Small Business Website Design and Hosting Essentials

Everybody knows their small business needs a web presence today. But what are the essentials? What style site do you need? What about SEO and SMM and CMS and other acronyms? Here is a simple Top Ten list of website requirements for success today:

  1. A clear, concise description of your business: You need to grab your visitor in the first 2 or 3 seconds. Be Clear, Concise and Compelling.
  2. A simple, easy-to-remember and easy-to-type web domain: ideally, a .com URL omitting hyphens and unusual spellings if possible as these are stumbling blocks to potential visitors.
  3. Easy to follow navigation: an navigation scheme with top level sections and sub-sections as needed, typically a navigation bar at the top with your main sections and dropdowns for your sub-sections.
  4. Contact Info! Make it easy for folks to contact you with contact info in the footer and a contact us page with phone, email, physical address, and any other pertinent information. Set your email to your domain so potential customers can easily remember it and associate it with you (example: me@mydomain.com rather than me@gmail.com).
  5. Fresh, high quality content: keep your site updated regularly so it’s always fresh; a blog can help immensely in keeping fresh content on the homepage.
  6. Attention-grabbing design fitting your subject area: a tourism site, for instance, should feature photo galleries of key destinations, a photographer’s site a rich gallery of sample work, and a manufacturer’s site aiming at online sales product info, photos, and easy way to purchase
  7. Reliable, secure hosting: it’s easy to get web hosting for $10 or less per month these days, but how reliable is the host? how readily available to service your needs? how flexible in their offerings? I offer my clients a hosting plus support package tailored to their needs, so that they have guaranteed time each month for their special requirements at a reduced rate.
  8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): website elements that help drive search engines to find your site, including keywords, alt and title tags, inbound links, and social media.
  9. SMM (Social Media Marketing) or just “Social”: your social media connections, from Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn to Tumblr.
  10. CMS (Content Management System): you need a CMS that facilitates easy and flexible site maintenance, whether you edit the site yourself, have a webmaster or even team to manage the site, or a combination. There are many platforms available today, but the most versatile and simple to use for a small business is a WordPress site.

I will address these issues in more detail future posts.

Adverse Possession – What Has Your Neighbor Been Up To?

Joshua Lee Smith – In Massachusetts, a party claiming title to land through adverse possession must establish actual, open, exclusive and non-permissive use of such land for a continuous period of at least 20 years. The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently held in 1148 Davol Street LLC v. Mechanic’s Mill One, that a cause of action for adverse possession against a private party can begin during prior ownership of the land by The Commonwealth of Massachusetts or a city or town.

The city of Fall River was the record owner of a certain parcel of land (the “Mechanic’s Mill Property”) from 1975 until 1989, when the city sold the Mechanic’s Mill Property to a private party. The Mechanic’s Mill Property was subsequently sold to the named defendant. In 1975, the owners of property adjacent to the Mechanic’s Mill Property (the “Adjacent Property”) began to use an approximately 25,000 square foot strip of land on the Mechanic’s Mill Property along the boundary of the two properties. The Adjacent Property was sold to the named plaintiff in 2007, and in 2008, the plaintiff brought suit against the defendant over the ownership of the strip.

The parties agreed that the plaintiff satisfied the elements of an adverse possession claim for a continuous 32-year period from 1975 to 2007. Therefore, the sole issue before the Court was whether the plaintiff could count the time during which title to the Mechanic’s Mill Property was held by the city toward the requisite 20-year period of adverse use.

The Court recognized that under the common law, a party claiming adverse possession could not count the time title to the land was held by the Commonwealth or a city or town towards the applicable limitations period as adverse possession cannot be claimed against a governmental entity as to public land. However, Massachusetts has explicitly departed from the common law rule by adopting M.G.L. c 260, § 31 (“Section 31”). Section 31 provides a 20-year statute of limitations period for actions for the recovery of land commenced by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. The defendant argued that the exceptions to the statute of limitations for land held for conservation, open space, parks, recreation, water protection, wildlife protection or other public purpose that were added to Section 31 by amendments indicate an intent by the Legislature that land put to a public purpose could never be subject to adverse possession, and on this basis the limitations period cannot run while the property is held by a public party, which, in this case, would mean that the adverse possession “clock” would not have started until the city transferred the Mechanic’s Mill Property to a private party in 1989.

The Court disagreed, holding that a private record owner of once-public land opposing an adverse possession claim may not invoke Section 31 as a defense. The Court reasoned that while the amendment to Section 31 “undeniably added broad protections allowing the Commonwealth and its subdivisions to recover land held for public purposes, nothing in the statute evinces an intent that such protections also benefit a subsequent private owner.” Moreover, the public policy reasons for adding the broad public purpose language to Section 31 are indicative of an intent to protect land that benefits the general public, and allowing a private party to “take advantage of a law clearly designed to benefit the [Commonwealth] would be inapposite to the purpose of that law.”

Owners and purchasers of real property should always carefully review claims and potential claims of adverse possession. This decision makes clear that any such claims cannot be defended on the basis that the property was once owned by a public entity. In general, property owners interested in avoiding claims of adverse possession should consider registering the property with the Land Court, erecting no trespassing signs or a fence or posting a Notice to Prevent Acquisition of Easement pursuant to M.G.L. c. 187, §§ 3 and 4 (with respect to prescriptive easements). Doing nothing and relying on the love of thy neighbor won’t help to protect your land.