Thursday, October 23, 2014

Things to Know Before Creating a Website or Purchasing a Domain Name

There are many things to consider before creating a website regardless of its purpose.  Where to purchase the domain and host the website, if a shopping cart and payment system are needed, whether or not to utilize a website builder or an open framework to create the site, which top level domain name is best, and what custom colors to use are just a few.  A clear understanding of domains and websites is important to have before purchasing anything, contracting for support, or asking tech savvy friends for help building a new website.

What is the difference between a domain and a website?
Domain name example:  relaxingpictures.com

Compare a domain name to a house address and a website as the house itself.  There are many changes that can be made to a house.  You can change the color of the house or the theme of the website.  You can change the design of the front yard or the landing page of your website.  You can redesign the inside of your house or the navigation and pages of the website.  However, you cannot change the house address from say 2784 to 2000 simply because you prefer it as the address is registered with the post office and is on numerous pieces of documentation including land parcels with the county.  In comparison, domain names are registered and managed by a registrar and cannot be changed.


For example, just because www.naturepictures.com better represents what you do or are trying to sell better than www.relaxingpictures.com, which was purchased, does not mean you can change www.relaxingpictures.com to this other domain name.  This is why it is extremely important to choose the domain name you want very strategically before ever getting started.  There are of course always options even though a domain name cannot be changed.  Additional domains can be purchased to replace the existing website or they can be forwarded to the original domain so both domains will pull up the same information.

The website itself is a series of documents making up web pages contained within a normal folder structure.  Folder hierarchy sets the tone for the URL for each webpage.  Websites can have many pages and the names of these pages can be changed at any time.  The navigation, pages, design, color scheme, language, images, and theme can all be changed at any time.  Listed below are examples of webpages for the www.relaxingpictures.com domain.
  • http://www.relaxingpictures.com/index.html
  • http://www.relaxingpictures.com/seasons/fall.html
  • http://www.relaxingpictures.com/about/info.html
  • http://www.relaxingpictures.com/2014/events/locations/maps.html
What is in a name?
In a word, everything.  Choosing a domain name is one of the most important steps you can take, regardless of what you are using the website for.  Knowing what a domain name is, and that it cannot be changed at will, it is easier to understand why choosing the name carefully is so important.  Domain names make it easy to remember how to get to specific websites if they are thoughtfully chosen.  Obviously not even a domain someone wants or best fits their need is always going to be available, so it is always good to have a few backup domain names in case this happens.

What's in an ending?
The end of your domain name, called the top level domain name, can be equally as important.  Historically, the main choices were .com, .net, .org, .edu, and sometimes countries use unique extensions like .au or .us.  Originally, these top level domain names were strict in use, .edu was restricted to schools and .org for non-profits.  Now, there are more top level domain names than ever before without most of the same meanings and restrictions.  Perhaps using .camera is a better fit for you than a .com.  These new top level domains are especially helpful when the domain name chosen already belongs to someone else in all of the common top level domain names.  Opening up additional top level domains allows for more websites and more created domain names.

Use creativity cautiously
All of the new choices for top level domain names along with the endless amount of potential website names is exciting.  Throughout this excitement, it is important to think of the audience.  Will the targeted audience find the domain name frustratingly long, clumsy, or so abstract it is hard to remember?  At times there is a fine balance between finding a name to describe what the website is being built for, which is also succinct, and is available when needed.  If the domain name desired is not available, you can try to purchase it from the owner, wait for the current registration to expire and hope it becomes available, or get creative.  Keep in mind, really long domain names are usually considered cumbersome by customers, but alternative top level domains may be completely foreign to them.

Creating a new website is exciting, is a great way to promote a product or service, and can help deliver a message.  The best websites were clearly thought out and designed ahead of time.  Being thoughtful before getting started is rewarding as it will in the very least save time and energy, and at most will save funds. 

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