Your web site is an essential part of your business, so you want to get it right first time. While there are plenty of ‘free’ services allowing you to build a basic web site online, a professionally designed and managed web site will be tailored to your exact requirements and can be extended with specialist services in the future when you need them, without incurring the hidden and often excessive ongoing development costs associated with self-built web sites.
Here is a basic guide to some of specialized services I can include in your web site. Obviously, the exact content of your web site will be based on your business requirements.:
Databases are central to interactive web site development, but most people don’t even know they are there. A database is a simple means to take data from user input and store it in a form that can be searched quickly, but most web sites now are entirely database driven, which means everything you see – text, placement of pictures, and even site layout, is all stored in a database.
A typical use for a custom database might be to have a form in which you (the site administrator) can add information, which in turn is used to build dynamic site content, for example to show a marker on a Google map. Another use might be to store information entered by a customer as part of an e-commerce transaction.
When you have a custom-designed web site, you benefit from having a unique design not shared with other sites, along with the features which are specific to the product or service your business offers. Having done this work for many years, I find it is easier and cheaper to build a design from scratch rather than work from a pre-made template.
It’s surprising how much difference even a simple animation of a single item on a page can make, and they are not expensive to add, but almost always need to be done as and where needed using a small custom script.
There are many third-party web services out there, and depending on your business you may need to use one. It will have to be integrated into your web site, which usually means a custom-coded widget or site extension.
WordPress has more plugins than any other Content Management System, and a lot of them are free. But you might need some changes made to one, to customize the user experience or fit your site’s layout properly.
The CMS (Content Management System) is the backbone of your web site. It allows you to change the site yourself, and add additional functions when you need them. You should always choose an industry-standard CMS, like WordPress or Joomla, because the site can then be moved between servers and hosting companies. ‘Build your own’ services use their own proprietary systems which cannot be moved – you are locked in to the one company, and to move means scrapping the web site and starting again with a new provider.
Many small developers (myself included, in the past) use their own systems – mine was called ‘nCMS’ – and most companies regard their CMS as their own property and don’t allow transfers (and even if they do, then you won’t find someone else who knows how the system works!) Today, I use WordPress for all my web sites because it is well documented, has regular security updates, has many thousands of free plugins, and is easy to extend with custom scripting. WordPress is used by over 100 million web sites worldwide, and can easily be moved from one host to another if needed.
First, don’t confuse the developer with the hosting company. Developers purchase hosting services and re-sell them with the web sites, as a package. The hosting fee is justified, as the developer has to pay for server space, and there is a continuous stream of maintenance which has to be done behind the scenes, for which the client (i.e. you) is not charged directly. So if you are using a developer, then the hosting company is not your concern – just don’t pay more than about £70 per year for hosting your web site (I charge £49). I am happy if you want to use your own hosting company, providing it meets with certain criteria.
The only thing you might want to consider is having an SSL certificate for your site, so it can be accessed through the HTTPS protocol. If you have a high-traffic site, or store ANY customer data on a database, you should do this.
There are a lot of extensions to choose from nowadays, but try to keep with the .co.uk or .uk domains if possible, as these are still very familiar to most people. If you don’t know what domain to go for, then I am happy to help find one suitable for your business. The domain name should ideally be hosted with the web site, but if you are hosting the site yourself then you will be responsible for renewals. If you don’t do this on time, you might lose the domain for ever.
Please telephone, email, or click the ‘quote’ link below if you would like to get a price for a new web site, or if you need any further advice.
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