Frequently Asked Questions
Getting started and adding content
Text content should be supplied in one of the following formats:
- Microsoft Word
- Plain Text
If you use Microsoft Word to write content for the website we recommend you disable the 'Smart Quotes', 'AutoFormat as you type' and 'AutoCorrect' features. That will save time and hassle when it comes to converting your text to HTML, and avoid problems where the website displays question marks or other strange characters in place of punctuation in some browsers.
You should also check whether the editor you use has an option for using Unicode (UTF-8) which is the character encoding used for all our websites.
Graphics should be supplied as:
- JPEG (JFIF) or TIFF for photos
- GIF or PNG (with optional transparency) for logos
- Photoshop (layered) format for website designs
Data to be imported into your database should be supplied as:
- Spreadsheet format (eg. Excel)
- Comma-separated-variable (CSV) format
- Tab-delimited text
We can handle other file formats (except for Microsoft Access and other proprietory database formats) on request, however, the options listed are the most efficient.
The basic steps to launching a website are as follows:
Creating a template:
- decide on the site structure and main navigation options (e.g. Home, About us, ..., Contact us). Ideally 6-8 main links in total, with the option of placing extra links in the header or footer;
- design a graphics template for the website that will apply to all pages. You will work with one of our graphic designers on this;
- convert the graphics to an HTML/CSS template. We hand craft all code for your website to be fast and efficient;
Populating the website:
- create new webpages to sit inside the template and populate with supplied text and graphics. You can insert text and photos directly on the page using our simple CMS;
- design and populate a database for dynamic content (e.g. Latest News, Coming Events, Products). Our bespoke data management systems and processes will make this as simple as possible;
- develop and test the public interface and back-end;
For e-commerce sites
- integrate a payments or recording system for orders;
- purchase and install an SSL secure key;
The timing is really up to you - how quickly you can supply/upload the necessary content and provide feedback during testing. We are quite capable of producing a fully functional website inside a week, but prefer to spread the process over a longer timespan to allow time for testing and 'finessing' of the interface. Normally 3-6 weeks is enough.
You can use the map on the Chirp website to find your coordinates. Just double-click on a location to zoom in and the coordinates will appear underneath the map viewport. If you're not in the Canberra region then you can also search for an address in Australia or elsewhere.
Another method is to use Google Maps, right-click and choose the "What's here?" option. The coordinates will be displayed.
The term 'dynamic content' refers to website content (text, files, images) that can be modified at any time using the interface provided. Static content, on the other hand, can only be modified by editing/uploading the files directly.
You can use most simple HTML tags including bold, italic, underline, big and small. All the heading tags are also available: H1, H2, etc. One level of nested tags is allowed (eg. an underlined word in an italic sentence).
Other tags that have a similar syntax will also work and you should consult your HTML reference to see what other tags are available.
Any email addresses or website addresses (starting with http or https) will be automatically converted into active links. You can also provide text for these links by using the following format:
- http://websiteaddress/[click here]
- username@websiteaddress[send us an email]
Note: there is no space between the URL or email address and the first square bracket.
Finally, you can create a bulleted list by starting each line with an asterisk and space (i.e. '* '). Other characters such as those used in Word for bulleted lists will not always be recognised. An asterisk without a following space will also not be converted to a bullet-point.
All websites developed by Chirp use a template that forms a container for your content. Each template is made up of a header and footer that contain the page content, and reference a CSS style sheet that determines the content formatting and layout.
The benefit of using a site template is that if you want to change the website graphics or navigation links then that can be done in one place rather than having to edit a file for every single page. Similarly, using the style sheet, it's possible to change the styles (colour, size and other formatting) of headings, links, tables and other HTML elements throughout the website.
The content area of a page can also be a template, including editable placeholders for headings, text and images. Here you can find more information on templates and the link below will show you an example of the template used for this website.
When adding PDF, Word or other types of files to your site you need to be aware that they will be indexed by search engines and appear in search engine results. That means that someone can access a PDF document without having gone through your website.
With this in mind, you should ensure that any files that you upload to your website include both your organisation and website details. This will make it easier for people to put the information in context, and encourage people to explore the rest of your site.
Any email addresses that appear in PDF or Word documents will be visible to search engines, unlike those entered as text on the website, which we encrypt to prevent them from being harvested by spammers.
If photos or other images are important to your business, you might want to consider adding a watermark or digital copyright information so that they also can be identified when accessed via search results.
When adding links to your site it's important to use the correct format, and to use the shortest address possible. Many websites have very complicated addressing systems that change over time - so linking to individual pages is pointless. Others invoke a 'redirect' from the entry page which can also confuse things.
- All addresses must start with http:// (or https:// for secure sites);
- The website URL may work with or without the "www.", but it's good practice to include it by default;
- The website URL should end either with a '/' (eg. www.chirp.com.au/) or a page address (eg. www.chirp.com.au/contacts.html)
Always check that the link still works after being shortened!
With a site that uses a redirect it's sometimes difficult to know what to use. Here are some examples which you can view by clicking on them. In each case we have used the shortest/simplest address:
- www.bbcnews.com/ (BBC News)
- www.canberratimes.com.au/ (The Canberra Times)
- www.yellowpages.com.au/ (Yellow Pages)
If you want to have the link appear as text rather then displaying the address you can add label by following the instructions in the FAQ on 'formatting options'.
The best formats to use are GIF, TIFF or JPEG (JFIF). Some other file formats are supported but provide no advantages over these three. The software we use does not support bitmap (BMP) files and if you upload bitmap images they will appear as garbage.
As the WWW is an display medium, images should be supplied in RGB (red-green-blue) format and not CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) print format.
Update the website CMS will now also accept PDF files as images, as well as some other multi-layer graphic formats. You can not upload an HTML, XML or Text file as an image.
When you upload a photo or other image to your website using our content management system, it will be automatically re-sized to fit within a predefined width and height.
For example, if the dimensions have been set to 100 x 100 pixels, then a photo that is square (width equal to height) will be re-sized to exactly 100 x 100 pixels. A tall, narrow image will end up with a height of 100 pixels, but a smaller width. Similarly, a wide image will end up with a width of 100 pixels but less tall. If the uploaded image is already equal to or smaller than the target dimensions then it will not be modified.
In some cases, the images will be padded (with a background colour) so that the final files all have the same dimensions and can be laid out more easily.
If multiple files are created (eg. a thumbnail, preview and full-size image) then the process is repeated with differing target dimensions. In most cases we also set a maximum image size of 640 x 640 pixels. Uploading anything larger than that will just make the upload and conversion process slower.
By default the conversion will use a JPEG quality of 70%, but this can be customised on a per-application basis if the compression causes problems.
If you upload JPEG images formatted using the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) standard then resizing can result in the images appearing on your website with the colours inverted (i.e. as negatives).
The solution is to use a graphics program to convert the files to the standard JFIF (JPEG File Interchange Format) before uploading.
EXIF is popular in some cameras because it is essentially a 'digital negative', but the web-standard has always been JFIF.
RSS or News Feeds are just a way for people to 'subscribe' to information from your website. All the news items you add to the website appear automatically in the RSS Feed with links back to the website.
This way people who are interested can follow your news without always having to visit your website all the time. They can subscribe to your RSS Feed using a website, feed aggregator, web browser or mail client.
- RSS in Plain English (video)
- News feeds from the BBC
- What Is RSS? RSS Explained
- What Is RSS? on USA.gov
You can give people the address of your RSS Feed or they can find it themselves when they visit your website. We normally add an icon to your homepage or news page for this purpose.
Follow the link below for instructions on adding and editing usernames and passwords using the CMS interface. If you've managed to lock yourself out, let us know and we can reset your password for you.
In some versions of Internet Explorer there is a 'feature' that lets you switch the browser into 'Compatibility View', which essentially means it behaves as if it was a much older browser.
In compatibility mode the editing feature of the CMS will not be triggered so you will not see the usual yellow boxes for adding and editing text.
The fix is to switch back out of compatibility mode by clicking the 'broken page' icon that appears at the top of the browser, between the search and refresh/reload icons.
Most of the sites hosted by Chirp have a daily/monthly traffic report generated for their website. This provides information that can be useful in finding out who is visiting, how they are finding the site and how to increase traffic to the site.
The most important statistics for your website are:
Visits: is the number of people who have visited your website. These number are not exact, however, as if someone returns to your site after being gone for a few hours they will be counted a second time. It also includes search engine spiders.
Page Views: is the number of HTML pages that have been requested. This is much more meaningful than 'Hits' or 'Files' as it only counts actual pages that are viewed - not graphics or other associated files.
The other commonly quoted value, Hits is misleading as it includes not only all Page Views, but also every request for an image, style sheet, embedded media or downloadable file. As most pages contain images (buttons, photos, banners, etc.) this gives an inflated measure of traffic to your website.
Finally, you should be aware that all reporting programs use different definitions of 'hit', 'visit' and even 'page' so comparing results between them can be extremely difficult. You are much better off just watching for trends to develop in the aggregate data (the monthly reports) rather than focussing on the day to day performance.
For traffic reporting that excludes search engine spiders and other non-human agents, we can install Google Analytics. This is most beneficial for high traffic websites monitoring advertising campaigns or with defined goals.
The User Agents section of the report tells you about the programs being used to access your site. These range from the basic web browser to advanced data collection agents. Click the link below for a list of common User Agents.
To collect payments from customers, clients or members you need to provide facilities for accepting online payments. Options range from simple collection of details for offline processing, to PayPal, online Payment Gateways and Bank-operated Payment Gateways.
The largest and most reliable online payment system is still PayPal. The drawback is that payments are not made directly to your bank account, but into an account with PayPal.
If you don't want to use PayPal, or wish to offer alternatives, your best options are:
- a third-party payments gateway that is compatible both with your bank and the types of payments your customers will be making; or
- your bank may have it's own payment gateway that you can have people use directly.
In either case you should first talk to your bank to see what they support and recommend. Then compare the transaction costs and see if you can find online comments/complaints/testimonials about their services.
The payment gateway will be set up so that either:
- credit card details are entered on your website and transmitted to the payment gateway, which then returns a signal indicating the state of the transaction; or
- your customers are directed from your website to a page hosted by the payment gateway provider where they make the payment and are then redirected back to your website.
The first option is more professional, but also requires more work to set up, and usually the purchase of a secure SSL key.
Any software or code needs to be compatible with our server environment (Debian/GNU Linux + Apache + ModSSL). Ideally the option selected would provide a simple API and work with common HTTP/HTTPS tools such as cURL.
The second option is usually much easier to implement, but can confuse people when they are taken to a different website to complete payment.
As described on our Services page we do not host mailboxes for our clients, only email aliases.
Hosting mailboxes in addition to websites requires large amounts of server space (1Gb+ per user), makes us responsible for spam- and virus-filtering and generally consumes a lot of time and resources.
Most of our clients already have a mailbox set up with their ISP or a webmail service. It's much easier and quicker to send email, particularly with large attachments, via your ISP rather than through our servers.
With proper settings (see below) your customers won't notice any difference.
Most email and webmail programs, including Outlook, Outlook Express, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Gmail and others, have an option to set the "From:" and "Reply-To:" address when sending emails.
You should search for "How to Specify a Reply-To Address in Microsoft Outlook" (substitute the program you're using). Your ISP may also provide support.
Microsoft Exchange users should ask their ISP for help as the process can be more complicated.
As of 4 August 2014 Gmail no longer supports automatic sending of emails with the "From:" address which is an email aliases/redirect.
We have developed a workaround where the emails sent from Gmail can redirect through our server. Contact us for details.
When receiving and relaying emails, firstly we subscribe to various DNS block lists (see below) to reject emails originating from known spam servers. We also run a spam filter which will flag emails with suspicious content, but not block them.
We monitor for warnings/errors in the server mail logs and the IP addresses of repeat offenders can be blocked automatically for periods of up to 24 hours.
After emails have passed through our server, the contents will often be scanned by your ISP and blocked if they contain spam- or virus-content or by other metrics, and finally, your local mail program should perform it's own virus- and spam-filtering.
Please review carefully any 'bounce' messages you or your clients receive. They could fall into a number of categories:
- Warning, your email has not been sent after four hours, but we'll keep trying;
- Your email could not be sent after x days, and we've given up;
- Your email has been rejected because your outgoing mail server is on a blacklist;
As described on our Services page, there are a number possible configurations:
- host the DNS and MX (mail) records for your domain with the Domain Registrar or another ISP and have the WWW (website) records point to your website hosted at Chirp;
- use a service such as Google Apps (see below) to host mailboxes for your domain; or
- set up a mail server either with your ISP or on a local server, keep the DNS records with Chirp and ask us to point the MX (mail) records for your domain to that server.
Setting up a mail server does require some technical expertise and not all ISPs are open to the idea. If it sounds too complicated then Google Apps is probably the simplest solution.
Google Apps for Business provides 30GB of email (Gmail) and file storage at the cost of $50/user/year.
Emails sent to your domain will go directly to Gmail without passing through our servers. You can also configure Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail or other email programs to fetch your emails directly from the Google servers.
To get started, you need to register with Google using the link below, and then ask us to change the MX setting for your domain.
There are other organisations with similar offers for MX/email hosting, and they are getting cheaper all the time, so shop around.
We recommend having a mailbox with your local ISP if possible, or for free with Gmail for individual users. Both allow access via POP3 and IMAP for receiving email.
It's now possible to host mailboxes for your domain at GMail without worrying about email aliases or forwarding. See the FAQ above for more details.
Otherwise, to have your email hosted under your domain, you will need to either:
- ask you ISP to run a mail server and mailboxes for your domain while the DNS remains at Chirp;
- move the DNS hosting to your ISP or Domain Registrar and have them point the website to the Chirp server; or
- set up your own mail server to handle MX requests, and let us know it's IP address.
Some options for domain mailbox hosting are listed below:
Search engines are websites such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN that allow people to search for web pages. All search engines regularly 'index' websites for their database. Typically only 30-40% of the World Wide Web (WWW) is indexed by a given search engine.
Each search engine has it's own way of determining which sites to 'spider' and add to their 'index'. Some let you submit your website online, while others want you to pay for this service. Generally you only have to concern yourself with the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Live) and not with the hundreds of smaller sites that very few people use.
If your site is properly built and optimised for search engines then the major players will come of their own accord, so you don't need to pay or take other steps to appear in their search results. A single link from our portfolio is enough.
We have developed our own search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques which ensure that your website appears as high as possible in search results. We provide custom tools that let you analyse where traffic is coming from and will advise you on steps you can take in terms of content and advertising.
The first and most obvious step is to have your website address appear every time your company or organisation is mentioned, including business cards, letterheads, email signatures, tv, radio, newspapers and other media.
You should also ask people and organisations you work with to link from their website to yours, and you can link to them in return. The larger this 'network' of sites becomes, the more the major search engines will like your website and send more traffic your way.
In terms of content, it's essential that all of the text on your website is unique, relevant and accessible. That means avoiding duplication of text content and avoiding flashy graphics in favour of 'text' content which can be read and indexed by search engines.
For more detailed information, contact us or download the PDF file linked below.
META tags allows you to insert information into the HTML code of a web page where they can be read by search engines, but not seen by web browsers. The most important META tags for your site are "Description" and "Keywords", though the latter is no longer referenced by Google because it's too often abused.
Description: When your website appears in a search engine's result list, this is the text that appears. It should describe the page in question using up to 200 characters.
Keywords: The purpose of the keywords list is to increase the probability of your site being found when those words are entered. They should be relevant, and realistic.
Other META tags
The Dublin Core standard is just one of many that try to encourage the addition of meta information to websites. In our opinion, it is not a useful practice to follow the DC or other standards as they are NOT recognised by any of the major search engines. They could, however, be useful in a corporate intranet environment with it's own 'META' search engine.
At any given moment there are hundreds of search engine spiders (robots) crawling the web. All this traffic can have a detrimental impact on server load and response times if too many agents are indexing too many sites at one time.
We allow all major search engine spiders free access to the server, including Googlebot (Google), Slurp (Yahoo!), bingbot (Microsoft Bing), Baidu and Yandex. We block other spiders if they exhibit 'bad behaviour' - ignoring robots.txt rules or making excessive requests - on a temporary or permanent basis.
The types of agent most likely to be blocked are:
- spiders for search engines that don't yet exist;
- spiders for non-English-language search engines; and
- any that are simply not well-behaved (see link below).
These settings can be changed on a per-site basis so please let us know if you want to allow (or block) a specific spider to have access to your website.
Are you using an old or non-compliant browser?
Your choice of software may be out of your hands. However, if you do have control over what software you are using you should consider upgrading your browser. Doing so will improve your web experience, enabling you to use and view sites as their creators intended.
The following browsers support numerous web standards including CSS, XHTML, and the DOM (a universal means of controlling the behavior of web pages):
- Netscape v7 or higher (all platforms), Mozilla Firebird (Windows), Camino (Mac OS X), Galeon (Linux GNOME Desktop) or other browser stemming from the Mozilla.org project.
- Opera v7 or higher (Windows, Linux)
- Apple's Safari (Mac OS X)
- Konqueror (Linux KDE Desktop)
- Microsoft Internet Explorer v6 or higher (Windows) or v5 or higher (Macintosh)
Our sites makes use of the widely available CSS standards. These are now supported by the latest versions of most browsers (see previous FAQ). Using CSS allows us to build sites that load faster, adjust better to different browser settings and resolutions, and display on devices such as hand-helds and mobile phones.
The most problematic browser is Internet Explorer for Windows which completely misinterpreted large sections of the CSS specification. MSIE 6 corrected some mistakes, and version 7 a few more, but we'll have to wait until version 8 for a true standards-compliant browser.
If you're using Windows we suggest upgrading to the latest version of Internet Explorer or switching to an alternative browser such as Firefox which is free to download, or Safari from Apple.
Following a recent security upgrade some users are reporting problems accessing secure sites on two of our hosted sites. The problem can be resolved in your web browser by "enabling SSL3.0 and TLS1.0".
In Internet Explorer this option can be found under: Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced -> Security.
If you're using our 'template' CMS then you know that "E" is the Access Key to enable editing, but how you trigger it is different in different browsers. Here's a summary covering the current versions of major browsers.
- Internet Explorer - Hold Alt, press access key, release, press Enter
- Firefox - Hold Shift and Alt, press access key
- Netscape - Hold Alt, press access key
- Opera - Hold Shift, press Escape, release, press access key
- Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari (Mac) - Hold Ctrl, press access key
- Safari 4 - Hold Ctrl and Alt, press access key
There appear to be wide-spread problems for some Internet Explorer (Windows) users relating to the downloading of PDF files. As far as we can determine, the problems occur when using Acrobat Reader 5.0 and having it set to display PDF files inside the web browser by default.
Some of the things you can try to get around this are:
- Make sure that you have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (see link below);
- In Internet Explorer it may be that the browser cache is full. You can empty the cache using: Tools > Options > "Delete Temporary Internet Files";
- Instead of clicking the PDF link or image, right-click and choose the "Save As..." option to save the file to your hard drive. You will then need to open the downloaded file by double-clicking.
- To make this the default action you can turn off "Web Browser Integration" (v4.x) or "Display PDF in Browser" (v5.x) in your Acrobat preferences;
- You can also try unchecking the "Allow Fast Web View" option: Prefs > General > Options > Allow Fast Web View;
- Finally, Microsoft suggest this problem can be fixed by choosing to "Disable Ratings" in Internet Explorer, or changing your "Safety Level" from High to Medium. This would make your browser less secure which we don't recommend.
Problems with Email
Spam email accounted for between 90 and 95 per cent of all email in 2007, up from an estimated five per cent of email in 2001. The number and complexity of email viruses is also increasing.
They are most likely spam or virus-infected emails being sent from computers that have been compromised by the "Blaster" or "Sobig" worm or their latest descendant.
To date, email viruses affect only Windows machines and not Apple or Linux/UNIX computers. Windows users should always be running a firewall and up-to-date anti-virus software to avoid infection.
The viruses in question have a number of ways of 'faking' an email address. They can attach your name, to a random domain, or a series of random names to one of your own domain names in the hope of by-passing any spam/virus filters in your mail program.
These emails are NOT coming from Chirp as we have no computers running Windows and our mail servers are highly secure.
If the From: address appears to come from chirp.com.au or another of our hosted domains, then it is because an infected computer has used the domain in question when faking the emails you're receiving.
For more information on email spam and how to avoid being swamped, please read this article.
Our mail server blocks thousands of emails per day using various DNS black-lists (SORBS, SpamHaus/zen and SpamCop). This is in addition to our own (SpamAssassin) bayesian spam filters and reactive blocking.
A DNS black-list ('DNSBL') is a publicly available database used to identify servers that are sending, or likely to send, spam and virus-infected emails. You can find out more information about each list on their website linked above.
In each case when an email is blocked the sender will receive a notification which includes a link to a DNSBL website where they can find out why email from their ip address has been blocked and, in some cases, have an opportunity to remove themselves from the relevant database.
e.g. Rejected spam server 126.96.36.199 - see http:// www.sorbs.net /
Anyone who's emails are being blocked by our server will have problems sending email to other destinations that use the same or similar black-lists
We don't have the option of turning off DNSBL filtering as allowing that amount of spam to transition through our mail server eventually results in our server being blacklisted.
After an email passes through our server it can still be blocked by your ISP or Webmail provider, or classified as spam by your mail client. In those cases there will not always be a notification sent back to the sender.
If there is a problem with your website, we will have it corrected as soon as possible. However, to do that we need to know the details...
The most common reasons for a website to become inaccessible are problems with:
- the connection from your computer to your local network or to your ISP;
- the connection from your ISP to the Internet; or
- the Domain Name System (DNS) settings for your domain.
Before reporting a problem to us, you should confirm that:
- you can access the Internet, including at least one website that you haven't been to recently;
- you can access another website hosted on the same server (the Chirp website for example if your website is on our server); and
- the website is inaccessible from another computer, preferably one at a different physical location and using a different ISP - phone a friend or colleague to check.
If noone can see your website then there could be a problem with the DNS. The DNS Report website will let you generate a report for any domain name, showing nameserver and mail server details and highlighting any problems that need addressing.
After following these steps you'll be able to provide us with the information we need to identify and correct the problem.
Our websites use a wide range of technologies, all of which can generate errors under certain circumstances. The most common sources are:
A PHP error occurs when a page is not coded properly, or when it encounters a situation that hasn't been tested for. This type of error shows up most often when a site is being developed or upgraded. The errors are logged and will be promptly addressed.
An SQL error occurs when a query sent to the database (inserting or extracting data) contains invalid values. These errors are the most serious and are reported to us immediately.
The most important information to include when reporting an error is:
- WHEN did the error occur - your local time AND your location or local timezone? This enables us to check the server logs for messages;
- WHERE did it occur (which website, which page/URL)? If you were 'logged in' then we may need your username and password in order to investigate;
- WHAT were you doing when the error occured? Please be as specific as possible. If you were uploading a file or image then please provide a copy with your bug report. If we can re-produce the error then it will definately be fixed;
A 'visual' problem with your website could include:
- unsightly gaps between text or images;
- overlapping content;
- pages that scroll horizontally; and
- generally anything that looks out of place.
When reporting this please provide a screen capture showing as much of the browser window as possible to help us in identifying the problem.
Our HTML and CSS code complies with W3C standards, but not all web browsers are standards-compliant. In particular, Internet Explorer has a hard time following standards and can often 'mangle' a page that appears fine in other browsers.
In those cases the HTML and CSS code needs to be adjusted so that the site renders properly in all browsers, including Internet Explorer.
An important thing to remember about the WWW is that every browser and platform will display a given page using it's own rules. What you see isn't necessarily what we see or what your users see when accessing the website.
A CAPTCHA is a graphic displaying a short code or phrase (in our case a series of five numbers) that needs to be entered before an online form can be submitted. The purpose being to prevent automated agents (spiders or robots) from submitting the form.
Without a CAPTCHA it will not be long before your form is being submitted hundreds of times by robots or spambots hoping to exploit your website or database for their own purposes.
Unfortunately we can't do much about making the CAPTCHA easier to read in the short term. The one you're seeing is the latest of a number we've created. The early versions were easier to read, but because of that were cracked by the spambots within a few months so had to be retired. We are always working to make improvements.
If accessibility is important we can also display an email link alongside the form (protected from spammers using encryption) or pursue other options, including the use of third-party visual and audio CAPTCHA services.