I need a website – where do I start?

So you’ve finally decided that you need a website for your new business, or a new website for your existing business. But it can be a bit difficult to know where to start, right? We help you to understand what’s involved, and how to go about it.

To set up a website on the internet, there are basically 3 things that you need:

1. A domain name
2. A hosting service
3. The website itself

1. Domain Name

The domain name is the address of your website (for example outerbridge.co.uk). You need to buy a domain name from a domain name seller (such as Outerbridge). They are usually available for one or two years at a time. When it’s time to renew, you get first refusal. It doesn’t matter what domain name you choose, as long as it’s not already bagged by someone else. But do bear in mind that shorter domain names are easier for people to type into a web browser. It’s probably best to choose something that reflects your company name, or indicates what you do. You need a website address that people are going to remember!

2. Hosting Service

For your website to appear on the internet, you need to rent some space on a server to put it on. Most hosting providers charge a monthly or annual fee to host your website. However, hosting services vary widely and there are a few really important things to consider:

Backups

You should make sure that your site is regularly backed-up, in case it ‘falls over’, or gets ‘hacked’. You don’t want to lose all your hard work. Recreating a website from scratch is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive mistake to make.

Contingency

It’s a good idea to make sure that your hosting provider has a secondary server location. Ask them if they can switch your site over to this if the first server is out of action for any reason. You need a website that is reliable, with no downtime and a high degree of availability.

Server Monitoring

Ask whether your hosting provider monitors your site on an ongoing basis. You need a website that it is always available to visitors. Also, a good developer will quickly sort out any problems with the site; sometimes even before you know about them.

Software Updates

It’s also important to ensure that the software used to run your site is regularly updated. This will ensure the smooth running of your site. It also really significantly reduces the likelihood of any security issues. You want a website that’s really secure. Unless you are really confident doing this yourself, check that your hosting provider will do this on your behalf.

Visitor Statistics

Most people like to know how many visitors their site is getting each month, so ask your hosting provider whether they will provide these statistics for you.

3. The website

The final component is the website itself. You will probably need a web developer to build the site for you (if it is a very simple site, you might want to have a go yourself). You need a website that you love, and one that works for you. Things to consider include:

Skills of the developer

Ask to see examples of their work – do you like their style, and can they deliver what you are looking for? Read comments from existing customers to see what they thought of the experience, and speak to them directly if you can. Speak to several different developers to see what they offer, whether they communicate well, and whether you think you will enjoy working with them. Check out reviews online. Google and FreeIndex are good places to start.

Cost

Prices vary widely, and so do results. Check that you are happy with the developer you have chosen by asking them the questions in this article. Get a written quote from them that details exactly what you can expect to receive. Ask for an explanation of all the costs involved. And not just for the website itself, but also the ongoing costs for the domain name and hosting if applicable.  It’s not always the case that you get what you pay for.  A better indication is whether you have a good rapport with the developer. Consider whether they offer a comprehensive or a ‘bare bones’ service which may cause you headaches in future. You need a website that will be easy to maintain and doesn’t demand constant attention from you.

Timescale

How long will it take to build your website? Make sure you know what to expect and that you are happy with what the process will entail.

Your input

Websites work best if you have a good idea of what you would like your website to look like. Consider what you would like it to achieve. Browse other sites on the internet, and note down any that particularly appeal to you (or that don’t), so that your web developer can begin to understand your taste in websites. Think about what pages you would like to have on your website. What content would you like to include (both words and images)? Some web developers (but not all) will be happy to write content for you. Are there any additional items you would like to include (e.g. your company logo, picture galleries, social media feeds or buttons, blogs, videos, sound, calendars, contact forms)? It’s also helpful for the developer to know what colours and fonts you like. But most of all, they should want to know why they are building it, so that they can make sure the website supports your business goals and objectives.

The process

Make sure you understand what to expect from the process of having your website designed and built. It usually works best if you can work collaboratively with the developer. Ask when you can see an early draft of the site – it’s much easier to sort out any changes when the site is partially built than once it is finished.

Ability to make changes

You need a website that you can easily update yourself. Your website will be much more useful to you and much more interesting to visitors if you are able to make regular content changes. By this we mean things like adding new content and pictures, showing details of special offers and posting the latest news about you or your company. Some web developers prefer to do this themselves, and will charge you each time you want something doing. Look for a web developer that provides a content management system (CMS) which is basically a dashboard area that you can use to update your own site.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

There’s no point in having a great website if no-one can find it! You need a website that’s going to appear in search engine results like Google’s. Check that your web developer will optimise your site so that search engines will be able to find it easily and index it.

Training

Look for a developer who will include training on how to use and update your site and how to get the most out of it. A good developer should also give you some basic training in SEO, so that if you update your site you will be able to make sure that search engines will rank it highly.

Still need a website? What next?

Above all, please don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good web developer will be happy to talk you through what’s involved, and will explain it all in simple terms. If you don’t understand anything, ask for clarification. Visit our websites page for more information about WordPress websites from Outerbridge.

Outerbridge provide domain names, hosting and website design/development, as well as website support packages which include everything you need to look after your website. We are always happy to discuss options with you and we explain things in simple language.  You can contact us via the contact page, give us a call on 01626 572572, or email us at contact@outerbridge.co.uk.

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