"I shy away from companies that are known for some other industry service but who now offer web hosting or design services."
The first step in building your website is finding a web hosting company. I like to use the analogy of building a house. If you build your home you have to have land, a building company and the actual house itself. Well obviously the house would be your website, it's the finished product. The building company, the company that will essentially create your house, is the website builder. And the land is the hosting company. No house stands in thin air as no website exists on the internet without a place to exist.
As an example, WordPress is a builder. It puts together all of the pretty things and necessary things that make you site look fabulous. But without a good hosting provider, no matter how good your site looks, no one will see it. Bad hosting providers have constant outages, attacks, etc. Who wants marble countertops if the land you build your house on sits on a land mine. You have to have strong hosting to have a reliable and successful website. Your hosting company is who you pay for your domain name and your hosting service. Essentially, you pay them for the http:// <--hosting. And you pay them for the xyz.com <--domain name. 🙂
My top favorite hosting companies are...
- Bluehost - Highly recommended by WordPress as a top hosting site.
- Host Gator - Owned by Bluehost. Kind of like a little brother.
- Ipage - I like to think of Ipage as the Walmart of hosting. Good stuff, low prices, but don't expect stellar customer service. (Sorry Walmart, no shade intended but...well you know (-; )
- GoDaddy - Probably the most well know and they are reasonably priced.
- Network Solutions - Not my favorite because customer service is often limited by overseas language barriers but it's ok.
There is also the all in one hosting option. If you build your site with a drag and drop builder the hosting is included in the price of the site. DD's offer your hosting, domain name and builder all in one, usually expensive, place. While drag and drop builders can be kind of OK for building your site yourself (you don't have to know coding) it can often offer a false sense of usability. Many clients express frustration with their attempts to build their site themselves not being as easy as the commercials made it sound. The good news is most web designers can easily build your site with a drag and drop builder or revise a site you tried to do yourself. It's not our first choice but it's fine in many instances.
My favorite drag and drop builders are...
- Wix.com - Creme de la creme of DD's.
- Weebly - Very limited in terms of customization but getting better.
- Webstarts - Good building platform. They have less than stellar customer service reviews.
So the moral of the story is, build your house on solid ground. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, usually about $120-150/yr for all the fixings. And most hosts offer substantial discounts for the first year. It's typically about $40-80 for the first year. There are TONS of DD's and traditional hosting companies out there. The only really super important thing is to try to use a service that is just in web design/hosting. I shy away from companies that are known for some other service and who now offer web hosting or design services.
Keeping all of the marketing elements cohesively designed helps to translate the vision you have for your business to your clients.
I'm often asked about how to make a collection of marketing materials and web elements cohesive. Is it even necessary to make them have a similar feel. The short answer is YES! While the various design elements of your branding do not have to be identical, there should be a similar theme to the entire package. In short, you could have the exact same red rose on everything related to your brand marketing, but it's not necessary to still have a cohesion to the elements.
In order to achieve cohesiveness without necessarily using identical images for instance, a good course of action is to stick with a theme. As an example, if you have some type of floral element in your logo or website, add a similar type of flower to the other areas of your marketing. Try to stay in the same family of elements. So you wouldn't do a rose and a fern. 😉 But perhaps you could do a yellow rose on one element and a pink rose on another. Another example would be if you use some type of clothing piece, say a straight tie for one piece of your marketing arsenal, you could use a bow tie for another element. Same theme, different imagery.
Another very good way to incorporate themes across marketing elements is of course with colors. And your colors start with your logo. It's very important that your logo have a set in stone color palette that is carried throughout all of your marketing. But the color palette can have several elements to it. For instance, if your company/logo colors were blue and green you may make your brochure have blue and green accents. The text may still be standard black and the paper color may still be white, but your brand takes center stage by infusing your brand's color palette in other areas like headers or background imagery. Another example, your website could have green header text and maybe a blue background for the footer, or vice versa. Keeping a consistent color scheme throughout all of your marketing helps to make your brand recognizable and of course, cohesive. Make sure that whoever designs your logo provides you with a spec sheet that outlines the codes (HEX, RGB, CMYK, etc) for your colors. This allows any other designer, printer, etc to make anything you need for your marketing and have all of the colors be identical, even if the same person doesn't make the product.
Your brand has to feel like it's intentional, professional and most of all, that it reflects the nature of your business. Keeping all of the marketing elements cohesively designed helps to translate the vision you have for your business to your clients.
Web design has come a long way since it’s humble nubile beginnings. For that matter, sites made even a few years ago can seem horribly outdated today. Web design, like most design, is reflective of an ever changing canvas of creativity and new abilities. So, what’s hot and what’s not?
NOT – FLASH. Flash is like mom jeans for a website. For one, it just doesn’t work well. Mobile devices have a hard time getting on the Flash train. And second, and maybe most importantly, Flash has a lot of security vulnerabilities. It also has a lot of glitches even on desktops. Sure, Flash was a bit more than a flash in the pan (get it, FLASH in the…nevermind). It really was seen as the future of animation at one point but with all it’s issues the rumor mills have it that Adobe has shown Flash the door.
HOT- Video. If you want the effect of animation, good old fashion video is in. A video as a header (replacing the static image or slideshow display) is very trendy right now. It allows for function with a good deal of ability to incorporate SEO as well. Videos are pricey though so unless you shoot it yourself, prepare to shell out a little coin to get a quality video with no watermarks.
NOT – Boxed layout. Holy boxes Batman! The box is so L7. (for you youngins, L7 means square. Get it? square…box? :\ ). The box format has been persona non grata for years now. But there are always those that refuse to give up what they consider the tried and true standard of design. I’d say, unless you are in certain very traditional fields, (e.g. education, dentist, lawyer, accountant, etc.) wide width/full width format is the only way to go. And truthfully even the more traditional fields can absolutely do full width modern designs, but if they don’t they tend to get a pass.
HOT – Parallax. Parallax is essentially an artistic Jedi mind trick. When applied to the background image of a section on your site, it gives the appearance that the image is moving upward or downward as you scroll through the site. Pretty cool huh! It’s very trendy right now and super easy to do.
NOT – Autoplay music. JUST.STOP.PLEASE. Nobody wants to be forced to listen to Enya just because you think it’s soothing to play for site visitors. Truthfully, any music on your site is a serious NOT but if you must, have it set to allow visitors to choose to play it or not.
These are just a few trends in web design at the moment. Soon all the hots could be nots and some of the nots may even be hots. That’s how design goes. I mean, whoever thought we’d be wearing ripped jeans, again. 😉
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that not doing site updates could bring down nation leaders!
You may have heard the big news of the week about the "Panama Papers" which have resulted in the resignation of the Icelandic Prime Minister. Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron have also been implicated, along with numerous other world and business leaders.
You may have heard all that, but did you hear that it may all have been the result of a plugin that had not been updated consistently. WordPress security plugin, Wordfence, sent out notices saying that the plugin Revolution Slider may have been the window that hackers climbed through to gain access to data from a Panamanian Law Firm called Mossack Fonseca (MF). The data hackers obtained from the law firm's website contained financial records that suggested secret structures used by many powerful and wealthy people to hide their assets around the world. And the rest, as the say, is history.
I am constantly beating the "do your updates" drum to all of my clients who chose to do their own website maintenance. But never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that not doing so could bring down nation leaders! Luckily none of my clients have info on their sites that would ever be considered fraudulent or illegal but they could very easily have info that is proprietary and certainly any website could have confidential information of their own customers.
Updates often include fixes to annoying problems you may have encountered or new features that make maintenance easier. But they almost always address security issues in response to a constant new crop of attacks by hackers across the web. Even if the plugin or theme has never had any security breaches, the creators know that new and more dangerous threats hit the internet everyday and they stay ahead of potential threats as often as possible.
So, the moral of the story...do your updates! 🙂 It's for your own good and the good of your website. Oh and of course, don't have secret off shore bank accounts. 😉
Ever scrolled down to the bottom of a website and in the footer you see a copyright date from years ago? It’s 2016 and the copyright says 2010 or something equally alarming. That’s a very bad sign. At the least, the design aesthetic is probably lagging far behind the competition. At the most, I would not suggest entering any credit card or confidential info into a website that has not been updated for that much time.
Thankfully, today most companies recognize the importance of an updated site so you find fewer and fewer sites who have gone years with the same antique site. If only for the security features that are constantly improving and needing to be implemented on your site, a yearly refresh is essential.
That said, in reality a website needs constant updating from a design perspective. I’m not talking an overhaul but small changes. Think of it like a haircut. Ladies, you get your ends trimmed every 6 weeks and the guys usually have regular cuts weekly or every couple of weeks. Your website should have the same type of regular maintenance.
So what do you update? Again, you don’t need an overhaul but definitely update images or videos monthly. If you have a scrolling banner, freshen up the look with different photos every couple of months or less. Apple.com and Google.org are great examples. Virtually every time you go to their site you will see new features. If you have a video header, swap it out monthly for a fresh look.
While you don’t need to re-write copy, do take into account any errors or typos that have been found and make corrections immediately. Monthly maintenance should also address any feedback that you’ve gotten regarding confusion or problems navigating.
Obviously, if you have any time sensitive info like calendar dates or events, those should be immediately and constantly updated. Your site should never have a “Coming Up Next” section that shows an event in the past. 😀
In essence, always be on the lookout for ways to perpetually update and refresh your site to make it current, modern, and unique. And for goodness sake, remember to update the copyright date every January 1! 🙂