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Web Development 101: What You Need To Know

Are you unsure how to get started with your website? You need to ask yourself the question What type of website do I want? Design is definitely important, but it should not be your first concern. Initially you need to find a structure that suits your business best. 

What is the purpose of your website?

The two main purposes of your website are most likely: 1) to educate and create awareness about the problems you solve for clients and 2) help these prospects learn if you are a good fit for them.

In order to achieve this goal, you need to:

  • Capture your audience’s attention (immediately) by quickly aligning the problems you solve with the needs they have.
  • Help them understand how they need to solve those problems and do so soon.
  • Provide REAL value to these viewers (don’t be in sales mode)
  • Establish credibility by showing your experience at fixing their problems.
  • Clearly articulate HOW you solve problems.  Simplify it so they can picture themselves with results.
  • Make it easy for them to contact you to learn more.

You need to plan the structure of your site in advance , so that all the relevant parts can effectively be included.

What should the website include?

Ideally it should offer the following points:

  1. A home page: Seems simple enough, but the organization of this page and the information you include will dictate how engaged they stay with your site.
  2. About us: People want to know that they are dealing with real people. Use this opportunity to show the human side of your business. Tell the story of your company, introduce your team members proudly.
  3. Contact us: Provide details how customers can get in touch with you to ask questions. Show them how you can support them.
  4. Products/services: Present a list of your services and products with your prices.
  5. Landing pages: The pages that visitors will see when they reply to your email campaigns or Google Adwords. (More on these in a later post)
  6. Blog: The blog is where you can focus on timely and specific topics to show your expertise.  The benefits of having a blog are many: better SEO rankings, increased traffic to your website, opportunity to establish yourself more effectively and much more.

Should I update my website often?

The core content of your website will remain the same, but you need to stay flexible. The structure should therefore not be set in stone. Being able to add and remove pages in order to respond to the needs of your audience, and marketing campaigns as soon as they arise, is important. If you create your website by using a content management system such as WordPress, you can easily maintain that flexibility.

What are the advantages of using a CMS (Content Management System)?

Content management systems are the basis of all types of websites, from basic blog websites to fully featured commercial sites. The benefits of having a content management system are:

  1. You can set it up quickly and allow you to have a fully working customized website.
  2. You can extend it by making use of plug-ins. This allows you to include additional functionality, often even for free.
  3. It will be reliably and continually updated (if you choose one of the major kinds).
  4. Many people can be responsible for making updates to the site – even those on your team without true web development experience.

What Content Management Solution should I consider?

WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are the three major players when it comes to affordable content management. All three options are free, open source and written in PHP, which means that they will work with most web hosting companies.

If you are looking for an everyday business website, we would tell you that WordPress is considered as the best choice.  Nowadays 75 million businesses and organizations are using WordPress for their website platform. It’s easy to install and get started. It also offers thousands of plugins which allows you to extend its functionality. They can cover everything from polls to search engine o or even basic online shops. Most of the plugins come for free, while others are offered as a premium and have to be paid for. You can choose from a variety of themes created by various developers, many for free to change its look and feel.

What about hosting your Website?

Websites consist of images, text and media files that need to be stored on a server and viewed through a browser. There are three choices of servers from which you can choose:

  1. Shared servers: In this case you share a server with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other websites. It’s considered the cheapest option and the easiest to set up. Some examples include GoDaddy, BlueHost, iPage, eHost, 1&1 etc.  At MEMO, we use Hostgator.
  2. Dedicated server: It is a physical machine leased in its entirety by you. You have full control over it through a browser-based control panel and root/admin-level access. It is more expensive, but if you are developing a web application it’s the right choice.
  3. Virtual private server: This server sits between shared and dedicated hosting with regard to their cost and features.

When choosing a host for your website it’s important to understand what is required to offer a fast and reliable experience for you and your audience. Furthermore, you need to check out the price, the reputation and the reviews of its customers.

OK, so does design really matter?  

Design in web development is highly important. It’s the first thing that potential customers will see of your company and it gives them an instant look into your professionalism. Getting it right is therefore crucial. Or do you want to turn them off before you even had a chance to interact with them?

You have several options for designing your website. If you have some understanding of HTML, CSS, PHP and other technical skills you can create and customize your website by yourself. If not, you can hire a professional web designer who can create a highly customized website for you. There are lots of micro jobbing sites available in which you would find professionals who work at very reasonable rates. You might also consider a nice looking theme or template from companies who offer simple drag and drop features. Thus, no need of being a coding expert. Look at some examples and adapt a similar approach. Remember, sometimes less is more. Don’t make the mistake of having a cluttered website. Make it user-friendly, choose a nice type of font, size and colors and make it look sophisticated. Use preferably your own pictures and don’t mislead clients with stock photography, particularly when it comes to showing your premises, staff etc.

 

Also, understand the importance of having a site that is responsive – that is, a site that looks and functions good on all size screens.  With the increasing use of mobile phones and tablets of all shapes and sizes, this is critical.

What are my options for selling my products/services online?

The internet made it now very easy to sell products/services online. There are three options from which you can choose in order to set up an ecommerce section on your website.

  • Build your own shopping cart from scratch (which requires time and other resources).
  • Buy or download a pre-built system that you can easily adapt to your own purpose.
  • Sign up for a third-party service. For example, PayPal makes it easy to create pay buttons which you can easily integrate on your website. You can use Paypal as a payment processing back-end. Your clients don’t have to have a PayPal account in order to buy from you.

Which option you choose will depend on whether you are selling digital products (that only buyers can download), a physical good or subscriptions (in which buyers get access to hidden parts of your site).

The problem is there are so many ecommerce platforms available, each of them claims of being the best and each of them offers different benefits and listing fees. So how does one know which one to choose?

You need to know what your priorities are (e.g. easy set up process, good looking design, etc.) and what specific needs your business has (e.g. Should the chosen platform also integrate with Ebay and Amazon? Should it have many options for customization? etc.) The best approach would be to evaluate the pros and cons of each option and then make your decision.

These are the 10 best eCommerce platforms to consider: Shopify, Bigcommerce, Volusion, Magento, Yahoo Store, X-Cart, osCommerce, BigCartel, Etsy and WooCommerce – a plugin for WordPress users.

Network Security

According to the Security Services 2014 Cyber Security Intelligence Index from IBM in the US in 2013 there were 1.5 million monitored cyberattacks. This example shows that a business needs to take network security very seriously. In web development you can’t afford to ignore network security. Your computer network needs to be protected against theft and misuse of confidential business information and stop malicious viruses from spreading.

Let’s focus on the benefits of having a secured network:

  • Customer trust (privacy is guaranteed, collaboration is encouraged)
  • Mobility (safe access on the road, promotes productivity when out of the office)
  • Improved productivity (less time wasted on spam, higher employee morale and collaboration)
  • Reduced costs (service disruption can be avoided, advanced services can safely evolve)

Bear in mind that if no security precautions are being taken, you might suddenly face network downtime, unauthorized intrusions, service disruption, regulatory noncompliance or even legal action. It can also be that as your company expands, your networking needs might change in the future. Having therefore a secure and strong network now, will give your company the opportunity to add advanced features, such as secured wireless networking etc.

You need to look at the needs of your company and then decide which security technology to choose. Finding answers to these questions, will help you make a better choice:

  • Does it offer a virtual private network, firewalls, virus protection? And what about intrusion prevention, a secured wireless network, anomaly detection, compliance validation and identity management? And do all these features communicate with each other?
  • What are the most critical assets to your company’s success?
  • What is most important: protecting your internal or your customers’ information, or both?
  • What is the value of these assets?
  • Where within your system do these assets reside?
  • How is the information being shared inside and outside of the company?
  • How regulated is your business environment?
  • What exactly are the risks of non-compliance?
  • What is the level of tolerance for potential downtime before financial or reputation losses occur?

When choosing a network technology make sure: it can be easily installed, is easy to use, and you have the necessary resources to manage the system you install.

As you can see there are lots of things that you need to consider with web development. Focus on your goal, look at your specific needs, set your priorities right, do your research and then make a decision and get started. Looking at how others did it, is a good way of getting some inspiration for your own strategy too.

If you need help with Web Development, we’d love to talk.  Send us an email, give us a call, or fill out the form below:

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