Select the Tools for Making Your Home on the Web

Select the Tools for Making Your Home on the Web

Now it’s time to assemble the “toolkit” for putting your business site on the Web. Some you’ll need, no matter what type of site you build. Others apply specifically to e-commerce sites.

In this step, we tell you what they are, explain what they do and offer some resources to begin shopping for just the right set of tools to build your site and take it live to the biggest market in the world – the world itself!

We cover it in 4 parts:

  • Web Hosting
  • FTP: File Transfer Protocol
  • Merchant Accounts
  • Managing your Web Images

Now put on a work shirt, roll up your sleeves and get to it. By the time you finish this step, you’re going to know a lot more about the mechanics of getting your business site on the Web.

Web Hosting

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Unless you own or plan to invest in a server – a powerful computer that’s always online, and “big” enough to store all your Web site files, as well as the content and operations of your company’s network – you need to find and hire a reliable Web host.

Just like someone who accepts you into their home and tends to your needs, a Web host accepts your site into its computers, securely stores all of your files and data, and ensures that it will be available every day, around the clock, to you and your customers.

The host also handles most of your other technical needs, including up-to-date backups of your entire site; properly tuning the software; and giving you enough bandwidth to keep from slowing down your site’s functions, and how fast the pages load.  

Because there are a whole lot of hosts, all trying to get your business, most keep their prices low, for any size business and budget.

Hosts commonly offer other necessary Web site services, either with all-in-one discount packages, or individual low-cost add-ons.

Just remember, you will be placing your entire Web site and all its functions in the host’s safekeeping, so don’t be tempted to use anything but a well-established outfit with a proven track record. There’s plenty of comparative information, user reviews and other critical material online to provide this confidence.

Some good starting points:

Tip


Your business website can flop or fly depending on the quality and experience of the company that hosts it online.

Unless you own or plan to invest in a server – a powerful computer that’s always online, and “big” enough to store all your website files, as well as the content and operations of your company’s network – you need to find and hire a reliable Web host.

A Web host accepts your site into its computers, securely stores all of your files and data, and ensures that it will be available every day, around the clock, to you and your customers.

You’ll be placing your entire website and all its functions in the host’s safekeeping, so don’t be tempted to use anything but a well-established outfit with a proven track record.

Hosts commonly offer other necessary Web site services, either with all-in-one discount packages, or individual low-cost add-ons.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol

So you don’t get confused, understand that “FTP” is both a noun – referring to the software that transfers or “uploads” Web site files from your computer to your host’s server – and a verb – referring to the actual transfer: “I’m going to FTP these files.”

That also pretty well takes care of explaining what it does.

While hosts commonly include an FTP tool as part of their service, there’s often a limit on the size of the uploads it can handle. No matter. Plenty of free downloadable software on the Web can easily transfer your files to your host. A few that we like:

Merchant Accounts

To do retail business on the Web, you need to set up a merchant account to deal with credit card companies, banks and other financial services used by your customers.

Setup a Credit Card Merchant Account Here

You can do it yourself, often through your company’s bank, but you’ll have to do the hands-on work of processing every order. A better choice is one that grows easily with your Web business and does all the sensitive processing work for you automatically – a commercial merchant account provider. Although it actually refers to only part of their function, they’re also sometimes called “gateway” services.

Your customers enter their information in your “shopping cart” (we’ll get to that in Step 7), the merchant account service processes it securely, makes sure the money gets in your company bank account, and sends you an e-mail notice of the transaction or why it was refused.

Be sure, when shopping around for yours, that the provider handles all major credit cards and debit cards, e-checks, bank transfers and any other buying methods your customers will expect.  

One of the best known is PayPal, and many of your customers may already have an account there to connect with yours. If they’ve ever bought anything on eBay, it’s likely. PayPal makes its money by taking a small cut of the sale, and charges nothing to set up your service.

Fees will vary among merchant account providers, so shop around for one with a reliable record, the services you need and at a cost you can handle. You can start with these:

Managing your Web Images

Unless you plan to hire a designer to take care of all the photos and other graphics on your Web site, you’ll need a tool to do it yourself.

Digital photo and graphics editors are available online free, for very basic software, and into hundreds of dollars for sophisticated top-end programs like Adobe Photoshop, pretty well recognized as the professional gold standard.

What you’re looking for is editing software that can resize and crop images; repair problems with color and contrast; set their resolution, which controls how sharp your graphics are on the Web page; and save them using color modes and formats specifically for the Web.

The photo organizer built into your operating system, like Windows Photo Gallery packed with Microsoft’s new Vista, might even take care of your needs.
Unless you really want to get into graphics editing and creating your own unique images and photo illustrations, you don’t need to understand the technical ins and outs. But you should be sure that your choice of software supports all standard graphics formats for the Web, mainly JPEG (jpg), GIF, Bitmap (bmp and others) and Ping (png).

Here’s a few good choices at a range of price points:

Now you’re ready for Step 4, where we’ll explain some important design choices you should make before going any further.

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
StartupNation
StartupNation

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