You have a business, and you want a website for your business. There are a few things you need to know before you talk to a website developer.
The first things you need to think about are:
- A domain name
- What you want the website to look like
- What you want the website to do
Domain names are the web address, such as mycompany.com.
Domain names can also be used for email addresses, such as [email protected]
There used to be only a few types of domain names, such as .com, .net, and .org, but now there are hundreds of other types, such as .lawyer, .media, and .insurance.
If you didn’t have a domain name, the only way someone could visit your website is by using a numerical IP address such as 126.96.36.199.
But domain names make marketing your website easier. You want to pick out one that is easy to remember, easy to spell (without having to spell it after you tell it to someone). You also might want to find one that doesn’t have a dash in it, so you don’t have to say “dash” every time you tell someone the name of your website.
Domain names are created and managed by an organization named ICANN. They make sure that no two people use the same domain name.
There are other companies named ‘registrars” that are licensed by ICANN to sell domain names. It is probably more accurate to say that the registrars lease the domain names for any given number of years.
You can lease a domain name for one year, or you can lock in today’s price for multiple years, paid up front. It’s often a good idea for a business that is going to be around for a while to get multiple years. Most registrars have an auto-renew setting so if you forget to actively renew the name one year, they will automatically bill you at that year’s price.
Some domain names cost more than others. Usually, domain names that are shorter and use more commonly used words are going to be more expensive.
Some larger corporations who want to be sure to manage their reputation by keeping other people from using their name will buy up many domain names such as mycompany.com, mycompany.net, mycompany.lawyer, etc.
A simple online search for domain name registrars will give you a selection of companies you want to use. You might want to look at several different registrars in case one of them is having a sale or just has a cheaper annual cost for the specific domain name you want.
Once you have a domain name, you are ready to think about where you want to host your website. A host is on a web server somewhere out there on the Internet. A web server is just a big computer that people all over the world have access to – that is, access to the files and pages and content you want to make public.
If you hire a web developer, you usually don’t have to think about this yourself. It is best, however, to set up this account on your own, with your own payment method and administrator rights. If for some reason your web developer disappears or if you no longer want to use them as a vendor, then the ownership of the account is yours.
An online search will start you on your way to finding the best hosting service for you.
Hosting services range in prices from free to hundreds of dollars per month. Like most things you get what you pay for. You can host a site for free, but there will probably be third party ads on your website. If you want more security and more speed, you generally have to pay more.
A few things more details you will want to know: In this day and age of computer hacking you will need to secure your website with something called a Secure Socket Layer, or SSL. You’ll know if a site has SSL by whether or not it uses https (as opposed to http) in the address bar.
For added security and speed you might want to buy a dedicated IP address. This just insures that no other website shares your address. Think of the IP address like the street address where you live and receive your mail fro the postal service. If multiple apartments get their mail at the same address, then there is a more likely chance that someone other than you will be able to get and open your mail. It is more secure if only you have access to your home address.
What You Want Your Website to Look Like
Before approaching a web developer, you should have in mind what you want your website to look like. This is generally called the “user interface” or “U.I.” I might also be called the “front end.”
You should look around the web and find four or five websites that you like and that you would want your own website to look like. The way your website looks has a lot to do with how people will feel about your company.
If you have a company logo already with the branding colors you use for marketing your company, then be sure to have that ready for the web designer you hire.
Also, if you are going to have written copy about your company, along with images of your employees, customers, or products, then have all of that ready for your web designer too.
You also have to realize that people will be looking at your website on many different browser sizes, all the way from a giant television monitor to the smallest cell phone and even peripherals like watches. Making sure your website looks good on all browser sizes is what is called ‘responsive web design.” Your site responds to the size of the window.
Depending on what sort of website you are creating, you might want your web designer to start with a template, sometimes called a “theme.” A template is usually a prefabricated design that a professional designer has already made that you can use for your website. Using a template will speed up the time it takes to launch your website, but there’s a chance that your site will look exactly like some else’s on the Web. You also might not have the ability to customize the template exactly the way you want it.
What You Want Your Website to Do
There are many different reasons for building a business website. Some businesses just want a web presence that includes a phone number for people to call, something like a brochure. Other brochure websites have an additional email contact form.
Perhaps you want your website to allow people to sign up for an email newsletter. Or maybe you want to collect sales leads. Maybe you want an online store where customers can buy physical products that you then ship to them.
Perhaps you are selling a digital product and your website has a system of allowing your customers to download those digital products.
There are other websites that sell virtual products such as a paid membership that renews every year.
Whatever your business model is, you need to think about what you want the site to do so that when you talk to a web developer you can give all of your vision and requirements at the very beginning. This will speed up your process and establish a good working relationship with the web developer, who will be able to give you a more accurate estimate of cost and turnaround time at the very start.