Website Related

Decide the purpose of the web site and the search terms

Most web site traffic comes from search engines, so consider them before you even think of the domain name. Gearing all aspects of the design to your chosen target search terms will help your page rise up the rankings in search engines.

You could possibly even think of slightly changing the name of the domain to use slightly less common nouns or verbs than you might first thought. Its easier to be a big fish in a smaller pool. Google has a tool to help you find keywords. It shows you how much competition there is for your chosen keyword combination and can suggest alternatives. Web CEO is an excellent free tool for optimising sites. There is wordtracker.com which has a free version of its online tool for finding keywords and incorporating them in your web site.

Hosting your web site

There are 3 choices about where to host the site:

  • Free space provided by your ISP.
  • Hosting the site at home. This is only feasible if you have an "always-on" broadband connection. If you do, you can use a free service like DynDns.com. You are limited to using certain domain suffixes if you use the free version, though you could always re-direct another domain name to forward to your dyndns provided one.
  • Paying for space at a web host - Don't pay for more than you need. You can probably upgrade your account with your host if later. I prefer to pay for hosting as it allows more space and control and allows email accounts with my domain name.

Web space can be ued for other purposes too: I store photo albums. If you get the right deal, this can work out cheaper than some dedicated web space you can get from e.g. Google.




Use free web design templates

Rather than hand code all your web pages, it is often quicker and easier to download a template, ideally a free one. There is an excellent collection of free templates and tools at www.designvitality.com . You will probably want to replace the photos the templates use. You could use your own, or you could search the royalty-free (i.e. you don't pay to use them) ones at http://www.sxc.hu/,

Create the web site

Its important to use whatever tools you can to edit your web site code. Personally I like Eclipse as its free and there are a variety of tools available. Aptana seems good. The free version comes with Ajax support and synchronisation, removing the need for a separate FTP client.

For Windows, there is also HTML Kit, a free HTML editor with built in FTP support.

If you have sloppy code, perhaps inherited from someone else, you may want to pass it through this handy online tool: http://valet.htmlhelp.com/tidy/. Similarly, if you have unreadable javascript, you can use http://javascript.about.com/library/blformat.htm to format it to a readable form.

Testing

Not all browsers are the same! They each handle HTML differently, so what works on one browser may look terrible on another. Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox are currently the most popular, though IE is only available on Microsoft Windows machines. If like me, you develop on a Linux box, this can cause problems.

One solution is to use another machine with Windows on it, or use the IE4Linux program. Personally I found the app a bit slow and prefer to use this free web-based tool that renders websites in IE and then shows you the screenshot: http://ipinfo.info/netrenderer/index.php

Windows users should test their code in Firefox even if they themselves prefer Internet Explorer due to the Open Source browsers increasing popularity. window.google_render_ad();

Also you need to check how accessible your web site, i.e. allowing for people with speech and vision difficulties. There's quite a lot of advice at:www.w3.org. They also have an excellent HTML Validator that you can run against your web pages to spot certain errors.

Stop the spam! Protect your email address

You are probably aware that search engines use web crawler programs to trawl over the web looking for web sites to index. Great. Nice people. There are other, not so nice web crawlers in operation. They will be looking at web sites tring to harvest email addresses to sell to spam lists. If you want to protect your inbox from an unwanted onslaught, you need to hide your email address.

There are 3 approaches you can take:

  • Not have an email address - not generally a great plan, but might be appropriate for a family web site where you don't expect strangers to view the site.
  • Create a web form and have a cgi script process the email.
  • Or, more simply, disguise your email address. This is my preferred approach. I use this free email obfuscator tool. It uses javascript and disguises the email address until the visitor clicks on the link.

Marketing

This is arguably the most important part of your web site's development. Without visitors, there is no point in doing anything for the web site. You need to get the web site into search engines and onto the links pages of other web sites. Your marketing will already have started when you decided on your target search terms when you chose your domain name and initial design.

Whatever the type of web site you have, it is worth adding it to the people-maintained search directories. These feed into the search engines, so its a good way to launch your web site. One of the major ones is http://www.dmoz.org/. Its free to use and submit your website's URL, but it may be a while before your site is added. You can also directly submit your web site to the big search engines. Here are the links:

Another tactic is to search for web sites using the search terms you would like your web site to found by and then seeing if they would e interested in swapping links. You may also get emails from web sites suggesting the exchange. Avoid the ones with too many other links. Check that they do add your link and be prepared to remove the link to them if they later renage on the deal.

 

Since Google is such a major player, it is worth paying attention to what they expect. The Google Webmasters tool will give you a lot of stats about your web site, once it has been successfully crawled, and have many pages of advice on how to optimise your site. Again their service is free.

Getting stats on your visitors

Your web host may have free statistics available or you could use one of the free web-based ones, e.g. GoStats.com. Google Analytics is another useful source of information.

Generating Revenue

This sounds more lucrative than it is ever likely to be. If you are lucky it will make you a small profit after your hosting costs. However, if you manage to get a very popular site, it will add up. There are two main payment models: commission for sales from referrals, or pay per click, where you are paid regardless whether pople then make a sale or not.

There are several web sites you can register with to earn commisssions from paid adverts on your site. Commission Junction, Google Adsense and Doubleclick. Amazon have a good scheme.

Final words

Hope you found this article useful. If you notice any errors, or have any suggestions, please feel free to email me. If you found this article useful, perhaps you would like create a link to it?

Thanks and enjoy creating web sites!

Steve