Choosing a domain name for your website

Choosing a domain name for your website

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a name that people type into their computer when they want to find your website (such as amazon.com). It is also how search engines, such as Google, list your site.

It is also, optionally – but I highly recommend – the part of your email that comes after the @ sign (such as orders@amazon.com). I see many small businesses still have an address such as happycakedesigns@hotmail.com – it is much better to have an email address such as orders@happycakedesigns.com I’ll explain why later.

In general, you want the domain name you choose to be the same as your business name, so that your online and offline marketing and branding is consistent.  If the domain name you want is already taken, you need to either buy it from whoever owns it, or get a little creative with the name you choose. We’ll examine those options further on.

 

What do domain names look like?

They have two parts. The first part is the name and the second part is the type of organisation. For example in amazon.com, the “.com” part shows us that this is a business and the “amazon” part gives us the name of the business. For UK companies the part after the first dot has two sections (.co.uk) to tell us that this is a business and it is based in the UK (romanbritons.co.uk)

When domain names were first being used there were only a few options for the type of organisation (such as .com or .co.uk for businesses, .org for government organisations, .ac for educational establishments). Nowadays there are hundreds of possibilities (such as .club, .name, .guru, ,ltd, .photography)

Where do I get a domain name from?

Every country has an authority that controls the registration of domain names in their country. In the UK they control all domains that end in “.co.uk”; in New Zealand those that end in “.nz” and so on. Each authority then licenses independent companies to sell domain names on their behalf. You buy your domain name from any one of these companies. These companies sell you the right to use your chosen domain name on an annual basis. If you don’t renew then that name is available for somebody else to use. You can normally opt to buy for several years at a time if you wish.

Companies who sell domain names will charge different amounts, and will often have temporary promotions on certain domain types. Read the small print carefully! Sometimes an amazingly low price is only for the first year of use and is tied in to you using subsequent years at a much higher price.

They will also offer a range of associated services. You should ensure that DNS forwarding and email forwarding are included in these services. These are settings (a bit like signposts which you can change the direction of) and are required if you ever wish to move your hosting company. It makes good sense to always have that option open to you.

Normally these are included, but if you choose a company that offers both domain name registration and hosting, you should check carefully if there are any restrictions on you leaving their services once you have signed up.  Here are some of the many companies that you can buy a new domain name from.

GoDaddy

NameCheap

123-reg

If you are not sure what name you want, or the name you really want is unavailable, then you can get suggestions, based on words that are relevant to you, from:

Dynadot

If you want to buy a name that is already taken there are companies who will manage that process for you, including finding the owner and negotiating the sale, for example:

SnapNames

You can also find domain names for sale on places such as eBay – just make sure to check that it is the real owners who are doing the selling! If you need any help with that, we’re happy to do a quick check for you.

$10 million – that’s the record amount paid for a domain name. If you can secure one that has never been used before then you are more likely pay nearer $10

What makes a good domain name?

If you already have a company, then using the same name makes sense! Aside from that, shorter is better – usually easier to remember, harder to mis-type. If you need to use hyphens then limit yourself to a maximum of just one.

If you are in the UK for example, try not to pick a name that ends in “.co.uk” where an established competitor already has the same name with “.com” as it is likely your potential customers will accidentally type “.com” and find themselves on your competitor’s website.

Ideally you will be marketing your business and your site on social media (most would argue that that is essential actually) so you also need to consider if the name you choose is available on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and so on.  Even if you don’t plan to use all of these media it makes sense to register on them to stop somebody else using your name – you don’t want your customers getting confused about your brand.

If all of this is starting to sound like a time consuming pain – well, you’d be right, it certainly can be!

We can organise everything for you

Luckily, Ali has a solution to save you all that time.  Who is Ali?  She is our online angel – an assistant who helps us out with all manner of admin and marketing tasks. She can search for suitable names for you, and once she has found one you are happy with, she will register it with both the domain name authorities and 25 of the major social network sites – saving you a heap of time. Pop over to our contact page to get more details of this service.

Hosting – Where do you store your website?

Hosting – Where do you store your website?

Hosting

Do you have a home for your website? Somewhere people can visit night and day, and it will always be ready to accept visitors? If you do, great! If not, no problem, we have plenty of space at ours!
Your website consists of words, pictures, video and so on, all organised into pages. As with all files, these are stored on a computer somewhere. The question for your website is – where should this be?

There are a number of considerations; below are some of the major ones.

Somewhere secure

Physically. We don’t one someone stealing the computer where your files are stored.

Digitally. We need some protection from unauthorised people gaining access or making changes to your files. For some, this will include the U.S. government, who have wide ranging powers if your site is physically stored in America.

Somewhere accessible

This means that whenever somebody wants to look at your website, it is available. So the computer where your site is stored needs to be on, always.

Not only that, but there should be some sort of backup plan if something goes wrong. A typical example would be for your site to be on two different computers so that if one fails, the second is automatically used, with your customers none the wiser.  You can take this a step further by making sure there is more than one connection to the internet, for the same reasons.

The connection to the internet needs to be fast.  People don’t like slow loading websites.

Size

You need enough space to store all your files, plus the ability to increase that size as your website grows.

Management

You need a control panel that allows you to easily manage your files, to create backups and so on.

Hosting Companies

We can see from just the considerations above that it is not practical to host your website on your own computer at home or in the office.  You need to use the services of a hosting company. You can either manage this relationship yourself or let us do it for you.

As with any other service you need to assess the balance between the extent of the service offered and the price charged, taking into consideration the reputation of the hosting company and its ability to deliver on its promises.  There are a number of leading players in the market, but it is a fast moving industry and some of the smaller, newer companies are very worthy of consideration.

Here are some that I have direct experience of using:

Hostgator         (USA). One of the largest companies in this sector. They have some eye-watering introductory deals – but beware the cost of subsequent years. I have found that it can take their helpdesk a long time to respond, so you can be on hold for ages.  However, if you have a simple site that requires little ongoing attention, this can be a very cost effective solution.

1and1              (UK). Another large player. Slick advertising but personally I find their management panel hard to navigate and I have moved away from using them for hosting.

TSO                 (UK). A smaller company but their helpdesk is efficient. If you call them you can get to a speak to a real person very quickly.

Use Roman Britons Websites to Manage your Hosting

If you choose to let us manage hosting for you, we will select the most appropriate hosting company and also arrange regular backups and security checks (click here for further information on the latter). In addition we can manage upgrades to your site, and where appropriate your hosting plan, plus liaise on your behalf for any troubleshooting issues. Basically we will do our very best to take any of the stress out of keeping your website available so that you can focus on running your business.

Don’t get hacked. Get website security.

Don’t get hacked. Get website security.

Your new website will be attacked. Do you already have a website? It has already been attacked. Not maybe. Definitely. They say that the only certainties in life are death and paying taxes. You can add your website being attacked to that list.
Security can be viewed as boring. I understand that. Just like locking your front door when you go out, locking up your bike or having some way to secure your business stock is boring. But we do it anyway. Every time. Because the consequences of not doing it can lead to so much hassle.
I remember saying this to a friend of mine, and she responded “well it hasn’t happened to me”. So we checked. In the previous week alone there had been attempts from nine different countries to break into her website. She was shocked. These attacks had all been unsuccessful, so my friend was unaware of them. Having security measures in place will not stop the attacks, but it will reduce the chances of them being successful. The sophistication and the amount of security you deploy is optional. Having security is not an option.

What do you mean by “attacked” ?

Your website has a front end, which the public see. It has a back end which they cannot, but you and your web designer can. It is here that you can control who sees what, who can add and make changes to your content, and which programs your website is happy to integrate with (for example booking systems, video players, social media sites and so on). Attackers attempt to gain access to this area so that they can make their own changes and additions.
The Panama Papers is the name given to the result of a successful attack that resulted in the biggest leak of customer information ever. The fallout from which included the fall of a Prime Minister. Now, in all likelihood, if your website is hacked the consequences for leaders of states might not be so dire – but they may well be for your business. And don’t go thinking that your business is to “boring” to be attacked – read the report below to find out why that is simply not true.

So who does this and why?

It can be anybody from teenagers in bedrooms to large scale organised crime, to governments (allegedly). Motivations range from peer status to profit and power. The effects can include changing your site to say/look embarrassing; stealing your data and demanding a ransom for its release; or nothing obvious at all – secret programs are placed on your website which then carry out more attacks and look as though they originated from you.

How do we stop these attacks?

We can’t stop the attacks from taking place but we can reduce their chances of success. There are simple measures like having strong passwords (would you like to learn the easiest way to manage all these passwords?) and keeping your software up to date and there are more advanced techniques that will suffice for all but the highly determined (which most attackers are not – there are far too many easy pickings about to be worried about hacking those with reasonable defences in place).

So what security do we (Roman Britons) provide?

  1. We use state of the art software that has been independently certified as built to the latest security standards.
  2. We install monitoring systems on the websites we build that alert to suspicious events.
  3. We offer a range of maintenance services that keep your software up to date, back up your files so that you always have a copy of everything if the worst should happen, and provide enhanced security.
  4. In addition we can provide you with customised logins to your site that have different access levels (so if you have a staff member who only needs to be able to add pictures on one page, but shouldn’t be able to delete words from another page, that can be arranged for you).
Website Design – 2017 Trends

Website Design – 2017 Trends

If you have some ideas about how you want the design of your site to look, and you have pictures and words ready to go, that saves time and money.  But don’t worry if not, we can have a chat and based on our experience, come up with ideas for you. “Love, love, love it” was the reaction of a recent client.

Purpose

By now you have a domain name for your site, you have decided where it is going to be hosted, and you have made some decisions about security.  So what is your site going to actually look like?

First, let’s think about the purpose of your site – why do you have a website in the first place?

One school of thought is that a website has one of two purposes:

  1. To sell your product or service
  2. To collect your visitors’ email addresses – so that you can ultimately sell your product or service.

In order to do this, you need to build a relationship with your customers. Our handy free guide (at the bottom of this page) gives a quick overview of the main things to consider and here we are going to concentrate on look and feel.

Design Trends

Website design, like most things in life, is subject to the ebb and flow of market trends and advances in technology.  For example, nowadays most people connect to the internet via ADSL or cable rather than dial-up (or put another way, connections are faster and people stay connected longer). This gives an opportunity in design to use more pictures or larger pictures plus more video than in the past. However, we can’t assume that all our potential customers have a fast connection, so it is still important to do some clever stuff behind the scenes to make sure that your website loads quickly. Design is more than just the bits you see!

Another major trend is the way in which people connect to the web.  I’m talking here about the explosion in the growth of smartphone usage.  Nowadays 50% and growing of your potential customers are viewing your site on a screen likely to be smaller than 6” (15cms). That has a big impact on how we design your site – have you ever tried to scroll horizontally on a smartphone? Our article about websites on mobile shows how we go the extra mile to make sure your customers have the best possible experience when viewing your site on a mobile phone.  In fact we test laptops, smartphones and tablets too when we design your site.

First Steps

So, where to start? Bearing in mind the purpose of your website, take a look at some existing sites and make a note of which ones appeal to you and think about why this is. Our portfolio page has links to different types of websites and could be a useful starting point. Once you have some ideas then drop us a line and we can book a free consultation to chat about what you are trying to achieve and what we can do for you. There’s no obligation at all and definitely no hard sell – our testimonials can vouch for that!

Once your site is live – what next?

Finally, we need to consider how you are going to keep your website up to date. How will you add new information, make updates and so on? Depending on how confident you feel about making changes yourself, or about your staff making changes, or leaving that all to us, we factor the solution in to the design of your site.  You can read more about how we do this right here.

Keeping website content up to date

Keeping website content up to date

Your site is built and it’s live! Congratulations! But that’s not the end; that is the beginning! Your website should be a living, growing gateway to your business. Your customers will expect this, and Google values sites that are regularly updated higher in its rankings. So how will you keep adding new content?  We make it easy for you to do it yourself – but if you don’t have time, no problem, we have a variety of packages to help you out on an ongoing basis.

 

Content Updates – Timing is Important!

The #1 reason people who already have or had a website come to us for help is that they can’t easily and quickly make changes to their website. Simple things like changing the price of a product, or updating a product description, are difficult to do. Recently a small business contacted us because they had had a Xmas promotion and used their website designer to make all the changes to their site.  Their designer had a habit of not responding – he was interested in building sites but not so much in keeping them up to date afterwards – and eventually put the promotion details on the site – in January!!  Can you imagine how frustrating it is to have your own shop window but you can’t change anything in that window – and the company that can are not reliable?

The obvious solution is to give you access to make changes yourself.  However, there are two main problems with this. First, people who are not tech-savvy worry that they might break their site. Second, they just don’t have time to learn how to do it and to check that everything works fine after each change.

Our approach to helping people who worry they might break their site is three-fold; a combination of design, education and protection.

Design

First, we make sure that the areas you need to access “behind the scenes” are clearly labelled in plain English.

Education

Second, you can opt to take our very cost effective training package where we sit down with you and show you step by step how to do it – during this session you will make an actual change yourself  – and we’ll show you how you can see each change before the general public does, so that you can change back anything you don’t like. We’ll supply step by step videos that you can refer to whenever you want.

Protection

If you want, we will give you full access to everything behind the scenes on your site. It’s your site after all. However, that does mean you can do anything to your site, good or bad. Many people prefer to have limited access, for example giving you the chance to add and change words and pictures but not to delete pages completely. This means that if you do make a mistake – and let’s face it, we all make them now and again – it won’t be a catastrophic one.  Furthermore, if you have staff who are updating your site we can limit their access according to what you want them to do.  This approach gives you peace of mind and allows you to keep your site updated exactly when you want it to be.

 

Don’t have the time?  Use our Managed Solution

If you don’t have the time or the desire to keep content updated yourself, we’ll do it for you!  The usual approach is for you to send us the words and pictures you want added, and details of where you want it added, and we do the rest. If you want, we’ll even supply the content for you and add it – you don’t have to do a thing and you have a regularly updated site! Remember, keeping your site updated makes a big difference to where Google rank you – and that makes a big difference to whether potential customers find your site in the first place.  Also, once people have found your site, why will they keep coming back to it? If it never changes they are unlikely to repeat visit.

Non-content updates

Your website is made up of your content and all the programs that go together to make your website work. Websites are rarely built by one program alone; usually there will be a combination of programs each with their own speciality (for example programs to allow your customers to contact you, to pay you, to view video on your site, to improve your ratings on search engines such as Google, and so on).

It is very important to keep every one of these programs up to date and to keep checking that they are all playing nicely with each other. It is very important because the easiest way for someone to hack, or break into, your site is by using vulnerabilities in out of date software.  Don’t think that your site will not be targetted. It will. Read the article at the bottom of this page to learn how your site could be hacked just like one of the most famous hacks of recent times.

We offer a maintenance package that constantly monitors all the programs that are used on your website and ensures that they are kept up to date.  You can choose to purchase this independently of, or in combination with, our managed content package.

 

For further details

Why your website must work well on mobile phones

Why your website must work well on mobile phones

My site looks great on a laptop, why do I need to worry about what it looks like on a mobile phone?

Like it or not, the future is here and it’s mobile. What percentage of your site views will come from mobile? (Likely more than half.) I was on a London Overground train recently and the carriage was full to standing.  I counted just two people who were not looking at their mobile phone. These weren’t teenagers possibly hunting for Pokemon, they were business folk on their way into work.

At last count there were over 1 billion websites.  So if all these people using their mobile phones have all these websites to choose from, what chance they are going to look at one that is in any way hard to navigate?

Some people are happy to turn their phone sideways in order to watch a video or play a game, but mostly people hold their phones upright and they scroll vertically.

Responsive – a good start, but is it enough?

Some designers advertise their sites as responsive, and some tools will say the same – so what does that mean?

In its most basic form it means that the screen display is automatically resized to match the size of screen that the viewer is using. This is normally of very limited use, because all it does it shrink things to a small and often unreadable size!

A more useful trick is for the screen layout to be re-arranged from horizontally aligned elements to vertically aligned ones. This ensures that someone using a mobile phone will get to see all the page content and will only have to scroll vertically to do so.

Whilst that is a great improvement on the basic form it doesn’t guarantee that your content will be presented to your customer in the order that you want them to see it.  Automated decisions by programs on how to rearrange horizontal content into vertical content will not necessarily match your preferences – and let’s face it, this is your website that is in competition with loads of other websites – and if you have potentially more than 50% of your customers accessing it via mobile, you need full control over exactly what they see and when they see it, don’t you think?

The other consideration is whether you want your mobile site to have the same content as your full website.  Your immediate reaction might be “of course”, but think again!  Sites on laptops look great with large pictures (a picture paints a thousand words and all that), but that is going to mean a lot of scrolling on a mobile to view some resized pictures that may not have the same impact. The same applies if you use pop-ups (words and pictures that appear at pre-determined times, such as ten seconds after a page starts being viewed, or once a user gets halfway down a page) – often these work less well or even have a negative effect when viewed on a mobile phone.

Have full control over which content appears on mobile and in which order

This is the preferred approach at Roman Britons Websites.  It means more work when building your site, but we think it’s worth it. We build your site and demo it to you on a laptop and then a mobile phone and then discuss with you what changes you would like to make. We then re-build the mobile version if required. We are able to offer this because we have invested in state of the art software that makes this much more feasible than standard tools where you would need, in effect, to create two separate sites with duplicated code, time, effort and cost.

This can mean going forward that you have two areas behind the scenes to update when you add new content (or we will if you choose our managed service) and we will point that out at the time so you can make a balanced decision about what differences you require between your full and mobile site.

The key point is that you have full and final control over your website, and that your options are not restricted by cheap tools that have limited capabilities.