12 Things Every Website Owner Should Know
Every website owner should know a few basic things about their website. At a very minimum a website owner should know about domains, web hosting, the upgrade cycles of the technologies in use, what a designer does, what a developer does, and what search engine optimization (SEO) is.
Always Register Your Domain Yourself
This is very important. Good domains are hard to come by. And building websites takes a lot of time and effort. Branding is another area that is hard to come by and takes a lot of time and effort.
You must register your domain and keep control of it. Never allow a third party to register and control your website.
If your domain were to be registered by a third party they can hold you hostage. Especially if you have spent a lot of time branding your website and added a lot of content.
If someone else is in control of your domain, I suggest you gain control of your domain immediately.
Always Buy Your Website Hosting Yourself
As with your domain, you should buy the hosting for your website and have full control of it. It is OK to allow someone else to register your hosting as long as you have full access to it and it is in your account.
There is a stack of technologies that are used to create and host a modern website. There are two camps. There is the MS–Windows crowd and there is the open–source crowd. I am a PHP programmer, so I am with the open–source folks.
Each of these has an upgrade cycle.
|HTML||HTML is currently on version 5 and upgrades every few years. Once a website is created it may not be necessary to upgrade the HTML for up to 10 years.|
|CSS||The current version of CSS is CSS 3. CSS is slow to upgrade and once a website has been created it may not need a CSS upgrade for 10 years or more.|
|PHP||PHP 7 is the current version of PHP. PHP is slow to upgrade at the major version level. For the most part, this will be transparent to the website owner because any upgrades to PHP are handled at the Linux hosting level. Historically PHP makes a major upgrade every 5 or 6 years.|
|MySQL||Upgrades to MySql are handled at the Linux hosting level and will not impact the website owner.|
|Linux hosting||As an example, let’s look at Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu Linux will come out with a major upgrade every 2 years. These versions are known as “Long Term Support” (LTS). The LTS versions are usually supported for about 8 years. It is reasonable to expect an LTS version to be viable for 4 or more years.|
What a Web Designer Does
A web designer is an expert at creating the website you see. They create logos, images, layout, font colors, and sizes, and they add the color scheme to a website. The web designer is an expert at using HTML and CSS.
What a Programmer Does
Understand Some Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While SEO may seem obscure and difficult it is not if viewed at a high level. A website owner does not need to know SEO at an intimate or technical level unless they are performing their SEO.
The things a website owner need to understand are, what is black hat SEO and what is white hat SEO.
Black hat SEO is the things some do that are not acceptable and which the search engines frown on. Black hat SEO may cause a website to be banned from the search engines. Some examples are over–optimizing content, buying back links, and keyword stuffing.
White hat SEO is what the search engines support. An example would be posting very helpful content that is well organized and is written for your website visitors.
Working With Third–Party Designers and Developers
If you are going to use third–party vendors to work on your website you should take a few precautions.
- Check with your domain and hosting vendors to learn how to secure your hosting and domains from being altered or transferred by a third party.
- Ensure your third party vendors have limited access to your accounts, domains, and hosting, giving them just enough access so they can do their work. Giving others too much access can cause you a lot of grief if an accident occurs or if you hire an unscrupulous vendor. Not everyone is as skilled as they may let on nor does everyone have impeccable integrity.
- Start backing up your website daily from day one. Keep your backups for at least 90 days. 180 is much better.
- Do not rely on your hosting provider for backups. I have seen several failures. Do an offsite backup with a company like Amazon Web Services (AWS). If you do not have the skills to do so hire someone that can set this up for you. And once offsite backups are in place, do a thorough test to ensure your website can be recreated from backup.
Things to know about WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento
WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento are all based on PHP/MySql.
Except for Magento, I would recommend all of these web apps for a starting point for your website depending on your needs.
Unless you have deep pockets and are at the enterprise level and have several Magento experts working for you, I would not consider Magento. Magento is difficult to support and requires one or more very seasoned Magento developer(s) to keep it going. On top of that entry–level Magento hosting starts at around $1000 a month. Take a hard look at WooCommerce before you consider Magento.v
Browser–Based Web Applications
PHP and MySQL are perfect for creating browser–based web applications like the web application your bank offers.
Browser–based applications can be private, running on an intranet (a private network), or can be public, running over the Internet.
The main advantage of a browser–based application is it is easy to access. All that is needed is the web address, login credentials, and a modern browser. Most mobile devices have a modern web browser as do all laptops and desktop computers.
There is no need to install any software.
Things to Know About PHP Frameworks
There are many PHP frameworks in use today. These frameworks, like all open–source projects, are community supported.
The most popular is Laravel and CodeIgniter is probably in second place. CodeIgniter was the first PHP framework and is simple, easy to learn, and lightning–fast. CodeIgniter was overtaken when EllisLab, the creator of CodeIgniter decided to rehome the product.
There are 3 things to know about PHP frameworks as a website owner.
- Using a framework can speed up the application building process because most of the common functionality has already been created and is available for reuse.
- There is a learning curve which can slow the building process.
- They introduce another upgrade cycle which can increase maintenance costs.
The Cheapest Vendor Might Not Always Be The Best
If you have a PHP project you may find several people who are willing to help. On the lower rate side, that person might be a junior high student, high school student, college student, a person between jobs, a hobbyist, or an offshore developer. While anyone of these may do a decent job, you may also be left high and dry.
I would recommend you hire a professional freelance PHP developer so that you get the best results. Someone that is in business. Someone that can be reached by phone or email. Someone who keeps regular business hours.
My Experience With Allowing a Third Party to Control Your Website
Around 2008 a friend asked me to help him with his website. At the time he was using a third party to register his domain and hosting. The gentleman that had control of my friend’s website was reselling GoDaddy domains and hosting.
My friend wanted to expand his website and use it to market his business. His goal was business lead generation, however, he did not have access to his website.
When my friend wanted to take over managing his website the gentleman who was controlling it would not relinquish it. For about a month there were a lot of emails back and forth. These emails were technical and confusing and it appeared to be a way to confuse my friend and make him give up. Since by 2006 I had 6 years of technical website programming and hosting experience, I was able to determine what was going on.
In the end, after many emails back and forth and many requests for the transfer of the website, my friend had to get on the phone with his friend and sternly tell him he wanted his website released.
Within a few hours of that phone call, my friend was in control of his website.
The moral of the story is to learn a few things about domains, hosting, and website management so you can stay in control of your website and hosting.
As a website owner, there is a lot to know so you can be in control and protect yourself. Let’s recap.
- It is important that you keep control of your website by registering your domain and hosting in an account you control.
- There is a stack of technologies that are used to create a website and to support it. These come with upgrade cycles. There is a handful of things I recommend you understand about upgrade cycles.
- A web designer and a web programmer have differing skills and roles that lead them to focus on different parts of the website development.
- A high–level understanding of what SEO is and how to avoid some common pitfalls.
- Not all third party designers and developers are honest and know as much as they claim. Giving these vendors only the amount of access they need is the best way to minimize your vulnerability.
- WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, Joomla are all great places to start when building a website. I caution on the use of Magento.
- If you own or are building a browser–based web application there is a couple of things you might want to know.
- PHP frameworks come with a learning curve however on the other side they can speed up the development process.
- The cheapest vendor might not always be the best.
- I end with the story about my friend, who allowed a third party to control his website which could have caused him a ton of grief.
My name is Keith Smith. This is my website. It was handcrafted by me as an example of my skills. It is not as beautiful as what a website designer might have been able to create, however it is clean, simple, and functional. I am not a designer, I am a programmer.
If you have a project you would like to talk to me about, please call me at 480-748-9893 or complete my Project Request Form.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.