March 28, 2012

Getting Started

Ok. So you have chosen and registered a Domain Name (or placed a “hold” on that name) . You are going to need a Hosting Company soon but it might be better to wait for that decision until you have decided exactly what services you need from them before signing a contract. Not all Hosting companies are equal! Cheaper is not always better. Expensive is not always better either.

Whether  you design your new website yourself or you hire professional,  the first thing you have to consider when planning your website is your GOAL!.

What is it that you want to accomplish with this website?

  •  Do you simply want to let people know that you exist and how to get in touch with you?
  • Do you need a map?
  • What services you offer?
  • Do you want to sell products online? Will this will require a shopping cart?
  • Do you want to have a forum where people can discuss various topics, give feedback or opt-in to a newsletter or special promotions?
  • Will you need constant updates, or will it remain more or less the same over time?
  • Who is your target market?
  • Will you need a gallery or portfolio?
  • Will you need a calendar?

 

These are some of the questions you must ask yourself. The answers will determine  if you need a static or a dynamic website, what services you need from your Host and whether or not you will be able to build it yourself.

If you want a dynamic site you will need a hosting company that can provide the security you need and a reliable interface with both the programming language you use and the type of database you use. For online sales you will need a merchant account and either a gateway for credit card transactions or a payment processor like Paypal to accept payments. It can get a little tricky so if you need a dynamic site perhaps your best choice would be to hire a professional although there may be hosting companies that will walk you through it. Either way, make sure they have excellent customer service!

I would say that at least half of the total time spent on a project like this is spent on the planning. That is not unusual. The better you plan, the easier the execution of the final project.

You have to decide what you want your website to look like. Is it modern or classic? formal or familiar?  Do you want to project a professional  image? or do you want a smoky, artsy, and moody site? or maybe you want it bright and happy. These are very important things to consider.  One way to focus your thoughts is to find samples of sites that you like and make a note of them.

It is also important to give some thought to the copy. What you say will have a huge impact on your potential customers. If you can’t write it yourself you may consider hiring a professional copywriter. A successful online store has copy that makes the product leap off the page. Your customers can’t pick something up and hold it in their hands so the words must make it seem real to them and help them decide this is the item they want to purchase. Similarly, they can’t walk into your office and meet you face to face so the copy on your webpage must convince them that you are trustworthy, knowledgeable and the kind of person they want to do business with. Do you plan to educate? Who will write the articles you want posted? Most likely you will have to do that yourself but if you use someone else’s you must have permission.

Another factor is the graphics. Do you have an existing Logo? Do you want photographs or other images ? Do you have your own pictures or do you need a photographer to take them for you?

The layout of your website also needs to be thought through. You need a clear and logical layout so visitors can find what they want easily. You will quickly lose them if they have to hunt all over for what they are looking for. Don’t bury your contact info and hours of operation 3 layers down. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you if they have any questions or concerns. Assure them of your security and privacy policy and find a place to introduce yourself and your company to them.

I hope this is not overwhelming. As I said, the planning if half the effort. If you have someone designing and building your website for you, they will ask the questions and propose solutions and all you have to do is give them your answers. This website will represent you to the world! isn’t that worth the effort?

I have used a lot of question marks this week. Sorry about that, but you must do the same in the planning stage of developing your new website. You are welcome to contact me directly if you have any questions you want to ask me. (olwen@sandstoneweb.ca)

Next time I will talk about templates vs unique design. See you then!

Olwen

Sandstone Studios Web Solutions

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Choosing a Domain Name

A Domain name is basically the title and address of your website.  For that reason it is  very important.  The first consideration when deciding on a domain name should be to think of something that is representative of your company. Your company name may be perfect but it may be too long. You want the name to include  something  that indicates what your website is all about. If you provided accounting services for example, the word accounting could be in the domain name. If the name is  too long there is the chance of typing errors which can send your clients off into the vast labyrinth of the internet and you may never see them again! Keep this in mind:

“Short. Sweet. To the point. Easy-to-Remember.”

For example, my business name is Sandstone Studios Web Solutions but my domain name is simply sandstoneweb.ca.

Once you have decided on a name you will have to register it with a designated registrar. This is important because someone has to keep track of all the names out there and make sure each one is unique and you want reassurance that the company is authorized to do this. There are stand-alone registrars, but often the bigger and more reliable hosting companies offer this service as well and that is handy because you then don’t have to transfer the name to that company when you are ready to GO LIVE.

You will need to  spend some time researching if your choice is available online.

Here are some domain names you might be familiar with:

Choosing a suffix for your name

The most common endings for domain names are .com, .net, and .org.

There are also country codes such as .ca (canada), .uk (United Kingdom), and .jp (Japan). There rules for registering these country code extensions specific to each country or territory but generally they are reserved for citizens of the corresponding country. If your choice of a name is not available as a .com you may decide on one of the other endings. Keep in mind that .net is usually for large corporations and .org is often a non-profit organization.

Next time I will talk about getting started developing your website.

See you then!

Olwen

Sandstone Studios Web Solutions

Almost everyone knows how to use the internet these  days.  Whether you want to play poker or find out when the ferries are running, you have a pretty good idea how to do that. You are familiar with the whole process as a user or visitor to various websites. Now that you are thinking about being the owner of  a website, you are going to find yourself on the other side of that process. Do you know what  the World Wide Web is and how it works? Let me explain it for you in simple terms.

First of all the “internet” and the “world wide web” are not the same thing. The internet is the global interconnection of computer networks. The entire internet is like one gigantic, sprawling agreement between companies to inter-communicate freely. The world wide web is a way to navigate this massive network. There are LARGE national and regional  internet service providers (ISP’s) that provide the physical backbones of the system; for example fiber optics, undersea cables, satellite links etc.  When you access the web at home you are getting your information from a local ISP or service provider. You talk to a web server  by opening a browser on your desktop. There are many different browsers available free of charge. These include Google, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari to mention the most common. You enter the name of what you are searching for in their search boxes and voila! a list appears of possible matches and you choose the one you want to look at.  If you know the “address” you can enter that in the empty bar at the top of the page and go directly to that website. This bar is called the URL or uniform resource locator. A typical address has http:// www. at the beginning and an extension at the end like .com or .ca (more about extensions later). Sometimes it is not necessary to type in the http:// part as the browser fills it in for you.

But how to all those websites get there? I may have built a website on my home computer but how do I then publish it so that people can find it by doing a search? Where do you get an “address” so people can type it into their browser and find my business?

The first thing you must do is register a unique Domain Name with an approved registrar. There is a small annual fee associated with this. The next step is to find a Hosting Company. There is another larger fee for this as well.  Some web design companies include these fees in their prices. When your website has been created and is ready to Go Live it will be uploaded to your chosen host and your clients will be able to see it!  Cool eh? I will talk about some of the finer concideration when choosing a domain name in my next post.

See you then! – Olwen

Anyone who has a small business or a business out of their home needs to be on the internet. There are still a few people who search the old yellow pages of their telephone book to find a company or product but not many. Increasingly, they find what they are looking for by typing a word in the search box of their computer or smart phone.  It may still be viable to pay for ads in the local paper but that is expensive and reaches a limited audience. Small business owners can’t afford to pay for big newspaper, magazine, radio or television ads. It makes more sence to use their limited budget on a website and to list on well-chosen directories to reach their target audience.

How do you go about getting a website? If you don’t know much about computers, even setting up a free blog like this one can be daunting. My new company, Sandstone Studios Web Solutions, is set up to walk you through the confusion and get you started with a customized and affordable website.

I will be blogging about the process for the benefit of “first timers” who don’t know all the lingo or even how the internet works.  My next post will explain how the world wide web works and answer some questions like “What is a domain name?” and “What do you mean by a Hosting Company?”

See you then! – Olwen