​New business digital essentials

Starting a new business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Setting up your digital presence properly will go a long way to ensuring that you hit the ground running and have the building blocks to give your business the best start possible.

In addition to giving your business the best start, getting the fundamentals correctly in place from the outset will save you time and money in the future!

This guide will help navigate you through the process of ensuring your digital presence is right for your business in the short term and long into the future.

Domain name purchasing and management

Your domain name is the gateway to your digital presence. We register domain names for clients in their own accounts with a reliable independent domain name hosting provider. We recommend this approach to ensure your business is not tied to any particular platform going forward and the DNS (Domain Name System) settings are easily accessible. Additional benefits include MicroGraphix assistance with future domain name purchases and renewals, as well as easy access in the event that disaster recovery is required.

We advise purchasing the .co.uk and .com versions of the name required. It is widely acknowledged that domains such as .online, .company etc. are not trusted by the public so we would not recommend the purchase of these. We would also not recommend .uk.com as it is owned by an independent company and could be less reliable and subject to higher renewal costs in the future.

Business email hosting

There’s nothing that says sole trader or new business more than a generic email address e.g. name@btinternet.com, Gmail etc. MicroGraphix is a digital agency partner of Rackspace (a leading worldwide provider of email, Microsoft 365 and website hosting solutions). Via Rackspace, we are able to provide professional, reliable email solutions. Together with the purchase and management of your domain, we are able to assist with the setup and implementation of all your email requirements.

Planning your website (sections and functionality)

First consider the sections you will need in your site, e.g. about, products, services etc. Then consider the functionality you will require, e.g. e-commerce, intelligent forms, database lookups, etc. Sketching out the sections and functionality required will help us recommend the correct platform for your website. Creating a clear brief that focuses on establishing what is required from the website is key to a successful outcome.

Planning your website (choosing a platform)

There are three main types of website platform.

  1. SaaS (software as a service) websites
  2. Off the shelf hosted applications
  3. Fully bespoke hosted applications

SaaS WEBSITES

SaaS (software as a service) websites. Examples include Squarespace, WIX, GoDaddy and many more. This model is based around a subscription to a service. You pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for a hosted website.

The advantage of this service is the low cost of entry and the potential speed of build and launch. Disadvantages (depending on your point of view) include the fact that you never own your site, functionality can be limited (out of the box), and there is a limitation on the number of available templates.

Of the SaaS solutions available, we would recommend Squarespace which offers a good range templates, an easy to use CMS (content management system) and good support. MicroGraphix offers a Squarespace development service.

Whilst these platforms promise ease of use and their demo sites may look great (normally due to lack of content and use of great high-quality photography) they still require careful planning and good quality content (text and imagery) to be successful.

Off the shelf hosted applications

Off the shelf hosted applications. Applications include Craft CMS, Wordpress, Drupal and many more.

Sites using this model are self-contained, the off the shelf hosted software application is installed on a hosted or cloud server. The application provides a built-in database that can be populated via an admin section to deliver pages via templates to a website.

Advantages of the hosted application, compared to a SaaS solution, include greater flexibility as you can choose the hosting provider and the application, and to a far greater extent the design and the functionality of the site. They offer customisable templates which can be easily updated via the systems’ CMS. Because much of the functionality is working ‘out-of-the-box’ hosted application websites can offer a cost-effective way to produce an easily updatable semi-bespoke website.

The disadvantage of hosted applications is that they still have limitations as far as customisability and functionality are concerned. If the proposed website has a very complicated structure or requires unique functionality, it can be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

MicroGraphix use and recommend Craft CMS as we feel it provides excellent customisation options, security and an easy to use CMS. It is also very efficient, its pages load very quickly, and it does not need any special hosting.

Fully bespoke hosted applications

As discussed above, if a website needs a very complicated structure, or requires unique functionality, often the only way to achieve this is to engage a programmer and developer to build the site from scratch. Programmers and developers can use a programming language, commonly PHP or .NET to create dynamic pages and applications.

The prime advantage, of course, is that the site will work in the way you want it to. Additionally, because the database design does not have any unnecessary code in it, it will be faster in operation compared to an off the shelf system that has bloated code to allow for a variety of database design needs.

The disadvantage can be the time taken, and therefore money spent, to create the website or web application from scratch.

Website content

When planning your website, consider both the structure and the content that will be required to engage effectively with users. What products or services do you wish to promote, and how will people find your website?

It is generally acknowledged that many consumers are now turned off by traditional push marketing techniques. They are much more likely to be drawn to products or services by quality and ‘valuable to them’ content that might be found due to sharing, or search engine results. The marketing technique that takes advantage of this consumer behaviour is known as ‘inbound marketing’ - drawing customers in rather than just pushing the brand.

The commonly used phrase ‘Content is King’ is very apt when it comes to websites! High quality, unique content can help in multiple ways. It can attract visitors via search results, and encourage sharing of content that could deliver more potential customers to your website. Additionally, it can give your customers the confidence they need to buy from your business and help build brand engagement/loyalty. Websites that are regularly updated with quality content also perform stronger on search engine rankings (particularly if other sites link to that content). Content should be considered before any design work is done, to ensure your site is structured and focussed to attract visitors from your target markets.

Website design

Your website design and navigation should reflect the purpose of the site and its target audience. We feel it’s important not to ‘overdesign’ a website as this may lead to poor navigation, ineffectual presentation of content, and slow performance on mobile devices, which can all potentially negatively affect search engine visibility. Our view is that the content should do the talking. This does not mean the site needs to be dull, but it means the content provides ‘eye candy’ as well as communicating your information and building a desire for your product or service.

One of the major considerations that should be in mind when thinking about the design of your website is how well it will work on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet). Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design which makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes. Recent work also considers the viewer proximity as part of the viewing context as an extension for RWD. Good content, design and performance are necessary across all devices to ensure usability and user satisfaction.

Website hosting

Website hosting is often overlooked when commissioning a website build. However, it’s importance to the success of your website should not be underestimated. Unreliable or slow website hosting can result in lost customers (if they cannot reach your site), reduced customer satisfaction (if pages load slowly), and poor search engine visibility (if your site cannot be crawled by the search engines efficiently your ranking may suffer).

Following a period of ‘learning the hard way’, and much research, we now have our own high specification web server (exclusive to MicroGraphix clients) hosted by Rackspace, one of the world’s leading web hosting providers. In addition to exceptional reliability and performance, we can be confident that the server is expertly maintained to ensure the smooth running of our clients’ websites.

If you are planning a new business and would like to discuss your needs please do not hesitate to be in touch.

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01869 250 806 enquiries@micrographix.co.uk

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