which may be using any possible email client, such as Outlook (any version), Office365, Exchange, Windows Mail, MacMail, Incredimail, Thunberbird, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc etc etc. Even when they receive the email, they might be viewing it on their mobile device, on any number of possible apps, or via web mail or via an email client. 

Customer Created Content

When a customer copies/pastes content from an email, or PDF, or word document or spreadsheet, or even from another website, that may copy hidden codes into content, that are not immediately visible as a problem, but later present themselves as a problem by rendering oddly on different devices. A best effort to "clean" pasted content is attempted, but it is prone to error. Or the cleaning itself, might not be desired by the content creator. 

Tabular layouts by customers often make mobile display difficult, if the table has been designed for a bigger screen, there is no easy way for a mobile device to render it, without causing scrolling in 2 directions. 

Customers have access to change fonts/colours/sizes of text in many different places. If they then make a global change to a template theme, there may remain inconsitencies with white text on white background, or mismatched fonts and sizes. 

Because we allow customers to enter their own content and tweak so many aspects of the design, the responsibility for testing that content displays correctly in all possible browsers, and on all possible email clients, remains a customer responsibility. If you experience any common issues that you think we could address better with our tools, then please provide us with feedback including screenshots, and the name of the relevant applications, so that we can improve our system. 

Photo Quality and Size and Filesize

Customer photos may have been uploaded straight from a camera, or edited in any number of hundreds of different photo editors, such as Photoshop or Paint. Each photo editor produces a slightly different file format, with different meta data and compression. The photo might have been saved as a JPG, PNG or GIF, or even some other format. The image might have animations or transparency codes built in.

The pixel size might be low resolution, or many mega pixels in size. The better the resolution of an image, usually the bigger the file. Bigger file sizes make pages slow to download and increase website traffic. Smaller file sizes might look pixelated or blury. 

Our drag and drop editor provides sample images that a user can replace with their own images. Users can resize and crop their photos, and mix and match landscape and portrait, with a range of different aspect ratios. If the final image is too small or too big for the box it was inserted in, or if the ratios don't match, it may look untidy. 

Some email programs display images at their "original size" and ignore the styling rules we use to resize your image to the box that should contain it. In 99% of cases, the images normally display ok in most places. However, a small percent of the time, it might look wrong. It is a good idea to test your emails in a range of different email programs, mostly focusing on Outlook and Gmail as they each cause the most issues (different issues), and a simply formatted email designed to work in both of those email clients will likely display well in all other devices. 

We encourage the use of a professional photographer so you can have lots of great images, that use consistent sizes, lighting, etc. 

HTML, Javascript and CSS

A website is really just a collection of HTML, Javascript and CSS. Our content management system not only allows customers to enter their content, but it also allows customers to tweak their HTML, CSS, Javascript, and insert widgets.

Essentially there is no limit placed on the customisation of your website and content. You can tweak your website with unlimited potential. But what happens, when some of those tweaks don't happen as you expect? 

We make it easy for you to change your link colours, heading colours, backgroud images, banner images, and several other aspects. Most templates are customisable but not all. 

We place a clear boundary on CSS/HTML/Javascript, that all support is chargeable. Essentially, the answer to most questions is easily searchable on the internet. Colours/fonts/borders/sizes/etc can all be controlled via standard CSS rules, and the answer on how to do that, is no different what CMS you use. It could be wordpress, weebly, shopify, wix, squarespace, etc. You can play with CSS rules using your Chrome browser inspector. Once you find a rule that will give you a desired result, you simply add that to your stylesheet that we make available via our CMS advanced designers area. 

We typically do our best to answer a few questions, and get you started, but this intermediate/advanced level of users are expected to research these standard languages on the internet, and use "trial and error" until they get their desired end result.

All feedback is welcomed, but support for HTML/CSS/JS is chargeable. 

Third Party Javascript Plugins

Some users add third party plugins to their websites. If these scripts are put in the wrong place, they may not work, or they may interfere with other features working. Some plugins require additional work to capture ecommerce metrics, or successful conversions. Common plugins include

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Adsense
  • Facebook Pixel
  • Other advertising/analytics/conversion tracking code
  • Mailing list popups
  • Chat box popups
  • Advert popups

All feedback on thirdparty plugins is welcome, but support is chargeable. 

CSV Import / Export

Many intermediate users know how to import/export CSV files from their spreadsheet, other inventory programs, and in/out of our ecommerce CSV import/export area. However, it can get tricky when dealing with products that belong to multiple categories, or product variations that share a common product definition. Some data types have strict formatting rules, such as dates/times. The subtle difference of a 0, negative number or positive number, may be the difference of "main category", "no category", or "which category". The visibility of products is also controlled with some unique numbering conventions. 

CSV import/exports also have potential to cause alot of problems quickly. If your file is formatted incorrectly, then you may end up hiding alot of products you wanted live, or changing the price incorrrectly etc.

All feedback for CSV import/export is welcome, but all support is chargeable. 

Forms

We make it easy to add standard inquiry forms and registration forms to your website. These might be as simple as a subscribe box, contact us form, or a more complicated registration form, with some custom questions. You can also create completely custom forms, including file uploads, and any manor of input type or shape/design to your form. All customisation subject to your level of understanding. Typically some kind of field validation is required to ensure some fields are completed and answers formatted correctly. A thankyou page, might need some custom fields, or link to a payment page. An auto responder might need to go back to a submitter with additional information for the customer. A form notification will need to be sent to the web master, or desired recipient. Essentially, when you bring all of these elements together, you are basically building a small program. Our free support for forms is limited to giving you some basic tips, and pointing you to our online help guides. 

All feedback for form maintenance is welcome, but all support is chargeable. 

APIs

Our system integrates with several other third party applications like Xero, Vend, Unleashed, Fastway, eShip, etc etc. We try to make it easy to sync your products or orders between these systems.

However, every API has subtle differences. If you have 3 items in stock, and 1 is sold in the shop/factory via external POS, and 1 is sold online at 3am, then how much stock do you have? It could be 2 items, depending if you have fulfilled the order, but only 1 item available for purchase. The way third party systems count stock, is they may not count the new web order, until the status is changed. 

There are just so many complexities with regards to API's that we have the simple approach to support. All feedback is welcome, but all support is chargeable. 

Google Ranking and SEO

Everyone wants their website listed on the top of google. However Google has it's own rules about where it ranks a website, and when it will next index your website to look for new content or changes in content. 

All SEO feedback is welcome, but all SEO support is chargeable. We can recommend other SEO experts in our consultants directory.

Shopping Discount Logic

We have so many awesome ways to construct a discount rule, or define a product price, that when a customer presents a discounts logic issue, our design support team are often left scratching their heads. The most important factor for investigating a discounts issue, is that a customer has presented a clear test case for our team to understand the issue. You will have a clear understanding of your own products and current sales offers, but every case is unique to us. Please provide the following information

  • What product is being purchased? (either code, or URL to the product page preferred)
  • What final price do you think the product should have at checkout, and what is the wrong price that you see on screen?
  • What discount code are you using, and what in plain english, do you think the discount rule means? 
  • Provide a screenshot (so we can tell if you are talking about POS, backend, front end, customer logged in, or what step in the checkout) 

We are happy to investigate your discounts and pricing issues, but we need you to provide us the test case. 

Online Help 

We have added over 1000 help files in our online help guide. This list of help files have been compiled over 17 years of listening to the questions that our customers have. Sometimes our customers can't find the help they need in the online help area. It would help us if you could send us a link to any page that you think has erroneous or complicated instructions, or if you could send us a topic that is missing, and that you would like us to add. 

Time Changes Things

We have hundreds of templates. Some of these templates are more than 4 years old. We attempt to review all our templates, but mostly we review our templates when a customer finds a specific issue with a template they selected. We then remedy the customers issue, and the template that caused it, thus removing the issue for future templates. 

Over the years, browsers upgrade, HTML/CSS features get depricated, CSS versions increase

Microsoft Outlook has been a particular problem for bulk email formatting. We have had to add "bandaids", and remove perfectly nice features from our bulk emailer, simply because 10% of the email market won't see the feature as expected. One day we hope that microsoft email clients will render their HTML emails exactly the same was as their Edge web browser renders HTML web pages. There is no security issue, nor any logical reason, why different microsoft products render HTML differently to each other, or to the 90% of other products, that all render the HTML correcltly. When Microsoft does catch up, or their market share declines some more, then we can revisit the formatting of bulk emails so that you can once again do more with your formatting. 

Other Web Hosts, Other Email Services and DNS Updates

We sell domains almost at cost we pay for them, and some times even below cost. There is no implied free service for providing Email, DNS, nor managing DNS. 

DNS is an integral service that is required to make email and web hosting work. It tells the end user, who is managing the email and web hosting for a given domain name. DNS is provided free with all our email and web hosting plans. However, if you host your website elsewhere, we need to charge for a DNS only hosting plan, and for any DNS administration you require. 

DNS management task are complicated enough that the average person can make mistakes, or doesn't fully understand what they are doing. Often a support ticket is raised, and our design oriented teams also don't understand the DNS terminology. We have built our domains management system to make it easy to register/transfer/setup domains for use with our web hosting and our email services. 

It is usually best if you move your domain to your new web host to manage. 

Consider An Analogy With Other Industries

  • Home Architects, help you design a house, but they may need to research the specific council bylaws for certain aspects of a home build, or specific engineering limits or installation rules related to using certain materials. There are alot less choices of building materials, than there are internet technologies, but everyone needs to cover their time. 
  • Lawyers have a general knowledge of the law, but they can't instantly remember all legislation nor precedents. They charge you for all research time. 
  • General Practicioner Doctors, make an attempt within 15 minutes to give a good diagnosis, but they may get it wrong, and you may need to come back if issues persist. They may send you to a specialist, who has a better knowledge in a specific field. You still pay the GP to just to give the referral. 
  • Mostly we have some understanding of what an electrician or plumber does, so if we have a electrial outage or plumbing emergency, we can usually wait a day for a resolution. Whereas when the internet has a fault, we expect immediate solutions, 24/7. In reality, plumbing and electrical issues are not greatly different from managing hosting infrastructure. Often the issue is simply waiting for the right person to get the right part to the right place as quickly as possible. 

What We Provide

  • We provide a free CMS tool for you to create and update your website
  • We provide hundreds of free professional templates that give you a headstart to building your online presence.
  • We provide a powerful ecommerce engine, with lots of discounting rules, and allow you to sell in multiple currencies, and collect payment from over 20 different payment providers. Your customers can login and repeat their orders. Your can manage order fulfilment, and automatically print courier lables from several integrated courier companies.
  • We provide an events management calendar, with attendee management feature. 
  • We provide an automated business directory system, with powerful search, customer self management, and numerous automated management tasks. 
  • You can add all sorts of different content to your website, with textual pages, galleries, product catalogues, business directories and more. 
  • We provide industry standard tools for creating and updating "wysiwyg" content. These include TinyMCE, CKEditor and Innova drag and drop, in addition you can modify the HTML behind your content. These tools have many features, and allow you to do alot with your content. Sometimes, they may allow you to make changes to your content that will not display the same in all browsers.  
  • We provide a facility for you to create bulk emails and send to a large database of recipients. We ensure that your email is sent with a functional unsubscribe facility. We do our best to ensure that the base templates and drag/drop snippets will display well in most email clients. However, ultimate responsibility for testing your custom content looks good, is with yourself. Should you experience any issue, please let us know, and we will do our best to improve our basic snippets. 
  • We provide unlimited potential for you to customise your website, all for free, but many of these advanced features require paid support, but only if you need it.
  • We host your website on multiple servers around the world, to ensure the fastest response times, no matter where in the globe your visitors sit. We host your website on secure platform with free SSL certificates if you are on the right hosting plan. 
  • Our email and web hosting is typically running with 99.99% up time, so less than 5 minutes of outage per month on average.
  • We do our best to give all customers some free support, in proportion to their hosting plan spend, and investigate any bugs you present to us. 

Cost Comparisons

  • We typically charge about 50% less than Shopify, and give you more scope for customisation. Shopify charges for it's plugins, because it knows that more training and support is required more the more unique features that some customers needs.
  • We charge much less than VendHQ for POS (point of sale) and we include so much more in our package, including online ecommerce, bulk emailer, and all etc. Where as you would pay more to VendHQ for those features, and even more again for their paid support option.
  • We offer very basic single depot stock counting. If you have complex inventory management needs, then you should definitely choose UnleashedSoftware for inventory, integrated with Website World for your ecommerce. However, given that inventory management is just about the "counting of stock" with very little dependency on the outside world, the cost of an inventory system is considerably more than you are paying for all of the features we provide. In addition, they also charge for support. 
  • Wordpress is pretty cool, and free too. That is, if you know how to work it. The setup and security maintenance of a wordpress website requires a little more technical knowledge than the average person has. If you run into issues with Wordpress, you will be limited to paying for an expert to help you, or researching online for self help tutorials. 
  • SEO Experts typically charge at least $500 for a review, and as much per month ongoing to keep your organic reach. That may or may not produce as much traffic as you can manage yourself via a paid Adwords campaign. 
  • Our recommended web designers and resellers may charge alot for what you consider minor work, but that is because they have a level of expertese that allows them to do more complext tasks quickly, while some basic data entry tasks will take as long as anyone else. The DIY approach will always save you money and give you maximum control over the end product. 

In Summary 

Website World is a pretty awesome ecommerce and content management system. It has heaps of functionality. Much of the functionality we built ourselves, and can therefore control the rules and adapt the content automatically across a range of device sizes.

However, WYSIWYG style content, is typically edited through one of our industry standard text editors. If you are editing content for the web, you should test your content in a range of browsers from time to time. If you are editing your content for email, you should test your content in a range of email clients from time to time. Once you have built up your confidence, then you will be able to work faster with less testing.

Should you have any issues, please provide feedback about how we can improve our system so that neither you, nor the next person, experiences a similar issue.

Some issues (related to third party applications or systems) may remain unsolveable by us. However, we might give you some pointers about alternative approaches you can take to work around the issue. 

Some issues, will be outside our ability to give you quick support on. There are just so many different permutations and combinations of technological issues, that we cannot solve all issues immediately. 

In order to keep our prices as low as possible, we are very much focused on a DIY (do it youself) approach. Therefore, several aspects as we have outlined above will require paid consultancy, paid training or otherwise paid support. The more you can DIY, the more affordable our solution is. The more you require support and training, the more you would need to budget for professional help. 

We promote a list of web designers and resellers who are experienced in using our system, so that if you need help, you can find an expert to help you. Some of our resellers are more technical in nature, some are more design oriented, some are more business professional, and some are more affordable. Each will have different skillsets, experience and pricing. We remain agnostic to your chosen provider, so if you don't find you have a good fit, we would encourage you to find another to help. If you get particularly poor service from an independent contractor, please do let us know.  

Some of our resellers are also rostered on to our support desk. We authorise our support workers to independently engage in chargeable work with our customers. Website World is primarily focused on making the online service as awesome as it can be, and ensuring our hosting delivery is without fault. All paid consultancy and training is independent of our company Web Widgets Ltd, even if you negotiate work during a support call. We provide no warranty over the work completed by our independent resellers, and you should consider their terms and conditions when you engage them to do work. Web design is such a "how long is a piece of string" consideration, that often a web designers and customers expectations are not aligned. 

We also host Wordpress websites. As we did not develop wordpress, we cannot offer free support for any wordpress issues you face. Our support for wordpress is stictly limited to server up time, and investigating OS level error messages. Whereas with our own CMS platform, we developed the majority of it, and can therefore provide fixes for bugs.

All feedback is welcomed. 

Please do not hesitate to give us feedback. No matter how small an issue, we need to know as urgently as possible, when customers are not getting satisfactory service. We want to know all your great ideas for how we can improve our system, so we can make it even better. 

It always helps if you can provide screenshots, so we have a clear understanding of the context of your issue.

It helps if we are clear on if you are just providing feedback, or if you urgently require support or a solution for an issue. For example, if your issue relates to a bug in an area that is normally chargeable support, we really do want you to let us know. So please do report the bug, and we will attempt to fix it as soon as possible. Rest assured we will not charge you for support without first warning you. 

Sometimes we offer a quote to fast track a request for a feature improvement. We get lots of suggestions, and they are all important to us, but we need to prioritise which ideas will be dealt with in which order. If we feel that your feature might be too far down the track to be useful for you, we might suggest a quote for fasttracking the development. If you decline the quote, we will still add your idea to our todo list, and we will get to it eventually. 

If you have any suggestions on how we can improve our online help or training videos, please send us an email with a link to any video or help file that is out of date, incorrect, or alternatively which topic you would like us to add. 

Posted: Friday 9 June 2017



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