Reference Guide: Managing Your Online Presence
Get Online: Review Website Options
It can be dizzying to review all the website options available. There’s such a wide range. Before you decide, I’d suggest taking an in-depth, long-term look at your business and determine what kind of website you’ll need in the future. Major considerations of any site setup are the hosting options, domain ownership, and email mailboxes. Take the time and review as much as you can. You really need to look at the big picture. Setting up a website is more complex than you might realize. It is the cornerstone of your online existence, your hub. There are many parts to it. Your site ripples through everything you do online. Everything also comes back to it. Take the time to research!
Here is a list of some options and features of the different types of site setups and options that are available.
WYSIWYG Do-It-Yourself Sites
There are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) options where you select a template and add your content. Oftentimes, web hosts offer these as one option in their hosting packages. Others are really template sites that will also host for you. Or perhaps there’s a company that focuses on some other service entirely that also hosts sites. There’s a significant difference there, IMO. There are so many considerations and hosting requirements that I think it’s better to go with a host that focuses on that. These are the companies most likely to have the best security setups, technicians, and support. Having worked in the IT industry for several decades, I can tell you that there’s much that goes into system administration and ensuring that everything is up and running. I’d much prefer to go with a company whose business is hosting, not a company whose business is one thing and hosting is just one part or department in that company.
That said, one of these setups might work fine for you. Just look at everything before making a decision.
- Novices who know nothing about design or coding and just want to get something out quick
- Those that aren’t as concerned about the look-and-feel of their site
- Sites that will be static (content is not likely to change)
- Sites that have just a few basic pages such as company description, services, and contact information
- Sites that are likely to remain small
- You can select from a number of templates, depending on the site or host
- You can add content quickly
- Design is often of a lower quality
- Some of these designs appear more amateurish, which could ultimately reflect poorly upon your business
- It may be difficult to expand or add functionality
There are some blog hosting sites that enable you to set up sites and blogs at no cost. These also use basic templates which you can use to quickly add content without much design or coding work. Templates are often available. Some are designed better than others. It really depends on the site and whether or not it meets your requirements. Some sites may also offer free hosting for a specific time period and then begin to charge a monthly fee after that time.
I’ve written up an entire post about WordPress. Rather than just repeat that information here, I’ll just send you to the post. Here it is: Get Online: WordPress.
This is a great starter site. It’s run by Google, so you’ll need to set up an account with them. Blogger is particularly good for just starting to get some content published. I wouldn’t say that it’s good for a business site, but you could start to learn how the web works.
I think that this is more of a general personal-use site. There are many people with Tumblr sites. I’m sure if you look around, you’ll find some sites.
Look at some web hosts. You might see something that enables you to quickly set up a site using a WYSIWYG template. Some might have free hosting for a year or some other time period, or lower rates for a while. When looking at that, though, be sure that you own the domain and can take it with you should you decide to move your site.
For these sites, you would end up hiring a designer. Obviously, there would be more development costs. However, it would provide you with a more professional presence on the web. That might be beneficial and help you stand out amongst your competitors.
- Companies that view their site design to be important to their public image
- Sites likely to have dynamic content
- Sites that have shopping carts, or plan to add that functionality at some point
- Companies that are active in social media and serious about building and maintaining an online presence
- Sites that are likely to be around for some time and have much archived materials
- Sites that will grow, add functionality, email newsletters, social media items, and embed video and sound content as well as written materials
- Sites that must be usable on all device sizes
- Your site will appear more polished
- Content and usability concerns can be planned and addressed
- Your site might stand out amongst your competitors
- The site can be designed for growth
- The site can be designed and optimized for mobile and tablet access
- Cost may be a factor for some companies
- There may be ongoing maintenance fees and upkeep required
Many designers use self-hosted WordPress for sites. So that’s something to look into if you’re considering this route. Additional options include Squarespace and Wix. Here’s information specific to WordPress: Get Online: WordPress.
Review Sites Before Making a Decision
I can’t reiterate enough about how important it is to take time up front to really think about how you want your website set up. It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. Remember, it’s the hub of your online presence. You own it, so to speak. That’s not the case with social media platforms. Take some time to find what works for your business – or not. One of the best ways to do that is to look around.
Review Sites for Samples and Ideas
- Take a look at site samples, such as those noted on WordPress.com. You can also find showcases for professional WordPress theme developers and webhosting companies such as Squarespace.
- Wander around the web a bit and find some sites that you like. Perhaps it’s the design, or the content, or the functionality, or all of those items. Look at your competitor’s sites. With what you have in mind, how would your site look in comparison to potential clients or customers?
Look Up the Web Host or Designer
Usually, there’s a link in the footer or bottom of the site that goes to the theme or template, a website, a designer – something. If you like the site, click that link and see what other information is available.
If you want to find out who the web host is for a site, look up the domain in WHOIS. It usually lists who the host is. Or, you could go to most any webhost and type in a domain name and get the ICANN information that all site owners and web hosts have to provide.
No matter what you decide on, ensure that you end up owning your domain (not the host) and that you can easily export your site content and move it. There are also many considerations when searching for a host. I recommend that you review the following post I wrote about that.