Whether you are planning an overhaul to an existing site with a new designer or building a website for the first time, understanding the following details will lay the groundwork for you and your team to work with efficiency as you build the communications hub of your business.
Where Does Your Website Live?
A domain name is the address where your website lives on the internet.(ex. http://www.xyzcompany.com). If you already have a website then you already have a domain name. Domain names are purchased on an annual basis through companies like GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Rick’s Cheap Domains. You can also purchase domain names in blocks of time such as 3, 5 and 10 years packages. The more years you purchase up front the lower the cost becomes on an annual basis.
For first time domain name purchasers I suggest writing out a few different domain names you would consider for your address. You may not get your first choice so it is good to have a backup plan. My website domain name was a bit of a compromise(www.visual-clarity.com). I did not want the hyphen in there but the unhyphenated version was not available at the time I was ready to purchase. When it became available the price was just too steep. The hyphen grew on me and once people book marked the site, remembering to type the hyphen symbol was not the concern I thought it would be at the time.
The most common domains out there end with .com but there are at least a dozen extensions out there you can purchase such as .info, .org, .biz, etc. The .com extension mainly signifies the address leads to a commerce site. A .org extension is generally used by organizations and .info has been used for more informational sites. When it is time to purchase your domain name you will be given the option of purchasing your domain name with multiple extensions (xyz company.com, xyzcompany.org, etc). There is not an overwhelming need to do this and it can become pricey overhead to carry because each extension is considered a unique domain name.
Choosing your domain name is more art than science. It is, for all practical purposes, a first impression of your website so you want to make sure that it represents you and your company in name or occupation.
Buying Storage Space for Your Website
A hosting package is the space you purchase for storing the pages, graphics, photos and videos that create your website. Hosting packages come in different shapes and sizes with pricing determined by how much space you need to store files and how much traffic you expect to visit your domain address to view those files. Your hosting package may be purchased through the same company as your domain name or through a different company. Take into account the type of website you are building (business, information, video streaming) and, if you already have a website, its size and current traffic rate. It is always wise to buy a little more space than you need and do so with the comfort that you can always buy more space as your website and number of visitors grow.
The sky is the limit as far as content for your website goes. You can have graphics, videos and blogs. Your site can provide visitors with information, tutorials and product demonstrations, testimonials and shopping carts if you have items for sale. Include all of these items or just a few of them but never more than what makes sense for conveying your message to your audience and achieving the level of interaction desired for your business.
Start with deciding what sections your site will offer. There are givens on all sites such as a home page, a contact page and an about page. Commerce sites will have a products page and even some non-profits will have a similar page for registering for services or classes. If your site is purely informational you may have sections dedicated to different topics. Deciding how many sections and pages is needed for a site comes down to simply listing all the topics and subtopics you wish to cover and how much detail you will be providing for each.
When it comes to writing copy, use words sparingly. Yes, I recognize the humor in this statement as I type my way well into page 2 of this blog post. Most people who visit websites want to be able to get the gist of things in a 30 second or less scan. So keep your topics well organized and your copy short, sweet, in bullet points where possible and provide a link to lengthier copy if needed (like a blog).
Photos and Graphics
A picture speaks a thousand words so if you can say it with a photo, graph or animation, do it! The visual eye candy not only breaks up text that can be overwhelming in a lump sum but it also dynamically enhances your message. A photo can convey emotion and sometimes instruction in less time and space than the written word.
If a picture speaks a thousand words then a video is the next best thing to meeting you in person or seeing the product up close and personal. Video is a great tool for presenting your message to your audience anytime and anywhere. Greet your customers personally with a video message from you, the business owner. Let your consumers experience your product virtually with a video demonstration. Let them hear from satisfied customers with video testimonials.
A website is a dynamic tool that can be scaled up and scaled down as needed. It is better to start off small with a clear, engaging website and expand it slowly where it makes sense.
There is far too much to address in this post when talking about social media. There are a variety of social media sites out there that allow you to connect with your audience in a variety of ways. They all have their unique features, levels of privacy and require varying levels of interaction and response from you. Look at your options carefully and only engage in a social media site if it makes sense for your business. Social media provides avenues for you to reach your audience, hear from your audience and drive viewers back to your site. If you are not committed to maintaining those avenues of communication there is little point in opening them in the first place.
A website is an evolving entity. As your business changes your website should reflect those changes appropriately in content. A good design is crisp, dynamic and provides a well-organized structure for your content. Maintaining and updating the content is often overlooked in design plans. What you do with a site after it is designed is just as important as your plans for the actual site design.
Consider what sections of your site will require content updates and how often this will need to be done? Consider any social media services you are using such as Facebook, YouTube or WordPress and how those will be updated and integrated to your website. Will your designer also perform this ongoing site maintenance or will this be done by you or your staff? A maintenance plan should be considered while planning the design of your site. While typically a separate budget line item, considering ongoing maintenance will assist you in your long term budgeting of funds and staff time.
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