Everything You Need to Know Before Starting a Web-site
The message for business people contemplating their place in cyberspace is simple and direct: get linked or get lost.
Vic Sussman and Kenan Pollack
The Internet is your businesses most strategic, cost effective, and influential growth platform.
If you’re building or redesigning a website, their are some important factors to take into account. When a company’s website is the foundation of its interactive marketing strategy, that foundation must be strong and take into account the long-term business objectives. You will need to determine your Internet and viral strategy and who your target audience is. All these essential factors will influence what type of web-site is required.
Web design is different from web development: A web designer create the look of a website, and a web developer actually write the system code. While web designers are often web developers, and vice versa, you might want to split the roles, especially if your project is complex. Find the right talent for your specific project.
The process of outlining what will be contained in the site is called a website storyboard. A wire frame is a sketch of what you want on your website and where you want it, including the interactive components.
The types of websites you may consider include:
- Informational website
An informational website is similar to an online business brochure. The objective of this type of site is to offer comprehensive and easy to navigate business information. Interactive tools can also be integrated into your web-site such as; user forms, client forums, sales support tools, etc.
- E-commerce website
An e-commerce website is for those who would like to sell products including goods or services online. This type of site displays products and provides the ability to complete the purchase transaction online. Considerations for this more advanced web-site may include: shopping cart, secure Internet Server Secure Service Certificate (SSL), and Internet account payment processing gateway.
Domain Name Registration
The domain name is the Internet address on the World Wide Web to locate your website. One does not actually own a domain name, but has the right to use it for a yearly fee. Annual fees vary depending on the company providing the services and the domain name extension requested, but you can expect to pay: $11.00 - $35.00 annually. Domain name registrations must be updated on a yearly basis. When choosing a domain name it is important to choose a short name that others can easily remember.
Web hosting is the “server platform” where a website is stored. This process may be thought of as the office that is rented in a large building where the site is conducting business. The type of hosting required is a crucial factor. For example, ASP or Active Server Page programming requires a Windows NT capability. A site designed with Cold Fusion programming requires a specialized server. Costs for web hosting vary dependant on the type of server needed. Static or “non-dynamic” websites may be hosted for less. More complicated websites that require specialized hosting capabilities may range from $30 to $150.00 or more per month. Static or “non-dynamic” websites may be hosted for less.
Factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a web-hosting company include:
- What is the monthly fee?
- Is there a set up fee?
- How much disk space is provided?
- Do you offer secure hosting?
- Do you offer regular site back-ups?
- What operating systems are supported?
- How many mailboxes (e-mail accounts) are provided?
- Is there a control panel?
- What databases are supported?
- Is there toll free support, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week?
- Do they have shopping cart software?
Web Maintenance / Webmaster Services
Internet technologies are constantly changing and keeping your website up to date is a crucial security issue. Ensuring that your site is current and relevant is just as important as initially creating the site. You will need to determine who is going to perform the changes and updates to your site. If you anticipate ongoing edits, you may want to consider a cost effective web maintenance agreement. Fees for web maintenance are separate and in addition to web design, domain names, web hosting and promotion.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Thanks to content management systems such as Joomla and WordPress anyone can learn to edit a website. Make sure your website is built using a CMS so you can edit it quickly, easily, and independently.
Analytics is the user data hub of your web-site, providing crucial info about how many people visited your site, where they came from, how they got there, age demographics, and what they did once they were on your site. Using analytics is an essential process and the way by which you gauge your viral marketing efforts.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO can be a confusing topic for those new to internet marketing. It basically has to do with the "words" and "key terms" that search engines use to index and rank your site pages. Search engine bots are constantly mining the world wide web and are responsible for this task. Although Google’s algorithm is largely secret and shifts constantly, there are simple strategies that make a big difference such as; submitting a site map, using clean code, and continually adding dynamic content with the right key words. Meta tags are one of those simple things that make a big difference in your website’s SEO ranking. Your pages should all have titles, descriptions, keywords, and alternate text (alt) tags on images. Having a unique title and description for each page is particularly important.
Web-site security is one of the single most important aspects of running a web-site. The level of web-site security will depend on many factors, but there are some general best practice guides which include:
- Make sure your site is being regularly backed-up.
- Protect your username and password. Write them down somewhere and don't share it on-line. Never send it in an e-mail.
- Remove malicious files and/or files you are not familiar with
- Update all scripts/applications to the newest versions available
- Update all plugins to the newest versions available
- Change passwords on accounts or delete unused ones
- Delete any databases/applications from your account that are no longer in use
- Fix dangerously writeable permissions Hide your configuration files
- Anti-Virus Applications
If you are running an on-line shop or are handling sensitive information, you better have SSL encryption. Make sure you are dealing with someone reputable who can protect your data. Hackers and spammers can cause major damage and have done so to multi-billion dollar corporations.
Information architecture is often compiled into a sitemap, which is a plot of the structure of the pages on the site. The sitemap is a page in a special format that should be submitted to search engines to improve your site’s ranking.