Who is this article for? Anyone that's been tasked with either setting up or maintaining their company's website for a small- to medium-sized business site.
I receive several inquiries a year from individuals who have had the 'website' pushed onto a corner of the desk. In most cases the individual has little to no prior knowledge and finds themselves floundering in a sea of technical jargon and acronyms. I've prepared this article in the hopes of clearly outlining the basics to quickly bring them (or perhaps you) up to speed.
There are some items that are subject to an annual fixed cost, meaning that they recur each year (or month). Domain names and hosting fees are at the forefront of that category.
A domain name is basically leased on an annual basis from an authorized registry (or reseller). So, you don't purchase a domain name (i.e., mydomain.com) outright, you lease it for a 12-month period as must renew that each year (NOTE: you can register up to ten years in advance).
In order for your site to be accessible to the world, it most be hosted on a web server. There are thousands of hosting companies out there offering monthly, quarterly, and annual hosting fees. Prices vary widely and it ultimately will come down to your needs. Often your web developer/designer can be of some assistance with recommendations of reputable services.
A question that you will have to answer is how you wish to maintain the website, performing periodic updates of your site's content, be that adding/removing personnel or product information, or even posting regular news and announcements. You basically have two options: hire a professional webmaster, or do it yourself. Here's the basic considerations with both options.
Let's face it, it's not very likely that you took your current job with the intention of being a webmaster and having to learn and master this profession in addition to your regular responsibilities. Hiring a professional can be money well spent, but yes, you're spending money with each update, and unless it's a large outfit you're working with, these updates will not take place immediately.
Before you panic, I'm not suggesting you purchase software and invest hundreds of thankless hours becoming a pro. There are many options out there to make it easier for you to be able to maintain the content of your website yourself, immediately. These are referred to as Content Management Systems (CMS) and they allow you to login to your website and make changes on the fly. They can be extended to manage news postings, event calendars, and photo galleries (and much, much more). Some of them have a one-time cost associated with, others are licensed and require annual renewals, but the options are out there.
Do not make the mistake of assuming SEO is going to be included in the services provided by the developer that you work with or your hosting provider. These tend to be special services that require some additional expertise and costs, especially if you want big results (like on the first page of Google).
Keywords are the words or phrases that potential site visitors would be entering into search engines like Google when they are looking for a company that offers your services within their area (though they're not limited to local results). An example would be 'web hosting in prince george' – if you want to get on the first page of results for that phrase, your developer needs to know this, and the sooner the better.
It's a good idea to ask the designer/developer you are working with for help with keyword selection (yes, you really should be involved in it). You must let them know if there are specific words or phrases that you want associated with your site. It's an often overlooked aspect of developing a site.
There are several aspects of a website, and just as many costs to go with it. Hopefully this article has provided a little insight into what all is involved and what costs you will need to be aware of.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, kindly let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Greg Prosser, Web Developer and Owner of Sticky Wicket Designs.