Whether it’s a new website or your first time managing one, the number of tasks required to do the job properly can be daunting. The to-do list seems to grow, with many items requiring specialized knowledge. We’re here to help with that.
The Good News
Site managers don’t have to learn to create great business websites themselves. They only need to help a good web developer understand their business, goals, and target audience. That, along with the developer’s research and analysis, should guide the hundreds of decisions involved in a website’s development.
Good communication helps minimize surprises and costly revisions. During development — and sometimes long after — we keep our clients involved, listen to them, and answer their questions. We manage the technical and creative details in ways intended to help represent our client well to their website’s visitors.
More about the development process…
It’s helpful for even hands-off website owners and managers to know a few essentials. It can feel empowering and help you to avoid some common pitfalls and calamities.
Keep control of your domain name.
A domain name is the fundamental part of your website’s address on the web. In the web address…
…the domain name is mylittledomain.com. If there were no www or it the .com was followed by /more, the domain name still would be just the mylittledomain.com part.
Domain names are acquired by, essentially, leasing them from a domain name registrar. Whoever controls the account at that registrar has control of your domain name. The best security for your domain name is to also own and have exclusive control of the account used to register it. If you choose to outsource that level of detail, use someone very trustworthy — a domain name can be a precious asset.
Care about your web server (but don’t buy one).
All the things that make up a website are stored on a web server — a computer designed to excel at serving websites, fast, to many people at once. It’s the engine that serves your website to whomever comes knocking.
A web server typically is owned and serviced by a web hosting company. The best hosting companies deliver content to website visitors quickly and make life simpler and more cost-efficient for a site’s administrative users and owners.
Web servers can be expensive to purchase. They can be complex to operate and, the hard part, to keep free of both viruses and hackers. Maintaining one is not for the naive or faint of heart, and expert server gurus are costly to hire. So, unless you’re a corporation with an IT department, you probably don’t want to purchase a web server.
Most small and medium-size businesses, instead, rent space on a web server. Most can save a lot of money by renting space on a single server that’s shared by many other websites. If your site ever outgrows that kind of deal, it’s easy to upgrade to a rented private server any time.
Web servers you don’t have to own:
- You might find bargain prices for web servers. But a website is an investment in the face you present to the world. In some cases, it is an important source of cash flow. Stepping up to a mid-priced hosting firm can result in many advantages and better peace of mind. Trusting one’s online presence to the bargain basement doesn’t make sense for business and other mission-critical web properties.
- Some solid mid-range web hosting companies offer prices under $20 per month. Ask your developer if they prefer the admin tools of one hosting company over another.
- For a “gold-standard” web server that’s still shared in order to keep pricing moderate and with great admin access, some of our clients with WordPress websites are hosted on our Hands-Free Pro plan.
The web hosting company not only owns the server equipment. It also, typically, takes care of things like regular full-site backups, mitigating power outages, and installing security updates to critical system software.
Your Host or Ours
- If one of our clients has a website that is working well and has modern admin tools, we seldom see a need to change web hosts. For such websites, we usually can develop and deploy site updates or redesigns on their existing web servers.
- Clients whose sites suffer from poor performance and/or less-than-stellar admin tools may consider changing web hosts. Changing servers is never undertaken lightly, but sometimes the advantages are compelling.
- For a WordPress website whose owner wants our ongoing oversight, and if we feel it will be a good fit, we might suggest our “Hands-Free Pro” plan for managed WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting
“Hands-Free Pro” web hosting is by invitation only.
WordPress is widely used to build and maintain websites. It removes much of the burden of writing web code, helping developers and owners to focus more on content and presentation.
WP Engine has been called the “gold standard” of hosting services for WordPress-based websites. Its web servers are highly tuned to deliver sites efficiently, and their tools often save admin and developer time. Our hosting plans employ a cluster of servers at WP Engine.
Value Added Here
For both security and function, it’s important to keep a website’s software up to date. The web host often takes care of the deeper, system level. But they typically don’t manage the software plugins and extensions that make your particular website what it is.
Sometimes this means a manager must monitor dozens of components for issues and updates — which is not a chore most people enjoy enough to do frequently or well. Therefore, we monitor the websites we host, so our hosting clients don’t have to. This value-added service is included with our hosting, at no added charge, and inspired the “Hands-Free Pro” name of our premier plan.
If your project is mission-critical, show it some respect.
If it’s art, a “vanity” project, or a casual blog, you might be satisfied with the cheapest developer, designer, and web hosting service you can find.
If it’s for commerce, professional presence, and public-facing information services, you should avoid the bargain-basement providers. You can still get good deals, but with advantages that might not be obvious.
- Low-rent web hosts might suffer from lack of tech support greater than Tier One. You might not need advanced tech support often, but when you do… a good web host will be there for you. Not all are.
- There are lots of budget web developers in the USA and abroad. An experienced, responsible developer earns their fees, and more, as they serve as your advocate and tend to dozens of details that never get enumerated on any project task list.
- Preferred web hosting services provide modern admin interfaces that can save time for your developer. Saving time on admin tasks can more than offset the cost of even “gold standard” web hosting.
- A good web designer thinks deeper than “what looks good.” They avoid making choices because “I like green.” (Even if “I” is the company owner.) They listen carefully but, more important, they study your goals and target audience, competitors, and as much as you can share of your marketing and demographic data.
Search engines: before launch and ongoing
If you want people to find your message, product, or project online, your website must provide the things search engines need. It’s an extra layer of work, and much of it isn’t even visible, but it is intended to help your site appear prominently in relevant searches of the internet.
- Basic search-engine optimization (SEO) should be included in most new websites.
- SEO is its own skillset, so not all designers and developers offer it — and not all who offer it do it well. Sometimes it is done by third-party experts.
- SEO is never done. Google’s indexing rules change, other websites’ SEO changes, competitor websites launch… plan on a little ongoing SEO.
- You don’t have to pay for it. Ask your web developer or SEO guru to discuss some things you can do yourself — with no special expertise — to cultivate favorable treatment by search engines.
Google Analytics and website traffic
If your website is live and the Analytics code isn’t installed already, do so promptly. The sooner it begins collecting data, the sooner Google’s reports will become useful.
Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console provide a lifetime of study to any who are inclined to dive deep. But every website owner will find the basic reports informative. It can become addictive to watch the line graph of your website visitors over time, the chart of current visitors in real-time, and the reports on how visitors find your site.
The web property ID embedded in the Analytics tracking code is important to preserve in order to retain access to the data collected about that web property. If you didn’t register that ID yourself, you must get access to the Google account that registered it before you can see the related data; ask the account holder to provide access.
Further information about…
Search engines — what every website owner and manager needs to know.
What to expect during website development.