Launching a website? 3 things you need to know before you start.

Here at the studio, we get to meet a lot of really cool people across many dynamic industries. Beauty technicians, real estate professionals, photographers, interior designers, finance experts, the list goes on. Each with their own unique business story, achievements and pain points.

Partnering with so many talented entrepreneurs, we’ve come to learn the hurdles they commonly face when starting out. One of the biggest points of contention we continue to see regularly is the setting up and maintaining of a new company website. If you’re new to website design and development, here are 3 things you need to know before you get started.

1. Reserve your domain ASAP

If step one in starting a business is waiting for your name approval from the government, step two should be purchasing your domain name. Even if you don’t plan on launching your business for 6 months, reserving your domain name as soon as possible can save you a huge headache down the road. A domain name is your company’s website address (example: www.yourcoolcompany.com) and can cost as little as $10-$12 annually to reserve through popular vendors such as GoDaddy.

We’ve seen companies print business cards before they reserve a domain name and then have to bid thousands of dollars later down the road because they didn’t reserve the domain address early on. For the equivalent of a couple coffee trips to Starbucks, why not save yourself the hassle and do it now?

2. Plan to have hosting set up in your own name

This is THE BIG ONE. If you remember just one thing from this post, listen up. Do not let a web designer or company set up your hosting on their server. Request instead that the hosting be set up with your own account in your own company’s name. If you are unfamiliar with the inner workings of a website it’s easy to fall into this trap. A web designer promises you it’s cheaper for them to host your website and/or they offer you an ongoing “maintenance” package to host the site and perform updates each month. It seems so easy at the time, so you agree.

We’ve seen countless businesses run into problems down the road because they hired someone to do their website where it wasn’t set up in their company’s name. They later had a falling out with their original web company for reasons x y or z, and now they have zero rights to their own website. You heard us, zero rights if the hosting isn’t registered in your name. This can be costly and time consuming when the time comes to transfer your hosting and website to your own account. You also need the approval of the current hosting owner to allow for such transfers, adding to the mess.

Our policy at White Canvas is to always set up the hosting in our client’s name, work off their dedicated servers and then provide all login credentials for safekeeping. This ensures our client’s investment is protected and in their control. There’s one caveat to hosting your own website – it costs on average $80-$100 per year depending on your hosting plan. But if you ask us, for peace of mind alone it’s well worth the investment.

3. Weigh out design + development options

If you’ve never launched a website before, do your homework as to what it costs to hire a professional and weigh it out against the DIY options available. When meeting with prospective clients we are asked about Squarespace, WIX and Shopify all the time. And we are honest in our response. These are great, do-it-yourself options for start-ups on a limited budget. Many times we get hired to develop branding and identity for companies to lay the foundation for their DIY site, and then they return to us a year or two later when they are ready for a more custom design.

We specialize with wordpress websites because they offer the best of both worlds: a professionally designed website with an easy to use backend for our clients to navigate. We believe in empowering our clients to manage their own content once the site is up and running, which helps cut down on costly monthly maintenance fees. Our goal isn’t to have a site only we can read. The more web-literate our clients are, the better the experience is for the user.

The takeaway is this: do you homework, compare pricing options and set a reasonable budget for your expectations. Do the easy things right away like reserving your domain name and researching hosting options. Taking the time to educate yourself on the basic terminology and design options available will allow you to make the best choice for your company.