What is a website and what’s involved in owning one?
In 2017, most of us have an idea of what a website looks like and what it can do for a business. A website is much more than a flyer or a printed brochure because with the interactivity afforded by the Internet, the website is something more like an office online. It can sell while your staff is sleeping, answer questions, give directions and even offer instant access to documents or downloads.
Beyond that basic understanding, most people have no idea what the building blocks are that are required to achieve a site online, sometimes even after owning one. As a web developer, I’ve seen this lack knowledge cause a great many misunderstandings in regard to solutions for sticky situations that result in the website going down, sometimes indefinitely. It’s great to make note of some of these elements in a central location reserved for your website’s details on your computer for later retrieval.
Your office, online.
Imagine that the site itself and it’s pages are the office building… the land that the building sits on is your server space. The server space is limited in size like the lot for your building and your building sits on top. Usually server space or web hosting is provided by the month or by the year. Web hosting server spaces come with services like email just as your lot comes with a mailbox at your building. You’ll need to have your hosting set up for monthly recurring billing or you’ll need to be prepared to renew it every year before the expiration date.
Some hosting providers allow you to choose automatic billing where your card will be charged for the renewal before it expires. If the hosting expires, visitors will not see your website. Instead they might receive a message that your site has been suspended for non-payment or is no longer available online. Emails @yourdomain will temporarily stop sending and receiving until the hosting account has been reactivated.
The domain name or URL is the address to your land or server space. When people type it in to their web browser or a search engine, they should be transported to your server space and presented with your website upon arrival. The domain name (yourdomain.com, .org, .net, etc.) is usually purchased by the year. Options also include buying your domain name for 5 years at a time to avoid accidental disruption and expiration. So this additional expense will need to be factored in usually yearly. If your domain name expires, visitors might receive a notice that it is available for purchase, in which case you can even lose the opportunity to renew it. Most domain registrars allow for a 30 day grace period before putting your expired domain name back up for sale to the public.
Keep it going!
After your site is built your web developer may require a monthly fee to keep your site’s software up to date and tested for compliance and functionality. Allowing your site’s coding to become deprecated can result in visitors seeing a blank screen or worse a hacked page featuring the message of the hacker’s choice. It’s so important to keep the code and software up to date for security and compatibility, that Google will not even grant a site top ranking with broken or outdated coding. This includes keeping your site responsive to the latest viewing devices.
With over a billion websites on the Internet, many of them are never seen. Let’s face it, when searching for a product or service online, no one goes to page two. A good website will need a search engine optimization or SEO program to ensure exposure to your target audience. Don’t let establishing an advertising budget for this scare you! There are packages available starting at as little as $99 per month that can get your site a top ranking for the keyword or key phrase of your choice. Many packages now also include social media marketing… a wonderful way to spread the word about what your business offers in a casual and friendly environment.
When asking “What is a website?” I hope this information helps to give you an idea of the pieces and prices involved with owning a website for your business online. Feel free to contact me anytime for help getting your new website online in 2017.