Investing in a new website can be a stressful experience. There are so many options out there it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of hosting, features, and upgrades. More often than not, businesses ignore their website for too long, because revamping and upgrading seems so daunting. More than once I’ve heard websites referred to as “necessary evils.”
That said, it’s important not to lose sight of some key steps before you jump into the bigger details of building a new website. With that in mind, here are four pieces to have in place before invest in that shiny new website.
Make Sure You Control Your URL
This may seem obvious, but too often web developers will try to pull a fast one and keep a URL out of your hands. If you use a company who promises to register your URL for you, make sure that you have access to it and full rights. Websites come and go, but keeping the same URL is important. There is no reason for a company to deny you access to your URL. None. It should be registered in your name, not the name of the company building your website.
Content and Photography
Think of your website as a frame. Even the best website will look like garbage if what it’s framing is subpar content and shoddy photography. Before you start developing your site, invest some time and money into quality content, videos, and/or photography. Themes and coding don’t make a website visually engaging or exciting to read.
A good website is a living, breathing thing. It needs to be updated and managed. If you are hiring someone to design and build your website, make sure they are also showing you (or someone on your team) how to update and operate the thing. Once a site is done, you should have access to the “backend,” which is basically the inner workings of the site. If your website is done properly, you should not have to be all that tech savvy to add a blog post or update some photography. Make sure it’s clear from the beginning that you will have access to the site. You should be able to update and change it without making several angry phone calls.
To Host or Not Host
One of the most important decisions you need to make about your website before the process gets rolling is whether you’ll host it or whether the folks who build it will host it. This may not seem like a big decision, but too often people don’t know what they are signing up for and end up confused as to what they are paying for each month or year. As we said previously, there are a lot of options when it comes to websites, but most likely you’ll fall into one of these two categories. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so you need to know which one works best for you and your team before you sign on the dotted line.
If you are hosting your website, you’ll pay a fee to a company and then load your website to their platform which will, in turn, make it available on the internet. This means, whoever builds your site will give you the code for it. It’s yours, in your hands to what you want with it. The advantage of this is, obviously, you have it and can do what you want with it. Want to move it to a different hosting platform? No problem, you can do that. Want to hire somebody to change the site and add features? No problem, you can hire whomever you want. It’s yours, in your hands to do with what you please. The disadvantage is that there is more management involved on your part and things like updated apps or features can cause real headaches.
If you pay for service to design and host your website, you’ll handle everything with one provider. This means that your website lives with the company who manages it and you’ll likely pay a monthly or yearly fee to have access to it. You can’t move it to a different provider, because the company who built it is also hosting it. The advantage of this option is it’s easier. You’re not dealing with multiple companies, you don’t have to worry about updates or new features, it’s all taken care off. Generally, companies that offer these services – Wix, Squarespace, etc. – have very simple and easy to navigate platforms. Updating the site is easy and pretty much anybody can do it. The disadvantage is, the moment you stop paying that monthly fee, your website is gone. You can’t take your site to another service provider, you’re stuck.
Obviously, these steps are just the beginning. Building a website is a huge project, but it’s easier if you have a plan in place before you take those first steps.