The internet has woven the world into a vast interconnected neighborhood of information. Most of us have a pretty good idea of how to navigate the information superhighway, but have never had to deciphered how it ticks. Sooner or later though, you decide its time for your own website along that cyberspace thoroughfare. Maybe you have dreams of becoming a blogging guru or perhaps your tiny landscape business has generated so many referrals that everyone is asking for your web address so they can check out your work or…you get the idea – the time has come.
Creating or reworking a website is a lot like setting up a brick and mortar place of business. You pick a space, set it up for business, hang your sign over the door and make sure potential customers can find you. If you do a good job your business will grow. If you have money to burn, you can hire a firm to help you with every aspect of this process, but if you’re like most small business owners you’re looking to keep your costs down. That’s why it is so important to have a basic understanding of how your website works, what you can manage on your own and what you really need help with.
Let’s use the brick and mortar analogy to explain all the components that make your website tick so that you can make a more educated decision about how Sharvan Graphics can help you create an online presence that fits your needs, aspirations and pocket book.
The Browser (How your potential customers get there)
A major consideration when building a website is how users are going to access your site, in other words: “What kind of car are they driving and how old is it?”. Just like cars, different browsers have different capabilities and some are more popular than others. Most statistics agree that Google’s Chrome Browser is currently the most popular browser followed by Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. Whatever browser you and your potential customers use, the version you are using is very important. Internet technology evolves quickly, the programmers that created your favorite browser 10 years ago, never imagined some of the technologies that are in use today, so there was no way for them to include them in their software. As the world moves on to bigger and better technologies, updating your browser regularly becomes essential to viewing websites correctly.
Another aspect of how your potential customers access your site is whether they are likely to be on a desktop computer or on a mobile device or some combination of the two. Responsive web design should adjust depending on the device and screen size your potential customer is using and is an invaluable characteristic of modern web design.
Domain Name (The sign over your door)
The first investment new website owners usually make is the domain name. It might be your company name or it might not. Like a company name it must be unique and registered to ensure that no one doubles up. There are many registrars who can reserve your unique domain name for you. GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator are just a few. The annual cost of this service depends on the registrar and the extension you choose. Extensions are the three letter categories found after the dot in a domain name. Each extension is meant to convey some aspect of the website, for example:
.com = company
.org = organization
.gov = government
Choosing the right domain name for your business can be tricky, but here’s a great video from Rand Fishkin at moz.com to help you.
Hosting Accounts (A place to call your own)
Web hosting providers rent out the space for your website to be stored on (hosted) and accessed (served) by your potential customers. Like all landlords, some are good, some – not so much. Some only allow you so much space to work with, or have narrow doorways (bandwidth) that make it hard for your customers to access your site. Others don’t care who they rent to and on a shared hosting plan, the equivalent of a crowded apartment building, this can make for uncomfortable or disrespectful neighbors who crowd already narrow doorways and make it even harder for your customers to access your site. Some hosting companies don’t have updated software or don’t allow certain technologies, making it difficult for your site to give your customers what they want.
So how do you know you’re getting a good hosting service? This is a question worth asking a professional. Your web designer/developer will either have a preferred hosting provider or may have a hosting server of their own. This works great for ensuring that the technologies work well together and your customers receive the fastest, most reliable user experience possible.
Setting up the Software (Creating the right environment)
At this point you have your domain name and your hosting account. The next step is to set up your site. A Web Developer acts like a skilled tradesman (plumber,carpenter,electrician) and provides customized software to make your website function in just the right way. Sometimes they will use a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress to provide the necessary structure and function for your site and to give you an easy way to make changes to your site as your needs change over time. A Web Designer then comes in and acts like an Interior Designer, making sure the floors and the curtains match, creating a pleasing atmosphere for your customers and you. In order for them to do that, they’ll need the keys to your new space. If you’re not hosting through them directly, they’ll need your username and password to get in and set everything up.
IP Address & DNS (How browsers navigate the web)
Once everything is setup on your new hosting account, it’s time to apply the new domain name to the hosting account so potential customers can get to your doorstep. An Internet Protocol or IP Address is the equivalent of your website’s street address. The Domain Name System or DNS, translates your domain name into an IP Address and acts like GPS for your Web Browser. It tells your browser how to get to your site using a setting known as an “A” Record that resides with your domain name registrar. Once you or your web designer/developer have created the necessary A Record, the information that links your domain name and your website’s actual location, goes out onto the web and may take up to 72 hours to reach every domain server worldwide. So depending on the computer and network you are on at any given time during that 72 hour window, you may or may not see your website.