Creating A Website - Your Home Online
Creating, maintaining and having an effective and well designed website is critical to success in online marketing. Your Website is like your business's home on the internet and acts as an online hub for promotion of your business.
There are some key building blocks that need to form the basis of an effective website that is geared towards both engaging your audience, promoting your products & offering useful. This step in our Guide to Online Marketing will take a look at these building blocks and how you can implement them on your website.
What Style of Website?
The first thing that needs consideration when constructing a website, is what business you are in and how that will fit in with your website. This can have a bearing on the appearance and function of your website, for example a photographer will want to showcase their work visually with images playing a key part in their website. This would be a very different style of website to what is needed by a financial services company or local cafe.
This is where is it necessary for you to make a list of the things that are important to you, whether it is the functionality to display galleries of images, inclusion of a blog or an e-commerce storefront. You then have the ability to select a service or content management system that best supports your needs, or if you are hiring a developer - they have the ability to incorporate this into your site for you.
Self Managed or Hosted?
When you are planning to launch a website it is necessary to have an understanding of not only what you want your website to do or how you want it to look - as we talked about above, it is also necessary to consider your ease of use and bandwidth limitations. Hosting and the management of your content are two important decisions you will need to make when deciding on setting up your website.
The term website hosting refers to a computer that is connected to the internet, which holds the data of your website ready to be accessed when someone enters your URL into their browser. Hosting is provided by companies that own or manage a set of computers within a data centre, they then sell space on their servers for you to host your website. For websites that are small or don't receive a lot of traffic hosting is generally very inexpensive - these costs rise as the website becomes more complex (needing more storage space) or more trafficked (more visitors using up your data allowance).
The next decision to make, is whether you will use a hosting service and manage it yourself or use a content management service that includes hosting for you. Of course if you have the time and willingness to learn then a self hosted option will provide you with much greater flexibility and the ability to use almost any content management system you want.
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Alternatively if you are happy to forgo a little of this flexibility and would prefer a hassle free hosting experience then a fully hosted service such as Squarespace will be a better option for you. These types of services are great because factors like security, updates, data redundancy & reliability are all managed for you. This allows you to focus on the creation of your content rather than time consuming management of your hosting service.
Content Management Systems
As the website owner you need something that is going to be easy to use and won't get in the way of you being able to update it regularly. This is where you need an easy to use Content Mangement System (CMS). Modern content management systems such as Wordpress do a very good job at making the managing of your website content very straight forward.
If you have decided that the greater functionality of services like Drupal, Joomla or Wordpress are your cup of tea, you will set them up by installing them on your hosting service - often your provider will have a very easy install process for you to follow. It is then just a matter of logging in and adding your content, choosing/creating a suitable theme and adjusting until you get what you want. These CMS's also allow for integration of third party services through plug-in's which you can install to add extra functionality.
Should you choose a fully integrated CMS & hosting service such as Squarespace, you will be presented with a very user friendly dashboard that allows for drag and drop simplicity in customising your website. This involves choosing a template to base your website on, then tweaking it to suit your needs. Content creation and management are all managed within your login to the service and handled with the same drag and drop simplicity. These services present a great option for anyone who wants a professional website but without the time or need to learn complicated programming languages.
Your third option here is to hire a website developer, in consultation with them you will be able to discuss your wants and needs for your website. Your developer then has the ability to use a service and organise your hosting for you and provide you with a fully customised website. It needs to be said that this is a much more costly option than the above, also consider whether there are ongoing costs for maintenance or updates to your content.
Content is Key
So the hard background work is complete after choosing between self managed or a fully integration website service and setting up the backbone of your website (the appearance and styling of your site). Before launching your website and letting people know about it - it's time to add some content. After all when you start getting visitors you want them to have something to look at.
If your website is going to be based around images, ensure you have a good variety and selection of image galleries to view. Likewise if you are implementing a blog on your website it is advisable to have a handful of posts available for when you launch. With your website being the online presence of your brand, it pays to have it ready before you start sending any visitors your way or advertising it's existence - you wouldn't open your store without stock to sell...right?? Some of the other pages you may like to add to your site include:
- About - some information about your business or brand
- Location - embed a Google map with your address and contact details if you have a physical presence
- Contact Us - a form your visitor can use to submit an enquiry or feedback to
- Search - add a search box to your sidebar or navigation to assist your visitors in finding what they want
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