Getting started online – the infographic

This week we launched our new help section – getting started online. It features simple 1 minute answers to complicated questions about getting started online.

We understand that running your business is more than a full time job – and that setting up online can seem complicated at best of the times. That is why we have provided short, concise, no-nonsense answers to all the big questions you may have.

Enjoy!

Getting started online - infographic - 1 minute answers

Responsive, AMP, PWA, Social, Vlogs – confused? How to decide which features your website needs

Responsive design, AMP pages, Web Apps, Progressive Web Apps, SEO and optimization, Schema, content writing, Social Networks, Pagespeed, blogs and vlogs. Confusing right?

What are they and do you really need them on your site?

Here’s a simple explanation of each feature to help you decide.

Features your websites should have

Responsive design

Responsive design means that your website adapts to fit the size of your screen. It allows your site to be viewed from any device from a large desktop PC to a tiny Smartphone. Essential

SEO

All websites should have been search engine optimized (SEO) by your developer from the go. This allows Google to understand your web pages, helping your site rank well in search. Essential

Schema.org

Schema is an advanced SEO technique that should be used by your developer to mark up your code from the go. Essential

Page speed

Page load speeds are a big deal – users abandon slow websites, and Google factors in speed when ranking your site. Essential

Content writing

If you want to rank well in search, you should have unique, informative and well-written content on your website covering your main selling points and products. Find out why content writing is important. Essential

Blogs

Like content writing, blogging can increase your reach, and bring new users to your site. You should blog if you have useful content to share. For example product guides, events, latest news, industry commentary. Essential

Social Networks

If your business uses them, social networks should integrated on your site. Add follow links and like boxes to your site to attract new followers. Share buttons help to increase your reach. You can also add feeds such as your Twitter stream or Instagram photos directly into your website. Essential

Non-essential website features

The following are only beneficial in the circumstances outline below.

AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are a very simplified version of your web pages for Mobile users only that load almost instantly when opened on the phone. AMP can help boost your visits from mobile users.

Generating AMP versions of your key articles is not essential, but can be beneficial if your website is slow loading, or your users are in an area of poor internet connection. Nice to have

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

A website can reach anyone, anywhere, on any device (phone, tablet, PC, even smart TV) – but only when they are online.

Native Smartphone apps are available offline, have an home screen icon to act as a daily reminder to the user that the app is there, and allow the App owner to send push notifications (alerts) to the user to generate interest and market products. But native apps are only available to Smartphone users who have downloaded the App.

PWA combines the wide reach of websites with the visibility, push notifications and offline availability of Native Apps.

Think of a PWA as an App version of your website that can be installed anywhere – Smartphone, tablet or PC. It is available offline, and you can send push notifications to users, for example every time you launch an product, publish a new post, or have a special offer on. Powerful stuff!

Consider PWA like having an extra marketing channel. It has extra set-up and running costs. To take advantage of PWA, you need to be sending regular push notifications to generate interest. A useful extra channel

Vlogs

Vlogs are videos shared regularly on your website – like a blog on film. They help you reach and relate to your audience, growing your follower base.

Consider making a Vlog part of your marketing strategy only if you have something interesting to do or say and have the time and resources to produce good quality video. Certain circumstances

Get expert advice

Choosing the right features for your website will play a big part in your success.

If you have any doubts at all, ask our experienced team to guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

How to choose a web host

Always let your development team choose the web host for the following reasons:

  • They are building the website and know the server requirements.
  • They will have a list of reliable hosting companies based on first-hand experience.
  • It may work out cheaper as web agencies often have discounts with their preferred web host.

I am rebuilding my site – should I change host?

If you are happy with your existing web host, there is no need to change.
I would only change if your have found a better cheaper option, or your are experiencing problems such as downtime, or your website is running slow.

Hosting companies recommended from personal experience

Please note that I have no affiliation with these companies. I have worked with them all at some point in the past and have mainly positive things to say:

  • Hosting companies for large high-traffic websites – Inmotion, Hostpoint, Bluehost
  • Green hosting companies help you reduce your carbon footprintGreengeeks.
  • Italian hosting companies – OVH are the best large company, alternatively we like Serverpoint

Get an expert opinion

Choosing the right hosting company will ensure your website runs quickly and continuously without downtime.

Our experienced team is here to guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

How to pick a good website template for your business

Themeforest alone has thousands of website templates and themes – some are superb, the majority good, whilst others are poor. So how do you pick a good website template for your project?

As the best websites come from a collaboration between business owners and the web designer(s), I recommend one of the following approaches:

  1. Either show your designer the type of website your like – preferably with examples, and let them pick the template.
  2. Or you can choose a minimum of 3 templates you like and let the designer vet the selection.

Either way, you get a template to your liking but the designer always picks the final template, giving the added benefit of their expertise and ensuring a reliable template suitable for your project.

How to avoid problems when picking a template

  • Beware amazing photography. Many templates are image-orientated with large stunning photography chosen for effect. The problem with this is that your photos are unlikely to be so nice. By getting suckered in by beautiful imagery, you forget to look at the actual template and layout – is it suited to your website?
  • Is the template structure suitable for the kind of website want?
  • Is the template popular? Templates with lots of downloads and ratings are likely to be regularly updated – which is good.
  • Also check the template release date, the time of the last update, and how responsive the developers are on their forum/ FAQ section. All signs of a well maintained and frequently updated template. You don’t want to end up with a broken or out-of-date template.
  • Pick a selection of least 3 templates you like, and let your designer make the final choice based on the technical aspects of the template and suitability for your project.

Trust the experts

If you choose the a website template, always consult a professional designer who can help you make the right decisions.

Our experienced team can guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

Which is best – a template or a custom designed website?

When building a new website, there are two options for getting the look you want: using an off-the-shelf template or asking your web agency to build a customized design.

Off-the-shelf templates or themes are cheaper and quicker to set up, but lack the customization, flexibility, branding and originality of a fully customized site.

Which is the best choice for your website?

Either route has its pros and cons. The right choice for your website comes down to budget and company image.

When to get a website template

Use a website template in any of the following situations:

  • When it doesn’t matter if your site looks like another site
  • When you are on a tight budget
  • If you are trying to build your own website and have little experience of web design.

Themeforest is a great place to find a theme. Always check with your developer before purchasing a theme – some themes look great, but under the surface and they have serious flaws.

When to get a customized website design

  • Medium-large companies should always go for a 100% customized website with professional branding and image.
  • Complex websites and web apps are also likely to need a custom design, as website templates will probably not render well on the ad-hoc part of your website/app.

Website template Vs customized design

Website templates Customized design
Set-up time Quick Medium
Branding Restrictive Complete control
Layout and design options Restrictive Complete flexibility and control
Unique No – other websites that look the same Your website is unique
Costs Cheap Can be more expensive

Trust the experts

If you choose the a website template or a custom design, always consult a professional designer who can help you make the right decisions.

Our experienced team is here to guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

Do I need a web designer or web developer – and what’s the difference?

A web designer can build websites and eCommerce using a CMS and usually optimize the site for search for search. A web developer can usually do all this and much more.*

Consequently hiring a web developer is more expensive than a web designer.

Does your project require a web designer or web developer?

If your project is standard, get a good web designer will get the job done. For advanced projects with programming and customizations, hire a developer.

When you need a web designer

  • For standard website design using a CMS such as WordPress.
  • To build a basic eCommerce using a program such as Shopify, Magento, Woocommerce or Prestashop.
  • For simple website customizations such as graphics, structure, layout and content.

When you need a web developer

  • For websites that require advanced customizations with ad-hoc programming.
  • When there are no plugins available to do what you require.
  • For projects involving programming.
  • Advanced integrations such as APIs.
  • Web applications and single page web apps

Skill set – designer Vs developer

Web designer Web developer
Websites built CMS CMS, hand-coded, web applications, advanced customizations, plugins
Programming languages HTML, CSS, Javascript HTML, CSS, Javascript as well as PHP, Javascript libraries (jQuery, Angular), Ajax, MySQLi
Other skills Graphic design, SEO, web marketing Graphic design, SEO, web marketing

Hiring the right team

A site’s success hinges partly on the ability of the development team you hire. Make sure they have advanced knowledge and a track record of delivering great looking websites with a proven results.

If you are looking for advice and a quote, contact us here:


* This post is aimed at website owners and aims to give a simple understanding of the similarities and differences be designers and developers so site stakeholders can make informed decisions. For the purpose of this post I am referring to front-end developers.

Should I Use a DIY Website Builder or Hire a Professional

There are lots of free do-it-yourself website builders that allow you to build your own website with little experience. Wix and Weebly are the market leaders in drag drop website design.

Here is how you can decide whether to use a website builder or hire a professional.

Situations when you can use a DIY website builder

  • You only need a basic site and do not have marketing or SEO goals to meet. For example, a personal blog, a school project, organising something for your local club.
  • You are just getting started, fancy trying your hand at running your own website in the future and want to test the water.
  • Your project has a very low budget

Situations when you MUST hire a professional

  • If you need a professional company website.
  • Projects with marketing goals such as high organic traffic.
  • When you want full control over what your website looks like, how it works and what it does.
  • If you envisage evolving and developing your website over the years, you should start with a more complete website software or CMS.

A word of warning on drag drop website builders

Website builders are made to look super easy in Youtube videos, but it is never really that easy. If you go the DIY route, many templates rely heavily on stunning photos. So make sure you have lots of great photos and know how to crop them to size.

Realistically, if your project or business requires results, unless you are being trained to learn basic web design, I would always trust your site to professionals who have been doing the job for years.

Still not sure?

If you are going the DIY route, we have put the answers to all the most important questions in our getting started blog and here is are reviews of the leading drag-drop packages.

Alternatively, let us build a beautiful professional website that will exceed all of your expectations and deliver concrete results.

Contact us for a free consultation and quote for your new website.

Do I need a CMS and how to pick the right one

Most, but not all websites are built with a CMS.

Read on to find out if you need a CMS and how to pick the right one.

What is a CMS?

A CMS or Content Management System is a software commonly used to build websites.

All CMS come with an easy-to-use admin interface where you can add and edit website content and products.

CMS also have hundreds of useful add-ons (often referred to as plugins or extensions) that allow you to add new functionality to your site such as social buttons, shopping cart, improve your SEO, speed up your site add a gallery etc.

When you need a CMS for your site

Get a CMS if your site is in one or more of the following groups:

  • You will have a large website with lots of pages
  • You will regularly update to your content
  • You will regularly add lots of new content
  • You want to sell through your site
  • You require lots of complicated functionality (CMS will have lots of ready-made plugins to accomplish this)

When you DON’T need a CMS for your site

If your site fits any of the following, you’re better off without a CMS:

  • A highly customized or innovative website. In this case it is unlikely that any CMS will have the add-ons to fit your requirements, so you hire a development team to build a customized site or app.
  • A customized single page application (SPA). The bulky code and functionality of a CMS would be largely unused, and you would still require lots of extra ad-hoc programming to get it to do what you want.
  • A static website with few web pages. A web developer can quickly put together a suitable site. Using a CMS would be overkill.

Which CMS should I choose?

Your choice of CMS is largely determined by the type of website you require (eCommerce or standard website) and where you will target.

CMS for eCommerce

Magento

  • Overview: the complete, powerful, robust software that offers endless possibilities.
  • Ease-of-use: difficult.
  • Set-up: challenging and expensive.
  • Ideal for: larger projects with budget

Prestashop

  • Overview: almost as complete and powerful as Magento.
  • Ease-of-use: easy.
  • Set-up: relatively straight forward. One-off fees for most plugins
  • Ideal for: websites with a small-medium budget

Shopify

  • Overview: slightly less powerful than Magento and Prestashop.
  • Ease-of-use: easy. The back and front-end look great – which is driving Shopify’s popularity.
  • Set-up: easy. Monthly or annual fees for lots of the addons.
  • Shopify can be problematic if you have thousands of products or use drop shipping.
  • Ideal for: simpler eCommerce stores or DIY business owners on a budget.

Woocommerce

  • Overview: Woocommerce IS NOT a specialized eCommerce CMS, but a WordPress plugin. Consequently it lacks some of the advanced eCommerce features of Magento, Prestashop and Shopify. It plugs-in seamlessly to WordPress so you can easily add it to any WordPress site and take advantage of the powerful blogging capability of WordPress.
  • Ease-of-use: very easy.
  • Set-up: very easy.
  • Ideal if you already have an existing WordPress site or require only a basic eCommerce. If you intend to blog often – Woo is a good choice.

CMS for standard websites

I would group standard website CMS into two categories:

  • Do-it-yourself CMS such as WIX and Weebly. These are good for small personal websites and startups without budget as with relatively little experience you can build a great looking site.
  • Professional CMS of which WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are the most popular. Having used all three, I recommend WordPress for its ease of use, reliability and popularity.

Get an expert opinion

Choosing the right CMS will make your life easier.

If you have any doubts at all, ask our experienced team to guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

Website, eCommerce or an App – what type of website do I need?

For practical purposes, most websites can be split into 3 general groups – websites, eCommerce (where products can be purchased), or web apps.

So what type of website do you need:

1. Most projects use a standard website often with a CMS

Standard websites are blogs, news sites, portfolio websites, personal websites, subscription sites and forums. I have bunged them into one group as they are all usually built with a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Wix, Joomla or Drupal.

A CMS is the software commonly used to build websites. All CMS come with an easy to use admin interface where you can add and edit your website content.

Here’s how to choose the right CMS for your website.

2. Get an eCommerce if you want to sell online

An eCommerce is a site that sells something. Usually you will have a shopping cart, payment gateway (such as Paypal, Stripe).

Most eCommerce sites are built using an eCommerce-specific CMS such as Shopify, Woocommerce, Prestashop or Magento.

If your project is particularly non-standard and requires extreme customizations, an eCommerce site can be built from scratch or with a framework (i.e. without a CMS) by a specialized web developer.

3. Get a web app if you need highly customized functionality

Web applications are becoming extremely popular. They are commonly single page websites or applications (SPAs) that with highly customized functionality and user experience.
They are usually 100% customized to look and do exactly what you require.

Get an expert opinion

Choosing the right type of website for your business is something you really want to get right first time. I’ve lost count of the number of businesses who have had to rebuild their site with a more appropriate software.

If you have any doubts at all, ask our experienced team to guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

How to choose the best domain extension for your site

Choosing the right domain extension is one of the first decisions you will be faced with – and affects your SEO and branding. Getting it right will pays dividends.

Here is how to choose the best domain extension for your website.

Country Extensions and General Extensions – what’s the difference?

Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) for example .co.uk for the United Kingdom are domain extensions created specifically for websites targeting the corresponding country. They are the best way to show users and search engines where your site originates. All things being equal, yoursite.co.uk will rank higher in the UK than yoursite.com.

General Top Level Domains (gTLD) are not country specific. .com, .net, .co and .org are the most popular. All things being equal, yoursite.com and yoursite.net rank equally well worldwide – as is confirmed in Google’s guidelines.

Here’s the simple rule of thumb:

Use a general domain to rank well world wide. Use a country code domain to target and rank well in a specific country.

Now lets look at the different permutations of this.

How to choose the best domain extension for your site

1. When to choose a country level domain (e.g. .co.uk)

A country level domain is the best choice when your website is targeted to just one country. For example, a .it domain is best used for Italian websites targeting the Italian market.

Why? From a search engine point of view, a .it domain is ranked higher than a comparable general domain website in Italy.

2. When to choose a general domain (eg. .com)

A general domain is the ideal for business wanting good visibility around the world but without the budget and resources to invest in a language website for each country.

Why? From an SEO point of view, general domains are your solid all rounder that will perform reasonably well in every country.

Disadvantages – in a specific country, general domains do not rank as well as the country domain. So we do not recommend this approach for big business who want to target a specific country.

3. When to buy both country & general domains (but have only 1 website)

If you have international ambitions, purchase both your country level and general domain. If you only have 1 site, ask your developer to set up a redirect from one the country to the general level domain.

Why? Having both domains in the bag shows a strong sense of branding, and keeps your options open for international expansion at a later date. Anyone typing yoursite.it will be taken automatically to the yoursite.com and you will not lose clients. It also avoids businesses snapping up your yoursite.com and selling it back to you at hefty price.

Recommended for: small businesses without the resource to manage two separate websites.

4. When to buy both country & general domains and run separate language websites

Put your local language website on the country level domain e.g..it for Italian, and your English website on the general domain.

Why? You have the best chance to rank your language website in the country of origin, whilst the English language site on the general domain will rank well internationally.

Recommended for: medium sized business with resources and budget to maintain and market 2+ websites. As a rule of thumb, a business should have at least one person dedicated full time to each local language website.

5. Buy the general and country level domains for each target country

Global brands such as Apple, HSBC and Starbucks all have regional websites on the corresponding country level domains for each country they operate. They use the .com to direct customers to their country-level domain.

Why? This is the best solution to rank well in each country. It also allows customization of each website to local tastes.

Recommended for: multinational companies with the resources and budget to run and market a website in each country.

Get an expert opinion

Choosing the best domain extension is an important part of your SEO. Our experienced, international team will guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

How to choose a great domain name

Your domain name is a fundamental part of your branding and will also influence your SEO. It is how thousands of customers will find you online.

Your choice of domain name depends on if you already have a company name or not.

Choosing a domain when you already have a company name

If you already have a business, and the domain name is available, you should choose your company name – customers are already familiar with the name and it will make it easy to find you.

Choosing a domain when your already have a company name but the .COM has been taken

If you already have a business, and the .COM domain name has been bought by someone else, you have 3 options:

  1. Contact the domain owner (run a whois to get their details) and see if they are willing to sell.
  2. Choose an alternative domain extension such as .CO, .NET or .ORG
  3. Choose a different domain name starting from scratch (see below)

Choosing a domain from scratch

If your business is new or your company name has been taken, here are 4 tips for choosing a great domain name:

  1. Choose a short and memorable domain name (1 or 2 words without hyphens or underscores).
  2. Ensure your domain name is easy to read, write and understand in your target markets.
  3. Include a keyword if possible. This will help with help customers find you in search and has SEO benefits.
  4. Ensure all domain extensions are available. So if you are targeting England and Italy, make sure that the .CO.UK, .IT and .COM domains are all available. This helps customers find you and re-enforces your branding.

Errors to avoid when picking your domain

  • Avoid numbers and funny symbols like hyphens and underscore – they are difficult to remember and considered spam.
  • Does your domain name have an unintended meaning in other languages?

Get an expert opinion

Choosing the right domain name helps customers find you. Our experienced, international team will guide you to the right choices quickly and efficiently so you can get on with running your business.

Meet the Team

Mike, web developer, SEO
Mike
Web developer, SEO expert
Fede - content writer, marketing, social strategy
Federica
Content writer, marketing, social
Lara - Photography and video
Lara
Photography, video