Creating a Website

Once you start working on the content and features of your website with your chosen web designer there are a few things to keep in mind when creating a website:

Heading Structure

Heading structure is important not only to present a clear structure visually to the web page but also in consideration of those using text readers and the search engines.

Heading tags are used to define the headings in your page. There are 6 available, h1 set of heading tags being the biggest and boldest and the h6 set being the smallest.

These should be used as you would if you were writing a book or article and not to highlight text in your page.

Incorporate a clear heading structure when creating a website to make it easy for visitors to scan the web page contents, so those who use screen readers understand the structure of the page and to incorporate search engine optimization.

Not Designing for Most Common Screen Resolution

When creating a website, you have to take into consideration what are the most common screen resolutions for the intended target audience of the website to determine what web page width is suitable for the website.

Have you visited a website that has a web page width too wide for your monitor or browser window? You have to use the horizontal scroll to go back and forth reading and/or looking for information on the page. This makes reading the website very hard and can be very annoying if the website has some information the visitor is interested in.

Website Graphics

Web graphics play an important part in the presentation of a website.

Using the correct type of web graphic which has been optimized for optimum download speed and web hosting space conservation will affect the performance of the website. Sites containing lots of images will be slow to load and require more web hosting space.

Recycling images throughout the website will conserve web hosting space, be less costly and make the page appear to load faster if the visitor has already been to a page containing the same image.

Keep in mind that search engines do not read images (neither do screen readers that the blind use). This means all important text needs to be actually coded into the web page to take advantage of it’s content.

Flash Based Websites

Flash is a technology originally by Macromedia (now by Adobe) that creates animations, interactive websites and other fancy features that can be embedded into a web page.

The Flash file is called a movie file. Once the file has been downloaded it will “play”.

You probably have already encountered websites containing Flash movies. Some designers use Flash to create an introduction movie (also known as a splash page) or will create the whole website in Flash.

Search engines don’t read flash movies so putting important information such as your headings and content of the page within a flash movie would not be a good idea. Also, the website visitor will have to have the flash player installed. Adobe boasts that flash is installed on most machines now, but there are still the ones without flash installed to consider. This is something to keep in mind when creating a website.

Uncommon Fonts

Using uncommon fonts when creating a website can be a problem.

Windows based and Mac based computers come with different fonts installed by default.

One problem web designers have is that they forget that the average computer user may not have the same fonts installed on their machine.

If you have your heart set on using a fancy font when creating a website then the text can be done as an image. Keep in mind though, search engines don’t read images, so this wouldn’t be a very good idea for your headings.

Effective Colour Contrast

Have you taken a serious look at the colour scheme chosen for your website? Are all parts of your web page visible to everyone?

Some times when we pick a colour scheme for our website we forget that there are people with poor vision and colour deficiencies. Even website visitors with “normal” vision can have difficulties reading a web page that has poor contrast between the colours used.

Colour contrast is an important consideration when creating a website.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a hard concept for some website owners to understand. If you are representing a product (say Mary Kay) and are given sample text to use on your website this is not going to help your website. Every other Mary Kay representative will be doing the same.

  1. Any one searching for the product is going to see a hundred other websites with the same description/text in the search results then pick the first one. If you are not number 1, you have lost the opportunity to make a sale.
  2. The search engines are smart enough to know who had this text up on their website first. Any subsequent websites with the same text will be considered duplicate content.

This principle applies to articles from sites where you have permission to put them on your website.

To avoid duplicate content penalties when creating a website, write your own original website content.

Using Javascript on Websites

Javascript is a scripting language used to insert special features on a website, preform certain tasks based on what browser the visitor is using, open new browser windows when links are clicked or check forms before submitted, to name a few uses of Javascript.

Be aware that the website user must have Javascript enabled, the search engines and screen readers can’t read Javascript and if the script is not tested properly it will not work.

Disabling Right Click

Some websites use a script to disable the right click function of the mouse (the right mouse button). This is done to try and stop people from stealing your images and/or content. Actually, it doesn’t. There are ways around this script if the person is that determined to steal something from your website.

Cross – Browser Compatibility

How does your site look in any of the major browsers? Not everyone is using Internet Explorer to surf the Internet. Are you prepared to loose visitors because your website uses proprietary coding or just doesn’t render properly in all browsers? Can you afford the lost sales?

Your website should work in at least Internet Explorer and Firefox as these are the most popular browsers at the moment. Also, there are two versions of Internet Explorer being used right now so have your website checked in IE6 and IE7 to make sure it works in both. If you have a friend using a Mac, get them to check the website also. Check the website in as many browsers and operating systems as you can while creating a website.

Does Your Website Have to be Accessible?

Accessible websites have come to the forefront of people’s minds with legal actions being taken against websites that are not accessible. As a website owner you may think this doesn’t affect your small business, association or non profit website but it does. Looking beyond the buzz word accessible, there are legal requirements of having an accessible website and legal repercussions if you don’t. If you have your website built to be accessible, it will also be more user friendly and search engine friendly. Three areas covered by implementing one set of techniques!

As you can see, there are many things to consider when creating a website. This is no where near an exhaustive list but will get you started on what to consider as you discuss your website with your chosen web designer.

Have you read the rest of our Starting an Online Business articles?

Disable Right Click

Some websites use a script to disable the right click function of the mouse (the right mouse button). Let’s look at whether it is really worth using a disable right click function.

PopUp Windows

When someone has set up their browser to ignore/disable popups (hand up!) and you have used a script to disable right click the person cannot continue to the linked page if you have it set up to open in a new window. After getting the popup blocked message from the browser, one can normally right click the link and tell the browser to open the link in either a new browser window or new tab (if available). With right click disabled, you cannot.

Now, the visitor has to allow popups for the page to proceed to the link provided. An annoyance some visitors may not be too pleased about.

Browser Cache

The whole principle behind how a browser works is that your web page complete with graphics are downloaded to the visitor’s machine into their browser cache.

Some may have set up their browser to clear the browser cache when the browser is closed to free up space on their computer’s hard drive, most don’t.

User Browser Cache Not Cleared

If the visitor’s browser cache has not been set up to clear when the browser is closed, all they have to do is go to their browser temporary files folder and everything from the page is there.

A more savvy visitor can still beat the browser cleared on closing set up.

So, using the disable right click script in this case is useless.

View Source

Another way a person wanting to “pinch” your website content and/or graphics is by viewing the source code for the web page.

From the source code, they can figure out how you did things and where your graphics are stored, or just plain old copy your content coding.

Once again, your disabling the right click is rendered useless.

Javascript Disabled

Most of the disable right click scripts are written in javascript.

Visitors who have security concerns can disable javascript in their browser if they wish. If javascript is disabled, your disable right click script will not run (work) and therefore not protect the page content.

Image Searches

If your concern is someone stealing your images, have you:

  1. Inserted an index page in the images folder to prevent people viewing the contents of the folder?
  2. Created a robot.txt file requesting the search engine bots to not index the contents of the folder containing your images?

If you have not placed an index page in the folder containing your images (or set up the folder to be not viewable via your website control panel) then someone who inserts the path to your images folder (or any folder for that matter) can view what is inside the folder. Right click the image, save picture and they have got your image.

You can insert instructions into the robots.txt file requesting that the search engine bots please not index the contents of the folder. Polite bots will comply. Not so polite bots won’t so this isn’t a fool proof method.

With neither of these precautions in place, the search engines which provide image search will add your images to their image search function.

Is Disabling Right Click Worth It?

After looking at a few different ways the disable right click can be beat, is it really worth the trouble installing a disable right click script?

Many times it has been said:

“If you don’t want people to steal your stuff, don’t put it on the internet.”

Author Unknown

I think we have proven the point that using a disable right click script is just an inconvience to your website visitor and generally useless.

Further Reading on Disabling Right Click

Don't Disable Right Click! [Usability and Information Architecture]

5 Reasons to Avoid Using DRM On Your Site

Using Javascript on Websites

Using Javascript on websites is not a new thing. Javascript has been around for quite a while. It gained a bad reputation in the past because hackers would (and still do) include malicous scripts on web pages. Now Javascript is being used beyond the typical applications in the past with the advent of Web 2.0.

Script runtime error

When visiting websites or when using StumbleUpon to find more resoures to share there are a lot of websites that are using javascript that have errors. Even big company websites have these errors. How do I know? Because as a Website Developer, I have scripting error notification turned on to check my own work.

Using Javascipt on a Website Can Create Problems

Search engines don’t read scripts, neither do some of the accessiblity tools used by your surfing challenged visitors.

There are several groups of people who do not use a mouse or pointing device to interact with Web pages. A few examples:

  • Mobility impaired people who cannot use a mouse at all
  • People with motor impairments who can use a mouse but lack fine motor control
  • Screen reader users who do not use a mouse, or even a monitor
  • People using mobile phones
  • Laptop users, since most laptops have really bad trackpads or other means of positioning the cursor (ever tried using a hierarchical dropdown menu with a trackpad while riding on a train?)
  • Speed typers who have learned to use keyboard navigation efficiently and are slowed down when they have to switch to their mouse (if they have one)

Reference: JavaScript interaction must be input device independent

Also, some people surf the web with scripting totally turned off for security reasons or to save on bandwidth.

So, in light of this, do not put really important information in a javascript feature. You’ll be missing a whole section of your website visitors and won’t be adding any valuable content the search engines can see.

Another Reason People Might Not Have Javascript Enabled

Easter weekend 2009 and again the weekend of April 17/09 Twitter was subject to account hacking. Information on how the problem is spread and how to fix your account is available at the following 2 resources. The reason this update was added is, BOTH resources recommend surfing with javascript turned off or using Firefox with the Noscript plugin.

Check Your Javascript Works Without Errors

Before you upload your website complete with javascript, check that the script(s) work properly and do not contain any errors. You can do this by turning on scripting error notification in Internet Explorer or using the javascript debugging tool in Firefox.

Turn on Scripting Error Notification

Turn on scripting error notification while developing your web page(s) if you are going to be using javascript. This is a very useful tool when testing your web pages.

  • Internet Explorer Scripting Error Notification

    To turn on scripting error notification in Internet Explorer:

    1. Left click Tools in the menu bar.
    2. Left click the Internet Options tab.
    3. Left click the Advanced tab.
    4. Under Browsing, find the option

      “Display a notification about every script error”

      If unchecked, then click in the checkbox to turn it on.

    5. Left click Ok at the bottom of the open dialog box and you are done!
  • Javascript Debugging in Firefox

    If you are using Firefox, there is a Firefox Add-on appropriately called JavaScript Debugger available.

Turning on scripting error notification (or using the JavaScript Debugging Firefox Add-on) will help you debug the errors in your javascript.

Why Debug Javascript Errors?

Why debug javascript errors? Because you went to the trouble of using a javascript function or script to add a feature to the website/web page, so you should make sure it works as intended.

Let’s look an example:

Javascript Form Validation

There are javascripts available (or you can write your own) to check that the user has filled out all the parts of your form that are required. They can check that a valid email address was used in the email box, that all the questions that needed answering were answered, and other things like enough/or too many characters entered in the text boxes.

If you upload the form without checking it, how are you going to know it is being validated properly?

When the javascript form validation isn’t working, how are you going to find the scripting errors (beyond the fact it wasn’t written to check what you wanted)?

In comes, scripting error notification.

Scripting Error Notification

With scripting error notification turned on you will see a message from Internet Explorer that there was a scripting error. This message will tell you what line the error was in and what it thinks the error is.

Open up the script file (or web page if hard coded into the page), look for the line noted in the error, and fix it!

Using Javascript on Websites Written by Others

Not everyone knows how to write javascript scripts so there are tonnes of websites that provide predone scripts for you to use as long as you follow their terms of use. Advertising sites, affiliate programs and/or Web 2.0 sites provide scripts for you to use in your web pages also.

If you are going to go this route, test the script in your web page BEFORE uploading the page to a live situation. There’s nothing more annoying than going to a website that doesn’t work properly!

Some scripts may not work when testing locally on your computer e.g. Ajax requires server functionality. In this case, create a testing folder on your webspace (be sure to tell the search engine bots to please stay out) and upload the page/website there for testing.

Testing Javascript Locally

A note to Internet Explorer users who have stricter security settings:

When you test a web page locally that has javascript on it or calls the javascript from an external javascript file, you may get the Internet Explorer yellow security warning bar across the top of the web page. Just right click the yellow bar and allow the script. Annoying when testing but if you are unlikely to remember to turn the feature back on when you are finished testing it’s a small price to pay for internet security.

Using javascript on websites can add great functionality and features to your website, if they work properly. Take the time to test the selected feature/script and debug if necessary before uploading to your live website. You took the time to find and implement a script into the website for the benefit of your website visitors, make sure it works properly!

JavaScript on Websites Additional Reading

Debugging JavaScript: Throw Away Your Alerts! – A look at the throw() statement for detecting script errors.

Screenreaders and JavaScript – “…what it means to use a screen reader, what screen readers are out there and how you can help screen reader users by building your JavaScript applications the right way.”

JavaScript and Screenreaders – How compatilble are your JavaScript events with screenreaders? Read this article to find out. There is a compatibility chart at the end of the article.

JavaScript Tools

JavaScript Lint, you can check all your JavaScript source code for common mistakes without actually running the script or opening the web page.

Effective Colour Contrast

Have you taken a serious look at the colour scheme your website uses? Are all parts of your web page visible to everyone?

Some times when we pick a colour scheme for our website we forget that there are people with poor vision and colour deficiencies. Even website visitors with “normal” vision can have difficulties reading a web page that has poor contrast between the colours used.

For a person with poor eyesight or colour blindness, certain colour combinations are hard to see. If there isn’t enough contrast between the colours used, they just meld together for these visitors. This also happens for visitors with normal sight.

The colours you have picked may appear in enough contrast to you but they might not be for another person.

Testing for Effective Colour Contrast

How does your web page look in black and white? Take a screen shot of the page, open it in your graphics program and change the colour mode to gray scale. Can you clearly read the page?

The Web Accessibility Toolbar comes with a colour contrast tool built in. You can open your web page, click a spot on your text then click a spot on your background to see if the colour contrast is enough for various colour deficiencies.

There is another tool for colour contrast testing available at Snook.ca. With this tool, you use sliders to pick the foreground and background colours you wish to use and the results are shown on the right.

Another interesting colour contrast tool available is the colour contrast chart for colour blindness available at Standardzilla.com. With this chart you can see how people with different types of colour blindness will see certain colour combinations.

To learn more about colour blindness and how type and colour choice are important, read through Chapter 9 of Building Accessible Websites, available online.

Lighthouse.org has an extensive article on effective colour contrast which gives some guidelines for choosing a colour scheme with effective colour contrast.

Effective colour contrast is not just an accessiblity issue, it’s also a usability issue. We have some preconceived ideas of colours that do well together but these do not necessarily make the page accessible, and usable by all your website visitors.

Take the time to check your colour combination’s colour contrast, if the visitors can’t read your page, they won’t be sticking around to see what you have to offer.

Additional Resources to Check for Effective Colour Contrast

How to Measure Color Contrast, for Web Accessibility

the reality of color contrast is more complicated. There are a lot of assumptions to work out before you can be confident that visually impaired shoppers can use your ecommerce site.

10 colour contrast checking tools to improve the accessibility of your design

Colour blindness on the Web is written by a person with colour blindness. Within the article he points out:

“…aspect of red-seeming-black that causes me problems on the Web. The issue arises when designers specify links to be dark red but don’t underline or embolden them. This means the link is indistinguishable from the rest of the text. …So be careful with your link colours (or simply make sure they are all underlined or emboldened)…”

Colour blindness on the Web

Accessible colour combinations – 456 Berea Street’s post where commentors are invited to provide sources of accessible colour combinations. The second comment is a colour blind person’s perspective on this issue.

Contrast is King

Color Blindness Myths and Misunderstandings

Tips for Designing for Colorblind Users

‘Fluro’ Colours

Choosing a Web Designer

The next part of our Starting an Online Business series will cover Choosing a Web Designer. Web designer is a very broad term so you need to make sure the person you choose to create your website has all the skills and knowledge that will make your website successful.

Before you contact anyone for a quotation, make sure you have done your research. How much does a website cost? is a very difficult question for the web designer to answer without some idea of what exactly you would like done.

Price should not be the only determining factor. We are all on budgets but taking the lowest costing route just might not work out as the best decision.

Prepare Your Website Plan

After researching your target audience you should have a list of features that your audience expects. Make a priority list of these features. Your budget may not be large enough to include everything at first but with a complete list of features you will give the web designer an idea of what the total plan is. This can affect how the website is built initially, so get out the pen and paper or word processor and make that list!

Having a website plan will also help in the process of choosing a web designer. If there’s too many things on your list that the web designer cannot do, then they are not the right one for your particular project.

Looking for a Web Designer

Before you start looking for a web designer, determine if you are comfortable working long distance or if you would prefer to be able to meet in person on occasion. Either way works, it’s just a matter of what you are more comfortable with.

Search the internet to find a few website design firms to consider, there are lots to choose from!

Web Designer Portfolio

As you are searching the internet for a web designer, there are a few things to keep in mind as you look at their website and their portfolio.

  • User friendly designs

    Are the websites they have designed user friendly? Is it easy to move around the website and find everything that you would need to find?

  • High use of graphics

    Does the web designer favour high graphic web design? Include just the right amount of graphics? Does not use graphics enough?

  • Do all their samples look the same?

    This could be a hint that they use templates and switch out colours and graphics to suit the customer.

    If the web designer specializes in ecommerce websites, do their sample sites look like every other ecommerce site? Another hint that they use ecommerce templates and change the colours and images for each client.

  • Did you require Flash, Quicktime or another browser add on to view the sample sites?

    Some websites are built with technology that requires special browser add ons to view the site.

  • Were the sample websites quick to load?

    A well designed website will load quickly, even if it has a number of graphics.

  • Was there a horizontal scroll bar as you viewed the sample websites?

    If a horizontal scroll bar appeared, then the web designer has not taken into consideration the various resolutions and monitor sizes users have.

  • Can you change the font size?

    In your browser you can change the font size used to view a website. If the font does not adjust then the web designer used a fixed font size. This could be a problem if your website visitor can not read the font size chosen.

  • How do the sample websites look in different browsers?

    Test the sample websites in different browsers. They possibly won’t look exactly the same because of browser differences but the site should not break either.

    Is there a note “Best viewed in ….”? This would be an indication that the site was designed for a specific browser. This could alienate potential customers if they are using another browser and the website breaks.

Once you have narrowed down your choices of web designers to consider there are a few more things you need to be able to answer.

The Web Designer Will Ask

Before contacting any of your short list web designers, be prepared to answer:

  • What does your company do?

    Be prepared to describe what exactly your company does. Giving the web designer a complete picture of the type of business you run, how sales are generated and the future plans for the business will prompt new ideas you have not thought of and give the designer an indication what future features the web design needs to be able to incorporate at a later date.

  • Do you have existing an existing logo, branding or marketing materials?

    If your business is existing, the web designer will need to see your existing marketing materials to be able to incorporate the existing theme and/or branding you have already established.

    For a brand new business, working closely with your web designer and the people creating your marketing materials is important to continue the company branding into the website.

  • What are the goals of the website?

    As part of your preparation for moving the business to an online prescence, a list of goals for the website is required as a tool to measure the success of the website.

  • What type of information do you wish to provide on the website?

    Each type of information you wish to provide to your website visitors will require a different type of setup. Providing PDF versions of instructions for your products will require some extra work verses having the instructions as regular web pages, for example.

  • Who are your competitors? What are they providing their website visitors?

    Have you taken a look at what your competitors are doing with their websites? Are there things that are missing from those websites that you could provide to make your website different and more useful to potential customers?

    Being different from the typical website for your industry can make your website more memorialable than the competition.

  • Will the site require online purchase capabilities?
  • Have you already set up PayPal or a Merchant account if website visitors can make online purchases?
  • What website features are required?

    Have your list ready, complete with priorities selected.

  • Do you have a list of three or four websites you like and what about the website you like?

    Having a selection of websites you like and why will help the web designer get a feel for what type of look and feel you would like.

  • How many pages and sections of the website will be required?

    Some web designers price projects by the page, some by the amount of time they expect the project will take to produce so having a clear list of the pages and sections in hand will result in a firmer, sharper price.

  • What is your budget?

    Don’t be afraid to disclose a budget figure. You can give a figure lower than you really have to spend so you have room to absorb some extras but having a budget in mind saves everyone time.

  • Do you have a deadline for when the website is to be launched?

    Disclosing up front that you have a product launch, article coming out or any other special deadlines is the best. Both parties are clear on when the completion date is then. If you have a short completion date and a complicated site, then don’t expect to get a sharp price and quality work.

  • What level of assistance will you require to maintain the website?

    If you plan to maintain the website yourself then it may need to be constructed differently than if you were going to hire the web designer to maintain the website as well. Your level of expertise on website coding would also influence how a self maintained website will be constructed.

As you can tell, choosing a web designer isn’t as easy as it seems. The more research, preparation and clear you are before calling for quotations on your website design, the better pricing you will receive and the clearer you will be on what you are receiving for the price quoted.

Be sure to have the quotation in writing and the legalities of ownership of the website design and graphics need to be stated.

Do You Own Your Site?

Do you own your site? This depends on how the contract between yourself and the web designer is written. Some web design contracts have a clause that the designer retains ownership of the design and you are given certain rights to use it. If you want to own the design outright complete with all the files that were used to create the website, then be specific in your quote request that this is what you want. Be prepared to pay a price for this.

“Paying a web developer to create your site doesn’t necessarily give you the rights to it. Generally, that work is still the intellectual property of the designer and derivative works might sometimes be the subject of legal issues in the future….”

Do You Own the Rights to Your Site?

You should look at the Do You Own Your Web Site? post also at Meryl.net.

Small Business Web Hosting

If you have been following along with our Starting an Online Business series you will have some of the information already on hand to help you determine the type of web hosting your online business will require. Get your target audience research out, you will need it.

You don’t need to sign up for web hosting until you have your website created but you will need an idea of web hosting costs for your website budget.

So what exactly is web hosting?

“A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to provide their own websites accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Webhosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own to be located in their data center, called colocation.”

Web hosting service – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So basically, you are renting space from a web hosting provider to store your website and make it available to internet users.

There are various types of web hosting available. Which one is best suited for your online business will be determined by your target audience research.

Types of Web Hosting

The type of website you are planning and the features required for the website will dictate the type of small business web hosting to secure. There are various types of web hosting to choose from:

  • Shared or Virtual Hosting

    The type of web hosting is the most common and would meet the needs of a small to medium sized online business.

  • Virtual Private Server or Virtual Dedicated Server

    Suited for those who wish to have the stability of a dedicated server but no do not need a full fledged dedicated server.

  • Dedicated Server

    Suited for large, high traffic websites that require a more complex setup for web applications.

  • Managed Web Hosting

    A dedicated web server with the added benefit of management services provided by the web hosting provider.

  • Co-Location Web Hosting

    You own the web server and have it located at a data center. A very large or active website would use this type of web hosting.

  • Reseller Web Hosting

    A reseller web hosting package would be suited for someone who has a network of websites or is interested in offering web hosting to others. Web Designers often have this type of web hosting to be able to offer web hosting to their clients.

  • Free Web Hosting

    Free web hosting isn’t really free. The price you pay is that your website visitors are subjected to advertising.

The web hosting requirements for larger, more complex websites is quite involved. You will have to consult with your web designer/web developer what is exactly required if you are using a complex, custom application for the website.

Next, we will expand on the more common small business web hosting that the average small business would require when starting out.

Shared or Virtual Web Hosting

Shared web hosting or virtual web hosting is where your website is on a web server that you share with a number of other websites. You all share the available resources, operating system and applications on the web server. The website owners on a shared or virtual web server cannot control the actual web server but with quality web hosting, you can control your webspace through an interface called a control panel.

This type of web hosting is good for small to medium sized websites and if you just need email hosting. It is usually the cheapest option for professional web hosting.

The web hosting provider is responsible for maintaining the web server, keeping it running and upgrading any hardware and software provided on the web server.

Keep in mind, you will be sharing the web server resources so if there is a very active or resource hogging website on the web server, your website may suffer. Also, check that all the types of features your website requires are either already available or can be added.

Reseller Web Hosting

Reseller web hosting is where a block of web hosting is purchased from a web host provider. A Web Design firm may have this type of web hosting so they can offer web hosting to their clients. Someone who is in the business of selling web hosting would also have this type of web hosting account.

As a website owner, it may be beneficial to your small business to sign up for this type of web hosting. Not because you will be selling web hosting to others, but because if you have multiple websites and/or blogs you can host them in one location.

Free Web Hosting

We have already covered the cons of free web hosting in our business domain name article.

If you have a personal website for family or friends and what to try out your HTML skills, then free web hosting would be ok but not really an option if you are serious about building a successful online business.

Web Hosting Checklist

When evaluating web hosting plans, have a checklist of the web hosting requirements you need to look for. You should already have this list started (if not complete) when you did your target audience research.

Some things you might not have thought of yet or don’t quite understand are webspace and bandwidth.

Webspace

Webspace is the amount of storage your website will require on the web server. If you have a basic website then you won’t need much space. On the other hand, if you have lots of pictures or are developing a online catalogue of your wares complete with pictures then more space will be required. Pictures take up alot of space on the web server. A database driven online catalogue (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a shopping cart) or blog will require more space. Check the web hosting package description for the number of allowable databases within the account.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the measure of traffic, both into and out of, your website. Having a very active website, a chatroom, a forum or items available for download all add to your bandwidth calculation. A website heavy on pictures will also use a lot of bandwidth.

Note:  Be wary of web hosts that offer unlimited webspace and/or bandwidth. There isn’t any such thing as unlimited. Take a look at the fine print, it’s unlimited up to a point.

There are few other things to keep in mind when selecting web hosting.

Pricing

Don’t go for the cheapest price! The old saying: “You get what you pay for” is so true when selecting web hosting. Base your web hosting selection on the package/plan that best suits your needs now and has room for expansion, not on price.

Support, Uptime and Backup

Does the web host provider offer:

  1. Telephone support? Is it available 24/7?
  2. A online trouble ticket/help desk system for your questions and concerns
  3. Forums and/or live chat for customer support. What kind of questions and problems have been posted to the forums by customers? Can you see any major problems posted?
  4. Email support

What kind of uptime is posted on the website? Uptime is the amount of time the web server is guaranteed to be running at full functionality. A posted rate of 99.9% would be much better for your online business, anything less will cost you money.

Will you receive a refund if the web host provider does not provide the services as listed in their term of services?

Are the web servers automatically backed up nightly? Note:  Have a backup of your website that you have done yourself just in case the web server is not backed up, even if they are supposed to be backed up nightly.

Does the web hosting plan have all the features you require?

Taking your time and doing plenty of research before selecting a web hosting plan can be important to the future of your online small business. Hasty decisions can in the end cost your small business money through wasted time, having to move your web hosting to a better web host and not being able to provide the website features your target audience expects to be available.

Remember, being control of every aspect of your online business is the way to go. It may seem very complicated having different service providers for each part of your online business (domain registrar, web designer, web hosting) but in the end, this can be important if there are any problems in the future.

Check our web hosting checklist article for more information.

Blogging Against Disablism

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

Blogging Against Disablism Day is back again this year. A group of bloggers will be blogging on May 1, 2007 about disability and the discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Last year disabled and non-disabled bloggers wrote about disability discrimination in the education system, employment, health care, families and other forms of prejudice.

If you wish to participate visit Diary of a Goldfish for instructions.

Last year they had 150 participants.

The categories of posts included:

  • Employment
  • Parenting Issues
  • Education
  • Access Issues (outside employment)
  • Disablism within Healthcare Systems
  • Definition and Analysis of Disablism
  • Abortion and Euthanasia
  • Impairment-Specific Prejudice
  • The Language of Disablism
  • Disablism Interacting with Other ‘Isms’
  • General Thoughts on Disablism
  • Disablism in Literature and Culture
  • Experiences Through Family and Friends
  • Miscellaneous Personal Experiences
  • Non-English Language Blogs
  • Quotes Against Disablism
  • Art Against Disablism
  • Poetry Against Disablism
  • Personal Journeys
  • Love and Sex

There’s some amazing bloggers already signed up for this year’s event!

Registering a Domain Name

In previous articles we have covered why you need a domain name, determined your target audience and chosen the domain name you would like to have (with a couple of back-up names in hand). Now it’s time to actually register your domain name.

Before we work through the registering a domain name process, there are a few terms you need to understand.

Domain Name Registration Terms

Registrant

This is You!

You need to be the domain name registrant to have total control of your domain! Some registrars or someone else that registers domain names for people may put their own name. This creates a problem if the two of you have a disagreement as they have control over your domain name, not you.

If you will not be the domain name registrant, then find another company to register your domain name with. It is possible to have your name as the registrant.

Domain Registrar

A domain registrar is a company that is in the business of registering domain names. They have to be an authorized registrar to perform this function.

The body that handles giving out authorization for selling domain names is ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Before starting the domain name registration process, check that the company you have selected is an authorized seller of domain names.

The body looking after country specific domains can be different than the general domain registrar. For example, CIRA is in charge of .ca domain name registration records. For a list of country specific domain authorities, visit the Root-Zone Whois Information at the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) website.

Avoid domain registration with hosting included (or visa versa). It is much better to handle everything with separate companies. This may seem like a nuisance, but in the end, when you have a disagreement with any of your service providers, you are in control, not them. You can change services when you like, without cost as long as you read the terms and conditions and follow them.

Domain Name Server (DNS)

The domain name server is the server at your web hosting company that keeps track of what domains are hosted on their servers and their IP address.

You don’t need this information right away when registering your domain name but will have to update it once you have web hosting in place.

Most domain registration companies will let you use their domain name servers until you have hosting in place. This is also known as “Parking” a domain if you bought a domain name for future use or to avoid someone else buying a variation of the domain name you have selected.

If you have hosting in place (or once you arrange it) you will need the domain name server information from your hosting company. It will look something like this: n1.accretewebsolutions.ca There should also be a second domain name server looking something like this: n2.accretewebsolutions.ca When web hosting in place, log into your domain name registration company and update this information.

Domain Expiry

When you purchase a domain name you don’t own it forever. Your ownership will expire at some time. When purchasing or renewing a domain you will be asking during the process how long you would like to own the domain. The time period can range from one year to ten years.

Be sure to make a note when your domain name ownership expires! Some domain registration companies will not send out a notice to warn you the domain is about to expire.

If you let your ownership lasp, you have 30 – 60 days grace period to renew (depending on the registrar) before the domain name becomes available to the general public for purchase. At this point you cannot stop someone from purchasing your domain name. You snooze, You loose. So make sure you mark on the calendar when the domain expires a couple of months in advance. If you are not happy with your current registrar, this would be the time to change. Once you renew, there will be a time frame (30 -60 days depending on the registar) where you cannot move companies.

Private Registration

Private registration is where your domain name’s contact information is hidden from the public. The registrar you use may provide this option, for a fee.

One good thing about this is that your email address is not picked up by email spammers.

The downside to using this service would be a lack of credibility. A customer might want to check who they are going to do business with before making a purchase. If this information is hidden, then they might be wary of dealing with you.

Ok, now onto actually registering a domain name.

Registering a Domain Name

Before starting the domain registration process, have the following in front of you:

Note: The contact information you provide during the registration process will be public information. There can be an option of Private Registration available through the registrar you use.

  • List of domain names selected as possibilites.
  • PayPal account information if you wish to pay via PayPal.
  • Credit card information. Have this handy even if you were intending to pay via PayPal, in case PayPal is not an option.
  • Your address, postal code, a phone number and fax number.
  • The name and contact information (including email addresses) for Administrative, Billing and Technical contacts for the domain name.
  • Email address of domain owner. This is important! If there is a problem with your domain name then the registrar can get a hold of you. Also, if they have this service, they can email you a notice when your domain name is about to expire.

Be prepared to purchase your domain name when you sit down to do this. Tomorrow, the domain name you want maybe gone.

Domain Name Registration

  1. Select a Domain Registrar

    Do some looking around for a domain registrar that has the features and type of service you need.

    There are lots of them around. Just make sure to check the list of authorized registrars before selecting one.

    I have used GoDaddy and Namespro myself and have been happy with the service provided. Another popular domain registrar is 1and1.com.

    Be sure to check the terms and conditions and payment options before deciding on a domain registrar.

  2. WHOIS Search

    Once at the domain registrar site, you will be asked to enter the domain name you wish to register. The domain registrar site will do what is called a WHOIS search.

    Within the internet structure, there is one centeral spot where all the domain name records are coordinated. The WHOIS search checks these records to make sure the domain name you wish to register is still available.

    If the domain name is available, you will proceed to the next step. If the domian name is taken, you will be asked to try another domain name choice. This is why you have back up choices already selected! With your list in hand, repeat the WHOIS search.

  3. Domain Name Registrant Information

    This is where you enter your name and contact information.

    You will also be opening an account with registrar. You will need this information later when updating the domain name servers and if you need to update any contact information, so keep this information in a safe place.

    Be sure to double and triple check the information you provide, if any of it is incorrect, it could be very difficult to straighten out later.

  4. Domain Name Server

    If you have web hosting in place, this is the time when you enter the domain name server information.

    Use the registrar’s domain name server information if web hosting is not in place yet.

  5. Domain Name Expiry

    Along the way of the domain name purchase process you will be asked how long you wish to register the domain name for. As explained above, the time frame varies from one year to ten years.

    The yearly cost of domain name registration can go down on a per year basis if you register for a longer period. The savings vary from domain registrar to domain registrar.

  6. Domain Name Registration Payment

    Depending on which domain registrar you choose to use, your options for paying for the registration of your domain can be via PayPal, credit card or other convience card.

That’s about it for registering a domain name.

You should receive emails confirming your payment and the registration of the domain name.

Keep all this information in a safe place. You will need it when it comes time to set-up your web hosting and renew your domain name.

Choosing a Domain Name

In our Starting an Online Business series we have already covered projecting a professional image by having a business domain name and how to determine your target audience. Now it’s time to tackle choosing a domain name for your online business.

Choosing a Business Domain Name

Choosing a business domain name can be one of the most important parts of owning an online business. Like a business name, you want something catchy, something that people will remember, something that draws clients to your website and something that is going to do well in the search engines. Once you have narrowed your choice down to a few, ask for some feed back from your friends and clients. Be open to new and different approaches to your business domain name and website theme as the “perfect name” may be already taken.

Each domain name is unique on the internet. www.webpagemistakes.ca, www.web-page-mistakes.ca, www.web-page-mistakes.com and www.webpagemistakes.com are all unique names on the internet. They can all be owned by the same person or by four different people. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a domain name.

Before we get into actually choosing a business domain name, we need an understanding of domain names.

Parts of a Business Domain Name

When you are registering a domain name you will be asked for two parts to create the domain name, the domain and the top level portion of the domain name.

Top Level Domain

The top level domain portion of your domain name is the last part of your domain name. For example google.com has a top level domain of .com. Web Page Mistakes (www.webpagemistakes.ca) uses a country top level domain.

The most common top level domains are:

  • .com – intended for commercial use
  • .net – intended for Internet Service Providers
  • .org – intended for non commercial websites
  • .edu – intended for educational institutes

There are also country specific top level domains. For example:

  • .ca is for Canada
  • .uk is for the United Kingdom
  • .au is for Australia

Note:  For country specific top level domains you will have to reside in that country.

For more information about top level domains visit the ICANN website’s Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) page.

June 26, 2008 Update

The Board of ICANN today approved a recommendation that could see a whole range of new names introduced to the Internet’s addressing system. …

…A final version of the implementation plan must be approved by the ICANN Board before the new process is launched. It is intended that the final version will be published in early 2009….

ICANN | Biggest Expansion to Internet in Forty Years Approved for Implementation

Domain

The domain portion of your business domain name is to the left of the top level domain portion of the domain name. E.g. webpagemistakes is the domain portion of www.webpagemistakes.ca.

Your domain selection can:

  • be up to 60 to 61 characters long, depending on which top level domain your choose.
  • only have letters, numbers and dashes within it.

Sub Domain

You may have noticed web addresses that contain an additional part to the left of the domain portion of the domain name. This is called a subdomain. An example of a website using a subdomain would be http://finance.yahoo.com/. Here, Yahoo! has decided to keep all their finance information within a subdomain. If you have a large enough website or maybe a blog you could do the same thing.

A sub domain is not an additional domain name, it is like a sub section of your domain name.

Now that you have a better understanding of the parts of a domain name we can move onto actually deciding on the parts of your business domain name.

Choosing a Top Level Domain

As explained above there different top level domains to choose from.

The .com top level domain is what most websites use and what most people will type at the end of a website address out of habit. Because .com is widely used it maybe difficult to register what you feel is the prefect name for your online business.

A country specific top level can work for you or against you. On one hand a person could be looking for your service or product available in their country (the working for you part). On the other hand, a person doing a search could eliminate looking at your website when it shows in the results because they assume (maybe incorrectly) that you are only interested in dealing with clients locally (the working against you part). This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider country specific top level domains, just that you should be aware of the pros and cons when choosing a domain name.

If you are interested in some statics, check www.dailychanges.com to see what the situation is for different top level domains.

So, keep in mind a couple of options for the top level domain portion of your domain name, you may need them when you come to register your business domain name.

Choosing Your Business Domain

Choosing the domain portion of your business domain name is a little less limited than the top level domain portion.

Remember we had you do some research on your target audience? Well this is one of the areas where that research comes into play.

If you have a brand new business that you are starting this portion of choosing a domain name should be done as part of the overall business plan of your online business and be part of your marketing plan.

For an existing business, this is a bit harder task. There’s no gentle way to put this: Unless you have already done a ton of marketing or a well established business, people aren’t going to find your website by typing in your company name unless you already incorporate some keywords related to the focus of your business. An example would be using the initials of your company name. This may make perfect sense to you or your existing customers but it will be harder to harness in new customers from the internet.

Some points to keep in mind while selecting the domain portion of your business domain name:

  • Your domain name and website name should be the same.

    People may not notice the website address of your website when they find you through the search engine results. They are going to notice the website name, the website appearance and whether or not it was what they were looking for. They may even remember your website name when someone else is looking for something so that person is going to type the website name into the search engines.

  • Avoid trademarked names.

    At one time the fad was to snap up domain names that could end up in great profits if an up and coming business hadn’t already purchased their domain name. Now, companies with trademarked names and products will not pay the price to secure the domain names, they will just sue you for trademark infringement.

  • Branding.

    If you want to use an unusual name like some of the famous websites around then be prepared to invest time and money into marketing and working extra hard on search engine friendly content. In the beginning it will be harder to show up in the search engine results but if you have the time and budget, go for it!

    An older established business that already has a good reputation and is well known but late getting on the net could build on their established reputation.

  • Incorporating keywords and/or phrases your target audience will search for.

    If you have done your targeted audience research you will know the type of keywords and phrases they will type into the search engines when looking for products or information. Incorporating these words and phrases into your domain name and website name will help them remember your website and your search engine results.

  • Hyphenated domain name.

    A hyphenated domain name can help your search engines results but isn’t people friendly. It will be hard for visitors to remember where to include the hyphens.

    But, the only the hyphenated version of the domain name I want is available! Well, think of another name. The reason, your website is going to get confused with the “other” website. Someone who found your website and remembered the name but not the address is going to type in the website name to try and find you again. Depending how well you have worked on your search engine optimization, the “other” website just might be in the results before you and you are going to loose the traffic and sale.

    A better tactic would be to decide on a domain name where you can purchase the hyphenated and non hyphenated versions of the domain name.

  • Name easy to spell.

    Choose a domain name that is easy to spell. Some buy the miss spelt versions of domain names to get those visitors. This could get costly for you if you were to do the same thing.

  • British English vs American English spellings of words.

    Depending on how you learnt to spell when learning English, you could be use to spelling in British English or American English. This can be confusing for people who have learnt English as a second language.

    Something to consider is if the word(s) you have chosen for your business domain name have two spellings, British or American. Picking one or the other could potentially reduce your chances of showing in the search engine results for that word.

    Use words spelt the same in British and American English to increase your search engine results.

Prepare for Business Domain Name Registration

When choosing a business domain name have a few different choices prepared in advance.

In our next article we will walk you through domain name registration. In preparation for this task you will need a prepared list of domain name choices. Once you begin the domain name registration process you may find that your first choice of a business domain name is taken. Having a prepared list of choices will save you time.

I’ll Do It Myself

I'll Do It Myself book cover

Glenda Watson Hyatt’s 40 Blogs in 40 (Business) Days Tour

Glenda Watson Hyatt of Soaring Eagle Communications has just self published her autobiography, I’ll Do It Myself.

Web Page Mistakes is honoured to have Glenda here today for an interview as part of her 40 Blogs in 40 Days Tour to promote her new book.

Web Page Mistakes:  
Hi Glenda! And welcome to Web Page Mistakes. It’s a pleasure to have you here today and hear all about your new book, I’ll Do It Myself.

Glenda:  
Thanks. I’m excited to be invited to your corner of the blogoshpere today. As virtual book tours are still a relatively new concept in book promotion, I’m curious to see the benefits for both the host and the author. No need for lugging boxes of books around and no jet lag! What an exciting way to promote my newly-released autobiography I’ll Do It Myself in which I intimately share my life living with cerebral palsy to show others cerebral palsy is not a death sentence, but rather a life sentence.

Web Page Mistakes:
So, let’s start at the beginning. You were born and raised in Vancouver, BC and attended a regular school in between therapy sessions. So what was it like going up with cerebral palsy? I see you mention that as a child you won the highest award in Girl Guides (the Canada Cord), the Outstanding Junior Student Award and even a gold medal in horseback riding! Wow! That’s wonderful!

Glenda:
Yes, I was born in Vancouver many moons ago. A lack of oxygen at birth caused cerebral palsy, although an official diagnosis wasn’t forthcoming for several months. The lack of oxygen had caused permanent brain damage, resulting in a lack of muscle control and coordination. My physical movements are jerky and involuntary; one body part or another is in constant motion. My left hand has some function, while my right hand is generally in a tightly clenched fist. I can’t walk without support, and my speech is difficult to understand. Finally, my head control is tenuous, and swallowing takes a conscious effort.

However, this hasn’t stopped me from living life to the fullest. My parents’ philosophy was “to introduce Glenda to the world and the world to Glenda”. They were, and still both are, supportive in anything I wanted to do (or to try). In our home, the word can’t was not allowed, only try. Like my three brothers, I was expected to do my best, whatever my best may be. Essentially, cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped me; although, it does mean finding other ways to do things at times.

Web Page Mistakes:
What inspired you to write your autobiography?

Glenda
As a child, I read books like Ice Castles about a talented figure skater who became blind but continued competing by hiding her disability, The Other Side of the Mountain about an Olympic-bound skier who broke her neck during a qualifying competition, and Joni (pronounced Johnny) who also became a quadriplegic resulting from a diving accident. Since that age, I have dreamt of writing my autobiography one day to share my story with others to hopefully inspire or motivate them in some way.

Web Page Mistakes
In the summer of 2006 you entered a contest to win a prize that included help publishing your book. Tell us about that experience.

Glenda
Sure. Suzanne Falter-Barns of Get Known Now organized the Mega Marketing Makeover, a package of several products and services from various marketing experts and coaches. I was one of top four finalists. The winner was then determined by number of online votes. I really worked my network that week! The support and encouragement, even from strangers, was totally amazing. I won the competition by a landslide, receiving three times as many votes as the runner-up.

Since winning, I have been working my way through the prizes from the various contributors. However, in order to get my book out according to my schedule, I needed to put the Marketing Makeover aside for a bit. Now that the book is done and printed, I can now get back to the makeover with full gusto. I just launched my new Do It Myself Blog, designed by contributor Sharilyn Horne; contributor Nancy Cleary designed the banner. I’m looking forward to making this new blog home and using it to promote my book I’ll Do It Myself, as well as for other plans I have in the works.

Web Page Mistakes
Glenda has written about her experience publishing her book complete with pictures on her blog Just Write filed under I’ll Do It Myself.

The first shipment of books arrived in December 2006. Bet you were really excited! How is the book distribution going? Has the unusually snowy weather in Vancouver created a problem for you?

Glenda:
The day the books (seven boxes!) was an emotional one. I cried when I opened the first box and held the first book. They looked awesome! I can only imagine that is what it is like to give birth. And the response has been amazing. People say they can’t put the book down and are reading it straight through. Another individual saw the book at a friend’s house; he picked it up and started reading it. Now he has order a copy. Word of mouth is definitely an important element in my distribution efforts.

As for this weather, it surely has been unusual for Vancouver! It has made getting out to do local promotion impossible as my electric scooter doesn’t handle the snow and ice. This is one reason I’m doing a virtual book tour at this point: no need to travel! I stay inside where it’s warm and still promote my book any where in the world.

Web Page Mistakes:
You wrote about creating MP3’s for podcasts, tell us about that.

Glenda:
My cerebral palsy has significantly impacted my speech: only those close to me understand Glenda-ish; to most other people, I’ve non-verbal. I have spent much of my life in silence. Through technology, I have found a way to podcast. Using text-to-speech software, I am able to convert my written word to spoken word, save it as an mp3, and, thus, the capability to podcast! How awesome is that!

I still need to explore how to effectively utilize this podcasting capability. This could really open more doors for me. At the moment, my monthly newsletter is also available as an mp3 . “Kate” by NeoSpeech is surprisingly clear for a computerized voice. I’m looking forward to having Kate do more speaking for me.

Web Page Mistakes:
Glenda, I see you have worked with some government agencies advising on accessibility issues. This is an inspiration to those with disabilities. How did you get started?

Glenda:
Actually, that was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I was just starting my business Soaring Eagle Communications and was doing the face-to-face networking thing. I met with a fellow from a dot com company who needed some work done choosing web colour schemes for people with colour blindness – like I had a clue! (My eyes are among the few body parts that work as they should.) One thing led to another and my colour schemes became the colours used on the British Columbia provincial government website (until the last election). That led to a few other reports and projects. Looking back, it is interesting how one contact or one project led to another.

Web Page Mistakes:
Wow! You certainly have lived an interesting life. You are an inspiration to all. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule promoting your book. Where does your virtual book tour take you next?

Glenda:
Thanks so much for hosting this appearance along my “40 Blogs in 40 (Business) Days” virtual book tour. I truly appreciate it. My next appearance is Mary MacDonald’s Solo Entrepreneurs Blog. I will be posting links on my blog.

Thanks again, Susan. Make it an awesome day!

Glenda Watson Hyatt’s autobiography, I’ll Do It Myself is available through her website, Books by Glenda. Posts about her experience as a self published author and as a woman with cerebral palsy are available at Just Write .

Best Wishes for the future Glenda!

Read and listen to Glenda’s podcast appearance at Brain Storm! yesterday.

Updates on Glenda Watson Hyatt’s 40 Blogs in 40 Days Tour

Glenda Visits Texas on Her Book Tour
Austin, Texas, to chat with Mary McDonald, CEO/CTO of the McDonald Consulting Group on her Solo Entrepreneurs on WorldWIT (Women – Insight – Technology).

My Autobiography “I’ll Do It Myself” Gets Known Now
New York to chat with Suzanne Falter-Barns of Get Known Now.

Never Give Up is the Key When Living with Cerebral Palsy
Carlsbad in Southern California to speak with Judi Finneran, a health and fitness coach.

Virtual Book Tour Takes Glenda Down Under
Des Walsh in the Gold Coast region of eastern Australia.

Positive Role Models Needed for Youth with Disabilities
Chicago, chatting with 21-year-old David, who also has cerebral palsy.

I’ll Do It Myself Named AOL Site of the Day
Do It Myself Blog named AOL Ability’s Site of the Day.

Fitness Despite Disability
Paradise, California, to speak with Gillian Hood-Gabrielson, the founder and President of Healthier Outcomes.

Blogging Opens the World to Author with Cerebral Palsy
Chicago to chat with Andy Wibbels, author of Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging.

Busy Day on the Virtual Book Tour
I’ll Do It Myself Virtual Book Tour in Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska, to chat with her virtual twin Glenda Hinz.

Dropped off copies of autobiography I’ll Do It Myself at the Celebration Christian Store in Surrey.

Ingenious Marketing Strategy: Virtual Book Tour
Montreal, Quebec, chatting with Christina Favreau who helps professionals in the service industry run their small business, one step at a time.

Virtual Book Tour Takes Glenda to Ohio
Findlay, Ohio, to chat with Tracey Lawton. Tracey is a certified Master Virtual Assistant.

Making the Most of the Gifts Life Gives Us
Chicago to chat with Wendy Piersall. Wendy’s blog offers moms (and some dads) valuable insights into the true work at home lifestyle, challenges, myths, and rewards.

Virtual Book Tour Takes Glenda to Arizona
Mesa, Arizona, to hang out with Pam Slim. Pam coaches people on how to go from corporate prisoner to thriving entrepreneur.

Author Reveals Her Biggest Challenge as a Writer
Olathe, just outside of Kansas City, to speak with Yara Nielsenshultz of Red Pepper Writing.

Virtual Book Tour Goes to the Dogs
Albuquerque, New Mexico, to be interviewed by a dog. Shadrach the Neo Mastiff is a blogging dog!

Virtual Book Tour Takes Glenda to New Zealand
Christchurch, New Zealand, to chat with Liz Lewis.

Determine Target Audience

This is the first step in our Starting an Online Business series. In this article we will look at researching your targeted audience before selecting your business domain name.

If you have done any research on how to market your business you will see a repeated theme, determine your target audience. This holds true when you are developing your website also. Building a business website with the target audience in mind will do much better in the search engines which equates to improved sales. Other related websites will find you also and add a link to your business’ website. This improves your position in the search engine results through incoming links.

As the Internet evolves, more and more people are turning to the Internet for information on their selected topic, for product research and to find businesses that carry a particular product or item they are looking for.

Determine Your Target Audience

When you build a website for your business it has to be built so it draws visitors looking specifically for the product or service you provide if the goal is to draw online sales or have someone find out more about your company if they were referred to you. This requires narrowing down what type of information, features and products your targeted audience would be looking for. To be found on the Internet by visitors that have the potential of being actual customers the website needs to contain quality information, keywords and phrases the targeted audience would search for and project a professional appearance.

We have a series of articles on website planning at Website Checklist which include:

How does all this relate to choosing your business domain name?

Target Keywords and Phrases

Search engines, when they find your website, file away in their databases the content and links contained in your website’s pages. They use this information to determine which results to show when someone does a search. The websites the search engine feels best suits the searched word or phrase will be shown in the order of relevance it feels your website is if your website is in their database.

So what does this have to do with selecting your domain name?

There are multiple things that the search engines use to determine the relevance of your website to the term or phrase a person enters into the search box. One of these is the relevance of your web domain name.

If your business domain name contains the main targeted phrase for your selected target audience then this helps move you up in the results. Remember, this is only part of the equation.

To learn how to select your keywords and phrases for your target audience, take the time to join the free SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Training Class available via email. Even if you are not technically inclined and will be having someone else build your website for you this is a valuable class to take and will help you build a successful web presence for your online business.

Do Your Target Audience Homework

As a business owner you are probably raring to get going on the website for your business’ online presence. Researching your target audience before purchasing your domain name and building your website is just part of the process. Take the time now, even if this delays production of getting your business online by a month or two, to do the research first.

If you take the time at the beginning of your website project to research your target audience your website will be found much easier by the search engines and truly interested visitors which will result in more online sales and/or leads.

Ultimately, this will save you time and money. Rushing into putting up a website can lead to a disappointing return on your investment if it isn’t thought out well in the beginning. A website is a dynamic means of advertising. It will need tweaking as you go along and additional fresh content to keep target audience visitors coming back and referring to your website. Why not start out on the right foot by doing your target audience homework at the beginning of the process instead of fixing your website later?

Business Domain Name

Presenting a Professional Business Image

As a business owner you really need to consider purchasing a business domain name to appear as a professional and creditable business.

Small business owners often start out with free web hosting provided by their internet service provider or through one of the free web hosting sites. Also when starting out, new business owners have a tendency to use their email address provided through their internet service provider or use a free email address service. We are all on a tight budget when starting a new business but a business domain name is one of the things that should not be scrimped on. Registering a domain name is so economical now, there is no excuse for not securing a domain name for your business right from the start.

Not ready for a website yet, no problem. Some domain registrars will still provide you with a domain email address to use. If the domain registrar does not include an domain email address for you to use you can still get email only web hosting to get your business off to a professional looking business.

Not convinced? Let’s explore the pros and cons of owning your own domain name.

Free Web Hosting – Internet Service Provider Web Hosting

Free web hosting is very tempting to the new business owner due to budget constraints. What you may not realize is using free web hosting is detrimental to your business.

How do you think the company offering free web hosting makes any money? Advertising! That’s right. If you host your website at a free web hosting service they will insert advertising. You have no control over what ads are shown. Do you really want a competitor’s website ad being shown on your business website? or an ad that might be offensive to your website visitors?

Put on your web surfer hat. When you are looking for something on the net, what websites have you found that were using free web hosting service that you made a purchase from? Why not? What impression did you have of the business? Did you question the quality of the product? Were you put off by all the ads and pop ups that appeared?

Internet service providers sometimes provide web space with your internet service package. This is fine for a friends and family website but if you are using it for a hobby that will eventually turn into a business (you never know, it just might!) then this will create problems for you later (explained below) because you are going to have to start from scratch when you move to paid web hosting.

Whether you are using a free web hosting service or the web space provided with your internet service there will be problems associated with this decision.

  1. Website Address

    A website hosted at a free web hosting site or at your internet service provider will tend to have a really long URL (website address). Your URL will include the company’s URL.

    Example: At GeoCities the website address would be http://www.geocities.com/yourfoldername/

    A business domain name should be something easy to remember. Wouldn’t www.yourdomainname.com be easier for people to remember than the example above?

  2. Search Engines

    Some search engines have a policy that they do not show websites using free web hosting in their search results.

    The ads that the free web hosting inserts into the website could impede the search engine bot from viewing your website through incorrect coding that hangs to search engine bot up.

  3. Error Pages

    With quality paid web hosting you can create custom error pages for when there is a website problem. With free hosting the visitor will see the web host’s error page and be totally lost.

  4. Website Design

    When the free hosting company inserts ads it could damage your website design or take the visitor’s attention away from your website.

    If you use any of the features or designs provided by the free hosting service/your internet service provider you cannot take them with you! Look at the terms and conditions for the service. Somewhere it will say that you cannot use their designs and/or features elsewhere.

  5. Moving to Paid Web Hosting

    If you start off with free web hosting either through a free service or at your internet service provider and then decide to move to a business domain name you are going to have to start from scratch as far as getting listed in the search engines.

    When a website is moved from free web hosting you will not be able to implement the proper techniques to tell the search engines your website has moved. You are going to have to start from scratch to get the new website location listed in the search engines again (if it was indexed to start with).

Paid Web Hosting

Once you secure your business domain name, are ready to have a website and secure quality web hosting:

  1. Your website address will be shorter and easier to remember than the one from a free web hosting web space.
  2. You will have more control over your web space.
  3. You will have control over your website’s appearance.
  4. Your business will appear professional and creditable.
  5. If you decide to change web hosting companies there is no problem with the search engines.
  6. You will be able to create custom error pages for those times when there is a website problem. The error pages can contain information for the visitor to help them find their way.
  7. You can move your website to any web hosting company you wish (as long as you don’t use their designs and other features, just like the free hosting service.)

Not ready to have a website yet? Let’s look at using free email addresses next.

Free Email and Internet Service Provider Email

Put on your web surfer hat again for a minute.

With fraud being a concern today, how comfortable are you about sharing confidential information with someone you don’t know that is using a free email address? Not so comfortable? Well how do you think your customers feel? Anyone can get a free email address or use their internet service provider email address today and disappear tomorrow, without a trace.

If the email address being used for business correspondence is at a business domain wouldn’t that show that the business owner has made a commitment to running a business with a professional business image?

Now put your business owner hat back on.

Say you switch internet service providers, or move where this company does not provide service. You will loose your internet service provider email address therefore, you are going to loose business correspondence! Someone that is not a customer yet might have a business card, brochure or some other piece of advertising that has that email address on it and has saved it for the occasion that they or someone they know would need your service or product. They could email you with an order and you’d never know it.

Business Domain Name Email Address

With a business domain name email address:

  1. Your business looks more professional.
  2. Your business correspondence will project a professional business image.
  3. If you change web hosting providers you take the email address with you.
  4. You can create different email addresses for difference purposes. e.g. Comments and Questions, Accounting, Sales, etc.

Project a Professional Business Image with a Business Domain Name

Creating a professional business image for your business is important to the business’ success. By purchasing a business domain name you will help your business by looking professional and add credibility to the business as a whole.

If after reading this article you have been convinced that your business does need a business domain name, don’t run off and buy one yet! You have some work to do first.

In our next articles for the Starting an Online Business series we will work you through choosing a domain name, registering a domain name and securing quality web hosting after creating a web hosting checklist.

Business Domain Name Related Articles

“Your e-mail address is one of the first things folks see when you reply to Web site inquiries. What does your e-mail address say about you?…”

What Does Your E-mail Address Say?

5 Lame Excuses From People Still Using HotMail For Email

Use Your Dot Com for Business E-mail

Website Design

Some things to keep in mind when working with your web designer to create your website theme:

  • Heading Structure

    Heading structure is important not only to present a clear structure to the web page but also in consideration of those using text readers and the search engines.

    Heading tags are used to define the headings in your page. There are 6 available, h1 set of heading tags being the biggest and boldest and the h6 set being the smallest.

    You should use them as you would if you were writing a book or article and not to highlight text in your page.

  • Not Designing for Most Common Screen Resolution

    As a website owner or web designer you have to take into consideration what are the most common screen resolutions for the intended target audience of the website to determine what web page width is suitable for the website.

    Have you visited a website that has a web page width too wide for your monitor or browser window? You have to use the horizontal scroll to go back and forth reading and/or looking for information on the page. This makes reading the website very hard and can be very annoying if the website has some information the visitor is interested in.

  • Website Graphics

    Web graphics play an important part in the presentation of a website.

    Using the correct type of web graphic which has been optimized for optimum download speed and web hosting space conservation will affect the performance of the website. Sites containing lots of images will be slow to load and require more web hosting space.

  • Flash Based Websites – Flash Movies

    Flash is a technology by Macromedia that creates animations, interactive websites and other fancy features that can be embedded into a web page.

    You probably have already encountered websites containing Flash movies. Some designers use Flash to create an introduction movie (also known as a splash page) or will create the whole website in Flash.

  • Uncommon Fonts

    Using uncommon fonts in your web page or website can be a problem. Windows based and Mac based computers come with different fonts installed by default.

    One problem web designers have is that they forget that the average computer user may not have the same fonts installed on their machine.

  • Effective Colour Contrast

    Have you taken a serious look at the colour scheme your website uses? Are all parts of your web page visible to everyone?

    Some times when we pick a colour scheme for our website we forget that there are people with poor vision and colour deficiencies. Even website visitors with “normal” vision can have difficulties reading a web page that has poor contrast between the colours used.

  • What is Duplicate Content?

    In our article, Website Duplicate Content, we talked about the webmaster guidelines of the three major search engines, Google, Yahoo! and MSN. In this article we will explore a little further what is duplicate content.

    Reading this article will give a better understanding about duplicate content issues and duplicate content penalities.

  • Using Javascript on Websites

    Using Javascript on websites is not a new thing. Javascript has been around for quite a while. It gained a bad reputation in the past because hackers would (and still do) include malicous scripts on web pages. Now Javascript is being used beyond the typical applications in the past with the advent of Web 2.0.

    When visiting websites or when using StumbleUpon to find more resoures to share there are a lot of websites that are using javascript that have errors. Even big company websites have these errors. How do I know? Because as a Website Developer, I have scripting error notification turned on to check my own work.

  • Disabling Right Click

    Some websites use a script to disable the right click function of the mouse (the right mouse button). Let’s look at whether it is really worth using a disable right click function.

  • Cross – Browser Compatibility

    How does your site look in any of the major browsers? Not everyone is using Internet Explorer to surf the Internet these days.

    Are you prepared to loose visitors because your site uses proprietory coding or just doesn’t render properly in all browsers? Can you afford the lost sales?

  • Does Your Website Have to be Accessible?

    Accessible websites have come to the forefront of people’s minds with legal actions being taken against websites that are not accessible. As a website owner you may think this doesn’t affect your small business, association or non profit website but it does. Let’s take a look at accessible websites beyond the buzz word accessible, the legal requirements of having an accessible website and legal repercussions if you don’t.

Starting an Online Business

Starting an online business can be quite daunting whether you are comfortable with computers and the internet or not. There are all kinds of ads and articles on how to start an online business for free.

Web Page Mistakes was created to help new and exisiting website owners see what website mistakes there can be and how to fix them. With these articles the goal is to get you off on the right foot if you are considering starting an online business or if you have an existing website by creating a series of articles on how to start an online business, have your online business project a professional image and build web credibility.

As you get ready to take your brick and mortar business, home based business or turn your hobby into an online business there are a number of things to consider before getting your business online.

Each article will explain the pros and cons of each step of starting your online business. Ideas and techniques for projecting a professional business image and building web credibility will be given along the way.

To be successful on the internet, an online business needs a well thought out business domain name, control of it’s domain name and quality web hosting along with a well designed website visitors will want to bookmark and come back to once they have found you in the search engines..

Through the first part of this series of articles you will work your way through narrowing down your target audience, business domain names, choosing and registering a business domain name then on to securing quality web hosting after you have built your web hosting checklist.

Building a Website

Once you have your business domain name and web hosting secured it will be time to start building your website. We’ll look at website design, website templates, search engine optimization and other factors that will give your online business a professional business image with web credibility.

As you follow along in this series of articles, you will learn that starting an online business is much more than just putting up a website. To be successfull when starting an online business, you will need a professional image, a well constructed website, a search engine friendly website and a website that reflects your business’ credibility.

Internet Explorer 7 Has Been Released

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 today (October 18, 2006), have you checked that your website is still working properly?

In the past Internet Explorer has been a forgiving browser. Internet Explorer would take a poorly coded web page and try and render it pretty close to as it was intented (unlike standards compliant browsers).

Also, a lot of websites contain coding that only works in Internet Explorer. If you check your website in another browser (say Firefox) you may find that some features you have included will not work/appear in other browsers.

Although I have not seen any specific features for Internet Explorer have been deleted it would be wise to check your website and make sure it still works in Internet Explorer 7 and the other more popular browsers available.

Sometimes in the past it has been a challenge to get your website to work as intended in Internet Explorer and the standards compliant browsers. Looks great in Internet Explorer but falls apart in other browsers, or visa versa. Now, you are going to have to check that all those “fixes” or “hacks” that you or your web designer implemented to get your web design to work in Internet Explorer and other browsers as intended are needed or even now break the web page design.

Changes in Internet Explorer 7

With this new browser Microsoft has made some changes to come more in line with the coding standards. Here’s a few basic changes that may affect your web design:

  • Cascading Stylesheets

    Internet Explorer 7 has improved support for CSS Level 2 (CSS2).

  • Alpha Channel Transparency to PNG

    Support for Portable Network Graphics (PNG)’s Alpha Channel Transparency has been added.

  • ABBR Tag for HTML 4.01

    The ABBR tag from HTML 4.01 is now recognized by Internet Explorer 7.

  • Nested Objects

    Nested objects are now supported.

If you are interested in reading more about the changes in Internet Explorer 7 here’s some links to information on the Microsoft website:

  1. Cascading Style Sheet Compatibility in Internet Explorer 7
  2. What’s New in Internet Explorer 7
  3. What’s New in Internet Explorer 7 (Script)