A lot of my clients seem to think, at least initially, that having a website built is a case of asking someone like me to write one and then their involvement stops. That is not the case as you are about to find out. This isn’t a rant or attack on people who don’t know the specifics of the web but hopefully will serve as a guide to those people or give other people like me a checklist to refine and give their clients…
First things first… Costs.
It doesn’t cost the earth to have a website written. A normal company is likely to want a presence on the net and that’s it. No need for huge fancy sites to be optimised to within an inch of their life and no need to even have a graphic designer involved. Of course you can do, and generally end up with a better site but if you want to keep things simple then it’s not necessary.
There are only really two ongoing costs for a website… domain name(s) and website hosting.
A domain name is very cheap indeed although costs do vary. In the past I have used a few registraars and people always have their favourites. I use Europe Registry for this site but have just registered www.letsboat.co.uk with 123-reg (aff link) for a grand total of £7 for two years.
Many website developers such as myself will offer to host the site for you at £X per year. This is a good idea if you want a lot of support but ultimately it’s cheaper to do it yourself and pay a developer when (if) things go wrong. This site is hosted with imountain however I wouldn’t recommend them at all. It costs me $10 per month but I find it very slow here in the UK. I tend to recommend Hostgator (aff link) to my clients. All you need for your own website is their most basic package although I would recommend their Baby plan in case you want to host more than one site using the same account. you can pay monthly with most hosts although you only usually get the quoted prices if you pay for two or three years up front. Depending on your financial situation this might be worth doing. If you go to hostgator.com and use tortoise25 as the coupon code you will get 25% off the quoted price if it helps.
No one, if they can help it, writes sites in pure code any more. They are a nightmare to maintain and generally not very good. Also, as the client, you end up paying for a developer to make the smallest change. This is where WordPress comes in. WordPress, a content management system (CMS), allows you and developers to write sites (like this one in fact) quite quickly and with a massive range of free themes and plugins to make sites do whatever you want them to. Galleries, shops, video players, etc… All doable without much more than a few simple steps.
Installing WordPress requires you to get a PHP enabled server, set up a MySQL database, FTP up the WordPress files found at WordPress.org, apply the theme, add some plugins and write the content in. Sounds like a lot but when you do it for a living it doesn’t take long to get something up there. However it’s kind of like car maintenance.. you think you can service it yourself and you know that, in principle, replacing a few engine consumables is an easy job and takes a mechanic only a couple of hours. Then you start the job and it takes two days and never does run right after that. See the parallel there?
That’s it…. you never have to pay for content updates and you can always contact me for advice/help. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m a bit of a WordPress enthusiast. But then why not when WordPress is used for a huge number of sites on the internet (50,000,000 I think was the last count I read).
What do you need to provide to a Website Developer?
Simple enough question to ask, hard question to answer really. Here is a very basic list…
- Look and feel
- Gather resources to use
And then for any site with an ecommerce aspect:
- Payment processor (Paypal, Clickbank, Sagepay, etc…)
- Gather resources for download or delivery
Let me expand on these…
Content is self explanatory. I recommend firstly thinking about how many pages you want on the site and then jotting down, in something like Word, the content for each page. Images to compliment text is always a nice addition but can be done later. Additionally with a domain and a site you might want to let people get in touch with you. Have a think about what phone numbers (if any) and email addresses you want public or if you just want a contact form.
Look and feel is something that will definitely need to be expanded on. If you have a look at a few themes around the internet. There are literally thousands of them out there, loads free and others premium. Either is ok and neither better than the other. WordPress has it’s own showcase of free themes (required to be free to be in the list!). Someone like myself will firstly ask if you want a graphic designer involved, at which stage this process will be escalated to another level of cost and complexity. However, if you want something basic then a free theme will do. There are a large number of ‘framework’ based themes for free out there which allow people to edit their theme without touching the code. They tend to be very basic but might be a good starter. Otherwise there are even more standard themes about which can be modified to suit if need be. I normally recommend that people give up to three themes from the directory they like and then a new theme can be made which incorporates the better features of each.
Gathering resources is really just a cursory note for you to gather any images or logos (your company logo for example) in digital form to be added to the site. They need to be as high a quality as you can find. Images like logos should really be in JPG, PNG or GIF format and be bigger than needed so they can be trimmed to fit for the site. You can make images smaller and retain quality but not make them bigger.
Ecommerce aspects really are similar… Products is just something, as before, for you to think about. The descriptions for the products, the pricing, images and ways of getting hold of them (postage, pdf, etc..)
Payment processor is what we call the way in which people are asked to pay for their items. Normally Paypal is the standard for small sites. People tend to have accounts via eBay these days anyway. Other types of processor are available but tend to incur monthly costs (£20/month I think for Sagepay). Paypal is the easiest if you want to keep ongoing costs down. The requirement to sell is that you have a premier or business account. To do it you just need to login and look at your account settings then jump the hoops to update your account. This simply involves linking a bank account to you Paypal account (takes a few days, best done in advance of being needed). Nothing official otherwise needed.
Gathering resources is, again, just putting together the images and the content for the products. There are several shopping carts for use for downloads and ecommerce within WordPress.
Perhaps the buzzword of the net these days. I’ve not yet met someone that hasn’t heard the acronym although often people don’t know what it means… only that they want it. Plugins exist for free for WordPress to allow you to add your site to Google and other search engines and to allow you to compliment your content with the right sort of data to get you noticed. There are quite a few guides on the internet to help you through this.
So what was the point of all that then? Well… hopefully now you shall know about the sorts of things you are likely to be asked for when wanting a website and will be prepared for your initial conversation with website developers if that’s the direction you want to go.
By all means get in touch with me to go over any project you have in mind or even just to get an idea of how much it would cost for me to do it all for you. Take a look at some of the sites I have done in the past on my Portfolio page or get in touch using either of my contact or get a quote forms.