FAQ: what are my website requirements ?

Quick answers to key questions about creating successful websites.

What's a CMS?

When we create a site for you, it comes with a CMS, which means you can update your site as and when you like, as easily as you write email or do wordprocessing.

CMS stands for Content Management System, which provides an interface giving the non-technical user easy control of their website contents. This means you can just log in and edit page content, and add, remove or update pages and pictures. The site contents are held in a database accessed by this simple user-friendly control panel, often called a dashboard. This direct access to editing is a basic feature you would expect from any website today - gone are the days when websites were collections of individual files which required costly individual editing by experts for even the smallest updates to page contents.

Widely used and effective Content Management Systems include Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, and Concrete5, which are all Open Source systems and allow you to export content, and also CushyCMS. An unusual, highly individual or little-used CMS may be heavily dependent on, if not locked in to, its developer, which raises question marks about future maintenance and performance, further development, and eventual costs. A very basic CMS which allows drag-and-drop editing of page layout can be a particularly poor choice as it often creates poor code and low accessibility and does not allow later export of your content, in common with some initially free or low-cost closed-source site-building packages.

What about hosting?

What is hosting? Just a computer somewhere storing the files that make up your website and serving them up on demand to people's browsers. You could do this at home if you really wanted, but a paid-for service does it better and faster, and with more features and reliability.
A hosting service normally offers an uptime guarantee, such as 99% or 99.9% or 99.99%. Speed of hosting services may vary, and for maximum speed and SEO benefit you might also consider using hosting located in the country your website actually targets. We can host your site for you, or install it on suitable hosting for you as you wish. For a straightforward website without huge traffic annual hosting costs should normally be well under £100.

What about my domain name?

It's your name and it's your address and it's vital. You can buy it in five minutes but you may be using it for a lifetime and you want people to remember it, so this can call for thought, research or even brainstorming. We can assist and advise you in finding and registering a suitable domain name and then walk you through registering and renewing it for yourself, as well as dealing with the privacy implications of domain name registrant details automatically being published in the WHOIS register.

Should you decide to use a different domain name, we can normally redirect traffic from the old domain name to the new one, or even redirect traffic from multiple domain names to your site. Getting your domain name working with your site and email is of course part of any website development package.

In fact it is always best to register a domain for yourself in your own name and do so at a reputable, reliable domain name registrar, preferably not the same company where you host your site. Allowing someone else to register your domain incurs unnecessary risk and expense - you would not let someone hold the title to your house, tradmark or other property. Costs for registration and annual renewal really should not exceed £10.00 per year, but the buyer must beware - huge renewal charges and other issues are known to occur at some domain name registrars.

How do I monitor my website traffic?

Website traffic on on your own websites can be monitored free by using Google Analytics and also in part Google Webmaster tools, or by using a free stats interface supplied by a hosting company. Your stats show you how many visitors, when, what pages, for how long, what country from, what operating system and browser, and usually what site or search engine query brought them to you. Useful, and fascinating.

Will my site need maintenance?

Probably. Over time updates are issued for almost every CMS, to improve security and add new features. Installing these means making backups first and checking after the updates, which will involve a small amount of time and expense. A site with growing traffic or content may also need some adjustment to deal with the increased activity, so it does make sense to budget a small annual sum for maintenance.

Is Open Source for me?

Yes, you are already using it. This site is built and hosted on open source software, and uses the Drupal open source CMS (Content Management System). Android phones use the open source Linux operating system, and the majority of hosts use the open source Apache server: open source programs do not have licensing costs, and when they are widely used and adopted can be more adaptable and secure than closed-source products.

What is website performance?

It's what you want. This can mean speed, accessibility, traffic, usability, mobile experience, providing info, search engine ranking, or conversion of visits to actions such as sales or clicks or contacts. Or just looking good.

Is an overweight website unhealthy?

Yes, it will have trouble keeping up today. Most people give up on a site taking more than four seconds to load, and slower sites are now taken less seriously by search engines, and can be useless on mobile. Large file sizes on pages and big, slow scripts do not help. Also busy sites may notch up big bandwidth costs unnecessarily if not optimised.

How do I test a website?

Using free online tools you can test your website for speed, accessibility, colour contrast, copied content, mobile display, and to see if the coding is correct.

Test speed: Google PageSpeed | Pingdom.com | Yslow!

Test web accessibility: Achecker

Test for copied content: Copyscape.com

Test the code: W3.org validator

Test display on a variety of mobile devices: Responsinator.com

Test the colours: Checkmycolours.com

Who makes the backups?

A hosting account normally creates automatic backups, weekly or daily. Usually a CMS can also be set up to let you export your text content, allowing you to backup and download that yourself if you wish.

Do laws apply to my website?

Yes. Laws about copyright, advertising, trademarks, disability, cookies, libel, advertising, and also hatespeech can all apply to websites, as do Distance Selling regulations when many classes of goods are sold via the internet. In the UK you can now report websites to the Advertising Standards Authority - the ASA - for false advertising.