Choosing Web Hosting and Web Design Services

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To choose the best web design and hosting options for your business you need know how you want the website to function and what the going rates are. Use these tips to start planning your project.

choosing a web designer and web host
Image source: StockUnlimited.com

Know what to expect 

With web hosting and web design, you don't always get what you pay for. High price is no assurance of good service from your web host, web designer or web developer.

Nor is it an assurance of services focused on your objectives and needs.  One organization paid several thousand dollars to have their web site designed and hosted for a year. The web site consisted of only a few pages of text and one graphic image. There were no databases, no complex graphical or programmatic components and no forms other than a simple Contact Us form to send email to the owners of the site. The entire job shouldn't have taken more than a day or two to create. In fact, it could have been completed in less than a day using WordPress and one of the many WordPress templates that are available.

Other small business owners have paid equally high prices to have their web sites designed with slide shows or other bells and whistles the site visitors aren't interested in an in some cases prevent the sites from being found  easily - or at all - in search engines.

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You could get ripped off like this too, if you don't know what you are buying. Launching a web site is a process that involves several types of activities. They include:

  • Registering a domain name (giving yourself a unique "address" on the web such as yourbusiness.com) Be sure that this is something you do yourself. Do not let a web developer register a site for you. Be sure you are the administrator and the billing contact for your domain.
  • Setting up the web site on a hosting service
  • Designing web pages or choosing a ready-made template
  • Writing the editorial content for the web site

Depending on the nature of your site and how much work you can and want to do yourself, other services you may want to consider include these:

  • Setting up WordPress or some other content management system (CMS) that will allow you to make minor changes and add pages on your own without knowing html.
  • Designing original art work or licensing art, photos or video
  • Editing and cropping your original photos to use on your site
  • Doing photography for the site
  • Making sure basic search engine optimization (SEO) features are in place and utilized to help the site get found online
  • Setting up a shopping cart to allow visitors to make purchases (If the main purpose of the site is to sell, the entire site might be set up on an outsourced shopping cart such as Shopify or BigCommerce.)
  • Performing more extensive SEO services, such as link development
  • Creating any special programming needed to accomplish the site's goals for the site.
  • Creating and managing pay-per-click advertising
  • Creating, placing and running other types of advertising online and offline
  • Maintaining the site on an ongoing basis
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Small businesses don't always need all those services. Which you do need depend on the purpose of your website.

Some web designers, hosting companies, and agencies do offer "complete" packages that include setting up and hosting the site along with design, limited maintenance, SEO and even social media management. Although using a single source to do all the work sounds convenient, it isn't necessarily a good idea. The person who is a whiz at computer programming may have no artistic abilities and no eye for graphic design. Someone who is capable of putting text into html may not know anything about creating the editorial content for the site or about marketing. (Don't assume they can type well or spell correctly, either!) And, the company that hosts the web site may charge a small fortune to "design" your website, when all they do is plug your material into a cookie-cutter template that they use to "design" every web site they create. 

Furthermore, if you are charged a flat fee, you may wind up paying for services you don't need, or overpaying for the ones you do need.

To make sure the price you are quoted is fair, ask the provider to give you an itemized list of services they provide and to specify the fee they are charging for each service. 

Get quotes from several vendors and compare them. Look at how much disk space you get, whether there is a limit on the number of "pages" or number of products you can have for the price quoted, how much bandwidth you are allowed (how much data can be transferred monthly for the fee), and what extra charges you'll incur if you go over these amounts.

If you plan to sell online, ask if the storefront provider takes a percent of sales, and what your options are for accepting credit cards online. 

Know the going rates

Be wary of deals that offer you a set number of "pages" unless you have no plans to add anything to your site after it is set up. A page requires very little space on a computer. If you only need to have a few "pages" on the internet, you shouldn't have to pay more than $3 to $6 a month for hosting them, plus a reasonable hourly fee for taking your material and converting it into html web pages.  (Those prices are just for the hosting, not for design, writing or updating content.)  If you have a more complex site requiring  features such as one or more databases or a storefront, hosting costs will be higher. Compare prices, then search online for reviews of your short list.

Some web designers may offer to host your site on their servers. This is not recommended. A small company might not have anyone available on weekends or holidays to fix problems with the host computer should they occur. In addition, should you even have a dispute with the company you might find it difficult to get access to your web files.

If you will be creating your own web pages or if you want to compare the prices your service provider quotes to prices elsewhere, be sure to visit Budgetweb.com. This web site contains a directory of companies that offer web hosting services and a primer that explains some of the terms you may encounter in setting up your web site. There is also a list of questions you should ask a web hosting company on the site. 

Ask for references and check them

Before you agree to have anyone design your web site ask for references. Get the names and URLs of web sites they have designed for other companies. Look at those sites and see if you like them. Is the design of the pages attractive? Do they load quickly? Do they all look the same? Look around the sites for the email address of the owners and send them email. Ask if they were satisfied with the work that was done for them and if it was done in a timely fashion.

RELATED: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Web Host for Your Small Business

Copyright 2017, Janet Attard
All Rights Reserved. Excerpted from Chapter 14 of Business Know-How. May not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JanetAttard.

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