By Linda Day Harrison, theBrokerList, Chicago, IL
What is a website? Okay, so you’re thinking, “I know what a website is, so please don’t bore me with something I already know.” Great! But, for most folks, there needs to be a breakdown of parts so it’s clear. As property managers and building owners, we are accustomed to wanting to understand all of the details, as details are vital to our learning.
For instance, if we have a boiler failure or a roof issue, we ask the contractor to draw us a picture or explain exactly what the problem is. It’s the same with a website. There are many moving parts.
As we mentioned in a previous blog post, Property Management and Your Online Presence, you start with a name. This step is vital, and is termed as Registering a Domain Name.
So if your company name is ABCTower, it would be a good idea to register a domain name that is as similar as possible, such as ABCTower.com, ABCTower.net, or whatever variation makes sense so folks can find you and remember the name. To register a domain name, you can visit official services such as GoDaddy.com. It’s always a good idea to register your name at a separate site such as GoDaddy.com – it’s a safety net to any issues that may come up later with your site. The fee you pay to maintain the name can be paid annually or in multiple years, say three, five, 10, etc. It’s a decision you need to make based on your future longevity for using the name, and also the funds you have available. This is generally a small-ticket item, in the range of $6 to $12 per year, but it is subject to specials, sales, and terms.
The next step is to find a web hosting company. A web hosting company is not necessarily the same as the registration service. It’s my personal habit to have my domain name registered at GoDaddy, but hosted at another site. The host is the physical place where the website and related files are stored or hosted. For example, Bluehost.com is a web hosting service, and there is a monthly fee to pay each month to use their servers. Identifying a company like Bluehost.com is selecting your Web Hosting Service.
Okay, so now you have a name, a place where your files will live, and the servers where your visitors will actually go to view your website. Remember, you do not maintain the files and the actual website on your own computer. All of the content actually lives on these hosted servers or computers, which is why you might hear them referred to as a web host.
The third step is to decide how you want to build the website itself. Basically, the website is simply a series of files inside folders, just like files and folders on your computer. Creating a website is no different from navigating through and using files. You need software. The software is often times referred to as a Content Management System (CMS). Why CMS? Because we want our websites to be many things – communication outlet, blog, directory, online brochure, photo gallery, social media hub, online form, etc. If you had to build all of those tools from scratch, it would be cost prohibitive. Why do that when you can use a standard program that is used all over the world? Now when you hear the term Wordpress, you will understand! It is a framework for a Content Management System, or Blog Platform.
Wordpress is an industry standard and is so user-friendly that it makes sense to consider it for your website. It has evolved from being just a blogging platform! Some of the biggest companies in the world use Wordpress as their entire website.
So now you have a name, a web host, and software. After you select a web host, you must check to make sure that it will play nice with the software you have selected! The term for making sure that any product works with any web host you use is called Supported.
If you have selected Wordpress as your CMS, it is fairly easy to set up. But “easy” is a relative term. If you have no Internet, HTML, or online experience, it may be a bit harder. The beautiful thing about Wordpress is that almost anybody who uses the Internet on a regular basis can navigate it and teach themselves. That means your employees or administrators can easily learn how to populate your Wordpress site with new blogs and content each day.
My personal recommendation? Have your Wordpress site set up by a professional! That’s the number one piece of advice I can give you. The number two piece of advice is to have a component called a plug-in added so that your site is backed up daily. Any function you can conceive that gets snapped on or plugged into your Wordpress site is a Plug-in. So if you want to add a photo album, link directory, backup service, or any other feature to the Wordpress site, it is called a Plug-in.
So once you have your functions identified such as blog post feature, photo album, link directory, backup service, and so forth, you need to have a design. When crafting your Wordpress site, there are unlimited designs and templates out there called themes. If you want to create a certain look for your site, you can obtain pre-made themes for free or at nominal cost. You can also pay to have a customized theme made.
The important point here is not that all of this is totally free. You still need the labor to execute this, but a good portion of the work (mainly with the automation of plug-ins) is open-source and that is FREE. The web designer or marketing expert you hire needs to be paid for their labor, design work, and customization. The beautiful part of using Wordpress is that it’s easy to hire or find folks who know how to use it because Wordpress is one of the more popular industry standard platforms. The message here is to stick with a standard – it will save time and money in the long run, especially when training new employees. Once your Wordpress site is up and running, the on-site staff should be able to maintain it and keep your content fresh.
Maintenance and fresh content will be a future blog, so stay tuned!