We all understand how important technology is in today’s world, and it is widely accepted that without a website, many businesses are at a big disadvantage.
The way our customers research and make purchasing decisions has changed significantly in recent years, and this means that if you’re not online, you are at risk of losing market share.
For many, the prospect of creating a website can be daunting, so here are some fundamentals you should know before you start.
1. Professional or DIY?
The first decision to make is whether you would like to attempt to create the website yourself, or if you’re happy to leave the process in the hands of a professional web developer.
If you have strong computer skills and are confident with technology, and if you have plenty of available time to spend on the process, then it’s worthwhile considering the do-it-yourself options available. There are a number of solutions online, with varying ongoing costs and some limitations – the pros and cons should be considered. Make sure you do your research before rushing ahead with a provider.
For those who acknowledge their time is scarce and would prefer professional results, then research is also important when choosing the provider you work with. A positive referral is a valuable way to find a web developer. You need them to be reliable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable in their field, with proven experience. Look at examples of their work and the type of clients they work with – is the standard of their work suitable, and do they seem like a good fit for you? You could also look at their Facebook page for reviews.
2. Domains and hosting
In order to have a website online, you require a domain name. This is the address where people can find your website on the internet, such as www.yourbusinessname.com.au. You can register a domain name online and renew it annually, or every two years for .com.au.
It’s a good idea to register multiple extensions of your business name domain for brand protection (eg. .com.au and .com), and the additional domains can be pointed to your website.
Registering domains is something you can do yourself, or have your web developer do for you – just make sure they provide access details to you, such as the account login and domain password (it’s important your domain is registered to you, not them, and that you have a level of control and access to it).
Website hosting is required as the home for your website – the place where the website files live in cyberspace. Most DIY options will include this in their service, but there are many providers out there to consider if you need to sign up your own hosting, but not all hosts are equal. Your web developer will usually take care of this for you, and often will have their own preferred provider that they work with.
Email hosting is another thing to consider. By owning a domain name, it allows you to have professional looking email addresses at that name. You will require email hosting connected to your domain, and I recommend going with a cloud-based option, such as G-Suite (Gmail for your business emails).
It’s also now important to ensure you have an SSL certificate on your website for security. This can be purchased with your domain name or hosting, and means that your site will have https:// rather than http:// at the beginning of the URL. This is important for Google rankings.
3. The platform
Today the majority of sites are built on an online content management system, which means you can access the site from anywhere to make updates yourself, and this is a very reasonable expectation for you to have.
Usually ongoing maintenance is required to keep the software and plugins up to date, to ensure the site is performing well, and is fast and secure.
It’s also essential that your site is mobile-responsive. It is now an expectation that a site will be responsive on mobile devices – users can quickly leave the site and go elsewhere if they find that it’s not. It was in 2016 that internet access on mobile devices surpassed desktop computers, and this is only increasing. It’s important to know that Google also penalises sites in its rankings that aren’t responsive.
With a basic understanding of the foundations of your website, you can embrace the process with confidence and clarity.
This article also appears in Central West Lifestyle Magazine, Edition 21 – Winter 2018.