Monthly Archives: October 2017

Choosing the Right Web Designer

So, you’ve finally decided that you need a web site for your business? Well, there are a few key-points to remember BEFORE you make one of the most crucial decisions for your business.

Choosing the right designer for your new business web site:

When it comes to choosing the right web designer for your web site, you should always shop around first to check out all of the available options. There are many web design companies out there to choose from. And most of them are pretty good at what they do.

Always ask to see samples of a web designer’s previous work and examine their portfolio. This will help you get a better feel for the style of sites any particular web designer is capable of doing. Most of the time, web designers have their own unique style and you can easily spot which designs they’ve done in the past. I mean, it’s similar to any other artist’s style; you can definitely spot their previous works based on the general layout, color scheme, and over-all visual appearance of the sites.

Experience is also a key factor here. Just like any other craft, web designers get better with experience. So naturally, you’ll be better off by choosing a web designer who has more experience under his or her belt.

Another key point you should define is whether or not the web designer can make you a 100% custom web site. Or will it be just a basic template web design that 100’s or even 1,000’s of people already have across the Internet. Pretty much anybody these days can create a basic HTML web page in Microsoft Word or Publisher and change the title of it to reflect their Branson business. But you must ask yourself: “is this really what I’m looking for”?

Web sites that are truly custom built will stand out more the rest of the basic template web designs that so many people are using these days. A custom web design will catch the eye of your potential customers and show them that you have a really professional web presence and you mean business.

A lot of web designers these days choose to do the template web sites for one of 2 reasons:

It’s cheaper to use a basic template web design. They might be lacking the necessary skills needed to develop a fully custom web site. Whatever the case may be, make sure you go with a designer who is capable of creating a custom web design for you. It will inevitably cost you more for a custom site. But it is totally worth the extra money spent. Trust me, in the end you will be much happier with your web site if it is a site that’s unique and created for just your business and not everybody else’s.

Communication with a potential web designer is also critical in the development of your web site. You need to be perfectly clear and define your goals up-front, before you actually sign a web design service contract with a designer. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money and make sure you get it in writing! I have a 9-page web site design contract that I use every single time I design a new web site. Included in this contract is an itemized list of all work that is to be performed during the development of the web site. Things like the exact number of pages, the exact number of graphics to be designed, whether or not I need to create a logo, the estimated time before completion, whether or not routine site maintenance will be performed after the site is 6 months or 1 year old, etc.

Defining these things will help you in the long run and will also make sure you and the web designer are on the same page.

I also use what I call my “web design planning worksheet”. This worksheet gives “milestones” or deadlines for each phase of the web design project. Things like “In 2 weeks the general layout will be done” and “2 weeks after that, the site will be coded and launched” and then “In one moth after the web site is launched, we will evaluate it to see what needs to be adjusted”, etc. (these are just examples, by the way. the details included in one of my actual worksheets gives exact dates and more specific milestones).

And what about the web hosting for your new web site? Usually, a web designer will provide some kind of insight as to which hosting company they recommend. Web designers in general have a preference for a hosting company that they know will be a good choice for your web site and they should assist you in making this selection.

Fortunately, we have our own web server here at Digital Spiral Web Design so we can do all of the hosting ourselves. This is very beneficial because we can make sure the web server stays up and running and if there is any maintenance that needs to be performed on the server, we can do it ourselves in a timely manner. Plus, we will always cut a deal for our web site hosting services to any new business who chooses us to do their web design.

Getting Started With Your Web Site

How do I start my website? This is a very commonly asked question, and I hope the following will give a few very basic answers, as well as giving you some starting knowledge of what is involved in creating a personal or business web site. I intend to cover each of these topics individually, and at much greater depth, in coming weeks, but for now here is my basic starter guide to putting the first few feet forward on the path of web site creation. Although aimed at small business and organizations most of these principles apply to web site projects of all types and sizes.

Step One: What Do I Want My Web Site For?

Every web site needs a reason to be, a purpose to fulfill or a job to do! The first step in creating any web site is to define the reason why your site needs to come into being. Have a brainstorming session by yourself or with your team and answer the following questions:

Who are we trying to reach with our website?

It is very important to know the target audience or “demographic” you want to appeal to with your web site (or any form of public marketing for your organization). A site intended for high level industry professionals will and should have a very different look, feel and function to a site intended for children or a site intended for selling fashion accessories. A good thought experiment is to write down the attributes you would want in your “ideal” visitor. This will really help in answering the other questions going forward about your site.

What do we want visitors to our website to be able to do?

A web site can allow a visitor to find and do any number of things and it is up to you to decide what functions you want to provide. Is your site just about information? Are you looking to sell a product or encourage prospective clients to contact you about buying a service? Do you want visitors to be able to get an online quotation or to be able to donate money? Don’t limit your vision. If you don’t have the full budget, or your business isn’t quite ready to service all the features you want, you can always split your project into stages and launch a site that can easily grow, expand and develop when you are ready.

What “call to action” do we want for our visitors?

This is a very important, arguably the MOST important question to answer about your web site before starting any design process. How do you want a visitor to act ideally on finding your web site? Do you simply want to encourage them to telephone your company? Do you want them to make an online request to contact them? Do you want them to go ahead an make a purchase or a booking right there on your site? Do you want them to send you information, or perhaps subscribe to your mailing list? Here again it can help to make a simple point-by-point plan on paper, from “A visitor arrives at your homepage…” to “A visitor leaves your website.” Having this information at hand will enable you or your designer to tailor every element of your site to making this happen.

What “style” do we want for our site?

Almost certainly if you are reading this you have spent some significant time “surfing the web”. By now you know what you like, what you dislike and what you find just plain scrumdelicious. If you are in a business or organization you have very likely spent time browsing your competitors’ web sites, or sites similar to the one you want to build. Bookmark these sites and write down what you like or hate about each. You may love the way a menu works in one site but hate the color scheme. On another you may like the way they take orders, but find the site hard to navigate. At our company we call these sites picked out by a client “exemplars” and they can be invaluable when creating the look, feel and function of a site that will meet what the client’s vision for their project. There is nothing wrong with adapting a good idea from one site to use on your own or taking inspiration from another site in the design of your own. As a web designer, this is actually one of the highest compliments one can receive. On the flip side, don’t try to re-invent the whole web site concept. Visitors expect to find navigation menus in certain places and pages such as a “contact us” are a useful standard. The balance in style is between building a site that looks pleasing, distinctive, and professional, but has the type of functionality a visitor expects and can easily navigate.

What is our budget for this project?

Budget is a very important factor when approaching a web design project. Some costs, such as domain registration and a hosting account, cannot be avoided but if money is extremely tight you may consider building a site yourself or finding a “talented amateur” family member or friend who will give you a hugely discounted price. If you choose to go with a professional you should definitely get several quotes and ask for project proposals and estimates from each of the companies you contact.

Beware of companies that can quote you a price almost without hearing any details of your project. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions! Your web site represents a significant investment and you should get clear explanations of what is involved and how the project is priced. On the other hand you should also be ultra clear and specific about the process flow of your business. Remember, your designer might know little to nothing about your industry and without sufficient specifics from you, there can end up being unexpected costs when the designer has to rework the design and coding.

How Hosting For Web Pages Works

Web page hosting is something that every single web page on the internet has to have since web hosting services are required to have your site seen on the internet. If you want to host a web page on the internet, you will have to wade through thousands of hosting companies in order to find one to suit your needs.

If you are not armed with knowledge of web hosting terminology and technology, how can you possibly make an educated decision on which company should host your web page?

First, you should learn about the different types of web page hosting that are available on the internet. There are a lot of different kinds of web hosting but there are the most common ones used by web pages on the internet.

Shared Web Hosting
With shared web page hosting, numerous web pages are hosted on the same web server. All of these pages will share the same resources available on the server such as internet connection, hard drive space, CPU speed, RAM, etc.

While this is the most common kind of web hosting, it can be dangerous for a professional business because of the sometimes unreliable nature of shared web page hosting.

Virtual Dedicated Server
Virtual dedicated servers are also called virtual private servers. With this type of web hosting account, you are still sharing a server with other web pages but this time you have your own piece of the server’s resources that are dedicated to your site.

In all other aspects, it functions just like a dedicated server where you generally have your own IP address, can host numerous web pages, and have root access to your server.

Dedicated Server Hosting
A dedicated server hosting account is where you have an entire web server that only you get to use and you do not have to share anything with any other web pages.

Dedicated web hosting servers are offered in a number of different formats to suit the needs of a client. You usually get to choose the server specifications depending on your budget.

Colocation dedicated servers are purchased instead of leased servers that are maintained, connected to the internet and stored by a web hosting company.

Dedicated servers are generally assumed to be leased servers where you make a monthly payment to the web hosting service to have use of the web server.

Managed dedicated servers are higher priced leased servers that are managed and controlled by a web hosting company similar to the way a shared hosting account would be managed. Managed dedicated servers do not receive root access but will keep you from landing in a situation where you have messed up a server setting by playing around with something you didn’t have the knowledge to be doing.

Unmanaged dedicated servers are for webmasters that have the knowledge to maintain and even perform software updates to their own web server. This is the cheapest web server leasing option available but you will be responsible for your own machine.

Web Page Hosting Technologies
It is also important that you have a thorough understanding of web hosting technologies before you proceed with purchasing your web hosting account. Again, this is not a complete listing of the different technologies used by web servers and web site hosts, but they are the most important features that you should know about when choosing a web host.

Web Hosting Control Panels
There are actually quite a few different control panel software systems being used by hosting companies these days. Some of these control panels are designed by the companies using them so they can limit access to certain features of their choosing. Other control panels are widely used, powerful pieces of software that give you full control over your web site and the newest technologies available.

It is essential that you select a web hosting service that will give you full access to your site or else you may find yourself needing features that are not available to you. This is especially true when you start trying to install software scripts on your site.

CPanel is probably the most widely used web hosting control panel and is the recommended control panel that you should look for when selecting a hosting service provider.

A Guide to FREE Web Site Advertising

It’s not going to be an easy task, trying to locate Free Web Site Advertising. But if you work hard enough for it and play by the rules, you too can grab up a share of valuable Free website advertising on the World Wide Web for your web site project. Here’s a free web site advertising guide that’ll provide you with some helpful hints on getting FREE website advertising for your web pages. Believe it or not… there’s a piece of the web for anybody willing to work hard for it.

Successful webmasters who have acquired high web site ranking and web popularity on the World Wide Web, constantly scour the web for informative web pages that are relevant to their own business niche. To them, it’s FREE outbound link information resources that help build their outbound link structure. Search engine robots and spiders are not only detecting a web site’s inbound link structure within a web site, they’re also searching for supporting, outbound information links that are of relevant and informative content.

Search engines are most favorable to web sites that provide a supporting outbound link structure… always with the Internet web visitor in mind. These very-wise web masters know exactly what they’re looking for in building their supporting outbound link structure. You should learn what it is they are looking for- in high hopes they link to your web site and ultimately provide you with increased ranking and popularity. And guess what? It’s FREE!

Also, many of the outbound links they discover and install, often come and go. In a months time, 20 informative outbound links could turn into fourteen working and supporting links and six that become broken and or nonexistent. Broken links are bad. In fact these days, most webmasters use automated software to alert them when broken links appear within their web pages. And guess what? They’ll be on the prowl again- search for relevant content-rich web pages to link to.

The wise web master, will then begin to locate new web site hyper links, to take the place of broken and removed links. Web masters are performing this operation day in day out 365 days a year. These are the makers of web sites you want to attract… they will be your avenue to FREE web site advertising.

Helpful Web site Advertising Tips

The first thing you should learn is… to have a true desire and passion about what your website is all about, whether it’s a blog about yourself, or business products or services your are trying to sell. You have to establish yourself as a genuine authority on what your website is trying to convey. “And how do you do that”, you ask?

Know your business niche inside and out. Know your competitor’s business niche inside and out. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Provide as much information about yourself, your web page your staff and most importantly your business and its products. If your business competition have two paragraphs on a particular product or service, or even an introduction, you build three paragraphs.

You should set your main web page navigation up so that visitors, without pause, are able to access information about you, your staff, your geographic location, contact information, web site information and of course, product goods and services. A hyper link to your web site site map is a must. Having a directory-wide site search is also a plus. Make accessing your pages easy for your visitors and crawling search engine robots, spiders and crawlers.

Web Page Download Time

To begin with, if your web site sucks, no one is going to bother to link to it, and links to your web site are exactly what you’re looking for. First good impressions are lasting impressions and will result in return visitors to your web site. Make sure you have a clean, crisp, fast loading and attractive web design. Run your web site through a download time calculator. If it fails the download time test, then it’s time to start trimming your website code, graphics and images.

HTML Code Validation

Now you have to make sure your HTML code is validated. HTML code validation is an essential element in knowing your web site is in compliance within multiple web browsers. Run it through an HTML validator such as the, W3C Markup Validation Service. If your web page fails the test, it’s time to get to work and Clean up your code.

Internet Web browsers are not all created equal. What looks good in a web browser on your machine, will not necessarily look the same in another web browser on another machine. Everybody has a favorite Internet web browser- there are many. With web page validation, you can be assured, your web site will look its best in which ever web browser your web page visitors are using to access your website. If your web page code can’t pass the validation, then it’s time to scrap your web site for a New Web Site Design.

Now your web page is ready to publish. Submit your finished project to all major search engines. Pass it along to friends, family, acquaintances, and business associates. Hit the blogging highway- find relevant sites and offer your expertise. Many sites will allow you to leave your web site URL address.

Sit back and wait… because high-rolling web masters who happen to come across your site, and feels you’re a valued contributor on the web- he/she just might add your website link to his valuable site. It’s all about web site design and content. Give your web visitors and search engines, the environment and path of least resistance.