A Guide to Choosing the Right Web Host

The web hosting industry is among the most competitive of industries with countless firms in a cut-throat competition to gain web hosting dominion. So it is quite understandable to be confused when you’re looking for web hosting services for the first time. To make your job easy, we’d like to help you out with some important pointers when choosing a web host.

Beware of host sharks

While a healthy competition is always good for the client, an increased level of competition has pushed several web hosting firms into a range of stealthy marketing tactics to optimize their profits. These tactics are generally aimed at making a customer sign up for their services and later divesting in that service support. Such companies have therefore come to be termed as ‘host sharks’.

But you must also remember that not all the web hosting companies endorse these methods. There are many service providers who have the best interest of their clients at heart. The simplest way to find out the reliability of web hosts is to ask professionals or businesses in your industry or look for authoritative websites that review web hosting companies. Two good ones are CNET and PC Magazine.

Different ways to review the service provider

Reviewing the service provider is critical. Uptime is one of the top priorities of any webmaster when designing a website and a good web host will always provide  excellent uptime assurances for your site (most offer 99% guaranteed uptime).

Watch out for web hosts that provide you with a wide range of solutions in their promotions and ads, but in reality deliver a tiny morsel of the promised services. It is a good idea to carefully go over the company’s ‘terms and conditions’ page, to understand the trade-offs or disclosures, if any.

A browse through the client testimonials can also familiarize you with the host’s level of service. It is also advisable that you contact the company’s sales personnel, quiz him/her about any clarifications you may have, over the phone or via email.

Ask the right questions

When contacting the sales personnel of the provider, it is very important to address your issues appropriately and ask the right question. These questions may vary depending on the type of website you are creating. Usually target any pitfalls of web hosting and also ask about any issues raised by other people that you found in your research. Never forget to ask about the bandwidth they offer. Many companies speak of unlimited bandwidth in their promotions but always remember that there is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. There will always be a clause, which limits the bandwidth usage in the ‘terms and conditions’

Different Services Provided by Web Hosting Companies

A web hosting company generally provides its customers a number of solutions that help in the maintenance and ensure availability of websites. Here is a discussion of some popular services provided by web hosts.

PHP/MySQL support

PHP and MySQL is an essential combination when it comes to designing dynamic websites. The combination enables users to create powerful websites easily. HTML is used to create web pages that are formatted in an appropriate manner while PHP and MySQL empower the site to interact more effectively with visitors.

Microsoft FrontPage extensions

The Microsoft FrontPage extensions are extensions for Web Storage System Forms. The extensions provide HTML forms that are simple yet flexible, and are backed by the data in the exchange folders. These forms can be used to replace or customize Microsoft Outlook.

Multiple POP3 and IMAP email accounts

The Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) and the Interactive Mail Access Protocol are two different forms of mail delivery systems that are currently being used in email technologies worldwide.  Many web hosts provide these services from multiple email clients such as Roundcube and SquirrelMail.

Subdomains and Parked/Add-on Domains

A subdomain is a new website with unique content but without a new domain name. You will be using an existing domain while replacing the “www” section with a new name. Parked domains are not new websites. They act as masked forwards to the cPanel account. Add-on Domains are secondary domains with a unique domain name. Here you will be replacing the name of your parent domain with a new name. This type of domain does not require any further registration. A good web hosting service generally allows unlimited sub/parked/add-on domains.

Website building tools with free templates

Website building tools are essential components that allow a user to design any particular website. These tools include HTML tools, web graphics tools, web page testing tools and content management software. Most of the web hosts provide tools such as Drupal and WordPress to their clients along with several graphic and HTML tools.

Website stats and security certificates

Among the many services provided by web hosts, website stats and security certificates constitute an important part. The website stats provide webmasters with essential information on the website traffic while certificates are essential to ensure a safe experience for the users. These certificates are very important to e-commerce sites or any other vendor sites where monetary transactions take place regularly.

Importance of Navigation in Websites

It is widely acknowledged that the content of a website is the main area of concern, accompanied with the concerns of the website’s design. Often another vital aspect of a website’s effectiveness that should not be ignored is proper navigation within the website’s pages. If the content of a website can be considered as the website’s heart and the design of the website is considered its soul; then it would be safe to consider the navigation aspect as the brain of the website.

Proper navigation in a website is vital because it determines the convenience of the visitor in finding the relevant content in the site. The more extensive a particular website is, and the more comprehensive its content, the better its navigation should be. It must be remembered that no matter how valuable and quality oriented the website’s content is, it is worthless if it can’t be found or accessed. With this perspective, the importance of proper navigation in a website cannot be overestimated.

Role of Navigation

The apparent role of a proper navigation system in a website is of course to lend convenience to the visitors in browsing the contents of the website. Besides that, there are several other implied roles of a good navigation architecture. With the decreased attention spans of most visitors, it is important for the success of any website to retain the visitor in their domain long enough to make an impact on their interest. One of the factors that has an important role to play in visitor retention is the convenience with which the visitor can find what he/she is looking for. If the visitor can’t find what he/she is looking for, they will waste no time in clicking off from the website and look for another site that has convenient navigation.

The most important design principle in any website is not style, rather it is functionality. And that principle is reflected the most in the navigation architecture of a website. Incorporating such a principle will let the visitors feel comfortable with browsing through the web-pages, without the possibility of him/her feeling ‘lost’ in the site.

The designing of the navigation flows of any website requires detailed planning and once done, it should not be changed at any cost. Frequent changing in the navigational scheme of the site will undoubtedly cause confusion in the regular visitors to your website, and they are the last people who you want to confuse. Once in place, it is better to consider it to be ‘set in stone’, so as to avoid confusion.

 

Importance of Web Design in Marketing

Now that the marketing strategies of various companies have gained an online aspect, the role of web-designing has become even more prominent in business. It is a known fact that a successful marketing strategy is dependent upon creating and projecting an attractive brand image. That brand image, in turn, serves to attract new customers and creates brand loyalty. Marketing pundits will invariably vouch that creating a strong base of brand-loyal customers has contributed in many business success stories. You must realize that since your company’s website is an online projection of your company itself, it too plays a vital role in creating and maintaining your brand image. Now that the customers have shifted their focus majorly to the online media, a well designed website becomes even more important than before.

Brand Image

You must be aware that creating a brand image, or creating the very concept of a ‘brand’, is wholly dependent on how customers perceive your company in their own minds. Several marketing gurus often reiterate that it is not how you want your customers to perceive you as, rather how the customers perceive you as, that creates a brand image. You might easily give up saying that since you can’t control a customer’s perception of you, putting in extra effort to create a brand image is useless. However, that is not the case; even though you can’t really control how the customer’s psyche works, the customer’s perception of you is somewhat dependent on how you project your company’s image. Taking the instance of a brand like Harley Davidson, can you imagine anybody associating concepts like “sensitive” or “pretty” to it? No, because the image that the brand projects through its products, promotional campaigns and most importantly (with regards to this discussion at least) its website makes such associations seem ridiculous. In the cyber age, when your company’s website is a lot like an online store-front, the design of your website should reflect the professionalism of your company and the image that you are trying to project.

Retention of Online Visitors

SEO strategies and an increased ranking on Google can only increase the traffic of visitors to your website. To translate that visit to increased sales can only be done if your company’s website is able to convince your potential customers to bring their business to you. An unprofessional looking website that has vague designing will have an underwhelming effect on the visitor and he/she would be likely to click off to a different website. The cyber age and fast internet connections have effectively shortened the attention spans of the netizens, and within a narrow window of opportunity, only a professionally and attractively designed website has any hope of retaining visitors and translate those visits into sales.

 

The Importance of Business Websites

In the time of the economic recession it has become extremely important for businesses to maintain and expand their customer bases through well designed and effective market strategies. You can’t not afford to have the extra edge to your business if you want to maintain decent profit margins. In the cyber age, that extra edge is afforded to you by creating a website for your business. The days when people used to browse through the newspapers and magazines or the yellow pages to locate the businesses that would meet their needs are long gone; online search engines have now taken the place of those age old tools, and are used by people to locate the services required by them. Obviously in that scenario, your company needs to have a significant online presence if it hopes to have a piece of the market pie.

Other than that, there are more important reasons for you to have a website for your business. Some people would argue that simply creating a Facebook or Twitter profile for your company should suffice in this social media centric age. While that is not a bad idea, but simply relying on your company’s social media profile is not going to cut it. Social media presence is meant to complement your online presence, it is not the be all and end all of your online strategy. This article discusses some of the other pertinent reasons that should prompt you to create a business website.

Priority of Activity

Most users who spend a lot of time on Facebook, are not concerned with professional networking, rather they spend time on the social network site to connect with family and friends. Your presence on Facebook alone is not enough for drawing in potential customers; rather your profile’s discovery on Facebook should serve as a precursor to your wooing of the potential client. Unless you link your Facebook or Twitter profile with a comprehensive website, your potential clients won’t be subjected to the projection of your brand’s image to the full extent.

Control and Opportunity

Owning your own company website would afford you complete control of the content that you can provide to your potential and present customers. Your content and navigation policies won’t be restricted by the terms and conditions of Facebook and the website would be completely free of the frequent changes in terms and conditions of the social networking site. Your own website would provide you with more opportunity to customize specific application programs for your customer traffic that could provide them with some utility. The company website could become an ideal online platform for projecting your brand image.