Planning a website for your business can be a daunting job. Often, it’s a “bottom of the pile” task that can get delayed for years! Many business owners are put off by;
- Web designers who talk over their heads
- The belief that it’s really difficult
- Misconceptions about high costs
- Lack of understanding of what is needed
- Worries about it “not working”
In this article, I’m going to explain the basics of what is required to have a functional business website. There are only three things!
1. A Domain Name
This is your website address that people will use to visit your website. You can register one yourself or your web designer can register it for you. Normally, it will need to be renewed every year unless you choose to register it for longer. Ask the company registering your domain name if you get a discount for registering for a longer period. It can save you a few dollars.
Generally, your domain name should not be too long. It should be easy to spell and easy to remember. If you can’t get your company name or don’t want to use it, try to get a domain that contains keywords relating to your business. There are a number of things that your web designer should be aware of when building a website on your domain name. If they are not aware of these things, it can create problems further down the track. Be prepared by reading about all the things you need to consider.
- Read more about how to choose a good domain name
- Read more about what to do if someone else owns a domain using your company name
- Read more about domain name age
- Read more about domain name ownership
2. Website Hosting
This is the server (computer) where your website is stored so that it can be viewed on the internet. Your web designer may manage the hosting for you or they may leave it up to you to arrange a hosting package. If the web designer manages the hosting, the advantage is that they will be familiar with the hosting company, have 24-hour access and will be more readily able to handle any problems that may arise in future. They can also set up additional services for you, such as email accounts, daily backups, error logging, email auto responders, automated functions and any special modifications you might need to run your website.
There are many different providers for website hosting and inevitably, if a business owner chooses their own hosting, they tend to pick the cheapest one. Someone that doesn’t know what to look for simply checks to see how much web space they get and if it sounds like a lot, it must be good! Not surprisingly, the $5 a month hosting package that you thought was a bargain tends to come with a number of snags – although it might surprise you that server space generally isn’t one of them. The most common issues you’ll run into with cheap hosting are;
- Limits on the number mailboxes you can have.
- Low storage space for email.
- Slow website speed.
- Difficulty in getting problems resolved.
- Slow or no response to enquiries.
We have our own private web hosting server that only our clients use. This is different to the way that most web designers host their customers’ websites. Mainly they will use something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
On a Virtual Private Network;
- Websites are located on a shared hosting server that normally hosts thousands of other websites.
- The server is not controlled by the web designer.
- The web designer will only rent a portion of the server.
- They will have no idea what other websites are on the server outside their own account.
- The web designer will have little or no ability to make custom alterations to the server for you.
A Private Server like ours;
- Is much more expensive to run for the web designer.
- But it makes your website run much faster.
- Is limited to a much smaller number of websites that are vetted by the web designer.
- Can be customised to suit the requirements of the web designers’ clients.
- Can be more secure due to the higher level of control the web designer has over it.
For these reasons, we would normally recommend using a private hosting server over cheap VPN hosting every time.
3. Website Design
For a serious business, a website should be professionally designed just for you. Yes, there are plenty of DIY web design options out there that can produce a website that looks and functions ok, but there are catches.
Firstly, you don’t control the platform that the website is built on so customisation can be difficult or impossible.
Search Engine Optimisation can also be tricky. In our experience, some of the things that a good SEO will want to do are not possible on a shared platform.
Once the DIY website service has you as a customer, they will not want to lose you, so it is not in their interests to make it easy for you to shift services. What happens when you’ve spend a few years building up a great online business and you want to move? Mostly, it’s tough!
- You won’t be able to take the website with you as you don’t own the platform.
- You can’t take the template as you don’t own that.
- You might be able to export the database but it will be expensive to try and import it back into another system that works completely differently.
Some DIY website services won’t allow you to export your data out of their system. This is a nightmare for something like an online shop where you can’t get all the details of your customers, online order history or any of the other important information you have stored in there.
A good web designer should be able to offer you some helpful suggestions about the best way to market your business on the internet and add value beyond just building a few web pages. Just remember that choosing a web designer is not like choosing a painter. You won’t need to see the painter for years but your relationship with your web designer will be on-going, so ensure you get on with them!