When I first contemplated setting up my own website, the first question was selecting the Web Host. One Google search later, I knew that this is a problem of plenty! With so many companies, features, functions, platforms, sources of information, ads, promotions and discounts, selecting a web host is complicated and bewildering. I should know, I researched for a month, carefully scrutinizing and comparing a plethora of options and factors.
This post is about Step Zero for setting up your site: picking the factors important to your Vision of the site and Goals before moving on to selecting a Web Host. Listed below are the major factors that you must decide on to even consider/ filter the different web hosting companies and their services:
Intent: Personal or Business
The most important step is to determine the intent of the site. Is it personal or business? What do you hope to achieve with this site or page? Who is your target? What is your niche? Look at competitors and experts in the field and understand what works or does not. This will give you a rough idea of whether you need a full blown site or a couple of pages or merely a landing page or even just a stand-alone page. Even the styles suitable will become clear- whether just content, or media rich? Will it be a portfolio or pages with attached blog? Should it support self- Programmed widgets/ lines of code or do you need the functionality of creating from a template? Do you need security for monetary transactions or encryption facilities for sensitive data transmission? Spend some time on what you aim to achieve with the site and outline your top considerations.
Definitely look at your budget and costs of setup, maintenance, domain name. Look at renewal costs, upgrade costs, termination fees, transfer penalties, trial periods and conditions, if offered as well as customer support costs. There are plenty of companies that seem to offer excellent rates but fail to mention hidden costs. Be sure to compare along with the factors of bandwidth and storage capacities; since different companies have varying charges and schemes.
Level and Ease of Technical Setup
Check out the ease of setup and installation, learning curve for understanding the dashboards and menus and your (and your team's) own comfort with the the level of technical expertise required. Some stellar companies have really difficult dashboards that might put you off. Or you sites might be simply starting a side hustle and find that though you are tech savvy ; you can't be bothered with the time and effort necessary to get the site going. So, be sure to look at reviews and samples before committing.
This is important. Even the most experiences designed/ developer likes to have samples to start. Even if the site is going to be built from scratch including setup and all. So, preview samples or themes. Determine the availability and ease of switching, if required at a future date. Some sites have a limit; hence, be sure to explore this aspect.
Domain name feature & costs
Domain names are usually charged annually. Do find out what the costs are, what happens in case you switch web hosts (you never know!), how the name is registered. Also, ask if email addresses are available along with the domain. If yes, how many, what are the charges, what are the steps to set them up and manage them? This is quite important if you plan to have newsletters or a merely a disparate, professional email account.
Speed & Load
Roughly estimate your audience size and preferences. Page and site loading times, support for simultaneous access are typically what you would look at. Even if your audience is small at the outset, it might change. Check if upgrade features are allowed and what those costs might be. Most companies are usually happy to upgrade. But, it is important to determine if the upgrades would break your bank down the road.
Third Party Linking Functionality
Gauge if third party features can be incorporated or not. Few examples include: connecting to email newsletter, Social media, Multi-language Translations (in case catering to different customer bases), Widgets, etc.
Customer Support & Resolution Time
Identify what kind of support: email. phone, in person are available for resolving issues. This is even more significant when setup and installation require greater level of technical expertise. Track what kind of materials are available for customer including tutorials, FAQs and customer reviews. How soon do they respond and what medium do they use? Are you comfortable with it?
What kind of analytics and data does the company provide for your site? Gauging the effectiveness of your site will require monitoring your content, traffic and patterns. So, determine if the service fits your specifications and audience.
Spending concentrated time and thought on understanding these factors and specifications will make filtering the endless list of web hosts a lot easier- since you will know what aspects are non-negotiable and what you can afford to trade-off.
Note: I myself use Squarespace [Build a Website] for this site, since it fit my needs perfectly. Have been using it for almost two years now and am very satisfied with their support and features.