Essential Web Hosting Tools and Technologies

Even if you’re not a web developer, webmaster, or system administrator, you still ought to consider developer tools when buying web space. It’s better to prepare now rather than discover later that your web host doesn’t support a feature you need. There are a lot of developer tools out there, but these are the most essential.

PHP

PHP is a commonly used server-side scripting language. This means that scripts coded in PHP are executed on your web server, as opposed to your visitor’s computer. PHP will provide your website’s functionality. In fact, most popular web applications, blogging platforms, and content management systems are written in PHP. Make sure your web host supports the latest version of PHP. It’s also an advantage if they support older versions, since some web applications may still use them.

MySQL

MySQL is a relational database management system, which is used to store your website data. A scripting language like PHP is responsible for writing and reading the information stored in MySQL databases. It’s best to sign up with a web host that allows unlimited databases. Some web hosts provide a limited number, which will be inconvenient if you plan to build multiple websites.

Cron

Cron is a job scheduler. It allows users to run scripts or commands at a scheduled date and time, whether it’s a one-time task or a periodic one. Cron jobs are commonly used for system maintenance, such as automatic backups. They can also be used for other purposes, like sending email to mailing lists. A web host that provides an integrated control panel makes setting up cron jobs much easier by allowing you to use a visual interface.

CGI

CGI, or Common Gateway Interface, is a standard protocol for external gateway programs to interface with information servers. Basically, it’s a way for servers to interact with users. For example, web forms use CGI to process submitted form data.

.htaccess

Htaccess enables directory-level configuration. When you place an.htaccess file in a directory, you can override and fine-tune your web server’s configuration for that directory and its subdirectories.

Bonus: Ruby on Rails

While it may not be considered essential, Ruby on Rails support is a good thing to have. RoR is a web application framework used to build websites. It’s said to be simpler than PHP; it has more readable syntax, and allows applications to be developed with less code. Since it’s a new framework, some web hosts don’t support it just yet. It’s a good idea to find a web host that does, since RoR is becoming more and more popular.

How a Professional Website Developer Can Help Your Business

A website is a necessity in today’s business environment. It is your online opportunity to connect to the millions of potential customers for your product or service. Your website is also a very visual representation of your business, and as such it is vitally important to project a professional image.

There are a number of web site design programs that can be used to generate a basic web site. They use basic templates for pages and limit the customization that can be done. These web sites are usually created by end users for their personal needs and for that they do an adequate job. However, for your business the last thing you need or want is a cookie cutter web site created by one of your employees, or worse, someone you paid to create that kind of site for you. A web development company or web design firm uses professional grade tools and programming languages to create a customizable, unique web site that will provide you with something a template designed site can’t give, pizazz!

Did you know that the average first time visitor spends only 30 seconds on your website? If your site doesn’t grab the viewers attention quickly they’re going to move on and probably not return. Even if you do keep them around you can still lose up to 45% of those visitors on their second visit if they don’t perceive that your site has something new to offer. By using professionally designed graphics a web design firm can help you keep those first time visitors at your site longer, retain your existing visitors and those same professionally designed images make your business look its best.

By using dynamic content, content that changes based on criteria you set up or based on user preferences, a web development company can help you retain more of your visitors after their second visit to your site. Interactive tools, only available through a web design firm can keep your visitors engaged so that they stay longer and want to come back. A clean, logical, easy to navigate site structure makes it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for fast and with minimal effort, and that translates into money for your business.

Of course the biggest challenge any business faces is getting your web site found among the millions of web sites on the net, or even among the admittedly fewer sites of your competitors. Using a technique called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) a professional web development firm can raise your site’s rankings in search engines like Google, Yahoo, or MSN. By using specific keywords search engine friendly design and programming techniques a professional web design firm can have your site listed at or near the top of every category in which your business fits.

Web site design and development firms provide consultation services with design specialists who will work with you to get the most pleasing design for your business. Graphic designers will use their years of training and experience to assure that your site is not only visually pleasing and easy to navigate, but that has the added benefit of being a unique representation of your business, now and in the future. A web site is not a static entity. It must keep up with trends in design as well as project a fresh face to your customers. Periodic redesigns or more frequent minor face lifts will ensure that your business projects a professional, relevant and timely image.

A professional web design company, well versed in SEO and graphic design, is your best partner in the battle to drive visitors to, and keep visitors on, your site.

Finding the Best Web Design Solution

Web design has become much easier than it was back when I first began building websites. There were a few programs that offered some WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interfaces, but you still had to do a good deal of the HTML coding by hand to get pages just how I wanted them. Javascript coding was done almost entirely by hand. Add to this all the new technologies that have emerged. CSS, PHP, ASP.NET, AJAX, and Web 2.0. Fortunately new technologies have come along to make things easier as well. You can either install software to build your own site, or use an online site builder.

Webpage creating software.

Web Design Software
Programs like Dreamweaver and Visual Studios now remove any need to do any HTML coding, but there is still the occasional need to modify code, but for the most part all the basic coding is done for you. If you are building a simple static site, this might be all you need. If you need to access information from a database, provide and dynamic and interactive site, or develop an e-commerce site; there is no way around having to know some coding.

Build It Yourself Web Design
Another alternative is to use a one of the online build-it-yourself services. Google lets you build free pages, and you can build an ecommerce site (for a fee) using Yahoo! or Big Commerce. These are just a couple options; there are literally hundreds of options. Having used several of these programs, I can say you can build a very nice website, with a lot of great features quite easily. The problem with these options arises when you need your website to do something unique that is not a feature of the site builder. There are a couple of other disadvantages with these types of sites. First, you are tied to services provider for your site. If for any reason, they go out of business or just decide to stop offering the service, you have to start over. This has happened with Lycos, Angelfire and many others. If you have a site built on HTML / Web programming languages, you can host your site where ever you wish without having to redo anything. Second, with these online site-builders, you are normally charged a monthly fee considerably higher than it would cost to simply have the site hosted on your own. The initial cost of hiring a web designer will be much higher, but if you plan to keep your site several years, you will not only save money in the long run, but you will have a much more flexible and customizable design that you own and do with as you please.

Web Design using Content Management Systems
A third option is called a Content Management System. These are like a hybrid between web building software and online site builders. CMSs are pieces of software that you install on a web server. Some of the best and most popular CMSs are free to use. Once installed they assist you in building your own site much like the online site-builders. CMS software is usually has a steeper learning curve than online site-builders, but can create incredibly robust, well featured websites. In the hands of a seasoned web developer, a CMS can be customized to provide almost anything you wish. One strategy I would recommend is to have a professional web designer build a site for you using a CMS, and let you do your own updates and changes. With a CMS making these changes is very simple and about as complex and using a word processor. With this strategy you’ll have a website that can still be upgraded and customized if needed, but you still control it and can have it hosted anywhere you wish without an additional cost for using the software. A web developer that has experience in building CMS websites will normally charge less to build a CMS based site as opposed to building and coding one from scratch.