A website is not a project but rather a process of continuous improvement – Gerry McGovern
Are you overwhelmed at the thought of starting a new website? Domain names, hosting, SEO, navigation. Don’t know where to start? Follow our six step guide to start off on the right foot.
Step 1. Your domain name
The first thing you need is a domain name. A domain name is an address where your site is located on an internet web server. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System (DNS).
If you haven’t already done so, check to see if the name you want is available at whois.lookup. If you want to register a .com.au or .net.au domain name, you must be a commercial entity and have either an Australian Company Number (ACN) or Australian Business Number (ABN).
Domain registration is paid upfront and is usually for a period of 12 months when you will have to renew to continue to owning the domain name. A web designer will assist and advise you with selecting, registering and renewing your domain name.
Step 2. Hosting your site
Hosting is like paying rent. You need storage space on a server for your site. Web hosting companies keep their servers connected to the internet constantly. Here are some tips for what to consider when selecting in a hosting company:
If your site is down due to a server problem or you are having problems, what do you do? Are you able to call, email or send an online ticket to report the problem?
Services and applications
Check what the host offers. Databases, control panel, spam filtering, WordPress, Magneto, Joomla etc
How much disk space and data transfer is included in your hosting? The disk space is the space allocated to store your files. Data transfer refers to the amount of data transferred to and from your web hosting account on your hosts server. This occurs when visitors access your website, to view or download various pages, graphics, or other files.
If the file size of a page on your website is 20KB and the page also makes use of two 10KB images, then every visitor to the page will download 40KB of data. If a hundred people download these files in a month, your monthly data transfer would be 39MB ((40KB x 100) / 1024). So, the larger the file, the higher the data transfer usage when it is downloaded and the more traffic to your site, the more data transfer you will use.
How much is the web hosting company going to charge you for the service they provide? You will find many offers which will vary a lot in price, but make sure you check what they are offering. Look for a web host who includes quality service at a reasonable price because if you compromise on space or speed, then your website will suffer.
Your web designer will have suggestions for what your hosting depending on what your site needs to do (size of site, ecommerce, email accounts etc). You will need to pay monthly or annual fees to keep your website with a host. You can switch hosts but it is wise to find one that suits your needs from the start so your new site launches and runs smoothly.
Step 3. Holding page
The start of your website is a holding page. Once you have your domain name, you can have a holding page at this address. Here are 5 reasons to upload a holding page as soon as possible:
Your holding page should include your logo and business details
Increase email database
An opportunity to catch the early visitors. You can have a subscribe by email form for interested users to sign up so you can notify them once the site is launched.
Good publicity for your domain name
If you do not have a holding page and you are using your domain name for business emails, when people see your email and they attempt to visit your website, they will most likely be sent to a ‘Page not found’ message or registrar’s advert.
A holding allows your address to be found by web crawlers so that your site is on its way to start page ranking in Search Engines. Once a web crawler has found your site, it will check back intermittently for fresh content.
Links to your site
Start creating links to your site on other website, web directories and social media as well as on your printed marketing material such as letterheads, invoices etc
Get in touch with a web designer who can help you create a holding page up as soon as possible.
Step 4. Working with a web designer
A web designer can advise you on all areas of your site to ensure your website acts as the hub of your web presence. Your site may not have a ‘Buy Now’ online shop, but it a way for customers to access your business. How you are going to convert your visitors to leads? Make sure that you have all of the elements you need on your website to make it a lead generation machine. Refer to First Impressions Count for tips on what makes a successful website.
Start be researching other websites. Look at a diverse range of sites including those of your competitors. Notice their use of colour, design, layout, key pages (About, Services, Portfolio etc). Pick out sites you like so you have a starting point when you talk to your web designer. What do you like/hate about these sites. Also, make a list of the keywords you use to search for your competition.
Start putting together the text content for your site in a file (such as a Word doc) under the headings for each page. Think carefully about the wording. Writing for the web is not like writing a brochure. It needs to be built around target keywords. Think about how are you are going to solve your visitor’s problems. What are you offering? You don’t need lots of text, just the right words so visitors get information quickly and easily. Here are a few tips to guide you:
- People tend to scan web text so keep it concise. If writing paragraphs, make sure you write one idea per paragraph
- Write for your audience/target market
- Write for search engines. Include keywords in your text
- Use action words so your reader understands your purpose and how you can meet their needs
- Use bullet points and numbered lists to make your points clear
- Headings and sub headings help to clarify your purpose and information
- Include summaries
- Proofread all text carefully
Meeting with your designer
An initial meeting with a web designer is an opportunity to exchange a lot of information. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Why are you building this site? Your website design needs to align with your business goals
- Who will use the website? What are their goals and key issues? Age, gender, income, geography, education level? Are they on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? What words or phrases do they use? What sort of imagery appeals to them?
- Do your competitors have online presence? How is your business different from theirs?
- Have you written the website content? Do you have photos, videos or images you want to include? Are there other elements you might include such downloadable files and are they ready?
- Do you have a list of keywords that will be important for search engine optimisation?
- What actions do you want the visitors to take when they visit your website?
- Do you have an established brand identity? A logo and tag line, colour palette, and set of standard fonts?
- How do you see yourself maintaining the site after it has launched? Will you create and post new content, analyse website statistics, incorporate social media, distribute email newsletters, backup content, update applications? Who will be responsible for this?
- What is your budget? Do you have a time frame?
Your web designer will walk you through all of this, plus a number of more advanced design issues. However, your project will get off to a smooth start if you have already considered these questions.
Step 5. After you launch
A website is never finished. You don’t create a site, launch it then sit back because your job is done now and your site will magically pull in business for you. Unlike printed marketing material, a website enables you to interacted with visitors. It is important to plan an effective process for ongoing improvement for a number of reasons:
You can be constantly updating and changing your content including adding promotions and blog content
Visitors from social media
Blog content can be reposted across social media networking sites driving visitors back to your site
Analysing website statistics enables you to assess and improve the effectiveness of your website as well as gauge traffic and popularity trend for market research
Visitors can fill in forms and leave comments
Search engine page ranking
Search engines favour content that is updated regularly
Can you put aside regular time every month to maintain your site? If not, consider budgeting on outsourcing this job as the maintenance is as important as the initial launch.
Step 6. Backup
No matter how reliable your web hosting may be, it is very wise to regularly back up your site. Even if your web host tells you that your data is safe or that they have backed it up, do not depend on this.
Technology has caused a shift in the way businesses advertise their products and services. The internet and search engines act as a gateway for your customers to find you. People rely on finding for services, products and information online and if you don’t want to be left behind, follow our simple guide and make 2014 the year you create your dynamic web presence.