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What does my website need?

In other words, 'how to spec your website'

So, you want a new website? But what does that mean, how do you get from the want to the final product? With hosting, content, certificates, call to actions and image libraries to consider, there is a lot to think about and you may wonder where to start. We are sharing with you our insider knowledge of how to spec your website!

Domain

If this is your first site, the first thing you will need is a domain.

It is best to get this sorted right at the start of the project so that you can get the right domain and not be disappointed down the line. The most recognizable and popular domains are .com and .co.uk so you may find that you can’t get a .com or .co.uk to match your brand or product as a lot of these are already taken.

The key is to be memorable so if you can’t get billsburgers.co.uk don’t try to get billsburgervannearstratford.co.uk instead, get creative and look at other top-level domains that might work, billsburgers.eat for example is a lot more memorable. A full list of top-level domains can be found at https://data.iana.org/TLD/tlds-alpha-by-domain.txt.

Other things to consider with a domain is get keywords in it if possible but don’t go over the top. The Ergo domain is a good example, we’ve kept it top-level with ergo.agency, we are an agency of course. We could have got ergobranddigitalindustrial.agency but it is too long and will not give any additional SEO benefit.

Build a Structure

The next thing you need to think about is the site map, this is a way to visualize what will be on the site and where. For most websites, it will look a bit like this:

  • Home
  • About
    • The team
    • History
  • Our Work
  • Blog
  • News
  • Contact

Although bigger sites can be more like this:

Thinking about features

Using the above site map as an example you could build out a very static website, with graphics that fit your brand and show off your work and well written copy, so in essence a digital brochure.

We’d class this as a static site, which is perfect for many organizations. However, what if you have a really complicated product that you want to show off on the website, it is entirely possible to build a fully interactive webpage that will allow users to pan around that product and in essence use it virtually. These kind of builds can really make you stand out form the competition as a market leader. There are also more subtle touches of animation that can be added into a page such as parallax where images move at a different speed to the background when scrolling which done right is really pleasing to the eye as you scroll a page.

You also need to consider where information on the site is going to come from, in my example of a static site it is simple, it will come from a copy writer and be put into the site before it goes live. However, there are scenarios where you may want to pull data from external sources, an outdoor bar for example might like to show real time weather information. This can easily be done using APIs (Application Programming Interface) to keep the site up to date with live information to inform your visitors.

A final thing to consider is do you want to track your visitors and capture information so you can retarget them if they appeared to be interested in your products. This is really a blog in itself but simply put for basic tracking there are tools like Google Analytics to track where visitors were. Then for gathering data this can be done very simply by just having a contact form that will email you direct, right through to professional tools like HubSpot that will create a full sales workflow.

Content

Now you know what you want in the sections you need to get imagery selected and copy written in an SEO friendly way.

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization; in a nutshell this will help for google and other internet servers to find what your page is about and show it to the right people in the right place. Our blog What is SEO goes into the basics, you can read it here!

How is the site going to be updated?

There are 2 areas to think of here, firstly the content of the site and secondly keeping the platform the website is running on up to date and secure, both of which depend on how technical you are.

Starting with the site content, if you know your tech and a bit of HTML you can probably do all this manually. However the likelihood is you will need some help along the way and some sort of Content Management System. The easiest of the all is Wordpress which is the industry standard, well documented and probably the quickest to get to grips with. Most small business websites we build use Wordpress because it is fast to deploy and easy for users to get to grips with. Other options might be Joomla or Webflow, its worth exploring the options with your web developer to ensure you get the best fit.

If you have complex requirement for your site we often find that moving away from off the shelf systems and building something bespoke works better. Despite most off the shelf system having an array of plugins to do pretty much anything, often these can conflict or make the site very clunky. At this stage we recommend bespoke, which may be a bit harder to use or train on but will give you a much better end result.

Secondly keeping the platform updated, your website is running on a server and much like your desktop or tablet computer updates are required to keep the site secure as are there updates for Content Management Systems such as WordPress. In general the server is kept up to date by your web host, but it is worth having this monitored to ensure none of the updates conflict with your website. Updates to the CMS are becoming more automated but not fully, we recommend that a site is updated at a minimum of once a month, particularly Wordpress. When updating it is important to check functionality still works and templates don’t get broken.

Hosting and security

All websites require a web server, how complex that server all depends on the amount of traffic you will be generating and what the functionality of the website will be.

So for a small business owner getting a few hundred hits a month some basic shared hosting should surface, albeit not massively secure. However, a huge ticket ordering site dealing with hundreds of thousands of orders a day would require a cluster of servers and engineers to keep them running. From most SMEs we recommend some form of dedicated server.

It is imperative a valid SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is installed on the server, the SSL certificate ensures that all information transmitted between yourself and the website users is encrypted. Without one there is potential that data can be intercepted and changed during transmission. However search engines are now also penalising websites that do not have valid SSL certificates which has made it doubly important for installing them. If you do just have a simple brochure site then services like letsencrypt can supply these certificates for free. For ecommerce we’d always recommend getting a certificate from a certificate provider such as GlobalSign, DigiCert or Thawte who will provide a level of insurance should the certificates be compromised.

To conclude

After reading this blog, you should now have a better understanding of the technical side of making a website successful.

If you need any more information then don’t hesitate to contact our digital team.

We have more content from our Your Business in Your Hands series that cover more areas of digital business management.