A Bit of History

Almost thirty years ago I started getting into website design, more as a hobby at the time and to challenge myself to learn something new. I found a program called HotDog Pro, which was pretty well an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) program, so there was a lot of complex coding involved, which I really didn't have the patience for. It's so very long ago that I don't remember what sites I even created back then.

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Choosing a Designer is Critical

Many designers take the approach that they build a site that will make them indispensable to maintain the site. They might charge a lower fee upfront, but then every time you want a change, no matter how small, they charge you an exorbitant fee that has little to do with the amount of work involved. These same developers often disappear as well, leaving the poor client in a mess.

I've lost track of the number of people who have called me in desperation to get their site working, let alone make changes. Unfortunately no designer will take over someone else's work because we then become responsible for it. Quite often the site is built with some obscure program that would take weeks to learn which makes no sense unless it will be used over and over again for other clients.

Not everybody is thrilled with the work that was done. Design is very much in the eye of the website designer and they often build sites that only glorify their abilities, but don't work for the client. I've seen too many gorgeous, feature rich sites that take forever to load, so very few people will see them. Study after study has shown that you have about eight seconds to make an impression and get the visitor to stay. When a site takes two minutes to load no one has the patience to wait for it. Often clients (not mine) are so unhappy that they simply don't pay the designer. This is when they sadly discover that website design is the designer's "intellectual property", in other words they own it not the client. This is usually when the designer will take the site down until they are paid.

My approach has always been different. After I have done the build, they are happy and have paid me, I give them full access to the code. They can download it. They can hire another designer if they want in the future. They can sell the site if they choose, for example, if the business is sold. I also take great pains to make sure they understand how to update the site with the things like new photographs and copy. Blogs are a great example of how clients keep their sites current and this draws visitors to come back. If you site includes advertising this is an important factor in whether they see a benefit in having their ads on your site.

Your Website Hosting

Another critical issue is hosting. You might have a great site, but if your host doesn't have the equipment and technology for hi-speed internet connection, all the visitor will see is "waiting for..." Again, they won't wait around. With more and more features being added to websites your host has to have the capacity to deal with your site and everybody else's. And what happens when your site is down or you have a problem? Can you contact your hosting company quickly and do they respond with qualified help? Hosting is not just a matter of the lowest price.

For seven years now I have used Bluehost.com. Their pricing is competitive, but most importantly their support is unmatched. Websites aren't perfect. Things happen. In a worst case scenario your site is suddenly gone! Do you have a backup? Probably not and all your hard work would be gone if your host doesn't backup your site, including not only the thousands of files, but also your databases, every night. Bluehost does.

Other Considerations

In addition to your host there are issues with your domain search and registration and what's called SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is how you will rank on searches. With a couple hundred million sites vying for attention how will people find you?

Although the way that the major search engines index your site is changing, we use a combination of what are called meta-tags and meta-names, basically everything people would enter om a search. Some are pretty basic, like location and your business, but others can be just as important. I know of one site who had no search words, not even their city and guess where they came up? Page 56! Now who would go that far searching for anything? On most searches you need to come up in the first few pages, preferably page one, but that's not always easy to do.

A couple of other considerations on where your site is going to come up in the results is how current your content is, such as a blog and whether you have any dangerous site links on your site. This happens when you don't have the proper security in place on the comments you allow on your site, and people post comments with links to dangerous or adult sites. Google will drop your ranking instantly if they discover these links on your site. Sometimes a simple math calculation to prove the poster is human works, but they are getting more sophisticated these days and can sometimes get passed these measures.

There's a lot to consider with any website. The first smart choice is to deal with someone who knows what they are doing and has YOUR best interests at heart.