What about mobile?

According to a recent report, 28% of website visits are now made using mobile devices – tablets and smartphones – and the percentage is expected to rise further. Take a look at the report here. It is important to design your website with this in mind.

When mobile devices first started to become popular, they were accommodated by having two versions of the website, one for large screen devices and a mobile version. Today, an increasing number of the themes available on WordPress are described as “responsive”, which means that there is only one version of the website, but the way the it is displayed depends on the device being used to access it. For example, on a smartphone the menu may be replaced by an icon which the user must click on to see the options. Or images which appear in a sidebar next to the text on a desktop or laptop screen may be displayed below the text on smaller screens, requiring the user to scroll down to see them.

Despite the trend towards responsive websites, not all website owners wish to have the layout of their site changed in this way. There are themes which will instead shrink down the content of your web page for smaller screen sizes, so that the look and layout of the site is preserved. Modern mobile devices then allow the user to zoom in on the section of the screen they are interested in, until the text or images are a comfortable size.

Some thought needs to be given to how you would like your website to look on various devices and this is best determined at the beginning of the project, so it is a good idea to look at how some of the big websites have handled this issue.

Posted in Getting started, Mobile

What is needed for a functioning website?

It is useful to understand what is required for a functioning website:

    • a domain name
    • a hosting service
    • web pages
    • a way of updating the web pages

Domain Name

You can think of a domain name as the address for your website. People can type it into their web browser address bar in order to get to your website and they will see it there with other text added after it while they visit the different pages of your site.

browser bar
The domain name for this website is caledonwebservices.com . In order to obtain a domain name for your website, you need to register it with one of the authorized services. The first step in registration is a search to see if your preferred name is available. With the number of websites in existence today, it is quite possible that your first choice will already be taken, but it should be possible to find something memorable and meaningful. A domain name costs of the order of $10- $20 per year and is often included in a service bundle from your web-hosting company; registering it through your hosting company simplifies things.

Hosting Service

It can be tempting to think of a website as a place, but actually it is a set of computer files which are stored on a server (a server is just a computer with a large amount of file storage space, connected to the internet and dedicated to storing website information). These files are accessed when someone types your domain name into their browser and navigates from page to page using your menu. They determine what is sent to the visitor’s computer and how the your content will be displayed on their browser. The hosting company provides space on its servers for these files and makes them available by linking them to your domain name; you can think of this as where your site “is”.

The best web-hosting services have excellent technical support and will be useful resources if you ever have any questions, for example if you wish to change to a different domain name at a later date, so it is worth spending a little more to select one with a good reputation. In the early days of the World Wide Web, Website design companies frequently used to offer web-hosting services at their own location, but these days there are many affordable services dedicated to hosting which are able to offer 24hr service and sophisticated security, so this is becoming less common. Caledon Web Services does not provide a hosting service but can give some advice on how to choose one.

Web Pages

So you have a domain name and a hosting service, now you need some web pages to display. Caledon Web Services uses the very popular and powerful WordPress platform to build your web pages. The WordPress software is installed on your domain at your web-hosting service. We can help you choose a “theme” which is consistent with the “look” you are trying to create, and then the web pages are built according to your requirements. This “self-hosted” version of WordPress* has available an enormous number of “plug-ins”, many of them free, which provide a great deal of flexibility in what can be included in your website (photo galleries, contact forms, links to social icons to name just a few). Normally, your pages will be hidden during “construction” and made public only when you have given final approval.

Updating Your Web Pages

Creating the files which contain the information needed to display web pages was a difficult and time-consuming task in the early days of the World Wide Web. This meant that the client typically had to go back to the web design company in order to implement even small changes to the website’s content, layout or functionality. It also made it difficult, if not impossible, to switch web design companies. Today, with a small amount of training in how to use WordPress you will probably find you are confident to post articles (“blog”) and make small changes yourself. If not, Caledon Web Services is happy to provide an ongoing service. And if you are not happy with our service for any reason, there are other companies who can pick up where we left off – the site files are yours and you have control over who looks after them!

There is a certain amount of maintenance required as new versions of WordPress, your theme and the plugins you are using are launched from time to time. You could either take this on yourself or ask us to do periodic maintenance so that your site is up to date. These days, many of the updates include security improvements **, so while the updates may not appear to change anything it is advisable to install them.

* If you find the prospect of “self-hosting” and making decisions about which plugins to use etc daunting, there is a simpler alternative. WordPress also offers a “hosted” version of its service. You can register a domain name and have WordPress host your site all at WordPress.com. The process of building your pages is basically the same, but WordPress will take care of all software updates and backups without you needing to be concerned. There are many features included, but you cannot add other plugins to them as you can with a self-hosted WordPress site.

If all of these choices seem confusing, feel free to phone to ask for a more detailed explanation.

**Minor updates to the WordPress software are now made automatically, even on self-hosted sites.

Posted in Getting started

What is an Online Presence?

cat looking at computer screen

Having an online presence means that people can find information about your business or organization on the Internet, which they may access using a desktop, laptop or tablet computer, or mobile phone.

These days more and more potential customers are checking out a business online before proceeding to make contact with you. Many people have thrown away their physical copy of the Yellow Pages, so by not having an online presence you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Usually, “checking online” means entering your business name (if they already have it) into a search engine; some of the most popular search engines are “Google”, “Bing”, “Yahoo”, or others. If your business is registered with some online directories, a search may turn up your contact information even if you don’t have a website, but you do not have full control over this information. Also, the immediate question this brings up is “Why haven’t they got a website?”

Potential customers who do not know your company may research a product or service online as well, by entering the relevant term , e.g. “guitar lessons caledon” into one of the search engines. If you have a website, you can increase your chance of this search returning your company name as one of the results and possibly bringing you new customers.

So, for a business or organization today, however small, it is a disadvantage not to have a website, but your website does not necessarily need to be large or complex. The most basic option you have is for a single page and this could be a good way to get started. It will make it possible for potential clients who want to find out basic information about your business and verify that it really exists to find you online. This type of website can be implemented in such a way that little or no maintenance is required and ongoing costs are low.

The next step up would be a basic website consisting of approximately 5 pages; typically “Home”, “About us”, “Contact info” and a couple more from the following list, depending on the type of business or organization:

“Products”, “Services”, “Interesting links”, “Blog”, “Gallery” etc

This type of site is very popular with small businesses and organizations. It is not advised to have many more than 5 pages in your main menu, it being preferable if you need more pages to link to them from the 5 main pages, or via sub-menus below them.

Once you have a website, you can link it to any social media accounts you have; for example with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and you can list your website address on these social media sites allowing you to orchestrate a well-coordinated online presence.

Posted in Getting started