Business Websites 101 Part 1, Your Questions Answered

You may be thinking about adding a website to your business and wondering to yourself exactly how you do it, what the first steps should be, what costs you are likely to get hit with along the way and what type of things you need to watch out for.

There is no doubt that setting up a website is a pretty scary endevor. Especially if you haven’t done it before and have only a passing familiarity with computers.

The irony is that you are the type of person that could gain the most out of a website as it allows you to increase your expousre outside your physical area with less ongoing costs than two color ads in the local paper.

Over the next few weeks I will be going through the exact steps you need to take to get your website set up from conception to launch and some of the dilemmas you will need to face along the way. We will look at:

  • How to choose and buy a domain name
  • How to select a host and the benefits of going with a managed host vs a non-managed host
  • Laying out your site
  • Building your site
  • What next… the steps you need to take after your site has been built

But before we look into all of those topics lets take a moment and look at some of the basic questions when someone relatively new at online business has when they first think about building a website:

Question One: What do I need and how do those things work?

If you don’t want your site to do anything fancy (and there’s a good chance that you don’t) then you’ll need three things: a domain name, a web host and a ‘platform’

A Domain Name

The domain name (AKA the URL or Uniform Resource Locator) is the name of your site. You don’t buy a domain name as much as get a long-term lease on it and the cost of domain names can vary depending on the type of domain you are after.

a .com is usually the most affordable with country representative domain names costing a little more.

To make matters worse a lot of domain names have been bought already so you may need to get creative with your naming, especially if your business name is a little generic.

But enough of this we’ll get into this more next week.

A Host

A host is basically the computer that your website is kept on so that customers and potential customers can come at any time and look at it.

Most hosting costs is calculated on a number of factors including how many domain names you will have working from your account, how much space your website takes up on the computer (better known as hard drive capacity) and how many people come and look at your site (better known as bandwidth).

Hosting doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact it may cost as little as $2 US a month on some servers, and it all depends on how much of a load you put on your website.

Some companies also offer managed hosting, where they will take care of everything on your website for a fee.

This may or may not be a good deal based on what’s on offer but we will get into that two weeks from now.

A Platform

A platform is the software that tells the website what to look like and how to act. It’s a little bit like the site’s operating system.

There are a lot of platforms out there filling a lot of purposes, these include WordPress, OSCommerce variants like Magenta and Prestashop and multipurpose platforms like Jomala.

The good thing about platforms is how flexible they are, how (for the most part) user friendly they are and how much support there is for them out in the online community.

But lets talk about that a bit later.

Question Two: How much is this going to cost me?

The costs can be incredibly reasonable.

To give you an indication of the set-up costs, I can put together a simple 3-10 page site for $500 and that will include ongoing support for simple technical problems. And you’ll probably find that is pretty close to a benchmark on what you have to pay as a set up.

All self horn tooting aside though the ongoing costs are pretty minimal, especially if you get a basic shared hosting package from one of the larger web hosting providers.

You’re probably looking at US$99.40 maintenance costs a year if you want a domain name, less if you want a .com and a little more if you would like to get multiple domain names to protect your trademark (more on this next week).

Question Three: What questions do I need to ask myself?

There are several things that you will need to be sure of before start building a site as it will affect how you go about things.

Ask yourself first: “which customers do I want to reach with this site?”

This will determine what type of domain you buy. If, for example, you want to reach a wider, global audience, then you might want to get a .com address. If your market is in New Zealand you may want to purchase a domain and if your market is mainly Australia then you’d get a address.

The next question to ask yourself is: “What do I want to do on this site?”

Do you want to sell, use it as a portfolio or use it as another way for customers to keep in contact with you?

This will have an impact on what type of platform you choose.

If you want to sell things then a shop-orientated platform would be best. If you want to keep customers updated on your movements then you probably want to go with a WordPress platform, if you want a simple contact-type site then a template provided by the host would be enough.

The final question is: “What are my ongiong constraints?”

Do you have a time shortage, a money shortage or a limited support network.

If you have a shortage of time and/or a limited support network, then you may in fact want to go down the route of a managed host as they will…. for a fee… make sure that you are always connected and always online.

However, if you’re ‘short’ on money then you will probably take the time to do most things yourself and get an unmanaged host.

The good news is its possible thanks to some incredible support networks for open source platforms like wordpress, Magento and Prestashop.

The bad news is you will need to take the time to find a contractor to help you out when it comes time to get content/update your site/ fix a problem on the site and it can sometimes be tricky to work out what is a fair price to pay, what type of things to ask and where to look.

I hope this blog has been of some help to you and I hope you join me next week when we delve into the world of domain names. For now though, read through this blog and jot down some ideas on what you want your business to achieve online. It will make the world of difference.

Ticking the right boxes – 3 reasons why email is just as important as website

So, you’ve bought a domain name for your business and have built (or had someone else build) a slick website to advertise your business.

But if you’re still using an email address for your business that ends in @hotmail, @xtra, @yahoo or any one of the many email/internet providers then you’re only half way towards having an effective online presence.

What follows are three reasons why it not only makes sense to have the same email address as your domain but also why you should set up a email address this week if you already have a website.

Reason One: it helps your online reputation

No doubt you’ve heard of the practice of phishing. The practice of using an email address very similar to a reputable business’ to obtain people’s passwords, personal information and login details to bank accounts.

It was common for phishers a few years ago to use free accounts with variations on trusted user names (NZpaypal, westpacservice etc) to get their hands on people’s personal details.

They stopped doing this because it stopped working which begs the question how reputable do you think you will appear to be when you approach someone the first time with an email address like

Reason Two: it makes your business more flexibile

Internet service providers are a little like power companies or the people you get to clear the rubbish.

You sometimes find the need to jump to a different service provider.

But unlike power companies or most other contractors you have made your ISPs a public part of your business by using their email service as your business email.

What this means is that if your internet provider dramatically increases their charges the ‘costs’ of changing providers if you have got your email address with them. You need to send out an email to customers informing them of your change of address and hope that they act on it.

With an email you can shift internet service providers as many times as you want and your customers will never be any wiser.

Reason Three: you can use different email addresses for different purposes

There are different parts to any business.

For example, if you have a car dealership you might service cars, sell used cars, sell new cars and sell car parts.

The person getting in contact with you about a car part is going to have very different needs to the person that wants a new car. They might even need to communicate with different people in your company.

With an address you will be able to separate these forms of communication into separate lines to make sure customers get their needs met faster with less confusion.

So, as you can see an email provides you with a better reputation online, more flexibility and better customer management tools.

And the best part of it all is that if you have already set up your site then setting up an email is free quick and easy.

Check out this blog tomorrow because I will be walking you through what you need to do to get your very own email address.