what do small business owners and solopreneurs need to know and be capable of doing in order to create and maintain their business website themselves? Creating and managing a website involves more than you probably think it does. It is not enough to merely know WordPress, for example, because a website involves many more parts than the overall platform used, and there are many platforms to choose from.
You can save a considerable amount of money when you first start your business by doing things yourself. This applies to all aspects of your business and not just the technology. It is possible that you can create and maintain your own website, in the beginning, yourself if you acquire the proper skillset in the technologies needed. So, let’s assume that you’re going to do it yourself. What skillsets do you need?
Here is a list of the things that I believe that you should learn and be familiar with to effectively create and manage your own website for your new business: HTML, CSS, the basics of a hosting account, cPanel, backing up and protecting your website, the FTP clients, editing images, a file naming convention for the site, compressing and decompressing files, domain names, DNS, nameservers, and the platform used for your website (e.g., WordPress, Joomla, Wix, etc.).
I am not suggesting that you have to be a master of all of these things, but you should be familiar with them and how they work together in the technology space for websites. As time moves on and your business grows and the needs of your website increases, you may decide to hire someone else to manage a website so that you could spend more time on your business. Remember that there will always be that tradeoff even in the beginning. The more time you spend on the technology for your website is less time you’re spending on the actual business.
If you are going to start your business by managing your own basic website, then you should know something about HTML HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is the “code” behind what you see in your browser when you visit a website. it isn’t really code, like programming code, but rather markup, which tells the browser how to display the content, e.g., paragraph, bold, italics, and much more.
You should know the basics of HTML because there will be times when your page builders will fail you. You will need to view the HTML to fix markup anomalies. You don’t need to be an expert, but the more you know the better you will be able to deal with strange display situations on a web page.
I recommend that you check out www.w3schools.com to learn HTML and many other web technologies.
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is used to describe how HTML elements are to be displayed. The area of CSS and its use is massive and it is surely not expected that you become an expert with it. However, knowing what it is will help you solve some problems or at least better understand what is going on under the hood with page builders and other content management systems.
If you are going to use a hosting company to host a WordPress website or a website that uses a Linux operating system (instead of Windows), then you are most likely going to have to learn how to use cPanel. cPanel is an administrative interface to the various components of the hosting account such as database management, email configurations, file manager, and much more.
You must learn how to backup your website. This will help protect you from major and minor catastrophes. For content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc., you will need to backup the files of your website as well as the database. There are many options to backing up your website both free and paid systems.
Protecting Your Website
There are hackers out there trying to hack into as many websites as possible. These hackers are not always individuals themselves, but programs called bots, that go around the web looking for vulnerabilities in websites to exploit. You will need to know what steps you can take, and most likely available from your hosting provider, to protect your website. This could mean setting appropriate permissions, knowing what plugins or components to chose, monitoring the website, and more.
One of the biggest problems I encounter with people who attempt to manage their own website content is the improper use of images. Sometimes, for example, people will use images that are exceedingly large for the web page. They may scale it down, but the image is still large and will take that much longer to load in the browser when someone views that page. This is exacerbated when you consider that there may be several huge images on the page.
If you manage a website yourself, then you will surely encounter the term, FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol. For our purposes, think of it as a way of transferring your website files from your computer to the web server where your site lives.
You use FTP clients (programs that use the FTP protocol to transfer files) to transfer files from your computer to your website. A popular FTP client is FileZilla.
File naming convention
To manage a website requires some level of organization. After all, it is better for the task of updating the website to be streamlined then to involve more work than necessary. Unfortunately, people tend to disregard the power of using a naming convention for their files. For example, if your graphics designer creates a file and names it, “My Company Jul 4, 2019, Final Copy.jpg,” you should not just take that file and plug it in your website. Rename it to something descriptive like, “My-Company-Logo.jpg.”
Name files so that you can identify their contents by reading the filename. If you post monthly newsletters, then use an appropriate naming convention, such as, “May-2019.pdf” or “201905.pdf.” Trust me. This will make life much easier later.
When transferring a large number of files back and forth between your website and your computer, you are going to want to incorporate compression. Many people refer to this as zipping because of a very longstanding program called Zip.
Instead of copying a large number of files to your website, first, compress (zip) them and copy the single compressed file to your website. After that, simply uncompress the files on the server. Compressing and decompressing files makes it a lot easier to transfer multiple files between your computer and your site’s file structure.
Domain Name Registration
You must be familiar with domain name registration even if you have someone else do the registration for you. Domain name registration is the process of reserving a domain name (e.g., rpcr.com) with a registrar (e.g., Godaddy) for a certain number of years.
Your domain name registration will contain critical information needed for you to use it for a website, email, etc. It will contain typically and administrative, billing, owner/registrant, and technical contacts. Be sure to review those at least once a year to make sure they are correct.
It is extremely important that you have access to your domain name registration account with the registrar. This means that you should know the URL to login to your account, the username, and password. You should also know any other verification information (e.g., PIN with Godaddy). If you do not know this information then your website can be held hostage by a disgruntled IT person. I’ve seen this happen in the past!
DNS stands for Domain Name Service. Think of it as a phone book for domain names. It translates a domain name to an IP address (a special number sequence representing the address of a resource on the internet). When you type “www.rpcr.com,” your browser will have to determine where that website exists. Computers don’t understand names like humans. That name must be translated into an address, called an IP address. After the IP address is determined, the browser can then access the resource.
A very important piece of information that the domain name registration will include is something called the nameservers. A nameserver is a specialized server on the internet that is responsible for handling queries about the location of a domain name resource (e.g., a website or email server).
The nameserver points to the server that contains the location of resources relating to your domain name, e.g., the website, FTP server, email server, control panel, etc. You don’t need to know a lot about the nameservers, but you should know what it is. If for example, you wanted to change hosting accounts, then the simplest way to do that is to change the nameserver data within your domain name registration to point to the nameservers of the new hosting account.
The Specific CMS
Many people will use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress for their website. Therefore, it seems reasonable that you should know something about that CMS. You should know how to update WordPress, how to use it to update your site, etc.
You don’t need to be a web developer to create and manage your own website in the beginning to save money. However, there are some things that you should be aware of so that you can better manage and protect your website and other resources associated with your domain name.
There are a plethora of videos on YouTube about all of the topics and more presented in this article. There are other online educational resources, such as Udemy, where you can learn. Of course, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or could use some assistance in getting things setup.
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