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For those of us who grew up having to ask a clever person or find a book in a library to answer our questions, we really have come a long way. Today, Google handles 3.5 billion searches per day, that’s about 40,000 every second. We no longer use those heavy books like Yellow Pages or Thompson Local Directories to find businesses; it’s all online. The recent changes due to Covid-19 have pushed more businesses to get online. While some businesses have had to start from scratch, others have been working on increasing their presence with SEO, Social Media and Blogging. If you are one of those just starting out, you may find the following information informative and useful.

Using a Web Designer

Maybe you simply don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do a DIY build and create your own site, or maybe you trust that someone who does the job day-in and day-out is going to go a better job than you. Whatever you decide, here are some things to think about:

Is there such thing as a ‘FREE’ website?

Yes, absolutely! There are many great tools for building your own website and if you are looking to get a website ready super-fast and free, then WordPress and Wix are probably the best. Who doesn’t love a freebie?  There is usually a catch, right? It could mean having adverts on your site, a limit to the number of pages, or a lack features and control with the design. Once you have invested your time in finding this out, it often feels too late to change. You might also find that there is a cost to use your own domain name and for the additional nice features you like, such as premium themes or Search Engine Optimisation. If you decide you want to move your site elsewhere, this may be difficult to do. My advice would be to try it out without investing hours of your time; see how easy you find it and what the limitations and costs are. Then start putting the real content in and invest lots of time knowing you will get it right.

Need some images? Here are a couple of good free images sites: pexels.com and pixabay.com

Domain Names

If you purchase the domain name yourself you have control over where your site is located and if you need to move to another company or host at any point you have the ability to do that as you have full ownership. Just remember to keep your payment details up-to-date with the registrar so that your domain name auto-renews, otherwise your site and email could suddenly go down. Go Daddy and 123-Reg are good companies to use. When choosing a domain name, if you can get some of your keywords in your domain name, this can be beneficial, but but not essential.  It is best to keep the name short as it will be easier to remember and  type. If you cannot find  the name you want,  try it with hyphens in e.g. my-domain-name.co.uk.

If you are wondering… .co.uk implies you are a UK business serving UK clients, but if you are UK based but trade overseas .com suggests you are a worldwide business. A not for profit organisation would typically use .org  or .org.uk however there are now many more domain suffixes e.g. .uk  .info  .agency  .online   .website  .biz  .eu   etc

Hosting

You can get hosting from many companies, but there are often big difference in the features and speed. Typically you get what you pay for, so going cheap is not always the best option… and you can get hosting really, really cheaply! Before choosing your host, it is best to read reviews or seek recommendations from your web designer. She or he will have experience of many different hosting companies and know which ones provide a fast, secure, and reliable service with good support. GoDaddy and Blue Host are two of the best.

SSL Certificate

This is now standard for websites to use HTTPS (secure website).  it used to be a security feature recommended just for e-commerce sites, but is now the expectation for all sites.  An SSL certificate encrypts data and ensures a private connection between your website and its visitors. It doesn’t have to be expensive; many good host companies will offer it as a standard part of the hosting service.

Building Method

There are many different ways to create a website including custom code with HTML and CSS, to PHP, JavaScript or software packages such as WordPress, Drupal and Magento. Having a bit of an understanding about this is useful. It is unlikely you would be able to make changes to your site yourself if it was a custom build with HTML and CSS (unless you have a good knowledge of coding) so you would need to go back to your designer and ask them to make changes for you. A simple phone number swap might not be too costly but adding extra pages and changing the layout might be a different story. Another consideration is if you wanted to take your site elsewhere. Site builders like Squarespace and will allow you to export content to WordPress, but this does not include the design or layout.

Editing the Content

Packages like WordPress have a really powerful (CMS) Content Management System that allows you to edit content, add pages, change the menu etc. If it is your  responsibility to edit the website, there are many useful documents and YouTube Videos to guide you. Be sure to know what level of access you have. If someone else has provided the site, it is worth finding out if you will have access to all the features and are a top level Administrator. As an Administrator you should have rights to add new users, add pages and change menus etc and make most changes you will need to. it is important to know what support you will get if you get stuck and what form that support will take (e.g. telephone, video conferencing, email) and some idea of how long it will take and any additional costs.

lady holding mobile device saying this CMS is so easy

SEO Phrases

It seems more common that sites are being built (even by some larger agencies) with very little or no Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Your keywords need to be included in the right way in various places such as the page names, titles, text, image names, at image tags, links etc. This needs to be done carefully without overdoing it (keyword stuffing). Without these elements in place Google will struggle to rank your site for these search terms. Search results more competitive than ever and if you have to rely on paying for adverts (Facebook Ads or Google pay-per-click Ads etc)  this can become quite costly. It is important to try to get your site to rank in the organic results ie without paying for adverts. So it is well worth making sure you are clear on what your search phrases are and ensuing your web designer is fully aware of these.

Search Engines

To get on search engines such as Google, a new site will need to be verified and submitted to search engines. To appear on Google maps, your site will need to use Google Places for Business. Google Analytics is a useful tool to verify your site and also collect data; tracking the number of visitors, how long is spent on the site, the bounce rate, how many pages are looked at and which ones etc . Google Search Console is a useful tool to monitor your site in Google Search results, this can show you the search words that your site has been seen for and the number of clicks it has had for that phrase.

The Cost

How long is a piece of string? If you are using something like Wix, the cost is your time and energy in making it. And if you want more features you can expect to pay a higher price. Some companies will offer a package with a fixed price and this may mean a fixed design, a maximum number of pages and functionality.  If you are on a fixed package be sure to ask what the cost will be if you want something extra that is not included?

Hopefully, we have given you some things to think about and questions to ask to help you make the right decision.

A few other little questions you may like to ask your designer or consider yourself:

  • How long will the build take?
  • What if I don’t have my own text and images?
  • Who will do the work- ie will you get to speak directly to the person building it to avoid Chinese whispers and long delays
  • If you want to add a shop at later date is this possible or costly?
  • Is the site backed up and secure?
  • Is the software upgraded regularly?

 

A bit about us ….

At Swindon Design we try to meet budgets of all sizes and can suggest ways to keep the cost down if this is the most important factor. We recognise that every customer’s requirements are different, so we can only provide a cost by knowing a bit more about a business and its needs. We know our prices are extremely competitive and we provide excellent value for money.

Back in the day, we coded all our sites from scratch until we fell in love with WordPress. Recent Statistics show that 35% of the internet is powered by wordpress! Because our client love it, it has become our main tool for building sites. We can integrate our custom code and functionality into the pages whilst giving the client the ability to edit their site.

We are really good at teaching our clients  how to edit their sites and provide on-going support. We love to work face-to-face as it gets quite lonely work with computers all day. However we are equally happy using video chat, email and the telephone.

If the client’s needs are established from the beginning and communication is good throughout, then a successful project is the end result. We feel that if a client succeeds, we succeed!

Article by Paula Dagnall
swindondesign.co.uk

 

Swindon Design
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