Before you even think about what your website will look like, you should consider what to call it and where it will live. This is your domain (what you call it) and hosting (where it will live). Even by themselves, these two aspects of your website could easily take up the entire article, but I’ve decided to cover these more quickly, so we can move on to more important aspects of web design in later articles this month.
Your Domain Is Your Website’s Identity
Domain names are to websites as titles are to novels … and a little bit more. Your domain should accomplish several things:
- Clearly identify what your business or website is about.
- Capture interest in visiting the website.
- Help with search engine optimization.
- Be easy to understand and remember.
- Support your brand.
I know there are a lot of domains out there that don’t make sense by themselves: Yahoo.com, Yuuguu.com and more. Most of them are tech companies with a budget to build around branding. And that’s not what I’m addressing here. I’m focused on the domain name that an author, speaker, or coach should have.
The obvious choice is your name: JaneDoe.com or JaneDoeBooks.com or CoachJane.com or anything like that. This type of domain satisfies many of the above criteria, and if one of the goals of your website is to brand you and build name recognition, you should definitely use a name-based domain. It clearly identifies you as the core product; as you become known, it will capture interest; it supports search engine optimization of your name; it is easy to remember (if your name is easy to remember); and it certainly supports your brand.
But, if you are trying to build a brand that you can later sell or bequeath to your children or grandchildren, you might go a different route and purchase a domain that describes your service. For example, I had “wordpressrevamp.com” because that service focuses on helping authors, speakers, and coaches build a better web presence through the leveraging power of WordPress. I also had “infopreneursbusinessguide.com” for a product of the same name, as well as others.
A note about hyphenated domains: Most of the time you will want to avoid them, but sometimes they are a better option. For example, I owned both womensbusinessgallery.com and womens-business-gallery.com. I primarily used the hyphenated version because it was already ranked well in the search engines when I purchased the web property.
There is also the case when hyphens make a domain more understandable. Take for example, “molestationnursery.com”: Is that domain of a pro-molestation website or of a nursery based in the town of Mole Station? Before you purchase that domain, take a look at other words that might be lurking in the combination. Some real-life examples of unfortunate domain names that would have been better served by using hyphens include dicksonweb.com (that’s Dickson’s website, not “dicks on web”), choosespain.com (that’s “Choose Spain”, not “Chooses Pain”), and viagrafix.com (that’s Via Grafix, not Viagra Fix). (For more fun and unfortunate web domains, check out blog.dreamhosters.com/2007/01/26/20-more-unfortunate-domain-names/.)
Choosing the Right Home for Your Website
Many solo entrepreneurs first start out with free web hosting services such as Blogger, but this is not a good long-term strategy. It gives an unprofessional impression and can severely limit what you can do with your website. Also, some of these services have a clause in their contract that all content they host is theirs — you don’t own the copyright of your work! Not only that, but many free web hosting services display advertising on your website, and they get to keep all the advertising revenue.
So, you really do need to purchase hosting. And there are plenty of hosting companies out there and they can range from as little as a few dollars per month to as much as $50 per month. You need to choose the right solution for you and your business. Here are some criteria you should consider when making this selection.
How often does the server go down, taking your website with it? An uptime of 98% to 99% is ideal. Less than 80% is unacceptable. The higher the downtime of a server, the lower the potential for traffic to your website.
How much space is provided for the files that will make up your website? Keep in mind that the files you’ll be storing on your server go beyond the pages visitors see — they may also include images, flash animations, php scripts, PDF downloads, and more.
Bandwidth is the maximum rate by which data can be exchanged between terminals. The higher your bandwidth limit, the faster your website will load. Also, you need to consider monthly bandwidth limits. Many host companies put a cap on this and either charge you for traffic beyond that amount or make your website inaccessible once it reaches the cap for the month.
If you’re running WordPress or any other kind of php-based script, your server has to have MySQL and support PHP (a computer coding language), as well as specific versions of those. Depending on what type of website you have, you may also need the server to be running on a specific type of operating system, such as Linux, Unix or Windows. And, if you are going to be running any kind of e-commerce, you may need Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certification.
Number of Allowed Domains
As I mentioned earlier, I own several domains. And, you will want to, as well. You may want to own misspellings of your main domain. You may want to own domains for each of your products. You may want domains for your affiliate links. It is essential that you have the freedom to own as many domain names as you wish and can host them on the same server.
At some point, you’re not going to understand how to do something with your service. Or, perhaps you’ll run into a technical difficulty. So, you’ll want to find a hosting company that has 24/7 technical support that is responsive to your needs.