NETIDENTITYSOLUTIONS.COM Table of Contents Introduction How to Create a Website a free guide for beginners 2012 HTTP://WWW.NETIDNOW.COM/
IntroductionThe purpose of this guide and the information contained within is to educate its readers on the process ofcreating a successful website and effective web presence.In todays digital information age, developing an online presence for your product or service is a must. Most ofus no longer turn to the Yellow Pages and catalogs to find what we are looking for, most of us search theinternet. Having an online presence is now a core aspect of business promotion and a way to connect withconsumers. Most companies and businesses need to have a presence on the Internet with at least a simpleinformational website in order to compete effectively. The process of setting up a website has become moresimplified over the years, allowing anyone to create a website or ecommerce website with an online shoppingcart easily and affordably.
Part I - Whats InvolvedThere are actually 3 main components to creating a website and setting it up on the web. None of this is verycomplicated, but there are some things you should know in order to get a good start and avoid problemsdown the road. This section goes through all of these components one by one to identify their purpose andscope. • The Domain Name • The Host and Website Hosting • The WebsiteThe Domain NameThe first and maybe the most important is the domain name. A domain name is the infamous www addressvisitors will use to find your website on the web, (ex. www.netiDnow.com). It is more than an addresshowever, it is also your business and online identity. Even if the domain name is not exactly the same as yourregistered business name, it is still part of your brand so it is important that you consider this name carefully.Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best domain name for your business. • Make it Relevant When possible, choose a domain name that closely matches your purpose. If youre a business, then use your business name if possible. For personal sites and blogs, focus on your core theme or brand goals. Remember, your domain name should relate to and be consistent with your overall business and brand strategy. • Consider your Searchability If possible choose a domain name that has your main keyword(s) in it, which you anticipate people will use to find you. You may also consider keywordsthatdescribe or closely relate to your project/business. If you do this right, the benefits are two-fold. First, you will end up with a domain name that is memorable and reaches your audience. Second, having the right keywords in the domain name will also help you rank higher in the search results. • Keep it Simple Choose a name that people can easily remember. Try to avoid unnecessary numbers and/or lengthy words. If you have to write it down, chances are it is too long and will easily be forgotten.
Domain names are purchased and registered through a Domain Registrar. Although there are really a handfulof primary or wholesale registrars, there are tons of domain registration services out there offering differentoptions and pricing. For most part the cost of the domain is anywhere from $10-40 and the minimumregistration term is one year.Considering that your domain name is the base for your entire online presence and brand, it is important toavoid certain pitfalls which could jeopardize your ownership rights to that name. Here are a few points youshould pay attention to: • Keep all records of your registration and domain account access info. It is very important save all of this information so that you can prove your ownership in case of any disputes, and be able to manage and update your domain as necessary. If you are not able to prove that you are an owner you will have trouble getting any help from your registrar. • Make sure you are the domain owner and that the domain is in your name. Beware of free domain offers offered with hosting services, most of the time you are not the actual owner, and the host may make it hard on you to leave their service or release the domain. We recommend that you purchase your domain separately from other services and make sure you are in control. • Renew your domain name on time. First, the expiration of your domain name will cause your website and email to go down. Also, once an expired domain is taken over the registrar and goes into redemption status, most registrars will charge very large fees to get it back. If you are thinking that you can just wait for it to go public again…that may not happen so dont count on it.All legitimate registration services will provide you with a domain management account and control panel.Access to your domain information is very important as it provides you the ability to manage every aspect ofyour domain ownership information and settings that connect the domain with your website and email.It is important to note that the domain and the website are actually two separate entities. Although one isdependent on the other and they work together, the two are mutually exclusive. You do not have to have yourdomain and website with the same host or service.Finally, when registering your domain name you can now opt for private registration. This option allows you tokeep your contact information private and not available to the public. This option is an add-on and normallycosts extra.
The Web Host & Website HostingIn order for your website to appear on the web it will have to be published to a publically accessible server.This is where web hosting services come in, and there are hundreds of them out there for you to choose from.Although all of them offer pretty much the same service they do try to compete with different options,gimmicks, and pricing.When selecting the right host for your business, dont get caught up in all the hype of unlimited resources,free software, free domains, etc. Web hosts that offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth generally "oversell"their servers. So if you are not using all of your allowed storage space or bandwidth, those resources can beshared with other customers. This allows them to continue to pile up as many clients on one server as theycan fit in. If you are serious about your website and online presence, dont be cheap, and do not go for anyfree services. As with everything else in life you do get what you pay for. There is no way you are going to getgood, reliable, service or any kind of support for free! No way.Instead make your choice based on some sound common sense ideas and information like, • The Web Host & Website Hosting First, you should try to assess your needs. An average informational website probably uses less than 500MB of space, and even with decent traffic only 1 to 5 GB of bandwidth. Chances are that starting out you will not need much than that but you should ask yourself the following; o Are you planning on hosting just one website or more? o Will you be trying to upload large amount of images, videos, or other multimedia files? If so, they can definitely eat up space and bandwidth in a hurry so a more robust hosting plan may be necessary. o Do you have any special needs for PHP, ASP, Pearl scripting, or use of a Database? If so, make sure the host you choose offers these options. o How many email accounts do you need? o Will you need ecommerce capabilities? • Reputation, Reliability, and Speed Choose a web host who has been in business for a while and has a good reputation. Make sure they provide a reliable and secure network with fast servers. Make sure they also offer at least a 99% up- time guarantee. These two factors are critical to your websites success. Internet users and search engines alike prefer a website that is fast to load and comes up every time. If your website is hosted on slow servers and takes too long to come up, people will quickly move on. Search engines also give higher rankings to websites that are fast load and respond. • Customer Support and Responsiveness Good customer support is essential. Seek good customer service with lots of help and FAQ pages. Although a toll-free number is always a good sign, most web hosting services tend to outsource their phone support which is limited to just standard server support. Its almost better to know that they are available via live chat or have a ticket system with a guaranteed response time. You will find that email support is actually more efficient, effective, and you always have a record of your communications in case of any disputes arise.A good way to find a reliable web hosting company is to search for "web hosting forums". Many people leavemessages on these forums explaining in detail their experience with a specific company. These comments canbe either negative or positive. By taking the time to explore these forums, it can give you a better idea of whatkind of companies are out there, and which one is best for you.If you are fairly new to building a website or managing a web hosting account youmay be better off looking fora more specialized service that offers a more complete website solution. Such service providers usually
integrate all of these separate components together to create a more comprehensive website solution withfocus on website design tools and ease of use. Their support is also more comprehensive and often includeswebsite design assistance and consulting.The Website – How to create your ownSo now that you know about domains and web hosting, lets talk about creating and setting up the websiteitself. If you have never created a website before, this probably seems like the biggest hurdle and unknown.Until a few years ago designing a website was indeed only for those with some programming and designexperience. Fortunately technology has leveled the playing field and now anybody can create their ownwebsite without any special skills or programming knowledge. Designing your own website has become aseasy as point and click.In reality there is only a couple of ways to design a website, 1. Use an HTML editor like Adobe, FrontPage or Dreamweaver HTML editors make building web pages feel like (to a certain extent) creating a document in Microsoft Word which allows for more of a visual design option and not so much html programming. The downside to these html editors is that some html experience is probably necessary and there is usually a steep learning curve before you become familiar with the software. HTML editors offer a lot of flexibility for customization but are a better choice for more experienced designers. 2. Use CMS or Website Builder Software If you are totally new to creating and managing your own website then Content Management System or Website Builder is the only way to go. In the last few years open source CMS like Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal have become very popular as the software itself is free. Most hosts offer such software as part of their hosting package. Again, problem with free software is that support is hard to come by and you will most likely depend on third party sources for info on all the features, options, and to learn how to use it. Website builder services are usually proprietary applications that are specifically supported by the vendor, and usually easier to use. In most cases they offer a more complete solution which will include website design tools, hosting, email, and everything else you need to manage your online presence. Website builder service is probably the best option for a beginner. In both cases however, you will be able to quickly create your own website and manage it just by using your internet browser. Most will allow you to get started quickly by providing you with a large selection of templates to choose from. Editing and customizing the template is made simple by the use content editors similar to Word, and pre-programmed components that automate the setup of forms, images, videos, links, and much more. To put it simply the whole design and management process has been reduced to "point and click" and "drag and drop" operation. Although web design still may not be for everybody, CMS and Website Builders make it really easy for anybody who wants to give it a try. The rest of this guide will attempt to provide you with more specific tips and detailed information on effective website design. Following our guidelines will help you create your own website the right way from the very start and ensure its success over time.
Part II - Planning and Developing Your WebsiteAlright, you got the scoop on whats involved in starting and managing your own website. Now, lets talk aboutwhat will make that website successful.If you are new to doing business online or establishing a web presence, you will quickly discover that theinformation super highway is a very competitive place. In order to tap into the awesome potential of the weband the vast marketplace it represents, you will have to do figure out how to stand out in the crowd. To dothat you will need to consider a lot of different factors which we attempt to explain in the rest of this guide.Make no mistake about it, creating a website is a project and every successful project has a plan. Here are afew things to consider when developing a plan for your website: • What is the goal ultimate goal or purpose of your website? • Who exactly is your website for, and who exactly is your target audience? • What information will your audience be looking for? • What keywords will they use to find you? • What benefit are you offering your visitors? • What differentiates you from your competitors?While planning, try to put yourself in the shoes of your website visitors or potential customers. Anticipatingtheir interests and behavior, as well as, following the guidelines below will allow you to create a moreinteresting, effective, and successful website.Website ContentWebsite content refers to all text, images, and other components which make up your web pages. Yourcontent is the #1 reason people are visiting your website.Whether your website is just informational, or its purpose is to promote a business, services, or sell products -content is probably the most important aspect of creating a compelling and successful web presence. Thecontent on your website obviously reflects what your website is about. This is not just true for the humanvisitors which you are trying to attract but for search engines as well.Here are some tips for creating effective and search engine friendly content: • Clearly identify the purpose of your website. Make certain your web site is focused on the goal, selling your product or service, conveying a message, etc. Keep your focus! • Make sure all pages of your website have a clear purpose and the information is readily visible and on topic. Dont make the user click too many times to find the info or product they are looking for. • Make sure you know your audience and design your website in a way that caters to them specifically and reflects their values. This will help you attract the right visitors which are prone to use your service or buy your product. • Provide compelling content and something of value. If you want your website to be effective and successful in attracting visitors and ranking well in the
search engines, then take the time to create quality content that is of interest to others or offers something of value. Just because you are promoting your plumbing business does not mean you should stop at listing your services and hours of operation. Be an "expert" in your field and provide related information or free advice. This will help you attract visitors, build authority, trust, and good will. Oh, search engines will love the subject specific content as well.• Make sure to include appropriate and specific keywords in your text. While creating your website content keep in mind that search engines crawl this content to determine what your website is about and rank it accordingly. Although a human visitor may be able to determine what the subject of website or page is about just by looking at images, search engine bots cannot. If you want to rank well you will need some descriptive text on your pages which would include the keywords you are targeting.• Put some thought into organization. Keeping your content organized not only helps you present your information more clearly, it also improves readability, navigation, and makes your website more user friendly. This translates into more visitors, better conversions, and better search engine rankings. Yep, search engines like well organized content too.• Use attention grabbing headlines and quality images to make your website more attractive and help readers quickly identify the content and biggest points of interest.• What separates you from your competition? Before creating your website and going live, do a little research on your market and what your competitors are doing. Looking at your competitors websites will give you some ideas on how to create your own. Please DO NOT steal their content as this is not legal and will get you in trouble sooner or later. We are just talking about analyzing them to see what it takes to be able to compete. Perhaps more importantly this research should be used to determine how you can differentiate yourself from the competition and stand out from the crowd.ReadabilityIf you want to design a website that is effective and appealing to others, you will want to make sure that it is easy to read and provides useful information. Numerous research and usability studies clearly point to the fact that users dont really read but rather scan the pages for information they are interested in. If your website is difficult to read and does not offer anything of value, people will not stick around even if you have top 10 rankings.Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a website that is user friendly and easy to read.• Use good contrast between background and text colors. Common sense would dictate that dark text on a dark background is going to be hard to read, yet there a plenty of examples of websites which seem to make this mistake.• Keep it short and to the point. Create short, easy to read paragraphs and sentences. As mentioned earlier online users tend to scan and not really read. Keeping your sentences and paragraphs short definitely improves your chances of catching and retaining their attention. Pages with large blocks of text without breaks, separation, or stopping points are overwhelming to look at and difficult to read.• Dont type more than a few words in ALL CAPS. Capitalized letters are not only harder to ready but are distracting and considered as yelling when it comes to online lingo.• Make use of bullet lists. Bullet lists are easily noticeable, easy to read, and tend to drive right to the point.• Use meaningful headlines and titles. Use of attention getting and descriptive headlines and titles is very important aspect of your website design. Unless you are able to get your visitors attention and convey your point quickly they probably
wont stick around. Creating clear and descriptive headlines (H1 tags) and titles is also critical in ranking high in the search engines. Headlines (H1 tags) and titles are both considered good indicators of what your content is about and thus carry quite a bit of weight as ranking factors.• Use white-space to break up paragraphs. Creating clear separation between paragraphs helps your content look more organized, less cluttered and easier to read, and provides for an overall nicer look and feel to your website.• Alignment and layout. Layout and alignment of your page content is also crucial in designing a user friendly and readable website. Try to keep things organized with good flow so that your visitors can easily scan your pages and navigate the content. To accomplish this align your text and other elements uniformly and dont scatter it all over the page. Keep the page layout to one or two columns plus a sidebar at most. Anything more starts to look crammed in, cluttered, and becomes hard to read.• Use graphics and images to break up the text and direct users attention to certain areas of the page or content. Images like buttons can also be very effective for a call to action.• Double check spelling and grammar. Spelling errors and improper grammar will surely make your website look unprofessional, unreliable, and not trustworthy. Proofread your website manually and with the use of a spell checking program to make sure your copy is clean. Having a third party read through your website is also not a bad idea.NavigationNavigation is simply the organization of pages, links, and menus on your website. Organizing your website and its navigation in a logical and user friendly manner is a very important factor in your websites success for couple of reasons.First, as we already mentioned in the previous section, your visitors will not stay on your website very long unless they can quickly find the information or product they are looking for. To do this they will be looking for menus and links to lead them to that information. Keep this in mind while creating your website and use your links and menus to direct the visitors to specific content/product in an obvious and intuitive manner.Second factor has to do with search engine optimization. Just like humans, the search engine bots that crawl and index the content of your pages with the help of links. The easier it is for them to navigate your website the better the chances they will find and index all of your pages. The search engine bots also look for a logical structure in this navigation to determine what your website is about which is then used to properly classify your website in their index and rankings.Here are some additional tips that will help you in setting up your website navigation• Make sure that your main menu appears on every page and your visitors always have a way to return to the "home" page.• Do not have too many pages or items in the main menu. This can make navigation confusing or overwhelming. The main menu is usually designed to link to the main sections, topics, or pages of your website.• Use sub-pages and sub-menus to lead your visitors to more specific information or products under top level page topics. Sub-menus help make navigation more logical and provide for better organized content. Sub-menus are usually located in the left or right page sidebar.• Create additional links to the most important pages or action areas of your website. This will not only help to make them easier to find, but gives you yet another opportunity to lead the visitors to whatever you have to offer and get them to take action. Additional links can be included directly in the page text, they can be image links, or you can use image links as well.
• Setup the main menu in the footer of your pages. If you have enough content on a page the user will have to scroll down to see all of it. As they reach the end of the page the top menu may no longer be visible. The footer menu helps your visitors to quickly navigate from the bottom of the page without having to scroll back up to the top.Important Website Design TipsIf you do not have a lot of experience in website design can feel intimidating. Although this is totally understandable, dont let that deter you from trying. Keep in mind that nobody knows what your website or business is about better than you. In the long run you will also appreciate having the freedom and ability to make changes and updates right when you want to. No more waiting on designers to complete the task…you are in charge. If your website requires frequent updates and content changes, being able to perform these tasks yourself will also save you a ton of money in maintenance fees.Here are some important tips that will help you with the design process and enable you to create a website that is user friendly and looks professional.• Dont make your website too wide, people will find it annoying if they have to scroll sideways to see all of the content. When creating your website keep in mind that people visiting may have a different size monitor or their monitor is set to a different resolution. This means that your website may appear differently to them than what you see while designing it. A good rule of thumb is to keep the width to under 1024 pixels wide considering that 1024x768 is probably the lowest resolution for monitors in use today. There are probably some people out there that still use 800x600 resolutions but these users probably amount to 1%, and that number is rapidly decreasing.• Keep important information near the top of your site pages so that visitors do not need to scroll down to find it. As internet use becomes a large part of our everyday lives, we learn to scan through information quickly and your website has about 30-60 seconds to present the user with what they are looking for before they navigate away.• Stay away from using image backgrounds. We already discussed the importance of good contrast between the background and the text. Image backgrounds are just as bad when it comes to readability. What is even worse is that they also make your website look low quality and amateurish. Just think, in all of your internet searches how many professional, or respectable websites have you seen that use image background under the text? Hmm, probably none because its not good practice. Aside from those facts, image backgrounds also contribute to load time of your page, making them slower to load• Dont force your visitors to endure excessive advertising or pop-up windows. Lets face it, nobody likes obtrusive advertising or annoying pop-up windows. If you run a legitimate website/business, there is probably no reason to do any of this. Even if you are trying to earn from advertising revenue, overdoing it will make your site look like junk or spam. The search engines also pick up on this when they analyze your website and see it as a sign of lower quality which could easily and negatively affect your rankings.• Dont distract your visitors with blinking text, animations, or auto loading sounds. All of these things are distracting to say the least and just like image backgrounds they make your website look cheap and amateurish. Background music although may seem appropriate in some cases is still something to reconsider. For one, it will make your pages load slower, sometimes very slow depending on the size of the file, its format, etc. Worse, it will most likely use up quite a bit of data or bandwidth which could increase your hosting costs.• Avoid using frames. Frames make it easy to display content from other sources within your own design, and in many cases they also make design a little easier if you know how to use them. They do pose some usability problems when it comes to clear URL structure, linking, as well as sharing and bookmarking. One of
decision to do business with you or not will depend on whether they trust you or not.Tips for creating a website that projects credibility and inspires trust,• Put your contact information in a visible and easily accessible place. This usually involves setting up a "Contact Us" page which includes a contact form along with other important contact information such as physical address, email, phone number, live chat, etc. Links to the contact page should be included in the main menu or another visible place on all of your pages. You can also use graphic buttons which usually get more attention.• Use an email account specific to your domain instead of a free email account from some other provider. Your own email address such as email@example.com certainly looks a lot more professional and makes your website a lot more trustworthy than something like, firstname.lastname@example.org, or worse yet email@example.com. People also tend to remember such address more as well as your domain which leads to your website. If you think about it, its really free advertising.• Include a toll free number if possible. Depending on what your website is about or what services it offers, including a contact phone number may or may not be necessary. In general however, a phone number always makes people feel warm and fuzzy.• Build an "About Us" page which includes additional information on company history, mission statement, staff bios, and other interesting facts related to your business.• Create a customer testimonials page. Displaying other peoples comments and recommendations of your website or service goes a long way to establish a sense of credibility.• Include links to associated websites or companies. Established and recognized partners or affiliations can definitely boost your own credibility without a big effort on your part.Well, thats about it for our concise guide to building your own website. We may have not talked about every detail involved in setting up a successful web presence, but we have definitely highlighted for you all of the most important elements and principles of good/effective website design. Information you have just read is more than enough for a good start. Hopefully it has helped you understand the process involved and gave you the knowledge and confidence to get started.