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HELPFUL INFO

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Domain Names

Domain name registration (dnr): A domain name is the unique name which describes a website (examples are amazon.com and ca.gov). One registers a domain name with a domain name registrar.

Ownership: The person who owns the domain name controls the website and where it is hosted (see Web Hosts below). If your website developer (or former employee, or ex-wife) is no longer available or willing to manage your site but owns your domain name, you have no control over this important part of your business identity or where your site is hosted. ALWAYS HAVE THE DOMAIN NAME REGISTRATION IN YOUR OWN NAME AND KEEP THE LOGIN AND PASSWORD INFORMATION IN A SAFE PLACE.

Cost: The standard rate for domain name registration is $10 to $15 per year. If you receive an unsolicited email from someone other than your domain name registrar or host who warns that your domain name is expiring soon and that you should renew it with them (especially for an amount greater than $15 per year), consider that it is spam and do not reply or click on any links in the message.

Privacy: Because law requires domain registration information to be available to the public, domain ownership can be seen at sites such as http://whois.net/. If you donít want your personal info to be listed, you can purchase privacy through your web host so that the hostís information is listed instead. It has the added advantage of keeping your email address private, which reduces spam. Privacy costs about $10 to $13 per year for each domain name.

Domain names can be purchased separately without a host account or from a web host when you set up your host account. Some hosts include the first yearís dnr for free when you buy their host account.

Web Hosts

Host Account: To have your website available for the World Wide Web to view, your site contents must live on a host server that is accessible to the web. You up/download site files to the web server.

Ownership: As with domain names, BE SURE YOUR HOST ACCOUNT IS IN YOUR NAME. If the person who owns the account disappears (itís been known to happen) you donít want to be stuck not having control of your website. ALWAYS INSIST THAT YOU HAVE THE LOGIN AND PASSWORD TO YOUR HOSTING ACCOUNT, even if you donít access the account. If you ever get a new web developer, you want to be able to give him/her the necessary info to take care of your website. Be wary of a designer/developer who wants you to host your site at his own server. This could be a factor if you decide to switch developers in the future.

Cost: Most good hosts charge anywhere from $5 to $10 per month for a basic web site. They generally require at least annual contracts, so you have to pay for a minimum of a year at a time (they may offer cheaper monthly rates with a multi-year contract). Some allow you to host multiple sites for no additional charge (other than additional domain name registration and privacy), so if you have, or think you might one day have, another site, choose one of these hosts. Other features can drive the price up, like having a site that takes credit cards for payment and requires extra security.

Features to look for:

  • Customer support (chat, phone, email), 24/7
  • Online documentation
  • Unlimited disk space
  • Unlimited bandwidth (amount of data that your website can pass to customers over a period of time)
  • Uptime (percentage of time the server is up Ė be aware that all servers go down sometimes)
  • An Apache server that supports PHP and MySQL (common website languages used for many e-commerce sites, database management, and systems such as WordPress and Drupal)

Design/Development

Design: A website designer does the graphic design for a website.

Development: The developer implements the code to make it happen. Many website professionals are both designers and developers.

Content Management System (cms): A website with a cms allows non-technical people to add/edit content on their website. WordPress and Drupal are free, open source content management systems. With a system like this in place, a user logs in to the website and makes changes without having any cms software installed on his computer.

The downside to a cms is that periodic upgrades to the software must be performed to keep the system up to date with improved functions and security fixes. (These systems are often the target for hackers since their use is so widespread.) Major upgrades occur every 2 or 3 years and can take several hours. Minor upgrades occur every few months and can take from a few minutes to an hour. Consider this cost when youíre deciding whether to use a cms. If your site needs only a few changes each year, it may be cheaper to pay the developer to do them than to have a cms and pay for upgrades.

Search engine optimization: All sites should be built with basic search engine optimization to improve your search engine rankings. Have your designer/developer tell you what heíll do to achieve this.

Mobile/responsive: With the proliferation of smart phones and other small devices, having a site with a responsive design is important. An existing site can be retrofitted with responsive design; a new site can be set up with it right from the start.

Site Analysis: Google Analytics is a common site analysis service. Itís free, and accessed through your gmail account. It allows you to see how many unique visitors your site gets, whether they came to you from a search result, or whether they view your site with a mobile phone. GA can be added to any website by your developer.