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Web sites can serve a variety of functions, whether personal, marketing, an online store, blogging, or a complex online application, and a one size fits all approach isn’t realistic. Most sites are on hosting services such as Go Daddy, and in most cases this is more than adequate. However, these types of hosting services have different band width levels (amount of data transferred during a month), storage restrictions – which sometimes can also include email. This is considered shared hosting, where several web sites are hosted on the same server, and typically, maximum performance levels are dictated by cost.
In many cases, a basic static website, with no functionality other than sending a contact email message, doesn’t require anything more from a hosting service other than domain registration. In this case, the web site can be set up using Amazon Web Services S3 storage service, with a monthly cost less than a typical minimal hosting plan, provided someone is available to take care of the setup and configuration.
Hosting companies also provide a quick setup for common applications, the most popular of which is WordPress. In this case, the initial setup is quick and painless. However, in order to get more of a unique look, different templates or skins can be installed. These are available online with varying pricing, including templates with exclusive use rights, although I’m not actually so sure how genuinely unique these may actually be. Other popular packages include everything from remote time entry for employees, project tracking, and Content Management Systems, such as Drupal and the Windows based DNN. All of these have a variety of skins/templates for appearance, and modules, such as calendars, news listings, and simplified online stores.
Ecommerce sites, whether for a few items, or a complete store, are usually set up using modules for Content Management Systems, or a stand along package. An SSL Certificate, which is used to encrypt data between the user and the site. Certificate prices vary with the purpose. A certificate on a hosting service typically is supplied by the hosting service at a fixed price. If a site is self-hosted, more options are available. Basic encryption SSLs are available for less than $10 per year. However, any business with a larger volume of online sales should use a certificate which also includes organization identification information. The requirements for these require additional verification with a variety of options, including Yellow Pages listings, D&B, etc. In any case, your best bet is to either use a module as mentioned above, or a Ecommerce specific package, such as OP Commerce. OP Commerce is for Windows based web servers, which typically have a slightly higher hosting cost than Linux based systems. OP Commerce is actually a free package, with a paid support option, with costs being for setup and configuration, as well as training for adding items, etc.
If you are only selling a few items, the simplest approach is to get a Paypal account , set yourself up as a seller, and use what are known as Paypal Buttons for your items. The code for these is generated on Paypal, and all you have to supply are the descriptions and pricing.
Credit Card payments require setting up a Merchant Account with your bank, and configuration of the Ecommerce package you are using, which is in itself isn’t too complex. Test modes and card numbers are also available. There are additional requirements from your bank, which typically include contact information for refunds, etc., and definition of payment terms etc. If you don’t have this information on your site you will not receive permission to go live.
If you have a higher volume of traffic, or desire more security and control of a site, you might consider a virtual/cloud server dedicated exclusively to your site. The cost of this is much less than you might think, and you have no bandwidth restrictions or minimal monthly fee for the server. It’s possible to get a cloud server for a base price of $50 to $60 per month, plus outbound bandwidth costs. In the case of Amazon Web Services, a bulk email sending system is also available at a very low cost, with a large number of messages permitted, initially 10,000 per day. Yes, I have designed pages and background systems to send the mail using this.
Finally, compatibility with Smartphones and Tablets cannot be ignored. What may look good on a wide screen monitor may be worthless on a Smartphone, or even a tablet. This will almost always happen in cases where page or section widths are a set value. In order to be usable on the full assortment of devices, a site must be responsive, meaning column or picture widths must adjust proportionately. In other cases, a layout may have four columns/or blocks across on a PC, two or three on a tablet, and one on a smartphone. However, at the same time any text must be legible regardless of the device. Ad content will also vary with available space – for example an ad on a side column would change to a single row across on top of the center content area. This is known as a responsive site, which is a single web site that automatically adjusts for the device and display size it’s being viewed on. This differs from what’s referred to as a mobile site, which is a completely different version of a site, in most cases for smartphones. This has become more important since Google has started giving higher ratings in its search system to sites that are responsive.