As a shop window for your products and services, your website says a lot about you and even more about your business. So how did you go about creating this invaluable marketing tool?
Many small to medium sized businesses employ the services of a web design (digital) agency to create their site. This can be a really good option – after all these people do this sort of work all day every day, and are professionals in their field, right? But, just as you would with any other service you outsource, there are some important things to consider before making that decision.
If you use an agency to create your website, who owns your domain name? Is it managed by the agency? Is it even, perhaps, owned by the agency? On your behalf, of course, but still an important point to check.
Where is your website hosted? It will need some actual space somewhere. My recommendation is to find your own hosting solution, and to ask your digital marketing agency to work with that. That way you can be sure that should your relationship with your marketing agency come to an end, you will continue to have full access to your website.
Before I get into what I advise my clients, let’s take a brief diversion to look at the running costs of a website. For the purposes of this article, my example is a basic ‘brochure’ type website. When you have a website up and running to promote your business, there are some fairly simple running costs that you should be aware of.
Firstly, there is domain name registration – once a year, or more likely once every couple of years, you’re going to need to pay to have this registered.
Secondly, there is website hosting – you will need to pay this for as long as you want your website up and running.
Neither of these costs need to be very high – and especially the domain name registration fee.
Crucially, I advise keeping these two items separate – there may well be a time when you want to keep the domain name, but when you no longer need that website hosting. Keeping the two things separate, keeps things simple, and means that you are in fact able to have one without the other.
Rathlin Approach to website creation
When it comes to my clients and their websites, here is what I advise them.
The starting point is always the domain name. It’s fantastic if this is something catchy that ends in .com … but guess what? Most catchy .com names have already been snapped up, so this may not be an option. So, go with a domain name that means something to you, and your business. Now purchase this domain name! Do it through a reputable supplier. I use GoDaddy, but there are plenty of others.
The next step is finding some space to put your website. There are a great number of web hosting companies. I make use of HostPapa, but there are plenty of others. Get in touch with Rathlin if you would like some help with this stage, and we can advise.
The next thing you need to consider is how the website will actually be set up. My advice (as at 2019) is to make use of WordPress. There are other good website creation tools available, but I believe that WordPress is the most generic, and most capable of the options. Choosing WordPress means that you are able to use all sorts of talent to create your website. There are a very large number of developers who are able to create WordPress websites, and as such, this is now almost a commodity option.
If you have decided to work with a web / digital agency for your website, then they should be able to work with the parameters that you specify – ie: your own domain name; your own website hosting; and a WordPress website.
Some Additional Thoughts
You need to keep your website up to date. The simplest way of doing this is to write blog type articles of interest to your customers. This means you need to have some space to do this – and to publish them, without paying anyone for their help with this. WordPress allows you to do this.
You can plug in to a WordPress website, so that you can add an online ‘shop’, with products, which are simple to manage. Try not to get tied into a ‘hard to manage’ solution which you will need to pay someone else to look after for you; keep it simple, and manage it yourself.
You should document your website – what pages; what types of pages; what themes; what menus are in place. This will help you to engage a new supplier, should you need to at some later date.
When you engage a new supplier to update your website, or to start again from scratch, the more that you can write in a brief, the better the end result will be.
Adopting the approach of securing your own domain name, as well as your own (separate) website hosting, and then taking these, either to a digital marketing agency, or to a developer, will give you maintainability, flexibility, and control.
Having a solid website, which gives a great first impression of you and your business, is very important. There are a number of aspects which may not be initially apparent to all. Get in touch with Rathlin to have a team on your side to guide you through the complexity.