The ABCs, as we see them:
A. Have a Plan and a Focus
B. Select and Register a Domain Name
C. Find a Hosting Company
D. Develop Your Website
E. Monitor and Maintain Your Website
A. Have a Plan and a Focus
Before you go very far, you should have a clear idea of what you want your website to accomplish. That will make it easier for you to select a domain name as well as to decide how/where to host and develop your site.
- What is the website for? Most websites are either informational or commercial (selling something). You can plan your website by taking notes on what you want it to accomplish, or by drawing pictures of what your website pages might contain. You can even start to think about what colors you want to see on your pages, and if you have a logo where you would like it placed.
- Who will be your target audience? What kind of image do you want to convey to people that will visit your website?
- What kind of information will you have on your website? Are you using the site primarily to provide information about a topic or about you or your company/organization? Do you have this information available in some form right now, or do you need to create it? Do you just need a one-page “brochure” or several pages to present a lot of different information? If you only want to display your resume, or your hobby/personal interest, or a photo gallery – you may find special website “portals” that will let you do this without having to create your own website.
- Will you be selling things through your website? If yes, are you already selling these items, or is this a completely new venture? If it’s a new venture, keep in mind that you’ll need to follow the same rules and regulations as any other business (registering your business with the state, collecting and reporting taxes, etc.).
- Do you want to use your website to create ongoing relationships with your visitors so they will keep coming back to your site? This is usually conveyed by a topic that people are passionately interested in, expert advice, special offers, or events. You’ll need to frequently change and develop your website so people will want to keep returning to it.
Sometimes it helps to do a search on Google for the topic/industry your website will represent. Check out some existing sites to see what you like and don’t like. This will also help you to better understand your competition for traffic and visitors.
If your topic is unique, and you don’t find a lot of other sites that address it (for example, we have a client that sells underground water tanks and one that sells sewer cleaning and inspection equipment), you will have different challenges than if your topic is very popular and already has many websites that address it (for example, horses, beauty products, or real estate).
You don’t necessarily need a unique topic to be successful, but you do need to be realistic about expected results and the marketing that you’ll need to do. Just as it can be challenging to “hang out a shingle” and start a business in your town, it can take time and marketing to promote and establish a popular website.
B. Domain Name Selection and Registration
A domain name is the address that people type into their browsers to find your site. For example, our domain name is pstechservices.com.
Many different companies on the Internet offer domain registration, and anybody can register a domain name. The annual registration fee ranges from about $6 to $35 and up. (Prairie Skies Technical Services includes your domain name registration in our yearly hosting package.)
One site where you can check if a domain name is available is NetworkSolutions.com. There are several different types of domain names. The most common ones are:
- .com - Short for 'commercial,' .com is the most commonly-used domain name. It is what people usually type in automatically. This is best domain extension to register, unless you are an organization (see .org below).
- .org - Short for ‘organization’, this is the most common extension used by charities and non-profits. Generally .org is used to signify a noncommercial website.
- .net - Short for Internet, .net is generally used by ISPs like Comcast, because they are networks. Some organizations that are building a network of people/groups use this extension also.
- .us – Short for United States, this can be registered by any company, individual, or organization based in the United States.
- .biz, .info, .tv, .name, .cc – These domain extensions can be purchased by anybody.
- .gov, .edu - Short for government and education, these are reserved domain names that cannot be purchased by individuals or companies, and if you qualify to purchase these domain names you'll pay a hefty yearly fee.
If you choose any extension other than .com, make sure that you advertise your domain name with the extension (for example, MyDomain.biz – rather than just MyDomain) – otherwise people may automatically type in the .com extension when they try to visit your site.
C. Website Hosting
Once you have a domain name, you need a place where your website will “live” and be accessible to people using the Internet. Some companies that design and develop your website or that provide domain registration also offer hosting services. Or, you may choose to host your site with a company that provides tools that will allow you to design and develop your own site.
Generally website hosting companies have powerful PCs, called servers, which are housed in data centers.
Your website hosting company should also offer you email addresses for your domain, and these email accounts should be protected with virus and spam filters. In addition, if you are going to do financial transactions or deal with sensitive information, you will want a website host that offers a secure server. You can tell when a web page is secure by looking in the lower right corner of your browser for a little gold padlock. When you see the gold lock, that means that all information sent between your computer and the website is encrypted and protected.
Hosting costs generally range from $5 to $50 per month, depending on your website content, traffic, and size. Prairie Skies Technical Services offers website hosting for $9.95/month or $100/year. If you pick the yearly rate, we include your annual domain name registration at no additional cost.
D. Website (Web Pages) Development
Web sites are composed of text files and images. The text files contain a special code, called HTML, which defines how web page looks as well as what it contains. You can create websites without ever learning HTML only if you are doing a very simple informational site.
Some options for developing your website are:
- Create your own website
- Have a friend or your local teenage computer user do it for you
- Hire an experienced website developer
This choice may come down to your computer skills and experience, how much time you want to devote to working on your website, the type of site and content you are providing, and the image you want to present.
Note: Keep in mind that your website will likely generate email and that you need to either use a computer or have someone that will check and respond to email for you.
Prairie Skies Technical Services can assist you with website design, development, and maintenance; or, we can develop a site that you can easily maintain yourself. A website can cost as little as $250 or as much as $5,000 (or more). Most sites we develop cost from $750 to $1250. Ask us for a quote.
E. Monitor and Maintain Your Website
Once you have your website up and running, you need to have a plan to promote the site, monitor the site’s performance, and maintain the site’s content.
As with Website Development, you can choose to do this yourself or have someone else do it for you. Prairie Skies Technical Services can provide ongoing website maintenance and Search Engine Optimization and Monitoring services for your website.
Are you interested in building a new site, or need assistance with hosting, maintenance and promotion of your existing site? Contact us for a quote. You can also click here to view some of the web sites we've developed.
Prairie Skies Technical Services, LLC