My earlier websites were created purely in HTML, but I now produce websites using a community-inspired software package called WordPress. This very site – MartinBaker.biz – was created using WordPress, using the Mobile Responsive theme by CyberChimps.
Browsers & Servers
Websites are basically a coherent collection of pages that can be navigated between using Hyperlinks (or simply ‘links’). When you view a website it’s likely you’ll be using a browser on a personal computer or mobile device, although increasingly devices such as TVs and games consoles have them inbuilt. The browser has the facility for you to type in a website address (e.g. www.yourwebsite.com) and load it up onto the screen. The browser does this by requesting an initial page (or ‘Home’ page), plus any images or other elements (collectively known as ‘files’) that make up that page. The Home page will also contain links to other pages of the website, often displayed in the form of an index.
All the pages of a website, and the other files that go to make them up, have to be stored somewhere so they can be accessed by browsers. This is the job of the Server. A server can be likened to a personal computer, with the exception that it really has only one function and that is to deliver over the Internet whatever a browser requests. It ‘serves’ the files to you.
Hosting & Domain Names
Hosting is the term used for the storage and delivery of your website from a server. Most website owners will pay a third-party company (e.g. UK2, Dataflame, etc.) to host their website, while others will wish to host them themselves. Unless you really know what you’re doing, Hosting companies usually offer the best solution all round, and are not that expensive for most simple websites.
Most importantly, you will need a Domain Name (also known as ‘website address’) which is attached to your hosted website and is the principle way that users will find your site. Choosing the correct domain name is very important because you’ll be promoting that name for a long time to come and it’s counterproductive to change it once it’s established. It’s also important when it comes to your site’s identity and how people find it through search engines. Your domain name need not necessarily be your company name, but may instead relate to the website’s subject matter.
Content is King
A website is literally nothing without content. Time spent on honing the text content of your website is never time wasted. You should carefully consider what you want the site to achieve, and what underlying message you want to deliver to your visitors. Be careful to keep the text to a minimum and consider how it could be broken down into easily digestible sections.
Pictures & Eye Candy
A website is a very visual medium, so making your website attention-grabbing and pleasing to the eye is paramount. If you have a company logo, then the site should compliment it in terms of style and colour palette. If you are selling products, then you should only display good quality pictures of them – poor quality images will reflect badly on your product. And if your subject matter is not the kind of thing you can photograph, then consider using third-party imagery to help reinforce your message (e.g. if the subject is Law, then perhaps a scattering of images of gavels and law books, etc.). Visitors expect to be satisfied visually.
MetaTags & SEO
Relating to websites, a MetaTag is a term for information embedded in a web page that stores details such as the Author, Location, Language, etc. of that page. Importantly, it’s also where the Keywords and Description for the page are stored. Keywords are often the words that a Search Engine will latch onto for that particular page of your site, while the Description is roughly one line of text that’s displayed when a search engine returns your site as a result. Therefore, considering what your Keywords and Descriptions should be is also part of the process of building your website.
Metatags are one aspect of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Once your website has been launched, it firstly needs to be registered with the most popular search engines (Google, Bing, etc.). The text content of its pages plus the Keywords and Description will contribute to it’s search success, but other factors have a bearing, such as: how many links from other sites point to yours, do you have streamed video content, etc.
Exploiting Social Media
A process called ‘backlinking’ also helps improve your SEO rating. Search engines are increasingly looking at how your social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) link to your site. The number of Likes, Followers, links, popularity, and other features of your social media accounts can all add to your website’s ranking.