A domain name is not actually part of your website; it is simply the text name that points to the location of a web site. At any time you can redirect a domain name to point to a new location by changing the domain’s name server settings, which can be managed in the control panel provided by the domain registrar.
Each domain name must be unique, and it is the role of the domain registrar to co-ordinate the ownership of domains.
Domains are registered on an annual basis, and cost between £3 (for .co.uk) and £10 (for .com .net .org) per annum for each domain.
You only require a single domain to point to your website, but many people choose to purchase a .com and .co.uk to improve the chances of people finding their site. Non-profit organisations will often register the .org domain as well.
A domain name consists of two labels, the top-level label and the second-level label. For example lithiumarts.com and lithiumarts.co.uk both resolve to this site. The .com and .co.uk are the top-level labels, and lithiumarts is the second-level label.
If you are starting from scratch and have yet to decide what to call your business then another approach is to look for an available domain name and find one you like, and then base your company name around that. We would not recommend buying an advertised domain name, as they tend to be very expensive, much better to search for a domain name and see if it has already been registered. It will feel like all the good ones have already been taken, so this does require a certain amount of creative thinking and patience.
When selecting a domain name you need to be aware of the following rules:
- Letters are allowed but must be in lower case (they are actually case insensitive)
- Numbers are allowed (but we don’t recommend their use)
- The only symbol allowed is the dash (-), but again we would avoid it if possible
- Domain names can be between 3 and 63 characters in length (the shorter the better)
If you look at other hosting companies you will see domain registration bundled with website hosting packages. However we feel your domain is far too valuable to you for anyone other than yourselves to have full control over it. For this reason we never offer domain registration services to any of our clients.
Instead we recommend you create an account with 123-reg.co.uk or ukreg.com who specialise in domain registration. We can either take you through the process of changing your DNS settings to use our servers, or do it all for you. Once set up no further changes are required and you have full control of your domain. Just a little example of how we like to put our clients first!
You should note that you will be paying the domain renewals yourself (it costs between £3 and £10 per domain per year depending on the type of domain). If you neglect to renew the domain it can then be purchased by someone else, so always ensure you are prompt with your renewals.
Web hosting is the renting of server space to store a web site. Different types of web sites have different requirements and we offer a number of packages to meet those needs.
Web servers are dedicated servers, designed and built specifically for the single role of handling and producing web pages.
They have a high level of availability with battery and diesel generator backup power supply. Support engineers constantly monitor the servers and carry out pro-active maintenance and upgrades to the system as required.
All our hosting packages are managed accounts that you do not need to access, all requests can be made by email and we will take it from there.
Multiple email accounts can be created for each domain hosted on our server, they can support both POP3 and IMAP protocols.
Each account supports pages written in HTML and PHP, as well as Perl scripts. They all include MySQL, with the larger packages handling more databases.
Basic Hosting Package
This package is ideal for small static sites that don’t require a lot of back end processing.
Standard Hosting Package
This package is ideal for large static sites or small content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. This is by far the most popular package.
Business Hosting Package
This package is ideal for large content management systems (CMS) and ecommerce sites.
Open Source – Server Side Software
Web sites are developed using industry leading applications used by the worlds largest organisation and businesses around the world. You would expect these applications to cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds, but the amazing fact is that they are all completely free!
Open source applications are those that share the source code with everyone, and in return the worlds best developers contribute enhancements and test one another’s code.
The advantage of open source, apart from the price, is the speed that security risks are addressed and patched. The main disadvantage is that the free access to the source code also means hackers are able to look for weaknesses. For this reason we also enforce a strict upgrade policy to all major open source applications such as WordPress to ensure security risks are limited.
Open source applications used by web servers are known by the acronym of LAMP, which are as follows:
- Linux – a Unix based operating system
- Apache – a HTTP server (the protocol that HTML pages are transmitted)
- MySQL – a relational database used for storing information
- PHP/Perl/Python – a collection of server based programming languages
It is with these tools that web sites are created and processed. However these are just the tools, it does not create the element that makes your site unique.
This is the real techie stuff that we do best, more information of these programming languages can be found in the Techie Terminology page.
However, before all that fun stuff can take place we need to sit down with you and talk about your business or organisation.
We prefer to meet face-to-face for a no obligation and completely free of charge meeting to find out about your requirements, usually with a cup of tea and piece of homemade cake. Of course, we are also happy to answer queries by phone or email.
We look for strengths and weaknesses in your business model and if you have an existing web site we discuss which parts of it work and which do not. Only when we know exactly where you are can we give any advice on which direction we think your site should take.
The creation of a new site, or re-design of an existing one is a great time to take stock of your business, and very often hearing the views of someone who might never of seen your business before will add a perspective that has previously been hard to see. We do not claim to be business consultants, but we are passionate about really getting to know our clients and doing our best to help them succeed.
We also look at how we can add something unique to a new site to give it a little wow-factor. With so many companies out there, each with their own website, you really need a little something to mark your site out from the crowd.
At this point we would ask the client to provide us via email a brief detailing what they require. We have produced an online What Will It Cost tool to aid clients in this process by allowing them to see our transparent pricing structure and make adjustments to their requirements to ensure the get the best for their budget.
Once we know what is required we will provide a quote for the cost of the job. We prefer to ask a client what their budget is and provide a solution that would work within that budget.
People often think of the creation of a website as “web design”, but it is actually the combination of two very different skill sets, web development and graphic design. We have already covered the web development in the Tailored Software section, so now lets look at graphic design in more detail.
There are three main artistic elements to graphic design that you need to consider when building a web site. These are branding, page design, and illustration.
Branding is an optional feature, but the design of a new website is often a good time to consider how your business branding looks. If your business is new then you will certainly need to consider getting a professional graphic designer to create some branding for you. At the end of the process you should have a style guide and artwork that can be used in logo, signage, stationary, packaging, and even vehicle livery.
This is an essential aspect to the creation of a website. It involves the selection of fonts, placement of artwork and photographs, and the creation of page templates. Some of these design choices will be influenced by your branding style guide to provide an integrated design flow between the website and the rest of you business.
There are two methods of obtaining these pages designs, either by hiring the skills of a professional graphic designer, or by purchasing an off-the-shelf website design such as those offered by themeforest.net.
Bespoke design is more expensive but allows you to get exactly what you want, and nobody else can replicate it. The cheaper off-the-shelf templates will often be sold many times so you would have to be prepared to see other sites looking just like yours.
Often a compromise is to purchase an off-the-shelf template and then get the graphic designer to provide branding and personalise the templates for you. We can provide all of these design options to you.
Again optional, designing bespoke illustrations can bring a fresh injection of quality and interest into a website. We work with some top quality illustrators who can sprinkle their magic onto your site.
There are certain skill sets that we cannot provide, but having identified the need that some clients had we went out and found some experts who do.
All these services are optional and are only explored if the client expresses an interest in them first, or if they have been identified as required to complete a client’s brief.
If you are interested in using their services we would be happy to make the introductions. Any services provided by third parties are provided at cost, we don’t add any markup to their services.
There are two options when it comes to photography, either purchase stock photos from websites such as istockphoto.com or by hiring a professional photographer.
If you have products you want photos of, or specific locations, or you can not find what you need in stock libraries then you will need the services of a professional photographer.
One of the hardest parts of producing a web site is finding the time to produce quality copy. It is the same for everyone, and we are no exception. So, if you do not like what you have written or if you are just too busy, or if you want top quality copy on your site then you need the skills of a professional copywriter.
Getting your products into the media spotlight is extremely challenging. However help is at hand, we work with professional PR experts with a wealth of experience in getting products into magazine editorials and reviews.
If you run an ecommerce site and have a new range of products we would recommend considering some professional marketing help. There is nothing like seeing your products in a major national glossy magazine to promote your website and the products it sells.
Email Marketing & Newsletters
Connecting with your customers is very important, and your website is a great tool where customers can find out about your products and services. However, the viewing of your website has to be initiated by a client, and sometimes you want to be able to reach out to your clients in a more pro-active manner.
Using high quality HTML newsletters it is possible to send your clients an email that contains all the rich content that they can expect to see in a web page. By making your email newsletters look like the website design it produces a seamless visual link between your emails and your website, driving more traffic to your website.
Email newsletters play an important part as a marketing tool for the following reasons.
- Cost effective to produce – once a design has been developed it can be reused for multiple newsletters.
- Easy to send out – sending newsletters to small mailing lists can be sent from your own mail client, for larger campaigns we would recommend the use of dedicated mailing services as provided by the likes of MailChimp.
- Effective at producing repeat business – by adding things like special offers and discount vouchers you are able to reward customer loyalty.
- Viral marketing – existing subscribers are likely to forward good offers to their friends, thereby producing brand new clients.
- Detailed reports – when using dedicated mailing services a wealth of information is available including delivery rates, clicks, forwards etc.
It should be understood however that you cannot send emails to anyone you like, this could be considered as spam (the sending of unsolicited email) and there are laws to prevent such actions. Ensure you have read the Information Commissioner’s Office Direct Marketing Guidance and only send emails to clients that do not breach these rules.
We can provide double opt-in services for newsletter subscriptions that ensure peace of mind for both those who produce newsletters and those who receive them.
The double opt-in process involves a user entering their email address on a client’s website. That email address is then sent an email asking if they would like to sign up for the newsletter. Only once the unique link in the email is clicked will that email address be added to the newsletter subscription list. Upon subscription the user will also be provided with a cancellation link that they can click on at any time to should they wish to remove themselves from the mailing list.
Whilst much of the subscription and cancellation process has been automated, it is still the responsibility of the client to ensure they manage their subscription lists appropriately and that the content of the newsletters they send out contain material that their clients would expect and appreciate.
Each newsletter should contain a cancellation link (usually in the footer) to enable uses to unsubscribe from the mailing list.
We recommend that newsletters be sent no more than once a month, and at least once a quarter to ensure mailing lists are valid and up-to-date.