Understanding how your website functions
There’s more to a website than just building one and because of this business owners often become confused and frustrated when the website doesn't perform well. Much of the confusion can be removed by understanding some of the non-technical apsects of how websites work. Over the next few pages we'll take a look at some of the key areas that website owners should be aware off. Feel free to skip sections as the information is not presented in any specific order. These are just a few things that you'll have to deal with as a website owner.
How do customers find your website?
This is an essential question, simply for the reason that everyone wants our customers to find our business website. Before we take a look at the ways customers find your website, we will begin by identifying the 4 categories of visitors that view websites.
- Visitors who are curious who may or may not be looking to buy
- Visitors who are looking to buy or sign up for something
- Visitors who are looking for information
- Bots (some are necessary while others cause inaccurate visits counts)
Visitors from categories #1 and #2 are the most beneficial for businesses that sells, merchandise, services, or memberships.
Paying customers will always be preferable to have, rather than individuals who prefer to look around without the intent to purchase. In the physical world we call this loitering. In the digital world these individuals tend you use your site as a reference for the sole purpose of finding a cheaper place to purchase the same product. The potential customers who might or might not purchase your services or products or services, usually originate from social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Individuals who are thinking about purchasing are going to frequently discover your website from the search engines such as Google or Yahoo. Look at it this way. When was the most recent time you visited Facebook or Twitter to do a web search for a pair of shoes, or even a search for information regarding a store in your community? Every time we have the need for something, we consistently search using the major search engines before anything else. This is especially true for local physical stores that have websites. Many online stores process orders online and allow consumers to pick up the items at the store.
People use search engines to find business websites. Search engines are able to do this by accessing a database of domain names. Google and other search engines easily find website domains like yourwebsitename.com or .net and .org. If you want people to find your website then you’ll need to buy a domain name. Domains such as yourwebsitename.wix.com will rank very low in search engine results. If your website isn’t on the first 5 pages of search results then people will most likely not visit your website. The more search results an individual has to look through to get to your page, the more likely they will choose a competitor that has a higher search engine ranking than you.
Why pay to register my domain name?
The short answer is because a domain name helps to make your website appear professional. Investing in a domain name provides you with an official name to use on the Internet. The domain name is a unique website address for use on the internet. Think of it as an empty lot of land for a building. The property may have an address, even though there is no building present. The address is like your domain name and the future building to be built on the land is like your future website. Domain names are managed by an organization that keeps track of all the domain names, ownership, and which ones are available. They also keep track of domain names that are for sell through third parties like GoDaddy. All of this costs money to maintain and update the directory along with managing accounts and transactions. We don’t really purchase domain names; we rent them. If you want to keep your domain name then you’ll need to continue to pay for it. The upside is that the majority of the business websites can make enough money online to pay for the low cost of owning a domain name. The average price for a domain name is around $20. You can get domains for less, but it will lack certain privacy or business features attached to the domain name. Without the privacy features for a domain, anyone in the world will know your name, home address, and phone number. The additional cost for privacy is well worth the $20 investment. If you choose not to purchase the privacy service then make sure you use your business address when purchasing a domain name instead of your home address.
What is the difference between .com, .net, .org, etc.?
There is little difference which domain suffix (com, net, org, etc) you use. Meaning that I can pick any and use any way that I want with exceptions. Some domain names like .edu and .gov require additional requirements and authorizations. The names available loosely and specifically define the type of website you the domain name represents. To give you a good example, I ordinarily search for research data from .gov or .edu sources since the .com sources may be unreliable (.gov = Government source and .edu = Educational institute source like a school, college, or university). Some domains require authorization and additional information. Below is a chart of some of the domain suffix and their meaning.
|.com||Commercial||Any person or entity is permitted to register and is currently used by all types of entities including nonprofits, schools, and private individuals.|
|.org||Organization||Any person or entity is permitted to register and was originally intended for use by non-profit organizations.|
|.net||Network||Any person or entity is permitted to register and was originally intended for use by organizations pointing to a distributed network of computers like Phone companies and ISPs|
|.edu||Education||This domain is limited to specific higher educational institutions such as, but not limited to, trade schools and universities.|
|.gov||U.S. National and State Government Agencies||This domain is limited to United States governmental entities and agencies as well as qualifying state, county and local municipal government agencies.|
|.mil||U.S. Military||This domain is limited to use by the United States military.|
.com stands for Commercial and is common for businesses.
.net stands for Network and is often used by telecommunications network
.org stands for organization and is popular with not-for-profit organizations and charities.
.biz stands for Business. This came into action after the .com side of things became “junky” with websites that weren’t businesses. It’s not as popular as the .com
.gov stands for Government so when you see this in a website domain name then you know that you are on a government website.
There are other domain names that reflect the country of origin. List source
Keep it simple when it comes to purchasing a domain name. Choose .com if you are a business or not-for-profit organization or .org if you are not-for-profit organization. This is the assumption that most people make. Someone may be more willing to donate money to a .org domain name than a .com.
Renting server space to ‘host’ your web site
This is actually the easy part. Pick Hostgator or a hosting company like Hostgator. You’ll be fine as long as your company has many of the same features, support, and Cpanel. I always recommend Hostgator but I also will evaluate any other website company that you may want to use other than Hostgator.
A hosting company is where your website files will be uploaded or installed on. This process is easy and the companies support will help you with anything you need in regards to using the features that they provide. This part is usually something you don’t have to worry about because it’s taken care of by the web designer as part of designing the website. If you have a good hosting company then you will rarely need them.
What Is a Web Browser?
A web browser is an application that makes it possible to view the content on webpages. There are a variety web browsers available, but the majority of web designers focus their attention on ensuring that your website displays properly on the three leading web browsers: Mozilla Firefox , Google Chrome , and Internet Explorer. One of the biggest concerns today involves creating a responsive (not mobile) website. Responsive means that your website will automatically adjust to display properly on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Mobile websites are the thing of the past where a duplicate website was created to specifically be viewed on mobile devices.
Web browsers translate HTML and CSS code into layouts, colors, and images.
Websites built only in HTML code are labor intensive and require time-consuming hours of work to merely maintain and make changes. If you need to make a template modification to website, then you must essentially make the same modifications to all pages. The more web pages you have the longer it will take. Eventually this becomes a headache to manage and more expensive to update as the website grows.
The vast majority of today’s cutting edge websites utilize a combination of html and css code to design and style the layout of a website. Generally website designers use software programs known as WYSIWYG website design software that instantly generates the .css or html. These websites, in many cases, are controlled by a Content Management System (CMS) which makes it hassle-free for most people to make changes and updates to the website.
Web Content Management Systems
Content Management Systems (CMSs) make it easy for online businesses to conveniently manage and update their websites from any device with a web browser and access to the Internet. The CMS is installed on the webserver and makes it affordable to have sophisticated website features such as blogs, forums, event registrations, calendars, donations and ecommerce carts. Just about every website that you will visit today operates on a content management system. The two most favored content management systems for businesses and personal website owners are Joomla and WordPress. WordPress can handle ecommerce, but its strong point is with blogging. For the most part big companies that use WordPress have website developers that write custom code mainly because the code that they need doesn’t exist. Joomla is commonly used mostly by businesses and organizations thanks to the work of 3rd party Joomla developers who have already created the coding for numerous business sectors. Joomla is versatile and customization can be performed on an as needed. Joomla extensions use the information form the website template, which gives it that customize look and feel.
Having a decent word processor skill set is just about the only thing that you’ll need to update a CMS website. The frontend and backend page editor pretty much has the same buttons that you will find in a word processor. The editor lets you add images, format text, and type as you do in Microsoft Word.