Web Design Tip of the month — 1st steps

I often get requests for infor­ma­tion about set­ting up a new web­site. Many times the inquirer has come  to the point where they are ready to start site  devel­op­ment and they just have some gen­eral ques­tions about what they will need.    They  have a great prod­uct – ser­vice – idea – or story.   So, what is the next step?

The first thing any web site will need is a domain name.   Any domain name will do really but as a tip I would say shorter is bet­ter.  If not shorter than some­thing really easy to under­stand or remem­ber over a con­ver­sa­tion.   If you have to repeat it sev­eral times or start spelling it out that might be a bad sign for typ­i­cal mar­ket­ing pur­poses where they may just get a glance.   This is just a pref­er­ence as when I am speak­ing to some­one over the tele­phone about a domain its always nice to be able to get the domain name quickly.  It might also help if  you are giv­ing out your email address.  Just think of the future when you are out of busi­ness cards and are try­ing to tell some­one your domain.  Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just as easy as [email protected] .  Now you can move on.   Opposed to a sit­u­a­tion of some­thing like [email protected]     Long names like this are how­ever some­times rel­e­vant or impor­tant when con­sid­er­ing Search Engine Opti­miza­tion.  That’s a whole dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion / arti­cle though.

Domains names are pur­chased on a yearly basis.  How much do domain names cost?   It seems the prices now aver­age $11 to $15 dol­lars for .com, .net, and .org. (as of 08-19-2010).  There are a lot of other exten­sions avail­able  like .info or .tv .  They have dif­fer­ent pric­ing struc­tures.  I tend to stay with the .com. .net  and .org  exten­sions when pos­si­ble.  I’m sure there are good rea­sons to go with a .info or .biz.  Like for exam­ple abc.com is gone, so maybe abc.biz is available.

Where does one attain a domain name?   Those are pur­chased ay any domain reg­is­trar.     I used to like Godaddy, except that now they seem to bom­bard you with offer after offer, over and over when you are just try­ing to get a domain name reg­is­tered. Reminds me of the old search engine mod­els.   I never tried GoDaddy’s host­ing, but I have found a web host that I really like and have used sev­eral years now with no prob­lems.   You can find reg­is­trars by search­ing:  domain reg­is­trar in your favorite search engine.      I just saw that net­work solu­tions is hav­ing a “lim­ited to time spe­cial” for .com names at $6.99 a year.   It looks like the nor­mal price is 35 a year.   I used to use Net­work Solu­tion in the 90′s.  Then I found out I could pay around ten dol­lars on aver­age per year opposed to $35.  The years pass and that $35 can start adding up when you have mul­ti­ple domain name pur­chases and multi-year renewals.     By the way if you are cur­rently using a domain reg­is­trar and you want to trans­fer it.  You can do that .  You will want to trans­fer a month or so BEFORE your domain is up for renewal or expired.   I have put off trans­fer­ring one of my domains at a more expen­sive reg­is­trar for quite some­time.  And  my domain is still there after sev­eral years.

Sec­ond would be your web host­ing.   I  some­times get com­ments sim­i­lar to “well I payed for the domain so I have a web­site”.   After you reg­is­ter a domain the domain name is now just reg­is­tered by you.  You have the priv­i­lege to use it how you like for as long as you paid to reg­is­ter it.  After a domain is reg­is­tered  you can then point the domain over to a web server or Name Servers.  What are Name-servers?  Name­server is basi­cally just a com­puter con­nected to the inter­net , ready to serve a web­page.   Mine uses Apache web-server soft­ware to serve up web­pages.   But other types are avail­able.   A Name­server address will typ­i­cally look some­thing like this:  ns1.yourwebhostname.com  and ns2.yourwebhostname.com. You usu­ally point the name-servers after you have acquired a web  host­ing  account.   The web­host will  then give you the Name­server addresses names you should use.   Never assume by the way that the name­server addess is just NS1.MyHostname.com because if it is a larger web host­ing com­pany then they may have many dif­fer­ent Name­server addressses.    The Name­server addresses  are usu­ally entered into the con­trol panel that is often pro­vided by domain registrars.

Third (ish) is Con­tent.   You want to  have con­tent ready to go if pos­si­ble.   It really depends on your goals.  If you sim­ply want to get a web pres­ence up then by all means just cre­ate what is often called a brochure site with just a bit of your con­tact infor­ma­tion and a lit­tle about what you do.   This is cer­tainly bet­ter than not hav­ing a web­site up at all.    How­ever proper plan­ning can pay when it comes to get­ting your site found by search engines and there­fore  your poten­tial clients and cus­tomers.    I believe that one of a web­sites main goals should be is to com­mu­ni­cate for you.   There are many occa­sions where a web­site could save you time and effort by answer­ing the ques­tions for you that might oth­er­wise gen­er­ate phone calls to  answer sim­ple ques­tions.   You can increase the com­mu­nica­tive power of a web­site by also includ­ing con­tact forms which can be used to cap­ture more in depth ques­tions .      When you have your con­tent ready  you can then cre­ate a bit of  an infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture  plan.     The most Basic sites have a stan­dard web­site scheme .   One I have seen used often includes:

Home – About Us – Ser­vices – Con­tact – News

The Home page will almost always give you the most gen­eral infor­ma­tion about a com­pany  or per­son  high­light cer­tain items.  It will also often lead you off into other direc­tions or sec­tions of the site.  The  About Us page  will give more spe­cific infor­ma­tion typ­i­cally and may even branch into other area  (which might require more pages) .   Ser­vices is self explana­tory but may also lead into other pages and sec­tions.      Con­tact pages these days almost always will include a con­tact form that will allow the vis­i­tor to send a mes­sage.  Con­tact pages  can also lead to sep­a­rate con­tact areas for larger com­pa­nies.    The News sec­tion could be omit­ted and would only be rec­om­mended if the com­pany or site owner has the time, resources and abil­ity to update it fairly regularly.

There could be much more involved in a web­site setup and there could be less.  But the items I stated above are the first ini­tial steps to actu­ally get­ting the ball rolling.    The Devel­op­ment process. Could be cov­ered in another section.

About the author

 Web Design Tip of the month   1st steps I’ve started design­ing web­sites while at Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton dur­ing my first Pho­to­shop 3.1 expe­ri­ence in 1996 on a Mac­in­tosh com­puter. I built my own com­put­ers (Win­dows PCs) with the help of a friend and have been dig­i­tally involved ever since. I am both Win­dows and PC lit­er­ate but grav­i­tate toward OSX. I’ve grad­u­ally got­ten back to my roots as a tac­tile artist / designer by work­ing more with tra­di­tional medi­ums like draw­ing, paint­ing, and mixed media.

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