Friday, March 13, 2009

How to set up your website: The website option

A website can give you the most flexibility about how you present your information to the world. At its most primitive you need a web hosting provider who provides you some space on their servers. You then use a tool to put your content on these servers. Sometimes this is supplemented with tools that enable you to easily author content but usually you need to find other tools to create your website pages. Some webhosts include a free domain name which you can use to identify your website and others provide you with some advanced tools to run databases or scripts to create feature rich webpages. 

Most advanced features are irrelevant if you only want to create a basic website with information for your patients. Similarly you will not require huge amounts of disk space or large download limits. Factor these out of your consideration.

Note: There are lots of web hosting companies some of which are very small and may not be in business for long. Try to pick a provider that has some substance or has an exceptional reputation for service and value.

Below are some different types of website hosting:

Free Websites
Examples: Weebly, Webs, Google Sites (although it is really aimed at intranets - websites for a defined user group)
Advantages: Free (for basic functionality or upgrade and pay), may be appropriate for a simple site, may include design templates and a content management system, a good way of seeing if you really want to set up the website yourself.
Disadvantages: Usually has a limit to the number of pages or limits how you can structure information, you can't run complex scripts or databases, service may be in beta (ie not 100% reliable), risk of company going out of business if no obvious revenue stream.

US Hosted website - These tend to be cheaper than hosting in Australia although your Australian visitors may experience a greater delay in retrieving information as it has to be sent from the US to Australia.  
Advantages: Cheap, includes more storage than Australian counterparts.
Disadvantages: May be slower for Australian visitors, support may be hard to get, watch out for USD conversion rates - you may end up paying more than you expect when you factor in credit card surcharges for foreign currency transactions.

Basic website 
Web hosting providers often try to provide an entry level offering as a teaser from which they hope you will upgrade as your business grows or you hit the limitations of their basic package.
Advantages: Cheaper than a full package.
Disadvantages: May not provide enough space for your content.

Complete package - A complete package may include content authoring services, database support and scripting.
Advantages: Allows you to run whatever you need on the website
Disadvantages: Most expensive, require understanding of technical aspects to get value for money, may be beyond most practice's needs.

Articles in this series: Options, Hosted Pages and Blogs, Websites, Web Designers and Developers.

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