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Monday, January 23, 2006

Getting On The Net

I've previously outlined four reasons why freelance writers need a website, including the crucial aspect of branding. Here are some of the aspects you need to consider if you decide to get one.

1. First of all, you need to choose a domain name. This should reflect the product or service you're going to offer. When I chose my doublehdesign.com domain name, I was planning to capitalize on my experience in doing desktop publishing and a few small business websites, so it seemed to make sense to have design in the domain name. The 'doubleh' was for the initials of my surname. On reflection, that was a poor choice. I didn't think about it enough. The reasons it's a poor choice are:

  • I always have to spell it out
  • I've decided I don't want to focus on design work but on writing

That’s why two months ago, I also purchased sharonhurleyhall.com (my name is my brand, remember) which at the moment redirects to doublehdesign.com. At some point, I plan to switch them round so that sharonhurleyhall becomes the main one, but at the moment I don't want to waste all the traffic I've generated.

2. Once you've decided on the perfect domain name, you'll need to register it. You can do this through your hosting provider. Nominet provides a good guide to some of the issues to consider. Rosalind Gardner recommends GoDaddy for cheap domain registration. You don't have to have registration and hosting from the same provider, but if you don't you need to make sure that you can transfer the domain name cheaply or free.

3. For the professional look, pay for hosting. Although there are lots of companies that offer 'free' hosting, you'll still end up paying. Either they'll use your space to advertise their products, add their name to yours or you'll pay an invisible price through loss of features. (One of the hosting providers used by one of the business sites I manage only allows dialup access, so uploading is slow and painful).

I use Dataflame, but there are thousands of providers out there. The main feature to look for is 99.9% uptime; that means your site will almost always be available. Mine hasn't gone down since I've had the domain name. You'll need to look for easy web-based management (including webmail), good statistics (for tracking who your visitors are, where they're coming from, what they're looking at and how long they're staying), large bandwidth limit (especially if you're going to have large media files on your site), and unlimited email addresses. The single most useful feature I've found with my hosting provider is a catchall email address. That allows me to create an email address on the fly and to block it later if it starts being spammed. This works well with Mozilla Thunderbird’s Virtual Identity extension.

Thanks for reading.

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