UNDERSTANDING WEBSITE BASICS

As a business owner you are an expert in your field. Are you a website design and development expert? Most likely not if it isn't your field. That's okay. There are plenty of easy to learn and use DIY website platforms available. Before you sign-up for one, make sure you have everything you need in order. Understanding the basics must come first

Your Business Domain Name

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is the URL (universal resource locator) or website address (i.e. www.prosper-suite.com). In the U.S. there are several top-level domain options available (.com, .net, .info, .org). In addition to these top-level options there are also country code domains (.us - USA, .uk – United Kingdom, .me - Montenegro).

fb.me/prospersuite =facebook.com/prospersuite

Some companies have opted to use top-level country code domains to fully spell out a name (i.e. Blo.gs, Del.icio.us, or Fb.me – Facebook’s shortcut URL – try fb.me/prospersuite and it will redirect you to facebook.com/prospersuite). Additionally, over the next few years the industry-based options will become available (.travel, .pro, .museum, etc.).

Domain Name Tips

It is important to remember that your domain name is an asset and a public face for your company. It should represent your brand as much as the name of your company.

MainStreetShop.com

If you only have one domain name it should be (Your Business Name) + (.com). Keep your domain name short and as memorable possible. If someone could mis-pronounce or misspell your domain name, consider registering all the variations (i.e. illustrate.com, illusstrait.com, illusstraight.com).

If (Your Business Name) + (.com) is not available:

  • If you have the means and opportunity, purchase your business name ($50-$100K)
  • Try adding a location - YourBusinessNameNYC.com
  • Always try to register a .com if your business is commercial. Register a .org if your business is a non-profit. These are easier for potential clients to remember.
  • DO NOT add a 1 or any number at the end - business1.com
  • .NET is difficult for customers to remember. They will try up to 5 versions of a .COM domain and less than 10% will think to try .NET before giving up.

How Do I Create My Domain Name?

Your website is a public face of your company and services or products. You have three seconds to gain the trust of a potential client. When you are creating your website, consider:

You must register your domain name with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). However, you do not register your domain with ICANN directly. You must use a third-party provider.

Tip: Register your domain with a different company than you will host your website. It is a standard in website security to not put all of your eggs in one digital basket. 

Our top pick for domain registration is Namecheap.

Registration Process Tips

During the registration process you will be asked if you wish to make the registration public or private. If you select public, anyone can access the contact details associated with the domain name, however, some SEO experts say it aids in improving your SEO ranking. If you want to hide your contact information, select private and the registration company’s contact information will be shown instead. Private registration usually is an additional fee.

Once, you’ve registered your domain name make sure you “LOCK” the domain. A locked domain cannot be transferred to an unauthorized person or company. An unlocked account gives other people the opportunity to hold your business website hostage.


Business Web Hosting

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is rented space from an Internet hosting service for space on their server that is connected to the Internet. Some companies host their own website, but I’m not going to go in depth on this due to the high cost and technical specifics.

There are several web hosting providers that cost nothing to several hundred a month depending on your needs.

Tip: Remember to host your website with a company different from your domain registation company.

Our top pick for website hosting is Siteground. Siteground provides WordPress specific services. They also provide hosting for other types of websites. With one fee you receive a lot of services, including email.

Key Factors when Choosing a Service Provider?

There are a lot of factors to consider when you choose a provider. Unfortunately, many providers hide their true cost... until they bill you. Make sure to read the fine print and not just their services comparison chart.

Our favorite tip is to fully read the Terms and Conditions box. That is the easiest place to find the extra fees.

  • Cost per month; including add-on fees for email or traffic (bandwidth)
  • Reliability and Uptime (amount of time your website is available)
  • Amount of Disk Space
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    Email management
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    Databases
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    E-commerce Availability
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    SSL Certificates (cost can be included or additional)
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    Shared or Dedicated Servers

Website Set-up

Use a Template with a Website Builder

Website Builders usually include a monthly fee or an advertisement based free option. The two options below do not require independent website hosting. You may also be able to register your domain with these companies, however, we do not recommend it.

Squarespace is by far the most beautiful DIY website builder that comes with pre-made templates. Their design aesthetic is minimal and modern. The drawbacks are they charge à la carte for services that are standard on other platforms. If you need a quick website, try Squarespace. But switch platforms by the end of the first year.

Wix has a free option but requires their branding on your website. If your website is for your small business, do not choose this option. Look at the non-branded option when you are comparison shopping. We've had numerous clients lose their entire website. It has been a few years, so we do not know if this is still an issue.

Build from Scratch with a Designer or DIY

The major upside is you fully own and control your website aka your content. You don't realize how vital this is until your website goes down and customer service tells you, "Sorry, the system lost it. Your content is no longer available. You are free to make a new website. Is there anything else I can help you with?" Uh... yeah, I want my content back. I don't need a new service as the one I currently have clearly doesn't work. (true story)

You can also hire a Web Designer and Programmer. As individual freelancers, most charge a one-time fee that is either a flat or hourly rate. The WordPress platform is free, but requires customization -- and usually a couple dozen hours or more to work and look great.

WordPress began as a blogging platform, but has grown to be the most adaptable website builder. It is open source, so if there is a function you need, most likely someone else needed it too and built it. WordPress.org is our preferred platform. NOTE: This is different from WordPress.com. WordPress.org is downloaded and managed by you on your Website Hosting account.

WordPress comes with a basic, free setup. The beauty of the platform is that you can customize it. We highly recommend Thrive Themes Architect as your on-page, true drag-n-drop content builder. You will actually be able to build your website to look the way you want it to look. (Works like SquareSpace or Wix, but with a ton more options.)

What Does Your Website Say About Your Company

Your website is a public face of your company and services or products. You have three seconds to gain the trust of a potential client. When you are creating your website, consider:

  • Does your website represent your brand?
  • Does your website convey credibility and professionalism?
  • Does the visitor know that they have reached the correct website?

Website Design

A Stanford University study found that design instilled more credibility than awards, certificates, and privacy policies. What is the look and feel of your website?

Your color scheme should appeal to your audience and compliment your logo. A good rule of thumb in design is to stick with a five color palette. One of the colors should be your white and one is your black.

One of our favorite color scheme tools is Coolors by Skillshare. Explore color palettes for inspiration to begin to narrow down your five colors. Start locking colors as you find each one. You can slightly adjust colors, find alternative shades, or search for a random color if you aren't sure. Once your palette is complete, remember to save your work.

Simplify Content

We are all overloaded with content, so it is time to simplify your homepage, products/ services, website navigation, and the amount of text on your website.

Can your content say more with less words? Whip out the delete button and fine tune your content. Focus on brevity and your audience, then your SEO keywords.

Content and social media play a massive role in modern-day search engine optimization (SEO). Search rankings are based heavily on popularity, webpage shares and views. If a blog is not a part of your website, it is time to figure out how to launch one and sustain it.

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    Easy navigation at the top
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    Concise structure that moves left to right and top to bottom
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    Easy to read text. Consider the size and color.
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    Avoid clutter
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    Use short paragraphs

Embrace Responsive Design

Responsive Design means that a website’s framework changes based on the device of the user.

2015 will see mobile search reach the tipping point—the stage at which the majority of spend, organic traffic and paid clicks comes from smartphones and tablets, surpassing traditional desktop/laptop search activity, according to a new eMarketer report, “Key Digital Trends for 2015: What’s in Store—and Not in Store—for the Coming Year.”

Improve Images and Multimedia

High-quality photography and graphics are worth the investment. Your audience’s first impression of your business is usually with images either on your website or in social media. Large images are very trendy, but they must be used with caution because it can also affect your search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. Large pictures means huge files, which decreases the time it takes for the page to display.

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    Make them complimentary to your color scheme and layout
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    Use to reinforce a message and break-up dense text
  • NEVER auto-play music as 93% of all people leave websites with automatic music
  • Avoid unnecessary animations and gadgets

You can learn more about taking your own or finding photos in our photography posts below.

Where to Start

If you are putting together your first website, it is okay to just want to get the first draft online. If you can afford a web designer and programmer, hire them right away so you can build your team. Websites always take more time than you expect.

You should expect a website to take up to six months from start to finish. Three months is a usual amount of time. There are usually three phases: Design, Development, and Testing.

Design is creating the look and feel of the website, as well as, the user experience.

Development is the coding of the website to meet and match the design and function. Content creation also happens during this phase - text and images.

Testing requires the website to be viewed on multiple devices and website browsers. Any typos and coding errors are fixed. This phase ends with the launch of the website.

As a business owner, your focus should be on the content and not learning a new skill. If you can't afford a team yet, you can start with a Website Builder to minimize your to-do list. Eventually you may want to switch to a DIY system, but at least by then you will have a clear vision of what your website looks like and functions.

Potential Hires:

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    Website Designer
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    Website Developer
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    Website Copywriter
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    Photographer
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    Graphic Designer

Read More About User Experience

10 Steps to an Engaging User Experience | Creativebloq
"Ask yourself if your design would work on a tablet. If the answer is yes, you already have the two basic building blocks in place for a strong user experience: clear hierarchy and intuitive way finding."