So you want to publish a Website, eh? The end result you see on your screen when you type a Website address into your browser actually requires a lot of components, and unless you’re planning to hand the whole project over to someone to handle for you, you’ll need to bring those pieces together yourself. The following is a brief but comprehensive explanation of everything you’ll need to know.
It’s been said that “content is king.” The word “content” in Web design is akin to the word “copy” in print publishing. It refers to the text and graphic elements that are presented when people view the Website. It’s why people will visit your site. In many cases, less is more with content. People generally skim Websites to find the information they seek, so shorter paragraphs and sentences are preferrable to longer ones, and bulleted or numbered lists are preferrential to novels. If pictures are truly able to convey a thousand words, they’re even better than bulleted or numbered lists. Many people publishing their own Websites already have a rough draft of their content in mind. Depending on how rough that draft is and how creative you are, you might be able to flesh it all out well enough and design all your own content. If you come up short, there are plenty of professional copy writers and graphic artists who can help.
The presentation of content is known as “design.” In the world of print, it’s called “layout,” but in the digital world, it can include interactive elements beyond the capabilities of print. Just as you might want your letterhead, business cards, and other printed materials to share a common theme, so, too, your Website should. Further, the various pages of your Website should probably share certain common elements, too, such as navigation, font faces and sizes, logo placement, colors, etc. Websites can be designed and coded in raw HTML using nothing more than a standard text editor like Windows Notepad, or can be more comprehensive, including document & resource libraries, sales & marketing presentations, lead generation & collection, product showcases, customer service kiosks, order processing systems, or multiplayer online games, and can involve scripting, database integration, transaction processing, online chat, email forwarding, and the embedding of audio, video, and other interactive elements. The design of your Website may be as simple as necessary or as out-of-this-world as you can imagine.
Once designed, your Website needs to be stored somewhere where it will be accessible to the World. Although your desktop computer may be connected to the world, it’s not terribly-reliably so connected. Anytime you have a power failure or an Internet access outage, your computer is offline. To maximize the uptime of your Website, you can pay the owners of a more reliable computer to “host” your Website for you. When a company advertises a 99.999% uptime guarantees, they are offering an assurance that your Website will be down for fewer than 10 hours per year. They do this by providing multiple servers with fault-tolerant configurations in temperature- and humidity-controlled environments with redundant Internet connections, backup power supplies and generators, technicians onsite 24/7, spare parts on hand, and service level agreements (SLAs) with vendors upon whom they need to rely to offer such a guarantee. Effectively you’re renting space on their hard drives, time on their processors, and the use of their network connections. There is typically a monthly or annual fee for such hosting service, and it frequently comes with email hosting, too. Prices will vary, depending on the size, speed, and reliability of the hosted space, as well as the quality of the tools and support services the company provides. Of course, a hosting company’s reputation and marketing efforts will play into the numbers, too.
Just like your house had an address (“123 Main St”) before it came to be known among your friends by it’s more common name (“Joe’s House”), each server connected to the Internet has an address (“22.214.171.124“) by which it’s known, called an IP address. Once your Website is hosted on an Internet-connected server, you can immediately begin viewing the Website by its IP address. This, however, isn’t nearly as intuitive for your associates and clients, as finding it by name (“MaverickSolutions.biz“), so most Websites opt for a domain name. Domain names are registered for a year with a reseller or with a registrar directly, and they are unique, so only one entity can own “Foo.com,” for example. The domain name, also known as a Uniform Resource Locator, or “URL,” once registered with a domain name registrar, is indexed and accessible to anyone with a connected Web browser, and is configured to refer to the Website host’s numerical IP address. Thus, anyone can find your Website via a more intuitive name than by having to resort to knowing it’s IP address. If you register your domain name with the same company that provides your Website hosting service, they’ll probably configure it for you automatically, but if not, you’ll need to manually configure your domain name registration records to make the name point to the correct host server’s IP address. Domain names are registered in year intervals; to transfer a registration to a new registrar or reseller, the owner typically must renew the registration with the new company, which effectively transfer it while adding another year to the lease end date.
Virtually none of our clients know that our IP address is 126.96.36.199, but most know that our domain name is MaverickSolutions.biz. Very few of our prospects, however, know even our domain name, so most would find us by searching Google, Yahoo, Bing, or another search engine. Search engines typically perform their own automated Web “crawling” whereupon they stumble across our Web pages, parse them, and index them. This permits them to refer people who search for our business name to our domain name and Website. Most search engines perform these Web-crawling index updates automatically, although some offer Website owners priority handling for a fee. This typically moves their Website up in the Web-crawling queue to be indexed sooner.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO) & SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING (SEM)
While search engines already give our Website exposure to our clients and to prospects who know our company name, there is an even larger number of prospects who need our goods or services but have never heard of our company at all. When these people search for “Technology Consulting” or for “School Network Support,” we may appear in the search results. Whether or not we do, and if so, how far down the list, depends on more factors than we’ll cover in this article, but please see our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Primer for an article specifically on SEO. SEO efforts allow a Website owner to move his/her Website up the list of search results provided for various keywords through organic means. SEM allows a Website owner to pay a search engine to have his/her Website shown for various searches.
If you decide to study and handle all of these components yourself, a Website can be had for not a lot of money, but there is a lot to learn. For more information about any of the components we’ve discussed, you can use your favorite search engine to search for copywriters, Web designers, hosting services, domain name registration, SEO, and SEM. If you’d rather have a professional handle it for you, Maverick Solutions offers all of the services mentioned in this article, and would be happy to provide a proposal for you. We can take you from zero to online quickly and painlessly, or we can help you with appropriate “next steps,” for whatever your current situation. Contact us for a free consultation and proposal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Blum is the founder, president, and chief consultant at Maverick Solutions IT, Inc. Maverick Solutions helps schools, NFPs, and SO/HOs get more value from their technology budgets. Visit their Website to learn about the services they offer, or read their blog, Maverick Ramblings, for assorted tips, tricks, and information of technology interest.