Words and Webs
Social Media solutions for your business
 
A guide to getting a website

 
Getting online can be a confusing and daunting prospect for many people, especially due to the amount of jargon used when it comes to the Internet. Hopefully the following will make it a little easier for you to make decisions wherever you decide to get your website done.
 
Domain Name
 
A domain name is required for you to get a website up and going. It is the name that people will type into their browser or Google to find your site. They are purchased via domain name registrars for periods of 1-2 years and need to be renewed at the end of that period. There are literally thousands of domain name registrars in Australia (type the following into google - domain name register) so make sure you shop around.
 
Your domain name should reflect your business or persona.
 
An example of a domain name is www.joenovella.com(personal) www.abfabhealth.com.au(business)
 
Web host
 
Once you have your domain, you need some space to build your website and host all the files that will make up your website. Web hosts rent this space out to you for an annual charge. Just like in real estate, if you rent a single-bedroom flat you will pay less than renting a 3-bedroom house. Web hosts work the same way - the more space you require the more you will pay. If the house you rent has extras such as aircon, balconies, views, you expect to pay more. Web hosts offer extras as well, which they charge for.
 
Examples of the types of hosting that web hosts offer are:
 
1. Free ad-sponsored hosting - there is an increasing number of hosts offering free webhosting with the proviso you allow their ads to feature on your pages - www.webs.com  for example. They also provide a user interface to allow novice users to build a simple website without technical knowledge, however, there are strict space and bandwidth limitations on free accounts. And because the servers (the computer that hosts your website) are mostly located in the U.S - response times for those of us south of the equator can vary.
 
2. Host only - no extras, just space to place your website files so they can be viewed on the web (only an option if you are very technical and have expertise in webdesign, file upload and file management)
 
3. Hosting plus a CMS (Content Management System) - a place to store your files plus a program to help you build your website. These CMS come in the form of many names - Joomla, Mambo just to name a few, and are very difficult to navigate for a novice user, they are more suited to those with significant technical knowledge.
 
4. Hosting plus a sitebuilding package (RVsitebuilder is an example) - a place to store your website files and programs to help you build your website even if you have minimal or basic technical skills. These programs are significantly easier to use than a CMS. Unfortunately, even though web hosts commonly claim these programs are as easy as using Word, they do take some time to master for a novice and can be confusing.
 
Web hosts will also give thousands of addon options: types of databases, applications, US or Australian Server? There are also options on space(disk space for your web files) and download space and speed (known as bandwidth). The more bandwidth you have the more your visitors can download from your website. There are excessive charges should you choose a low disk space, low bandwidth hosting package, and exceed the limits, in much the same way that mobile phone companies charge for exceeding your plan.
 
The trick is to know what you need before you select a package. Often people will pay lots of money for extras they don't need simply because they don't understand what those extras are.
 
How do you know what you need?
 
First, you have to examine the types of content that can be put on websites. Content can be broken down into: Text, photos, graphics and media.
 
Text - headlines, articles, reviews, bios, banners, latest news,
Photos - jpegs, png, gifs
graphics - animations
media - sounds, movies, flash (mpeg, avi, mp3, wav and swf)
 
Content can then be arranged in thousands of ways - slideshows, downloadable files (word, pdf) galleries, scrolling images and text, news tickers, adverts and so on.
 
Text consumes very little space and bandwidth compared to the other forms of content. If you simply need a text-based website with few photos and no graphics or media (sometimes called a static website) then you can expect your webhosting package to be very economical (around 30 Aud per year). The more photos, graphics and media you decide to include on your website, the more disk space and bandwidth you'll require and the cost for the hosting will increase.
 
What do you want?
 
Ask yourself:
 
What do I want online and why?
Personal, promotion or business?
What expertise do I have?
How much time do I have to learn or complete getting online?
 
The answers to these questions are important in determining your investment in getting online via a website.
 
Nowadays, if you want to get online and interact with others, display a few photos, promote what you're doing in life - you can do it via "Social networking sites". These sites include Facebook, Multiply and many more. You could even generate a blog (almost exactly like a website but mainly used for personal diaries and interacting with others who have similar interests - for example you may start a blog on fishing). Blogs allow you to upload all forms of content but have strict space and bandwidth limitations - see www.blogger.com or wordpress.
 
You could even register with a photosharing site such as Picasa, photobucket or flikr. These sites allow you to upload photos, arrange into albums, create slideshows that you can share with your friends.
 
Websites are a tool.
 
On the other hand, if you want to get online to promote your business or your organisation (sports clubs, associations) then a website is the best online option. Websites are a powerful tool and can act as a focal point for your business or organisation allowing you to sell goods or accept subscriptions, memberships and donations.
 
If your website is not helping you do business then you probably don't need it and a blog, social networking page or photosharing site would be better value for your money.
 
 
How much time and effort are you willing to invest.
 
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, you can get your own website up and going and depending on your expertise it can be done quickly and cheaply, meeting all your objectives. However if you don't have much technical knowledge the learning curve is steep and you may end up investing a lot of time and paying for services you don't need for little return on investment.
 
Webdesigners/ administrator
 
A webdesigner can do it all for you or do some of it for you. If you want ownership of your domain name then you should register it yourself before going to a web designer. A good web designer will understand your needs and objectives and incorporate your ideas on style and content.
 
Not everyone needs a website with bells and whistles, fancy animations and sounds. Depending on what your objectives are, sometimes a simple, modern and functional website that is text driven will be all you need (and a lot easier on the hip pocket).
 
You can choose to be engaged in the design process or you can also just leave it to the web designer and have a website at the end of the process without expending any of your own time.
 
Make sure you understand what you get - some designers offer websites for as low as $200 but anytime you need modifications it costs you that much again. Some may charge a low up-front cost but whack you with a large annual fee for continued support.
 
Common misconceptions.
 
One of the most common complaints I hear from customers is "I can't find my website."
The reality is that they can by typing their website address into the address bar of their browser. What they are talking about is typing their website into google, or any other search engine. Or they may type their name or the subject matter of their website into Google and still no results with their website included show up.
 
When your website is up and going, don't expect it to appear in search engine results immediately. Search Engine Optimization is another buzzword bandied around in the industry - it simply means making your website appeal to search engines so it is included in the search results when someone types in keywords that relate to your website.
 
Some companies specialise in SEO but at the end of the day their are no guarantees that your website will appear in search engines. Good webdesigners will however employ some techniques that will help your site get indexed by search engines such as google, yahoo and bling but it is not their job to make your website appear in search engines, their job is to design your site.
 
The best way you can help speed up this process is to promote your website in everything you do - on stationary, email, conversations. Ask permission to link to other websites with similar subject matter (your webdesigner can include these links once permission is granted.) In a nutshell, get people visiting your site. Search engines will take notice once visitors populate your site.
 
 
In Summary
 
Work out what your objectives are
Work out who you expect to visit your website (target market)
Think about your content
Work out whether you need a website or another vehicle to get online (Blog, facebook)
 
Key factors to consider when working with a web host-
 
Your budget
Your expertise
Support offered
Website Backup strategies
Upfront costs
Annual costs
Fees for exceeding limits
 
Key factors when working with a webdesigner
 
What service do they offer? Just design, web hosting and design?
Do you have the opportunity to review and accept or reject designs?
Up front costs
Annual fees
Modification costs once website is complete
Can you make your own modifications - if so, using what tools?
 
Good luck in your ventures,
Kind regards
Joe Novella
 
 Copyright Words and Webs 2012