A friend asked me to help them bring up their web site for their new business. I hadn’t created a site from scratch in quite a while, sop it seemed like a geek-fun way to spend a Saturday (rainy and cold anyway). The process has certainly evolved from the days that I edited HTML by hand, but not as much as I’d hoped from the days of FrontPage.
- Setting up the domain: This was relatively straightforward: search for a good variation on the business name in the hosting services, and then pick the one with the best value for services. It cost about $7o for the domain, the web hosting, and a few certification and security features for two years at GoDaddy (be sure to search for discount codes). The domain name was up in half an hour: it took 24 hours for the DNS names to propagate and for FTP access to come up.
- Setting up the tools: It took an hour to configure my web editor to mate with the hosting site’s FTP server. Mostly a matter of getting URLs, ports, root directories, permissions and passwords aligned, it did require a call to tech support to straighten out a minor DNS problem.
- Authoring the pages: Since the demise of FrontPage (which was I admit, limited and buggy), the alternatives have been to use the “Starter” design tools and templates provided by hosting companies, or to buy a high-end professional package. Both are horrible for starting and maintaining a 10-page personal or small-business site. I use WYSIWYG Web Builder, a feature- and cost-effective but highly idiosyncratic middle ground.
- I had the client build their sample site pages in Powerpoint: not a great storyboarding tool, but one everyone can use. And it gets images, text, colors and layout pretty close to what they want / need so that organized content can be transferred into the design tool. Even then, what should have been a two-hour process took a day: image aspect ratios couldn’t be locked, for examples, so pictures distorted as I resized them, Contact Me PHP forms code was not allowed to run on GoDaddy. Pages displayed differently in IE and Firefox. And on and on.
- Setting the legalities: Copyright, Privacy, Terms of Service, Verification Certificates are all standard kit on today’s sites, and since this small-business site held original works, it all mattered . Is Creative Commons good enough, or is stronger protection and control needed? To watermark or not? It takes research and thought, tailoring the necessary elements that nobody will really ever read.
- Doing the analytics: Google’s Webmaster tools will run an Analytics analysis, telling you how to make your site more attractive to the robots that ceaselessly catalogue the Internet. Permission files, owner verification, sitemap files, an <H1> header on every page, keywords aligned with page words. It makes me realize how little computers understand even simple aspects of our sites. The Semantic Web is still a long ways off.
By evening, when BT lost it’s broadband for an hour, the site was pretty well up and running. There’s a shakedown week while it gets reviewed by suppliers, customers, and friends, but then it’s up and running. A good day’s (hard) work.
I suppose establishing the social network presence will need to come next…
Disclaimer: I did not ask for, accept, or receive any compensation: these are my own tools, ideas, and experiences.