My Website Journey

Starting a new venture, I knew I needed a website, but that’s where my knowledge of such online trickery began and ended.

I’m really, really pleased with my finished site but the road to get there was not smooth.

Paul Drake is someone I wish I‘d met sooner on my web journey. Like some code crunching opiate he took away the pain.

In the spirit of sharing a few insights with those of you who maybe about to embark on something similar, here’s a little Q & A I did with Paul.

Give me a brief rundown on what you and WhiteStar are about?
I’ve been in the computing business since I left school in 1982. I spent 30 years working in the IT departments mainly of large corporates, in several roles. I spent a lot of the time being a bridge between the business departments and the IT department, which helps a lot now, as I can speak to businesspeople without using jargon.

In 2012 I got fed up with the rat race and started WhiteStar Systems Ltd. I spent a year contracting whilst I skilled up in business and web development.

Now trading under the name WhiteStar, we are a small forward thinking web agency based in Wollaston, just South of Wellingborough. We build beautiful but technically brilliant WordPress websites for SMEs. We can build anything from a small brochure site to an e-commerce store with hundreds of products, and everything in between. We pride ourselves on our honesty and integrity.

I’m starting a new venture. Can’t I just promote my business through social media channels, do I need a website?
Whilst it’s true that you can use social media to promote your business, the biggest problem (and often unrealised until too late) is that you don’t own the content on the social media platform and you have no control over it. And the provider could disappear overnight or delete your account – and all its data – with no warning. With a website you can ask for backup copies (we would provide these on request at no charge) which you can take to another web company. You have control over your content.
Also, social media is quite transitory – information you put in a post can get buried by more recent content and there’s no easy way to navigate around it. With a website you control what content stays and goes and you can build the site in such a way that it guides the reader on a journey of your choosing. You control the narrative completely.

Web designer or Web developer?  What’s the difference? Which one do I need?
That’s a good question It’s a bit of a grey area and the terms are often used interchangeably.
A web developer is responsible for the technical aspects of building a website, including coding and programming. They create the functionality and features of a website.
A web designer, on the other hand, is responsible for the visual and creative aspects of a website. They design the layout, colour scheme, typography, and other visual elements of a website.

You always need a web developer, as they build the actual website. They may use a predefined template or theme which provides the layout for them, in which case a web designer is not necessary.

At WhiteStar we always build our sites from a blank sheet of paper, using a professional web designer to take the passion and ethos of the client’s company and reflect that in the look and feel of the website.

I know nothing about websites other than I know I need one! Does my lack of tech knowledge matter?
Not at all – in fact it’s often easier for us if you don’t! You understand your business and we understand websites. We put our heads together to build a site that works for your company.

What’s the difference between working with someone like you to using a web building site?  Apparently, you can build a website in a couple of hours!

Yes, they do say that. And if you know their system inside and out, you probably can. But the reality is that you’ll be using a web building tool that you don’t really understand, to build a website that you also don’t really understand. Many people spend weeks building their site using the likes of Wix or GoDaddy. Time that they could have spent getting new clients or servicing existing ones.

And even then, because you don’t understand how websites work and how people use them, chances are you’ll have built a website that won’t deliver the outcomes you want. Basically, you don’t know what you don’t know.

A web agency will have spent hundreds of hours understanding the best things to put on a site, where to place them, how to format them, etc. Even the colours you use can make a big difference. So, yes you can build a website yourself, but can you build a good website?
I have a blog about this very subject, at https://whitestar-dm.co.uk/why-diy-websites-are-a-false-economy/

So, what do you need from me to make this happen?
We need to understand a bit about your business; what you want to get from your website; what impression your website should give (friendly, professional, informal, etc.); what the timescales are and how much you can afford to invest.

People keep telling me my site needs to appeal to Google. What do they mean? I’m not sure Google cares about me, should I care about them?
Actually, Google does care about you – at least about your website! Google makes money by getting people to use its search engine. So, they have a real interest in making sure that when you search you get the results you need. That way, you’ll keep coming back and being exposed to those paid ad links that you see.

But that’s not the real point of keeping Google happy. If Google likes your site, because it’s fast, relevant and answers your customers’ questions, they’ll show your web page higher up the list when someone searches for something you do. Which means more people will see your page and have an opportunity to buy from you. And because it’s fast, relevant and answers your customers’ questions they’ll be happy too.

I’ve already got a website but it’s a bit old and clunky, can you still help me? Can I keep the existing domain name?
Yes, we can. We can build a new site for you, using the existing web address (domain name), assuming you have access to the domain. There’s ways around it if you don’t.
And it may not even be a complete rebuild. We may be able to spruce it up with a new lick of paint and a few tweaks here and there.

What about time scales? How long ‘till my shiny new site is live?
That’s a tricky one. If it’s a reasonably simple site, we expect it to take a couple of months to put live. That allows for us to design the layout, get your approval, build the pages, put your words and images on them and make the site fast and secure.
An e-commerce site will likely take twice that long, or more.

We can shortcut the process if you have an urgent need, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

What about updating my website? How do I add new content or re-write pages?
It depends. When we build sites, we make it very easy for you to manage the bits you’re likely to want to change often, without our help. Things like blogs and testimonials.
If you want to add or change pages, we can give you access and some training and let you loose. But we prefer you to let us know what you want and we can make the changes for you. It’ll leave you to do what you do best, while we do what we do best.
We offer support packages so we can make the changes for you. Either a monthly package or a package where you by a block of hours upfront (at a discount) and call them off as you use them.

A cookie policy, a privacy policy – I’m told I need them but what are they and where do I find them?
These are documents required by the Data Protection laws (‘GDPR’).

Cookies are small text files that are stored on a user’s device when they visit a website. They are used to remember user preferences, login information, and other information that can improve the user experience. A cookie policy typically explains what cookies are used on the website, what data is collected by the cookies, and how that data is used. It may also include information on how users can manage or disable cookies, and whether any third-party cookies are used on the website.

A privacy policy on a website is a statement or notice that informs users of the website about how their personal data is collected, used, and protected. A privacy policy is a legal requirement in the UK.

When we build a website for you, we build the Cookie Policy for you, based upon the technical items used on the site.

You must get a Privacy Policy yourself. You should have one anyway, even if you don’t have a website. You can find free Privacy Policy generators on the internet, but there’s no substitute for getting an expert to create one tailored to your business. We can recommend some companies who can do this.

Can you host the website for me?
Yes, we rent our own UK based server, which only runs sites that we’ve built or are managing. You can be sure that your site will not be competing with hundreds or thousands of our sites for resources.

Websites break and go down, don’t they? What happens then?
We fix them! ?
Actually, our sites don’t break or go down very often. We make sure that our sites are kept up to date technically – an out-of-date plugin is often the main reason for issues.
And we take lots of backups, so if something does break, we can quickly restore it to the last time it was working. We even take backups and store them somewhere away from the server, so if our data centre has a catastrophic failure, we can get your site up and running again in no time.

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