As a website designer and developer, I often deal with clients who have never had a website before and don’t understand the different aspects that go into getting it live on the internet.
You can’t just have a website designed for you and magically expect it to show up online. Several essential elements go into making a website that many people don’t realize.
Many developers will sell you a “complete package,” which includes the website build, hosting and domain name, but they have included the price of all the different aspects below into their package price.
There are at least three essential things you need to get your website online – a domain name, website hosting services and the website itself. I am going to try to explain them as if you were dealing with a house.
Furniture = Website Contents
Much like your house is made up of rooms filled with furniture; your website is made up of pages filled with content. Simply having a house with nothing in it isn’t exciting or functional. Just like having a website with no content would do you no good.
When you move into a house, it is usually empty, and you need to fill it with something. Such is the case with a website. For your website, you take text, photos and graphics (your content) and turn them into a masterpiece, just as if you were furnishing and decorating your home. You are hiring a website developer/designer to decorate your site for you and make it attractive and functional.
House = Hosting
But, to put your furniture somewhere, you have to have a place for it to go (a house). And the same holds true with the contents of your website. It has to be put somewhere for people to view it. This is where website hosting comes in.
The website hosting gives you “server space” that you are renting, either monthly or sometimes in a yearly payment, to house all of your beautiful website pages.
Street Address = Domain Name
And, in order for people to find your house and visit it, you must give them the address. The same holds true for your website. People need an address to find it, which is where your domain name, also knows as your URL, comes in. It points the visitor’s web browser directly to your house (server) so they can view the contents (your website) in it.
Domain names are usually paid for on a yearly basis and are pretty inexpensive. Without a domain, you can’t send people to your website easily.
One thing I caution my client’s about with domain names is to make sure they are the ones listed as the registered owner of the domain. Often a developer will put themselves on as the only point of contact, essentially holding you hostage to their services.
This leaves you at a great disadvantage if you ever want to move on to a new developer, or if there is ever a falling out of some kind with your current one. This is especially difficult if you have built up a following of customers who knows to find you at that domain address.
Always maintain control of your domain name! And, even better, register it yourself at a company separate from your developer or designer. That way if they ever go rogue for some reason and disappear on you, as long as you control your domain, you can rebuild a new site elsewhere without losing your own website address.
Also, remember to set a reminder in your calendar, or setup auto renew with the company you purchased the domain from, to make sure you renew it every year. The only thing worse then having someone else control your domain is not renewing it and losing it altogether. I would rather have someone else be in charge of my domain then to lose it entirely.
For clients who feel comfortable enough with me to have me handle their registration on their domains, I always set it to auto renew so it never gets lost and snapped up by one of their competitors.
Optional: Insurance = Maintenance Services
Often, when people move into a house, they will purchase homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. This is to cover those horrible events that could happen unexpectedly, so they aren’t out a lot of money to fix them.
Maintenance service packages on a website, especially on a WordPress site, can be considered sort of the equivalent of your homeowner’s insurance, sometimes with a little handyman service thrown into the mix.
I recently spoke with someone who assumed the web hosting company handled maintenance on their website. That is almost never the case unless your web developer is hosting your site and has rolled it into the “package” deal that they sell you.
Sure, web hosts handle issues that can arise from time to time in conjunction with the server, such as hosting outages, much like a landlord would handle fixing a water heater or air conditioner that goes out.
But, just as your landlord isn’t going to help you if your dog tears up your leather sofa, you accidentally leave a water faucet running and flood your kitchen or some other mishap that is outside of his responsibility occurs, your web hosting company isn’t going to help you if your website breaks or quits working.
That’s where having a maintenance plan on your website comes in. Many web developers offer maintenance and support service packages, even on sites they didn’t originally develop. And there are a plethora of outside companies who specialize in nothing but web support and maintenance now.
With these type of enterprises, you usually go on a monthly maintenance plan, and they take care of the heavy lifting that needs to be done on the backend of your site. This includes making sure the website software is updated, secure and working properly on your site, as well as handling any content updates or changes you need to have done to the site.
So, as you can see, websites don’t just magically hop online after you have hired a website designer to create them for you. They require several other things to appear for the world to see!