When starting a website or blog we all are on a budget. Been there, done that. But if you want your site to be successful with limited bumps in the road you need to be in control of your web presence, not anyone else. To do this you need to take the time to study the pros and cons of each step you take when building your site from the ground up.
All-in-One web design packages may look like a great deal at first glance, sure, you only have to deal with one person, but are they really such a good deal in the long run? Let’s take a look.
In this article we are going to cover:
- Hosted solutions
- Domain name and web hosting packages
- Free website builders and hosting
- Web design all-in-one packages
Hosted solutions are where you sign-up for a service in which they provide the web hosting, web technology to run the site plus the web design may or may not be included also through their templates or design service.
You pay a monthly fee to use this service. They may offer a discount if you sign up for a specific amount of time or pay up front. When looking at a hosted solution for an ecommerce site you may also be charged a service charge per sale on top of the regular monthly fee.
One of the attractions to hosted solutions is they take care of everything. That is good if you are not technically inclined but there is also a down side to this convenience.
Read the fine print before you sign-up. You can not take the technology running your site with you. You can not take their web design template with you either.
Another thing to watch for is: Can you backup your information yourself.
Sure, pretty well every web host says they backup your site for you but what if you just spent hours adding new products or information to your site after their last backup and the server crashes, wiping out everything. The firm is only going to put the site back to the way it was when they did their last backup.
The other thing is, should you decide to move, you need all that data you entered into the site to rebuild elsewhere.
Which would you rather do? Be able to export your all the information about your products into a CSV or other file format, rename the column titles to match your new system or have to reenter every single item and all it’s details. Thinking the first option is easier and cheaper myself in the long run.
Domain Name and Web Hosting Packages
Some firms offer a domain name with hosting package, sometimes with either part offered as free. e.g. Domain name registration with web hosting free or visa versa.
If you look at the fine print there will be some kind of catch, how else would the firm make any money from this offer? The “catch” might be you must stay with them for a specific amount of time or maybe a fee to cancel the contract early.
It should be noted that when you register a domain name the domain registrar company has a “you can not change registrars within X days before domain name renewal date” clause. They also have a “you can not change registrars within X days of using us to register your domain name” clause. X days varies from 30-90 days, you have to check what the terms of sale are for the domain registrar.
So think about it, you sign up for what appears to be a great offer with a time specific agreement (say a year). You decide you really do not like this firm anymore and want to move but you can’t until the contract expires or pay a penalty (if applicable). They probably have your credit card or PayPal information on record also. Sooo, what happens the last day of your domain registration? They sign you up for another year under the same deal you were signed up with or, if you wiped out your payment information your domain expires and you have to rush to transfer to a new domain registrar and pay for the registration at that time, if you can. Expired domains do not go out on the market at 12:01 a.m. the day after it expires. There is usually a grace period for you to pay the registration fee to your current domain registrar. Some domain registrars charge an exorbitant fee to renew your domain name if you let it expire. What a mess!
The lesson here is, register your domain name yourself (or at least separately from your web hosting package). Yes, you still have to remember to renew the domain name registration but you avoid the hassle of getting out of a contract you do not want to be in anymore. The two domain registrars we use send notices 1-2 months before expiry to remind you plus you can also write a reminder in your day timer.
How else do these people stay in business? They “oversell” the space on the web server which means they sell more web space and services than the web server can handle, hoping everyone on that server does not use up their allotted web space and web services. Why does this matter to you? If there is a sudden request of web pages on that server, you could be just as guilty as someone else to cause this by having a sale for example or your article suddenly goes viral (hundreds spread the word to go read this), the web server will slow down or even possibly crash. Your site comes crashing down with the rest, even if you are not the guilty party.
Our Own Domain Name and Hosting Package Horror Story
Many moons ago, we started posting basic HTML lessons for small business owners to a private Yahoo! SEO lessons group. After a while, the GeoCities free hosting (another horror story further down in this article) just was not cutting it anymore for writing and posting additional information and examples to go with the lessons.
We signed up with a firm locally so we could, if necessary, drive to their office. Thought that was a good plan. Hosting and domain one place, one bill to worry about.
We then learned about keeping everything separate to avoid the possible nightmares that could happen. Well we had our own nightmare moving. As part of the process to move domain registrars the original company was to send an email for you to click a link to confirm, yes I did this transfer request. They would not send the email! Spent hours going back and forth with our new registrar trying to find out what the hold up was or if we were doing something wrong. The new registrar was wonderful and patient. We were not doing anything wrong, the other guys were holding things up.
We did eventually get things straightened out but boy what a lot of grief just because the original company wanted to be difficult.
Free Website Builders and Hosting
We all like things for free, right? Especially when we are starting out. Well free website builders and free hosting is not such a good deal if you are serious about your website or blog.
The free website builders can:
- Be easy, sort of complicated or really complicated to use if this is your first site or blog.
- Be limited in what you can do.
- Limit your creativity if you decide you are going into this full force and want to do things your way, not theirs.
- Limit how you can layout your pages. This goes back to the point above. To make life easier for some they provide limited layout grids for you to choose from with no option to change things around.
- Have limited or no help available when you are stuck. You waste time searching for help elsewhere on the net to solve your problem(s)>
There are the same problems with free hosting. Limitations on what you can and cannot do.
Plus…. as with hosted solutions, you can not take the technology and design with you when you out grown their services.
Our Free Hosting Horror Story
As mentioned above, we use to host supplemental information and examples for our HTML lessons on GeoCities. GeoCities was a free hosting segment of Yahoo! It is now debunked if any of you were thinking of going to look for it.
Problems we had with our free hosting:
- The ads they added to the pages.
The ads broke our layout.
The coding they used to insert the ads was not standards compliant. A problem when you are trying to teach people how to code in compliance with the HTML standards.
- Could not use FTP technology to upload anything.
FTP technology is a technology where you transfer your web pages, images and website stuff from your computer to your web space. This is something you should add to I need list when selecting a web host or hosted solution.
When FTP is not available you have to upload things one by one via your control panel. Very time consuming if you have a lot of things to upload.
- You do not get your own unique name for your web address.
With free hosting your web address is associated with the service provider. Look at some of the blogs or sites you visit. e.g. When a person uses Blogger/Blogspot the web address is http://yourname.blogspot.com/ and if they use WordPress’ hosted solution it is http://yourname.wordpress.com/
We moved away from GeoCities years before they closed for our main information but left an example there of why not to use free web hosting.
Some were not so lucky. They built their whole business on using GeoCities and when Yahoo! decided to close it their business had to start over. Why? Because Yahoo! just shut the doors. There was no way you could put any information in your space to say to the search engines and visitors we moved over here…
Web Design All-in-One Packages
There are web design firms that offer one stop shopping for your website or blog. This may appear appealing because you do not know anything about owning a website or blog, yet, but this too can turn into a nightmare.
Web Design All-in-One Package Horror Stories
These web design all-in-one package horror stories/problems are based on people coming to us in these situations and asking for help to fix the problem. They either had a fight with the designer or the designer just disappeared.
Problem #1 – Domain Not in Your Name
If the domain name is not in your name, you do not have the login information for the domain registrar account and/or you are not the contact for the domain name you will not get notices about the domain expiring, messages someone is trying to contact you about a problem or be able to renew/move the domain registration. It does not matter you paid the designer a fee to do it for you, if it is not in your name it is a long (and possibily unsuccessful) process to get your domain name in your name.
Problem #2 – Hosting Not in Your Name or They Are Hosting the Site
Like your domain name registration login information, if you do not have this it is impossible to get your backup of your website.
Problem #3 – No Login Information for Your Ecommerce Site
As the site owner, once you have paid in full for the design and installation of your ecommerce site, you should be given all login information and administrative login information.
Without this, should the designer disappear, you will not be able to administer your site.
Problem #4 – Not Being Clear About the Ownership of the Site
You would probably assume that if you paid someone to design a site or blog for you you would own all the files that belong to the creation of the site. Not necessarily so. If you have not made it clear at time of quotation or purchase that you want those files you may not get them. Some designers do not give these files to make you come back to them for any changes you want done. Just be clear before any work starts that you want those files and be prepared to pay a bit more for them.
All-in-One Web Design Packages
Overall you would get the idea that we do not think that all-in-one web design packages are a good idea. Yes it takes some organization and some knowledge to keep track of all things related to your website or blog but in the long run it is worth it. Your web consultant could just plain old get really sick and not be available when you need them. What are you going to do then?
We have a Website Ownership Philosophy statement on our main site if you would like to see that we stand behind our suggestions here.
Who should be in control of your web presence? You!
What all-in-one experiences have you had? Good or a nightmare? Be nice. No need to name names.
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