Monday, March 3, 2014

Looking for a Website Host

Now that I have a little birthday money and some put a side I am looking for a website to host my webpage. I had a free one a long time ago but it did nothing for me. One down fall was the fact the templates for photography did not look very professional and I think that turned off a lot of potential customers. To be fair I did not invest a lot of time or energy in it therefore it I got nothing in return. But if you want to get noticed and more to the point, make some money you need a website. Oh and you have to work on it as well as on your social networks.

There are a lot of website hosts out there that I could choose from but I have narrowed it down to two sites. The first is Square Space and the second is Smug Mug. Both are popular and have been around for quite some time, but which one to choose? Deciding on which one to go with has been the problem rattling in my head for too long. So I have written down what I am looking for in a webhost and with that I will compare the two sites based on that. Whichever one fits my needs the best I will go with.

So why am I telling you this? Why don’t I just go out, compare and buy a website and announce the web address on my blog? Well I can’t be the only one who is paralyzed by the myriad of choices out there. So as I investigate each site and write about it, I am hoping to help others out who are in the same boat as I am. This is a sort of a ride along to either a great outcome or a spectacular crash that will benefit you, the reader, in what to or not to do. I am your crash test dummy and I am ready to take a fall that either I live or die in. On with the list and note the categories are not listed in order of most to least important.

Professional Looking Templates;
My last free website was ok but because I did not have professional looking templates to choose from I believed I lost more customers than gained. What I am looking for are clean and simple templates that are easy on the eyes as well as easy to find your way through the site. One thing you cannot have is the viewer thinking hard on how to get around your site. You get one look and if it is not eye catching or too hard to navigate through to the next pages they will move on. I know I do. Also I am not looking to create a flash movie or add music to the site. I find that when it takes time to load I tend to move on to the next photographers website. Keep it simple, be eye catching and don’t make them think too hard.

Being able to Blog;
I believe that blogging is important so that I can let you into my little world. To tell the story of what my work is about and get feedback from you as the audience. So it is vital for me that I can either create a blog as one of the pages or link my site to my blog.

Social Networking;
Let’s face it, without being able to link your social network to your web and vise versa you can’t drive traffic around to the website or out to the posts you place. For the most part the two I have in mind do place social networking buttons on the site. What I am looking into are the ascetics and ease of placement it has for my audience.

How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade my site? I need to be able to grow the site to handle any additional commerce that I may get. As well as downgrade incase after a year my site sucks and I make nothing. In that event I will still keep the site but in only gallery form because that should be the least you should have to direct people to see your work. A flicker account is really not professional enough.

How easy is it to use the commerce part of the site for myself and my customers? I need a site that I don’t have to think too hard to set up. That I can use and when someone buys something I can get paid. I also want to control the price of items and offer discounts. I want to offer a gallery page that requires a special invitation to see and purchase from. Is that possible? I am looking for price points for commerce items. How much do I have to spend in order to get these types of amenities?

Customer Service;
I want an easy way to contact customer service if I have a question and get a quick and understandable response. Not that I am worried that my customer service comes from India but the answer I get is not so far above my head that I am not able to rectifying the problem. Be there when I need them and to advise me on ideas I may have.

Great Analytics;
I am not a rocket scientist nor did I go to school in marketing. I am an Art Major with the inability to comprehend advance statical information. I am willing to meet half way and learn as much as I can but I don’t have the funds to take a Stat Class. So the Analytics must be simple and to the point. I need to have the information in a simple format so that I can act on it as I see fit.

One thing I don’t have a lot of at my house is storage for my digital files. At this time I burn my files to disk. So part of the service I will need to be storage of my best work on the site. I need it to be safe and downloadable when I need it. As I make money I will start looking for a better solution to the storage situation because I know it is just a matter of time before something bad happens. Then I will be shit out of luck.

I have to balance affordability with service. If money was no object I would have someone build it for me but because I have a budget I need to get the most for what I can pay.

Membership Benefits;
By being a part of this webhosting group I am looking for helpful information in order to be more successful in my business. I am looking for tips, education on the market place, and information on people who are successful in areas in or outside of photography. A really good webhosting company wants to be successful, grow and make more money. The only way to do that is have their clients grow and make more money. A symbiotic relationship that is vital in order to succeed in the business world.

I am sure this foray into the world of webhosting will open be eye opening. I will learn more about it and what is possible to do as I dig into the nuts and bolts of it all, and my hope is you will too. In the next post I will be breaking down each webhosting site in the categories I have listed. Then the last post I will give my decision on which site I chose and why. Until then Shoot well and Shoot often.