Somethings To Consider When Having A Website Created.

How long will our relationship last?

Broken bike
Every so often I am asked the same basic question, I've lost access to my website what can I do?

Why do I have a website, who owns the domain name, the markup, the text and the images on it?

It is prudent to assume that your relationship with your web site creator will end at some point, quite possibly badly.
I often hear, "My web site creator and I have split up and I can't update my site or move it to another hosting company."

The sad reality is that many relationships break down over time, after all your web site may need to exist for 10 or 20 years. During that time the individual or business that created your site may very well have undergone many changes.
  • A student who did for £10 an hour while at college is now earning a lot more and has less spare time and is no longer interested in those sites. He kept supporting you as long as he did as you did him a favour when he was younger, but that was a long time ago now.

  • A two man startup has now grown and has a dozen employees to pay at full market rates, an office and all those other costs associated with a "proper business".

  • Your site was based around a framework that is so outdated that it needs to be recreated from scratch as nobody knows the framework any more. So that change of text on page 7 which should take an hour becomes a £10,000 bill.

  • Sometimes the site creators simply go out of business and tracking them down and getting passwords is a problem not because they want to withhold them, it's just a low priority task for them during a bankruptcy period.

  • Finally ill-will develops, often it is hard to determine exactly why and sometimes you get can get caught up in other failed relationships, but one day you wake up and it's all gone wrong. Often it is based on the site owner feeling that he is being milked and the site creator feeling that the owner wants everything for free.

Below is a simple check list of things to do if you want to protect yourself against things going horribly wrong, the trouble is that the items on the list are actually quite a lot of work.

Item Notes Ticked
What is the function of your website? Is it a tool to support existing customers, attract new customers or "everyone has a web site so I need one too." This is important as many web site creators want to create sites that are interesting to create rather than ones that fill a specific need but are old fashioned and boring to create.

Every special effect, "feature" and "goodie" that you add to your site increases the chances of it either not working at all or take so long to load and run that the user loses interest and goes somewhere else.

So is a Facebook page enough or the half way house of a template based site or are you trying to present a premium image, ?

Remember that your premium images disappears the moment your site fails to display correctly, as the user is using the xzy spam filter and it blocks the download of the latest wizz-bang library as it is known to be a security risk or he is still using a Blackberry.
Mobile Support
Although brochure sites can often easily adapt to different screen sizes sites that contain complex data input or results tables can't.

Once an input form or a results screen reaches a certain level of complexity generic Responsive Design can produce a screen that works, but not one that the user would want to use.

So do you say this site can only be viewed on a tablet or commit to an extra 2, 5, 10 days to create mobile friendly pages? Even then they may only work if the phone is tilted to landscape and user will complain about having to enable this and will still have a poor experience.
How far back do you want to go?
I still use an iPhone 5s and it surprises me how many sites don't work on it whereas a site that fails on IE8 doesn't seem to be much of an issue to me.

Everybody has to decide what devices and browsers they are not going to support, but this should be a conscious decision and for me iPhone 5s is too modern to be the cut off point.

I suspect that this failure would be a surprise to the owners of many of these sites and possibly even their creators as it is usually showing off with javascript that breaks.

Administration And Understanding
Item Notes Ticked
Register your hosting package yourself
If you are not in control of this whoever did it for you can take your site down if they feel like it and if they go out of business your site will disappear when they stop paying their bills.

It's also important to choose a hosting company that charges a fee that you are happy with and provides a site that responds quickly enough. As a horrible over-simplification the cheaper the hosting, the more sites there will be sharing limited resources.
Register your domain name yourself
Whoever registers the domain name is pretty much in control of it, they say yes/no to renewals and control which company hosts the site. Moving a website without the consent of the person who registered the domain name is pretty close to impossible. Transferring a domain name to yourself is possible but if the transfer is opposed or ignored it can be a long process, possibly so long that the domain name expires!  
Get the original site and updates from your supplier but learn how to upload them yourself.
This can be a bit time consuming at first but it means that you can always recreate your site elsewhere.

Depending upon the technology used to build the site you may also need "source files" for some parts of it. If your supplier refuses to give them to you now, when the relationship is good, imagine what it will be like later on.

If you do this and keep your passwords to yourself it also means that if things go wrong nobody can log in and delete your site, replace it with porn or rude messages.
Check licencing and copyright.
Are the stock photos used on you site licenced, is an API being used that charges fees, is there any generic text that might be an issue?

Even now there are still active sites that display the message This page can't load Google Maps correctly, which is a hangover from when Google offered maps for free without the need to create an account to when it was still free but an account is needed.

Also get an explicit statement on who owns the copyright on the text and images, without one you may find that that you have a licence to use but no right to change.
Understand any frameworks used.
Understand how your website is created, does it use prewritten frameworks or much, much worse a proprietary framework?

If you go to another supplier will they have access to the framework and will they know it or not want to work with it?

This gets complex really fast, even simple things like a login page is going to share elements that are copied between sites so you can't be granted ownership, just a right to use and change.

What Does Advertising Say About My Site?

I would suggest that in most cases the revenue from advertising isn't worth the cost of devaluing the site.

Obviously this isn't the case if the purpose of the site is to sell advertising.

Should I have adverts on my web site?

The moment I see an advert I start to wonder if the purpose of the site is simply to sell advertising.
Advertising And Site Types
Site Type Notes
Internet Forum
If I go onto an internet forum, I expect to see adverts, it's the cost of using the forum.
Specialist Information
If I go onto a site with specialist information in general I tend to think more adverts, less reliable
Business Site
Obviously sometimes there are reasons but each time I see an advert I ask why the revenue from that advert is important to that business.

A car repair business that links to a hair dresser, a dog walker, a computer shop and a pub looks terrible.

A car repair business that links to the AA/RAC/Green Flag is just about tolerable.

A solicitor or Financial adviser is so expensive and specialised that any advertising revenue that they could generate from their site should be inconsequential.
Responsive Designs
Many sites are built using simple Responsive Designs, the same content is automatically re-laid out for different screen sizes, this means that adverts that were out of the way on a larger screen can dominate the whole experience on a mobile.

But Who cares what the user thinks, we can make a lot of money from adverts!

Unfortunately this is not the case, as far as I understand it the current click rate for Google ads is 0.35% , that's 1 in 300 people and that is the average, possibly distorted upwards by the sites that are good at getting clicks.

For this you will probably be getting something like 25p to 100p.

It very quickly becomes clear that if you want to make money from adverts you need to create a site that is dedicated to advertising.

Other Interesting Pages On Some Of My Sites.
Car Insurance Premiums Explained
Generic car picture Car Insurance Premiums Explained This site aims to explain how car insurance premiums are usually calculated in response to repeated questions on various internet fora such as;

I added my mum as a driver and the premium went down.Why is someone quoting £300 and someone else £1200? Why is my renewal premium higher than my first year's premium?
Buy A Ghost
Picture of a cat with yellow star Buy A Ghost is a light hearted source of one page ghost stories aimed at pubs and restaurants as talking points.

Print them off and put them on the tables or walls and you have an instant talking point.

Aimed at regulars who have run out of things to say or new groups or couples as an ice-breaker.
Weight Loss Calculator
Screen shot of weight loss calculator Weight Loss Calculator Tries to simulate the body and report the effects of food and exercise in periods as short as 15 minutes.

This level of detail highlights the effects of a run, bike ride or chocolate bar.

For those who are new to exercise, weight fluctuation due to glycogen usage is made much clearer.
Please note that these links do not use any tracking cookies or similar technology.