YBC Academy : So You Want To Have A Website

So you have created your business and know you need an online presence to help support and grow your business. How do you get started, what do you need to make the process as smooth, secure and professional as possible?

There are three fundamental things you require to achieve your goal of having an online presence:
– A domain name
– A hosting package
– A website

Domain Names
The first and most important thing to say about domain names is that it is crucial that you purchase your own domain name. Do not let anybody else purchase it on your behalf no matter how easy it is to do or how simple it makes the whole process. Anybody who owns a domain has the ability to sell it, close any website on the domain down or redirect the domain to another website. Letting somebody else purchase your domain is similar to giving that person the keys to your office or the password to your office PC.

What do you do if you are already in this position? Well the best solution is to visit the following website, https://who.is/ . Type in your domain name and search for the results. In the results section, look for the details of the registrar. This is the business where your domain has been purchased. Go to that registrar’s website and create your own account with them and then contact the person who bought the domain name for you and ask them to transfer the domain to your account. It is easiest and quickest if you have an account with the registrar, as this makes the transfer an internal one which is simpler to process.

Here are some other things you should consider when purchasing your domain name:

1. The Actual Name – Ideally your domain name will include your business name and maybe even a keyword that relates to your business. Try and think how you will tell people what your domain is and make sure it is easy to say and more importantly understand if you hear it. A domain name that you have to either spell or explain is not ideal. Likewise look at any domain name you are interested in and see if the letter configuration looks understandable and doesn’t combine letters that look odd or confusing. If words in your domain name end with the same letter as the next word starts can look a bit odd when displayed. Try and avoid using hyphens in the domain name as well as this will become a bit of a mouthful when you are trying to tell people what your domain name is.

2. The TLD (Top Level Domain) – For most businesses in the UK, the .co.uk TLD will be the most useful, relevant and popular. The explosion of websites though has led to there being lots of new TLD being made available and some of these may be appealing to you, and might make some sense in having. Likewise, if your business is International, then .com TLD may be of interest. It is worth exploring each of the TLDs to see if there are live websites on them. If you purchase the .co.uk TLD of a domain and there is a competitive live website on the .com TLD, this may cause you problems later in your business life. It is worth mentioning at this stage that you can have multiple TLDs for your domain name and have them all point to your website, this means that no matter which TLD (that you own) any visitor of your uses, they will be directed to your website.

3. Registrars – There are several different registrars you can buy domains from. I won’t list any here as they are all findable by searching in Google. It is worth making you aware that domain name prices are initially fixed by a regulatory body called ICANN, but after that, prices can vary and registrars offer sales and discounts at various times. Once you decide on the domain name(s) you want, you will be given a choice as to how long you want to purchase the domain name for. Minimum contract for a .co.uk domain is 1 year but most deals are based upon a 2 year deal. You can however purchase a .co.uk for up to 10 years before needing to renew it. There is no practical benefit in buying for a longer or shorter period, but what is sensible is to make sure the domain names you purchase are set to auto-renew. This means you don’t have to worry about ever losing your domain by forgetting to renew it.

Hosting Packages
Most domain registrars will offer you a hosting package when you purchase your domain(s). They make it very easy to put these two items together, but you don’t have to take this option, and in some cases, you would be wiser to avoid this choice. There are two basic types of hosting package.

1. Shared Hosting – This is the cheapest of hosting packages and means that your website will be located on a server that is shared with a number of other websites. The benefits of this option are that it is cheap and easy solution and suitable for many basic websites. The downside is that your website is a bedfellow with a range of other websites that you have no control or knowledge of, and it is possible that your website will not load as quickly as it would if it was on a VPS hosting package.

2. VPS Hosting – Most hosting companies offer one super sized server that they have divided up into standard servers of their own. If you purchase a VPS hosting package, you will have your own partition of this super sized server and no other website will have access to your partition. This is the middle ground when it comes to pricing, but does offer you more control, security and probably speed that your website can use. This account will be perfect for larger websites and maybe ecommerce website with a large number of products. You can also put more than one of your websites on this type of hosting package if you had them.

3. Dedicated Server – The highest cost of the three options and this is exactly what the name implies. You have your own physical machine within the hosting company you are using. No other client will have access to the server and you can use it for as many of your websites as you wish.

As with domains, every hosting company has different price ranges and will also offer various add-ons that will increase the prices. It will be wise to speak with your chosen web designer who will be able to advise you and assist you with the decisions you need to make with regards to hosting.

Website
If you are reading this guide, then this is the part you are probably going to be most interested in. Website design has moved forward in significant leaps and bounds in terms of ease of creation and availability. It is highly likely that the website you end up with for your business will be created using a CMS (Content Management System) software. The most popular of these CMS systems by a significant margin is WordPress. However, you could consider Joomla, Bootstrap and Magento to name another three. All have their pros and cons, but for the purpose of this guide, I am going to focus on WordPress websites.

View WordPress as the skeleton for your website. It is the guts of the website, doing all of the complicated actions to make sure your website is displayed when your domain name is typed into a browser. WordPress is open-source which means it is free of charge and you should never entertain a web designer who wants to charge you for using this CMS package. Being open-source, WordPress has attracted numerous technical people who have created themes and plugins for WordPress that make it prettier to use and more effective for any visitors. View the themes as the skin of your skeleton and the plugins the clothing you would wear to make your website more appealing.

1. Themes – There are three types of theme that you could consider.
a. Free Themes – Search the term “Free WordPress Theme” and you will be inundated in options. The reality is that you should avoid free themes for many reasons. Firstly, being free doesn’t mean better. The coding may not be written as fluently as it should be, the theme may not be supported for any future updates of WordPress which means your site could break when you next update WordPress. Secondly, some more unscrupulous individuals will insert malicious code into a free theme that can compromise your site and give you significant issues. Finally, the chance that a free theme will meet your exact requirements for your website is slim and changing it to accommodate your requirements may be difficult.

b. Premium Themes – If “Free WordPress Theme” gave you plenty of options when searched, then “Premium WordPress Theme” will also give you plenty of choice. The fundamental problem with a premium theme is that the creator will have tried to make his theme appeal to as many different types of business as possible. This means that the theme could be full of excess items that are not going to be required by your website. An accomplished web designer will be able to remove some of this excess, but it is possible that not all can even be removed. The other issue with a theme of any type is that unless you purchase exclusivity for a theme, then you can be sure that you will find other websites that look familiar to yours. Many web designers claim they are designers, but just use a premium theme and then tweak them as requested. This solution is fine but you may have issues if you ask for certain changes to be made that may not be possible within the premium theme that you have chosen.

c. “Blank Sheet” Themes – There are a couple of themes that are considered as being blank sheets. In other words the design is built from the ground up. Each aspect of the design is built to your exact requirements. You get the best of both worlds with this type of theme in that you can have your designer use a premium theme as a guide, but have control over every aspect of the overall layout.

2. Plugins – If the theme you choose sets the layout of the site, then the plugins will give your website some background and some foreground benefits and interaction capabilities. It is worth remembering though that the more plugins you have installed, the more work your hosting package has to do to run them and this may potentially lead to a slower loading time for your website. Your web designer should be able to advise you as to which plugins are indispensable, which are helpful and which should be avoided.

What to ask your Web Designer
There are several questions that you need to get acceptable answers to from any web designer you are considering to work with.

  1. Can you show me some examples of the websites you have created?
  2. Can you supply me with some references from your current client base?
  3. What CMS package do you primarily use to create websites?
  4. Do you use premium themes or do you create a theme from scratch?
  5. Will my website be responsive (mobile friendly)?
  6. What type of hosting do you suggest my site will require?
  7. What other services will be included in the creation of my website?
    1. Will it be optimised for my keywords?
    2. Will it be optimised for speed of page loading?
    3. Will it be secured to maximise my protection from hackers?

I hope this guide has helped clear the confusion and fog around some of the issues you will face when getting a website for your business.

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