Time to Spring Clean your Web Site before Winter sets in.

Your Web Site may not have cost much to create, it may not cost much to operate, but it has something in common with it’s more expensive cousins – it is a valuable marketing and sales tool.

The Internet is constantly evolving and improving, and the technology that drive your Web Site also change. So you need to make sure your Web Site continues to function properly by keeping the back-end up to date.

It may not seem that important, until you remember that new Web Sites are launched daily, if not hourly. Amongst these, will be new competitors for your business. You have the advantage of being there first – keep it.

Find out more about Spring Cleaning your Web Site HERE

WordPress – Two Options

WordPress is by far the most popular Content Management System available. It is very powerful and yet simple to use. It also comes in two different flavours;

  • WordPress.

If you decide to host your own WordPress site, you find it will work out much cheaper than WordPress Dot Com once you take the optional extras.

To host WordPress yourself you need your own Domain Name and Hosting Account.

The Domain Name is quite straight forward you can register it through your Host or yourself through ZA Central Registry  or through NameCheap.

Choosing a Host requires a bit of checking. Not all servers are set up for WordPress or similar and you need to check;

Databases:- Content Management Systems are Database driven. WordPress, the most common, needs mySQL to operate.

phpMyAdmin:- mySQL needs it to operate and you require at least version 3.5.5

As long as you can confirm the above, you are ready sign up and conquer the Internet.

Maybe this is where I should tell you to do a search online and see what people are saying about the Host you have chosen, before committing yourself.

 

WordPress – Two Options

WordPress is by far the most popular Content Management System available. It is very powerful and yet simple to use. It also comes in two different flavours;

WordPress DOM COM – Free Hosted Version.

This is one of the best kept secrets on the Internet. Ok so it is very popular and hosts many free Blogs and did I mention, it is free. Most people will assume that the free version is just for Blogs. You will find many great Blogs when going through the community pages.

But and here is the most important difference between WordPress and Blogger or Tumblr, you do not have to publish a journal or Blog, you can simply publish a Website. Before, you say “So, what?” and point out there are other sites where you can do that – here is the kicker – those sites do not run on WordPress.

Think it through carefully, you want your business to grow and if your business grows, your Website will have to do so, as well. You are going to end up employing someone full time, or outsource, the Website.

Your move from Hosted WordPress to WordPress hosted on your own server will be seamless and easier. Plus you know know and understand how to use WordPress (the differences are minimal.)

WordPress do have paid optional extras that include premium themes, custom domain names and extra space, allowing you to continue using them (if that is what you want) when it is time to upgrade your Website.

What you need to consider when doing a Website yourself.

Websites are not rocket science and are actually quite easy to create. But (there has to be a but, right?) simply building a Website does not guarantee traffic. And a Website without traffic is a waste of your time and money.

So if you are going to do it yourself, save yourself the embarrassment of having to have professional fix your mistakes later.

Objective

Ask yourself;

  • What is the purpose of this Website?
  • What are Goals for this Website?

Plan

  • Content
  • Colours
  • Layout
  • Navigation

Hosting

You need the IP addresses for your Hosting, if you intend to register your own Domain Name. Your Host will also be able to register your Domain at a nominal charge for you.

Domain Name

If you intend to register your own Domain Name, you can register;

South African Domains  DOT COZA through ZA Central Registry NPC

International Domains NameCheap

Software

The best software to use when creating a Website is the text editor on your computer. But to do so you need to know the various languages you need, HTML, CSS, jQuery and JavaScript. The best software to use otherwise is KompZer, a What you see, what you get – WYSIWYG

Mobile First

Your Website needs to be designed with mobile devices in mind. This means that the content including the graphics must resize depending on the size of the screen. Except it is not quite that easy, the content must be legible no matter what the size of the screen.

By creating a Mobile ready Website, you do not have the expense of having to create a send Mobi Website.

 Google Developers have published an article explaining this, here.

Search Engine Ready

By creating Search Engine ready pages, you get a better search engine ranking and help your target market to find you.

Before writing the content for your page, look at what your target market searching for and what search terms are they using? These words and variations of them need to appear in the content. You also need to use them in the Keywords and Description Meta Tags which Search Engines use when examining content.

Content

Write clear concise content, use pictures where necessary.

Graphics

Use graphics optimised for the Web at 640 x 440 pixels and in JPG format. Use to break up content, but do not overuse.

Share

Google looks for content that is shared and believes that people want share it, it must be good. Add sharing buttons to your content to encourage people to share.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

This is the quickest way to upload or download files to or from the server. The one I recommend is Filezilla

And lastly:

Track your visitors using Google Analytics

 

Free versus Paid Website Hosting

Everybody, especially Businessmen and women, like the word free. But as anyone who gives away something for free, there is a cost involved. When it comes to Websites, free usually means limited.

 Hosts will use FREE to tempt you. By giving you a (possibly) good limited service, you will be willing to upgrade when it becomes necessary. Others, will pay for the cost of supporting you through advertising (though this is becoming rare) but are most likely to try to sell you optional extras, like more space or bandwidth and even your own Domain Name.

 My very first Website was on a Free Service. It was there one day and gone the next. I then created another personal Website on Geocities by Yahoo, then one day Yahoo decided that this was not what they were about, so bye bye Geocities.

I have experimented with a variety of free hosts, hoping to find one that provides a decent level of service, it does not exist. There are several Websites available that offer you the tools to create your Website and host it, but you need to read carefully between the lines. You will not be getting the same as their paying customers.

When choosing a Host, what you get is very important.

Bandwidth: - the bandwidth used by of traffic to your Website. Not enough and you lose business.

Storage:-  The files, especially the photos, that make up your Website take up space. Too little and your Website will have trouble expanding.

Databases:- Content Management Systems are Database driven. WordPress, the most common, needs mySQL to operate.

phpMyAdmin:- mySQL needs it to operate and you require at least version 3.5.5

Control Panel:- The one I prefer and recommend is cPanel.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol):-  The easiest way to transfer files to and from the Host Server.

Sub – domain versus Domain.

If you own a Business and need a Website, you would most likely choose a Domain Name like yourbusiness.co.za. The co.za stands for Country South Africa.

Makes sense right, but what if you have to chose someoneelse.co.za/yourbusiness?
Not that great right?

The first one yourbusiness.co.za is a Domain Name which you register and own. The second one someoneelse.co.za/yourbusiness is a Sub – Domain and unless you name is is some one else you do not own.

Let’s look at these in more detail.

The central registry for South African Domain Names ZA Central Registry NPC. The names are registered and managed by their agents who will charge you a fee for the service. Once registered, it is valid for 12 months and you have the option to renew it when it expires.

Other top level Domain Names like DOT COM work in the same manner and andWhen starting off and mon be registered through the various registries and their agents.

A Sub – Domain is simply an add on to an existing Domain Name. You could use like
yourbusiness.co.za/blog. It comes in handy when you need to split your Website into different categories.

But when you decide to go the free route, you will end up with a Sub Domain added to an existing Domain Name. The company offering the free site will often register a short but catchy name to make it easier for you, The only way to get around it would be to pay for your own Domain name if they offer that option.

When starting off and money is tight you could consider go the free route, but as soon as you can, you need to claim your own Internet real Estate and register your own Domain Name.

The main elements of a Website: Graphics

A Website, like a car, is made from  different elements that when put together, create a Website. These parts are;

Graphics

I ask my clients to supply me with hi-res photos and graphics, which I will then edit and optimise for use on the Website. Large photos will take long to load, which is why you normally resize the to 640 x 400 pixels or smaller and should be in jpeg (.jpg) format which already compressed, Another format popular for the Internet is png.

Always make sure that you own the copyright or have permission to use the graphics and do not use Brand Images unless you are certain that you may. Coca Cola is one company, for example, that will take exception to you using their Brand images.

 

The main elements of a Web Site: The Code.

A Website, like a car, is made from  different elements that when put together, create a Website. These parts are;

Next time you are browsing a Website, right click and select “View Source” and you will get a page opening that looks like this:

Web Page Source Code

Web Page Source Code

This is the code that makes up the Web Page. The content is written in HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) and the page is styled using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets and the page is made dynamic by the use of JavaScript.

Front end developers, like myself, usually write their code using a text editor or  specialised software like Dreamweaver or Blue Fish.

When supplying editorial to the Website developer, make sure you supply it in plain text (.txt) because Word Processors us a different mark-up when formatting text. This means the Developer will need to first cut and paste into a text editor before adding it to the page.

The main elements of a Web Site: Hosting

A Website, like a car, is made from different elements that when put together, create a Website.A Website, like a car, is made from different elements that when put together, create a Website. These parts are;

Hosting

Hosting is one of the most competitive Internet products around. And like every other product suppliers  compete on quality and price. Almost all Hosts will advertise that they have 99 percent up time. The best way to find out how reliable they are is to visit their forums to see what their clients are saying, or doing a search. Another way, would be to do a Google search.

Not all Hosting providers have their own server farms. These will buy surplus capacity from the big hosts and resell it. This is a common practice and these companies should be judged on their own merits, in the same manner mentioned above.

Do not let price be your sole criteria when selecting a package.  The very cheap packages are not suitable for a Business Web Site. They restrict you on the size of the Web Site and the Bandwidth. You may have problems adding to the web Site, because there is no longer space available to add that extra page and graphics. Then, you discover halfway through the month, that your site is no longer live because you have gone over your Bandwidth allowance.

These are not the only problems you my face with cheap hosting packages. Many Business Websites use a Content Management System and require a Database, which may not be included in the cheaper packages.

At the very least you need:

  • Traffic 1GB
  • Storage Space 500mb
  • 1 eMail address
  • 1 Database
  • Business Hours Support (24/7 would be ideal)

With the arrival of the Secom and other cables on our shores and the increase bandwidth now available to South Africa, local Hosts have started  to emulate Overseas Hosts and provide Business packages suitable for running a Web Site.

When choosing a Host, you should follow the advice of your Web Site developer when choosing a Hosting package and provider.

The Cape Town Files

The Cape Town Files

The Cape Town Files

I work in an industry where there is much competition. But, competition is always good for business, it sorts out the good from the mediocre. The big problem is the mediocre tend to tempt my potential clients away by making promises and offering cheap solutions. All they do is end up delivering something that is inadequate and by doing so, damage the industry professionals reputation.

In order to consistently producing a Professional Solution, I spend time reading about new industry trends and look at different ways producing Websites.

The Cape Town Files is one such learning experience. I created a Website as the base using a Solution that whilst it still works will soon be outdated . This can be seen here.

The next step is to reproduce the same Website using different ways of producing a Web Site. The content will remain the same, as will the navigation but the page layouts will be adapted to the Frame or CMS (content management system used). This way I can compare and judge which solutions is best for different types of Websites.

But of course, the end result is that I gain experience and that means that I provide you with an even better product.