Someone told you you you needed a website. Maybe your brother's friend's uncle or your sister's coworker's cousin twice removed. You've been in business for years or you're just starting out, either way you need a web pressence. You want something nice, professional and you want it yesterday. Woo little doggy! Backup, beep, beep, beep. Let's go over some things first so you don't run in to issues later.
- NEVER LET ANYONE HAVE CONTROL OVER YOUR DOMAIN NAME, HOSTING OR FILES BUT YOU!
I repeat, NEVER LET ANYONE HAVE CONTROL OVER YOUR DOMAIN NAME, HOSTING OR FILES BUT YOU! Most of my work consists of taking back websites from shady website designers. If anyone ever requires they register either your domain name and/or hosting accounts don't walk, RUN the other direction. If you don't control your domain name, hosting or files then you don't control your website, period.
- Domain name? What's that?
Glad you asked! It's the name of your website silly. This site's domain name is EsquaredDesign.net. It's the address a person would type in to get to your website.
Bonus: You can have more than one domain name pointing to the same website. Awesome sauce right! I also own www.EsquaredDesign.com and it points to this site. You can use this to your advantage by buying domain names that are similar to yours, misspellings etc. Just in case your customers don't get it exactly right they can still find you.
- Hosting? What's that?
Hosting is where your website files live, this is it's home. All websites consist of files, lots and lots of files.
- Where do I get a domain and/or hosting?
Anywhere you want. Do I have some suggestions? You betcha!
- I can build a site for free at BlahBlah.com, why do I need a designer?
Yep, you sure can build a free site, easy as pie...but you don't own it. The way free site operators work is they make their money off advertising and/or upgrades. Your site, all your files and information, live on their servers. If you want to switch servers, change formats etc you have to start all over. When you build a site on a hosting server of your choice, you can pack up the files and move at any time. With a free site you are stuck with what they offer. Again, don't let anyone have control over your domain, hosting or files. It's your site, OWN IT!
- What is a CMS and why do I need one?
CMS stands for "Content Management System". There are a ton of CMS options out there: Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress etc. Basically it's a bundle of files and a connection to a database that creates an instant site, from there you can expand upon it. Back in the day sites where built one page at a time and those pages could only be changed by changing the code. Have a change that was site wide and you had to go through and hand code each page. Not so today. With the invetion of coding languages we now have dynamic websites with adinistrative backends that allow end users and designers to make sweeping changes through an adminstartive interface. Update photos, change wording, change colors etc. You may think your site is simple but it's not and it won't stay simple for long so ALWAYS go with a CMS.
- Okay, I got my domain name, got my hosting, hired a designer, picked a CMS and I have a site, we're done right?
Lol, not even. This is the big bad world of "Content is King" boys and girls. Repeat after me "CONTENT IS KING!" One more time "CONTENT IS KING!" That's right folks this is not Field of Dreams, you do not built it and they will come. Webistes require constant upkeep to get noticed by search engines and stay up-to-date. Most good CMS systems are constantly being updated and you will have to run updates on your site as they become available. You will also need to update the information on your site on a regular basis and engage your potential customers to get them to your site through social media, networking, online and offline strategies. The internet is not magic and websites are not a set it and forget it marketing strategy. They are ongoing and ever changing.
Don't think of your website as a static flier but an ever changing look into your company, how it operates and what it offers. People love to know who they are dealing with. A well thought out, up-to-date, engaging website can build a lot of trust and connection with your customers. Your site is the story of your company, from it's very begining, it's lows, it's highs and everything in between.