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The Hosting Process

Why We Don’t Do Hosting (But We’ve Got You Covered)

If there’s one question we get all the time, it’s the hosting question in one form or another.

“Do you offer hosting?”
“Who do you use for hosting?”
“How much is hosting?”

Our answer catches most prospective clients off guard, but most find it honest and refreshing. You see, we intentionally do not offer hosting as a service. We refer clients to hosts that meet our service standards and plans that meet the technical specifications of their project, but we don’t do hosting. Why? Because our clients deserve the best.

We Leave Hosting to the Specialists

We think hosting, like a lot of services, is best left to companies that exclusively focus on hosting. That’s the biggest reason we don’t do it ourselves. Hosting done well requires dedicated data centers, elaborate security, 24/7 phone support, redundant power systems, co-location and more. The economics only work if you have a LOT of hosting clients, otherwise uptime and/or support suffers. We don’t want websites to go down. And when they do, we want someone we can call at 3:00 am to assist.

Hosting is a Commodity

For years, this has been a secret that web designers and developers have concealed from clients. Hosting is actually very affordable, with quality shared plans in the $20 – $25 per month range. For about $100 monthly, you can have an entire server to yourself with most hosts. Some firms mark hosting up as a revenue center. Some take referral fees from hosting companies in exchange for sending all their business to a one size fits all hosting plan. Some will discount the price of a web design project, but lock clients into long-term hosting deals that cost more over the life of the contract.

The Hosting Relationship is Best Handled Directly

We like the transparency of a direct relationship between client and host. It allows our clients who like to be involved to make the ultimate decision. And because we don’t have any conflicts of interest, we can objectively share pros and cons based on our experience. There are no handcuffs. There’s no mystery of what hosting really costs.

We Don’t Mean to Scare You, But…

We’ve seen all sorts of awkward situations arise with indirect hosting over the years. We’ve seen sites go down on Friday afternoons at hosts with no night or weekend technical support. We’ve seen developers who didn’t pay their hosting bill, causing all their client sites to go offline. We’ve seen hackers attack a server at a firm that hosts all its client sites internally. Do we occasionally have trouble with hosts we’ve recommended? Sure. But they may not get our next recommendation.

Direct Hosting Makes it Easier to Fire Developers

If you pay the hosting bill and have all the log-ins to your website, guess what? It’s very easy to part ways with your designer or developer. Maybe that scares our colleagues around town, but it motivates us to do a good job every time. We delight in making and keeping our clients happy. If we ever fall short in that effort, the last thing we want to do is artificially keep clients around with a contractual hosting arrangement.

We Play Well with Your IT Team

The hosting decision is often one of the most political for our larger clients. We regularly share our input and recommendations for hosting with IT managers. We speak their language and respond to their concerns. We coordinate and communicate well. And because of our flexibility, our projects can be hosted internally by clients who wish to do so. We provide the “keys to the castle” at the conclusion of every project, giving our clients complete access to their database and site files. After all, that’s what you paid for.

That being said…what we won’t do is leave you to fend for yourself in the deep waters of web hosting. We want you to make an informed decision, and we’re here to help. Fortunately, we have worked with a number of hosting companies, and although the decision is ultimately yours, we are happy to recommend some providers whom we have had success with and whose plans meet the technical requirements of your project. We’ll even set up the hosting account on your behalf, if and when needed, and walk you through any questions along the way.

If you’re choosing a web design company for your next project, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about hosting. Some companies may share our open philosophy. Others will rationalize that their proprietary systems require you to use their internal hosting service. If that’s the case, be sure to ask how hosting will work should your companies part ways. Hosting is often a convenient way to hide fees and make severing the client relationship difficult. If you find our open approach to hosting refreshing, get in touch with us to learn more.

Text Relay Services for Hearing/Speech Impaired

Ever the accessibility torch bearers, the Kinetic Crew recently discovered a fantastic new website feature that is making life a bit easier for hearing/speech impaired callers.

What is text relay?
Text relay is a federally funded and regulated service designed to make it easy for people with hearing loss or speech disabilities to place phone calls. Relay calls are 100% confidential and free to the caller and the called party — local and long-distance.

How does it work?
First, using a web-enabled computer or wireless device, the relay user clicks the “Call Now” icon found on the site:


Next, a dialog box displays call information and the transcript to the caller:


Now here’s the cool part — text relay contacts the desired party and types their side of the conversation, while the operator reads the caller’s words aloud. When the called party responds, the operator types their spoken words for the relay user, enabling them to read the spoken side of the conversation.


We encourage all of our developer friends to add this feature to their sites — together we can make difference in accessibility.
Learn more about text relay on their website.

Ten Things You Should Know About Kinetic

Wow, thanks for making it this far. Either you think Kinetic might be able to help your company or you find the site somewhat entertaining so far.

We noticed that much of what we share in our introductory meetings with clients wasn’t already on the website and asked ourselves why. Since we didn’t find an answer, here we (and you) are.

We were there at the beginning.
Most big cities didn’t have web companies in 1995, let alone Birmingham. We were there for the boom and the bust, through noisy dial-up modems, AOL and Netscape, Web 2.0 and even today’s social media craze.

Flexibility is our biggest competitive advantage.
We have no desire to be the biggest web studio in town — just the best. And in an evolving industry like ours, firms need to be nimble. Our team members wear multiple hats. We’re efficient multi-taskers. And when clients need us to focus all of our effort, we can move mountains.

We have humble beginnings.
Before the fancy digs on Morris Avenue, Kinetic was incubated at Jay’s apartment in the Inverness area of Birmingham. Staff during those good ‘ol days were encouraged to bring back something for the crew if they ventured across Highway 280 to Taco Bell.

We love non-profits.
It’s probably safe to say that no web studio in town has done more for arts and culture organizations than Kinetic. Our non-profit clients, to name a few, include Children’s Hospital, Birmingham Museum of Art, Lakeshore Foundation, Sight Savers America, Birmingham Zoo, Smile-A-Mile, Aletheia House, Children’s Harbor, Community Grief Support, and Disability Rights and Resources.

We speak frankly and carry fun attitudes.
Honesty is the best policy, as they say. Our unique, third-party perspective is one of the biggest assets we can put to work on behalf of our clients. We may play devil’s advocate or challenge assumptions, but we’ll do so with a smile and with your best interest at heart.

We like projects that make business sense.
We mean business. We’re keenly aware of ways that web technology can save money and boost revenues. We like projects with an instant positive ROI and the ability to return the initial investment hundreds of times over. And we’ll share our recommendations to get your project to that point.

We’re on solid financial ground.
We have been for some time — thanks to smart, fiscally responsible management and a manageable growth strategy. We’re not over-leveraged or beholden to out-of-town venture capital. There’s been some luck along the way too, like when we sold a domain www.kcom.com to a British telecommunications company during the dot com boom. Ask Jay to tell you the story.

We’re solutions in search of problems.
If we see a way that technology can solve a business problem, we’ll often work backwards to identify clients that can benefit most from it. We’re proactive. Not in a pitchy salesman sort of way, but more like a consultant with initiative.

Quality is key.
Websites and online applications are deceptively simple, but we all notice when they break. We go to extraordinary lengths to avoid repeating the same mistake twice. We have lots of checklists. We document our processes. We test six ways from Sunday. Then we do it all again.

Integrity is a big deal.
We spend a lot of time thinking and discussing issues of business ethics. Our reputation is important to us. We’ve turned down business that didn’t gel with our values. We try to conduct all of our business in a way that would make mom proud.

On the Prudence of Planning

Depending on which survey you read, 25-70% of all software development projects fail, go over budget or past deadline. And there are numerous examples of spectacular project failures and wasted fortunes, like the Denver Airport’s baggage system, the California DMV’s driver’s license renewal system and American Airlines’ flight booking system.

Call us crazy, but we like to deliver our projects on time and within budget, especially since we often bid on a flat rate basis for the entire project. Since our inception, we’ve taken steps to improve project planning, propose accurate estimates and realistic deadlines for our clients.

Quality planning takes time

Planning can often account for 25% of a project’s hours. To borrow from one of our favorite analogies, comprehensive planning should result in a “blueprint” for the project, a finely detailed project specification that objectively communicates the end product in granular detail. In order to estimate the time required to complete a project, this minutiae becomes critical. If incorrect assumptions are made regarding the project’s specification, it’s easy to get off track.

Cynics have shaken their heads and say that we “charge for estimates,” and they’re right. Estimating a project incorrectly represents a significant business risk for us. But it’s not just the bottom line where things can go wrong. Fundamental features and functionality that may seem “easy” often aren’t. Borrowing from our house analogy, we can’t swap the basic deck for an enclosed sunroom without adding to the cost.

Quality planning mitigates risk and scope creep

Effective project planning can avoid painful “scope” discussions later. For project managers, there’s nothing less fun than telling a client that a request isn’t within the scope of our agreement. We aim to please by our nature. And we love to throw in lagniappe in the form of extra touches if a project is going well. But venturing away from a project’s specification can snowball quickly if it’s not controlled early. Our solution most of the time is to quote an incremental cost and projected delay for the request and ask the client to make the call.

Why doesn’t everyone plan then?

Planning dollars aren’t fun to spend. At least that’s our theory to explain the resistance we sometimes encounter. The ample evidence proves that dollars spent on planning generate a tremendous return on their investment (or at least mitigate substantial risk). But project specifications and legalistic descriptions and even wireframe diagrams aren’t nearly as sexy or tangible as a functioning website. Perhaps it’s the intimidating technical jargon of project specifications that’s tough to weed out. After an hour around a meeting table it’s possible that clients assume that we’re all on the same page. Maybe we’ve oversold our talents and given the impression that we have all the answers. Perhaps we haven’t made a compelling case for planning before (which is one motivation for this piece). Whatever the reason, we cannot overemphasize the value of good preparation.

Our best case for why clients should invest in planning

Planning leads to saving – Without quality planning and some client feedback and direction, we can miss opportunities to save dollars too. Spending some time discussing the project’s goals and target audience often yields suggestions from our team that can meet objectives at a lower cost.

Smaller projects represent less risk – While we enjoy hitting home runs, we’d much prefer to be the Ted Williams of our business – dependable contact hitters. Swinging for the fences means striking out often. And striking out in software development too many times can put you out of business.

All projects have budgets – We haven’t found a project yet without budgetary constraints. There’s no such thing as a blank check project. We understand if you want to keep exactly how many dollars you have on hand private for negotiating purposes, but a general range will let us know if we can build in the granite countertops and swimming pool, or if we need to opt for Formica and a garden tub.

Wanting “one of everything” is a red flag – In our introductory meetings, we’ll frequently run through all of the services that we offer and brainstorm potential additions that the prospect might want to consider. Ironically, one early warning sign is if a prospect expresses interest in everything we put before them. If a prospect doesn’t know what they don’t want or need, it’s probably safe to say that they can’t articulate what they do need.

Come prepared – We don’t expect any prospect to walk through the door with a perfectly defined project specification – that would be asking them to do our job for us. We have noticed, though, that projects in which clients take the time to prepare a basic project plan often are the easiest to complete. In addition to describing the project, sketches and diagrams are helpful too. Don’t worry, we won’t laugh at your artwork.

RFPs are no substitute for planning – Some clients attempt to fully take on the responsibility of planning themselves and issue Requests for Proposals. While we appreciate their preparation, RFPs rarely represent a defined specification. Once again, we’re left to make assumptions to complete the proposal, and often directed NOT to ask additional questions or deviate from the RFP. Requests for Proposal represent only the client’s vision of a project and avoid collaboration, where we offer suggestions to improve the specification and save dollars. We enjoy partnering with clients and collaborating on the project from the beginning so that we can share our technical and business insight. RFPs short-circuit that process.

Let’s take it slow – If we’ve never worked together before, we love small, manageable “get to know you” projects. Less can go wrong. If we’re not a good fit, both parties can shake hands and part ways amicably. There’s less risk from the client’s perspective too because fewer dollars and less time are obligated to the project.

Planning illuminates phases – The simple act of taking on an initial planning phase adds perspective. One of the enduring advantages of the web is that projects are living, evolving works. Without a broadcast or press deadline, we can break the work into manageable chunks and deliver the project in phases. We can take a break at designated points along the way, straddle annual budgets and schedule work when it makes sense for the client.

We hope with this piece that you’ve warmed up to the idea of planning and given you some concepts to apply for your next technical project. If we can draft a blueprint for your next project, please contact us.

Nepal’s Fight for Democracy

One of our proudest moments here at Kinetic was when the U.S. Embassy in Nepal enlisted us to fight in the war for Nepal’s independence. We’re delighted to report that on May 28, 2008, Nepal officially became a democratic republic. Can we take all the credit? Of course not. We do rejoice, though, that our interactive CD project was part of the overall democratic effort and that people in the land of Everest are now free to vote for their representative leaders.

News Articles

bbc-newsNepal’s ousted king quits palace

cnnNepal’s first president sworn in

Love’s Rich Bounty

You might think we’re up to our eyeballs in “Internet.” But, ah, we’ve got so much more up our sleeves. Here’s just one example. On this project, Kinetic teamed up with Chris Garrison of Otterworks to build this short animated comedy for MTV’s Cartoon Sushi series. Chris drew 1,400 ink drawings, then brought them over to Kinetic to have them digitally painted and assembled in our video production suite. We had a lot of fun with this one. And, you know what they say about all work and no play.



View the Quicktime version (5.7 MB, streaming) You may also view or download the file directly here. (Est. download time on 56k modem – 13 minutes) No Quicktime Player?
View the Windows Media version (5.5 MB, streaming) You may also view or download the file directly here. (Est. download time on 56k modem – 13 minutes) No Windows Media Player?

Gif of small creature opening eyes in shock

Kinetic Arcade

K-Tip: How to create and share a screenshot

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a screenshot may be worth two thousand. Plenty of tools have come along in our 28 years that have improved collaboration, including web conferencing and desktop sharing, but we find ourselves using this method with clients more than most others.

This tutorial is for Windows users only, but you Mac users probably already know all about Command + Shift + 4 + Spacebar.

Step 1: Copy the image to your clipboard by pressing the “Print Screen” or “PrtSc” key, which is usually found at the top right of your keyboard, near the F12 key. You won’t notice anything when you press the Print Screen key, but don’t worry — you just saved the image to your computer’s clipboard.

Step 2: Create a new email message in Outlook (or a new Word document or PowerPoint presentation). Place your cursor in the message body (or your preferred place in the document and press the Ctrl and V keys at the same time. This will paste your screenshot into the email message (or file). You can now send the email message or save the document as needed. You can also use Microsoft Office’s built-in drawing tools to circle or point out a specific area of the screenshot. You can also use Office’s picture tools to crop your screenshot if needed.

More Tips:

  • Press the Alt key in addition to Print Screen to take a screenshot of only the active window. This is enormously helpful for users with huge displays or multiple monitors.
  • Windows Vista users have access to the handy Snipping Tool for screenshots
  • Need software with advanced screenshot capabilities? SnagIt might be the solution for you.
  • Firefox users can take screenshots of entire scrolling web pages (not just the part on screen) using this plug-in.
  • iPhone users can create a screenshot by pressing both the home and sleep buttons at the same time. Head over to your photos on the camera roll, and you’ll see your screen capture.

K-Tip: 7 Easy Website Updates That Add Sizzle

Innovating and updating a website doesn’t always have to be an epic redesign effort. Periodic aesthetic changes can keep your site looking fresh and your visitors coming back. Here are seven sizzling suggestions to kindle your creativity.

Think small
Sometimes small changes make big differences. Updating the background color or image can freshen things up in a matter of minutes. The same can be said for header images, icon sets, navigation and even table and button styles.

Put some mega in your dropdowns
Usability experts rightly pointed out the ills of traditional dropdown navigation for ages. Gone are the painful mouse acrobatics required to follow a fly out menu three levels deep. Now we have user-friendly “mega” dropdowns that go easy on users and make finding content buried in a site as easy as a mouse click.

Add interactivity to home page billboards and image rotators
Trade in your stale home page slideshow for an element that gives some control back to the user. Today’s home pages feature “sliders” that let users pick which feature to browse. These features aren’t limited to images anymore – you can embed form fields, search boxes and text too. And because they run on javascript, they’re mobile device friendly. If you have a content management system (CMS), we can even make it easy to update this feature and add freshness to your home page in minutes!

Build a bigger foot(er)
Single line footers with company name, address, phone and copyright are so 2009. Use the bottom portion of your page to include helpful links, a mini sitemap, links to social media profiles and more. Repeat your email newsletter subscription form here too – redundancy can improve conversion rates. Footer updates can make a big splash because they affect every page on your site. Luckily, though, most sites have a universal footer, so webmasters need only implement a site-wide “find and replace” to rid a site of less fashionable footers.

Add Search functionality
Incorporating a quality search feature on a website has become much more affordable and easy to implement in recent years. For $100 per year, most companies can display Google-powered search results for their site.

Widen the layout
How can we tell the age of a website? Often the pixel width reveals the prevailing web design (and monitor resolution) at the time of development. If your site is skinny, widening the overall layout will provide instant real estate for additional content and larger images and bring you back from the age of jive.

Take up the accordion
Some content comes in a format that’s just begging to be compressed and stretched. As with home page sliders, “accordions” allow users to expand and collapse items, adding a degree of interactivity. From a practical perspective, they preserve context and keep an entire process on a single page rather than disconnecting individual elements.

5 Things You Can Do Now to Become More Mobile Friendly

Take a mobile audit.
Open Google Analytics and head over to Visitors > Mobile > Mobile Devices. Change the timeframe to January 1 to the present and Graph by month. Are mobile visits significant and growing? Are mobile visits contributing their share of goal conversions or revenues? If not, grab a mobile device and experience your website as a mobile user. Turn off wifi. Try to complete basic tasks. Find a phone number. Complete a form. Does your site require the Flash plug-in that isn’t supported by the device? Do images take a while to load?

Check your email newsletter.
Your email service provider may provide an “Email Client Usage” report. Check the prevalence of the iPhone OS to get a sense of your audience’s mobile email habits. Open your most recent email newsletter on your device. Is it too wide for your screen? Are the links difficult to click? Yesterday’s text versions of newsletters are evolving into today’s mobile versions, which are light on graphics, but still include clickable links.

Consider a bare-bones mobile website.
Don’t get paralyzed by the idea of building and maintaining a full mobile copy of your 100-page website. Pick out the top pieces of content and link to the browser version for the details.

Mobile style sheets can be a lifesaver.
For database-driven sites and blogs, a mobile style sheet may allow you to serve up a mobile friendly version without duplicate content. While they may not be as flexible as a custom mobile site, they can lead to a quick win.

Consider a basic mobile advertising campaign.
For some industries and services, mobile advertising makes perfect sense. The medium is so new that it’s still a novelty for mobile users. Need to reach people when they’re out and about? Give mobile a shot. Google AdWords offers a mobile ad format and Apple recently launched its iAd platform.