So often, when people are discussing their company website they are often only thinking about the design and the user experience. Those are 2 very important topics of conversation in the planning phase, but they are not the only important aspects to cover. When planning out a new site, ensure that you cover plans for the following.
Mobile responsive design
The term “Mobile Responsive” refers to how your site looks on mobile devices like phones and tablets. A mobile responsive site will recognize what kind of device the user is using to view your site, then it will adjust the layout of the site to be displayed in the most optimal manner for that device.
These days, people are surfing the web on anything that has an internet connection and statistics show that in 2014 more users were surfing on their mobile devices than on desktop machines. It’s important that your site is mobile responsive so that users can experience your site easily. If a user has to scroll back and forth to read your content, or if your menu of pages is a forever long list, the person will leave your site. It’s as simple as that. Make sure that your site is ready for mobile devices. There are plenty of frameworks (google “Twitter Bootstrap”) that will help you ensure that your site has a mobile responsive design, but do not simply rely on the framework to solve all the problems. When you reach the testing and QA phases you must be checking the experience on mobile sites and ensuring that users will find it easy to browse and navigate through your site. Something as simply as collapsing your main menu, or hiding unnecessary features from mobile will help ensure that your visitors stay on your site.
I will go into more detail about blogging in another post, but I want to remind you to ensure that there are plans for implementing a blog on your site. Blogs are very important for web marketing, so it’s critical that you have a blog on your site that is easy for you to maintain without assistance. If your site is built with a content management system this should not be a problem.
Content Management System
A content management system (CMS) is website software that allows you to manage all pieces of the site easily by yourself. Examples of great CMS systems are Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla. When hiring a web developer to build your site, make it a requirement that it’s built with a common CMS system like one of these three.
If a developer tries to talk you out of using a CMS, be cautious of them. If they tell you that they build their sites with Dreamweaver and anytime you need to make an update you can simply email them….turn around and run. There is no reason that you should not be able to manage your site’s content 100% on your own once it is live. This is absolutely necessary because as you will learn in other chapters, you are going to be managing content on the site very often.
Hosting refers to the placement of your website files on an internet server. Websites are simply a big folder of files that are opened in internet browsers. You need to put those files on an internet server for the world to visit your site. You buy this server space from a hosting vendor. There are tons of vendors out there. You are probably familiar with 1&1, GoDaddy, Amazon, Bluehost, etc.
Your web developer will likely have a vendor that they are most comfortable with. If you have found yourself a trustworthy developer, then I suggest trusting what hosting vendor they suggest.
The only advice I would suggest is to avoid “Shared Hosting”. This is a concept that allows hosting vendors to make a lot of money. They build one server, then sell space on that one server to 100 customers. All 100 customers have sites on that one server. This means the speed of your site is directly related to the amount of traffic on the other sites. And the health of your server is related to the files that the other sites have. Usually this type of server is very inexpensive ($5/month), but it will lead to problems. These days, there are plenty of inexpensive solutions for dedicated servers and/or cloud servers. They used to cost hundreds per month, but these days you can get them for as little as $10/month. Make sure that your developer is not going to build your site on a “Shared Hosting” environment.
All that said, I highly suggest that you set up the hosting account yourself. If your developer has a specific vendor they like (let’s say they like to use Digital Ocean for hosting), then you should go to that vendors site (Digital Ocean), set up your account, enter your credit card info and then give the developer access to the account. This situation is similar to other people buying your domain. If someone else buys the server space on your behalf, they control everything about the server. You don’t want to be in a situation where a contractor is the owner of the server. They could lock you out of your own site, not give you access to the files, or shut the site down. You don’t need this headache.
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