Website Tips for Beginners
New to the idea of having a website designed for your club, business or hobby? It can be easy to get confused with the all jargon many website designers can use; often to make simple things sound more difficult than they need to be. Below, you will find some straight forward explanations for terms you may get to hear quite a lot if you are searching for a solution for your website.
Check out the competition
Its important to know who you are up against. If you are lucky, you may be the only person with a website offering what you do. But its more likely that there will be other people offering the same service or product. Investigate the competition and explore their websites to see the sort of information they offer and the websites they have links on. Ultimately, you’ll want to do a better job and get your website listed on the same websites, and more… Don’t be afraid to be different. If every website looked the same, the internet would be a pretty uninteresting place. Work out what the other websites are missing – find a niche in the market, or a way to stand out.
Don’t be a copycat
Never be tempted to copy other peoples text. Even if you have permission to. Google looks for unique content. It will know if the text you have used is the same as a previous website, and simply ignore the page. Always write your own, original text and be as informative as possible. Remember to include the keywords you want to be found for whenever writing text for a specific page, or creating a description of your website.
DIY or call the professional?
It can be the first decision you make, that could result in being your worst further down the line. These days there are many online website builders that allow you to create your own website, just by pushing a curser around the screen. Indeed, some of these do a pretty good job such as Moonfruit or Weebly . The problem is, especially with some free online website designers, you are limited with the technical control you have over how the website works, which can effect how well your website appears in search results. If you are on a budget, and happy to just have a web page or two to refer people to, then there is nothing wrong with using a DIY Website Builder. But, to get on Google you, or your future website designer will need to access files and edit areas on your website that may not be available to you. Also, if you have some special requirements, such as an e-commerce website, forum or need a website that can be viewed on a mobile phone, having a website professionally designed may be the only answer.
Having a website built for you wont necessarily be expensive. It does ofcourse depend on how tailored you required your website to be. If you are happy for your designer to use a pretty standard layout, with nothing especially bespoke, you may pay from as little as £100 upwards. If you have some very specific requirements and need a website to exactly reflect your design brief, you could pay several thousands.
Choosing a Domain Name
You cant have a website, without a domain name. A domain name is the web address or ‘URL’ that someone types into their address bar to view your website. For example, www.bbc.co.uk or www.facebook.com .
Your domain name does not have to be exactly the same as your company name. You can use it to abbreviate your company name eg, www.bt.com (for British Telecom) or to be more memorable eg, www.diy.co.uk (for BandQ). Either way, a domain name must always be as short as possible and easy for people to remember and spell.
When you are registering a domain name, you will need to choose if your website is a .co.uk or a .com. If you a UK club or business, and only intend to promote your website or business to people in the UK, you should use a domain name ending in .co.uk . If you are wanting to reach a further audience, or maybe supply internationally, you should use a .com. If you find one is available, and the other is’nt – you should consider using a different domain name for your website. It can cause confusion for your customers and search engines if there are two websites with the same domain name, but ending in either .com , .co.uk or otherwise.
Never use over complicated ways of spelling a name or excessive use of dashes or lines to separate words. Before you settle on a domain name, write it down – visualise it on your stationary, vehicle or an advert. Consider when you are giving someone your web address over the phone or in conversation. Is it easy to remember or spell and write down?
You can buy your own domain for between £5 and £10 per year from many reputable companies based in the UK. You can also ask your website designer to register it for you too. What is very important is that the domain name is registered to you, just incase you should ever need to change anything. Always check the person registering a domain name on your behalf has your correct name and address. For example, if a website designer registers your domain name in his own name, then designs your website for you too only to later go away without any warning – you may never be able to gain control if your website, without proving you are the legal owner.
Its important to renew your domain name each year. If you don’t, it will be open for anyone else to register and use on a different website – resulting in your website not working.
Much like a domain name; you cannot have a website without hosting. A website needs to be accessed by other internet users. For this, it needs to be stored on what is called a Server. It may be your website can be designed on a laptop or computer ‘offline’ , but then is later uploaded to a server so you, and billions of other browsers can view it. This is called ‘Hosting’. Ideally, your hosting will be supplied by the same person as your domain name. You should check the hosting package you buy is suitable for your needs. For example, if you are running a busy e-commerce website or forum for a club, then a cheap hosting package may be too slow and unable to process the data. A small, single paged website with just text and pictures, on the other hand, doesn’t need an expensive hosting package with hundreds of extra features. A basic hosting package may cost as little as £1 per month, with a more professional package costing between £5 or £10. The difference between hosting packages will usually be how fast your website will run, how big your website can be and also if you can have an email account with it. Make sure the company you buy your hosting from is based in the same country and your website. For example, if you are in the UK, check they are in the UK too.
Most good website designers will be able to offer you a package that includes a domain name and website hosting and save you the hassle of setting this up yourself.
Types of website
There are essentially three types of website. A static website is the most basic option, and usually the cheapest to have designed. It can include the text, images and contact information you require, including links to other websites etc, but you cannot edit the website yourself. This is fine for people who do not expect to want to update the website frequently. When required, a website designer will need to perform the updates, which may come at an additional cost and ofcourse cannot always be done instantly. A CMS, or Content Managed Website is ideal for businesses and clubs who need a website that is easy to update and expand. Via a password protected admin area, the website owner can easily edit pages, add new images and create new pages instantly. CMS websites are usually more adaptable too, and can be upgraded to feature more functions such as a forum, gallery, directory and so on. Lastly, and E-Commerce Website provides business owners with a platform from where they can sell an almost unlimited number of products. They are able to add and edit products, pictures and prices as well as set special offers and print and manage customer orders. Customers can browse products, add items to their cart and pay securely online.
All three websites are very different in how they are designed, and cannot easily be changed later. So its important you opt for the style of website that is going to suit you in the long term, to avoid having to pay to have a new website designed several months later.
In recent times, its become more important than ever to have a website that can be view on a mobile phone, or smaller screen such as an iPad or other tablet. Some styles and designs of website are difficult to view on mobile devices.
Check with your website designer that your website will be Mobile Optimised or ‘Responsive’. This will ensure your visitors can easily see your website while on their mobile phone.
Choosing a website designer
The type of designer you need will reflect on the style of website you require. For large, bespoke and custom web projects you will most certainly need a professional web development company, typically who run from offices you can visit to discuss your needs in finer detail. For smaller websites, a more practical solution is finding either home based designers or one who works from a smaller office. This way, you can be confident you are not paying to subsidise a company with large overheads, and typically get better value for money and a personal service.
A key to picking a good website designer from another, is naturally to search in Google. Assuming you are looking for someone local, search for “Website Designers in….” and pay more attention to the results that appear in the centre of the page, rather than the adverts that pay to appear at the very top and side. The way Google shows these results is based on well it ranks the website rather than how much they have been paid.
When on the designers website, look for customer feedback or testimonials, examples of their work and see how upfront they are with their prices too. Check to see they have the usual methods of contact, ideally an email and a phone number.
Lastly, email the designer via their website with your requirements. See how long they take to reply and how helpful they are. You will be depending on their support by email quite a bit should you choose them as your designer, so this will give you a good example of what to expect.
How will people find your website?
Many people assume once they have a website, there is nothing else they need to do. The truth is, having a website designed is only the very start. Once your new website is online, you need to work hard at promoting it to make sure people and search engines know you are ready for business. This is called Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.
You will need to understand your keywords. These are words and phrases that describe what your website and each page is about. As you are creating the content for each page on your website, you must ensure you include your keywords in the text you type. If you do not mention the words you expect to be found for on Google, then Google wont show your website in search results.
Your website designer will also need to understand what your keywords are too, so they can be incorporated into the work that is done to optimise your website for Google, Yahoo and Bing etc.
But one of the most important aspects of getting your website promoted on search engines is making sure you get as many other websites as you can to link to it. You should add links to your website from local directories, nationwide websites, forums, blogs and ofcourse social media such as Facebook and Twitter etc. The more you do, the higher it will rank. As more and more websites link to yours, the higher it will show in search results when people browse the web for what you have to offer.
When you are entering the details of your website on other directories, remember to include your keywords in the description.
Ultimately, its best to have a free result on Google. But sometimes, especially if a website has a lot of competition, your free result may not appear high in the results. There is a way to you can pay Google to show your website on page one, from the day your website goes live. These are called Adwords. You can set a daily budget, and give Google a list of keywords you want your website to show up for. The more you are willing to pay per click, the higher your website will appear. This method of advertising can take some practice, and it may take you a while to work out the budget that is best suited to you. Google offers some useful advice the first time you create an advert, but if you are still unsure, it may pay you to get the help of a website designer.
Have a little patience
Remember, success wont come overnight. A website takes time to become established online – and from day one, you will up against websites that have been around for much longer than yours.
Keep at it; promote your website the best you can and your hard work will pay off.
Best of luck.