Web design for business and holiday property websites in the UK and Europe
A guide to setting up your business website
In brief, the process of setting up a website involves the following stages (click on the links for more details):
1. Choosing and buying a domain name (mywebsite.co.uk);
2. Making a preliminary decision about design preferences;
3. Planning the content (deciding on the number of initial pages and their topics);
4. Compiling the material (photos, text and links) for the pages;
5. Sending the materials and instructions to us by email;
6. We create a design suggestion for the home page using your materials and initial design preferences; we upload it; you comment on it; we revise the design in line with your comments; and repeat the process until you are happy with the look of the page.
7. We build the website creating all the pages you want in a content management system (CMS) that will allow you later to make changes to the content with only basic text- and image-editing skills.
8. When you are happy with the website and it has gone live, we send you the access details and a detailed, step-by-step instructional document so that you can start to manage the content of your website (with further assistance provided by us via email wherever necessary).
9. Website promotion: As standard we optimise your key web pages so that they will work well with the search engines. That gives your website the potential it needs. But to realise that potential it has to be promoted. The crux here is to create a rich network of incoming links to your key pages (called "backlinks"). We can give you the advice you need to do most of that work yourself, if you wish, or we have an intensive website promotion service to get new websites off to a good start with Google. You need to know, though, that website promotion is an ongoing task (because your competition is not sitting on its laurels). Again, we can help with advice.
Below are further details for those stages.
Getting your domain name
To begin at the very beginning, you need a domain name. Many design agencies buy domain names on behalf of clients, but we strongly recommend against this. It can cause problems further down the line. The domain name might seem an inexpensive and therefore less significant part of the operation, but actually it is the most vital. The person holding the domain name controls the whole show, so that ought to be you.
We have some advice about choosing a good domain name here:
Note the advice there about getting a keyword into the domain name (i.e. a word that people will later use to search on Google and Bing for the service you are offering in its particular location). It does help. While thinking about the name that you would like, you need to check what is available. You can do that on this page:
If the business is going to be based in the UK, you would be better going for a .co.uk extension, although that is not obligatory.
Do feel free to email us your short-list of ideas before you purchase one, to get our opinion about which is the best choice.
When buying a domain name (and we recommend buying it from Heart Internet - we do not get any commission) do not be persuaded into buying other web services at the same time (such as email or hosting). If you wanted us to build a website for you, we would arrange the business email account and hosting for you.
Note that domain names are, in effect, rented out. They have to be paid for on an annual basis, and you have to make sure the annual payments to the registrar are kept up otherwise the domain name will be suspended and could be sold to someone else.
Your design preferences
You need to think about how you would prefer your website to look. Have a look at your competition online (use a search engine like Google or Bing to find the websites of your competitors), and look at the designs on our Designs page. Scroll down that page to see the link to our portfolio. What you are looking for is a layout that can provide the basis for your design. You can change things like the colour scheme and the choice of font and some of the details of the layout for no extra charge.
Either let us know which of our designs is closest to the sort of thing you are looking for, and let us know what colour preferences you have, or send us the URLs (the web addresses) of websites that you have seen elsewhere that have a design approach you like or that have features you want your website to incorporate.
Choose the page topics
You need to decide what pages you want the website to have and what their topics will be. Every website has a home page (the page that people land on when they put your domain name in the address bar of their browser). That will highlight the most important features of your business and direct people to the inner pages of your website. What topics should those inner pages have?
Here is a suggested list of pages and topics for a holiday property website:
1. Home page with an introduction to the property and an introduction to the area. You need to highlight the main selling points.
2. Interior page: This will have a gallery of photos (9 or 11 photos would be ideal). Ideally they will all have the same proportions and orientation (preferably landscape). They need to be accompanied by a detailed description of the property and what it offers.
3. Location page: An interactive Google map can take a while to load, so it is good to have it on its own page. We can create a map showing either the exact or approximate location of the business. You can add text about the location and directions, e.g. from the nearest motorway junction.
4. Things to see and do: Brief descriptions of the local attractions with links to the corresponding websites. You should also have 3 or 4 photos for the sidebar of the page.
5. Availability & tariff: Here you can give information about bookings, prices (in a tariff table), and special offers. An availability calendar can also be integrated (which you can manually update to display availability). Online booking via the calendar using the PayPal payment gateway is an option. There can be a link to your terms and conditions page.
6. Contact: This page will have a contact form for enquiries and booking requests, plus details of other means of contact, and perhaps the name of the person who will handle the correspondence.
7. Contact thanks: We will create a page to display an automated "thank you" message to be shown when someone uses the contact form.
8. Terms and conditions: Send us your complete terms and conditions, and we will put them on their own web page.
Our special offer for setting up a website for you assumes that you will provide the main chunks of text and photos for the website (although we can provide a copywriting service if you need it). Once you are clear about the list of pages and topics, you need to work on the materials for those pages.
Text: When writing the text (especially for the home page) you need to bear in mind something known as keyword density. Keywords are the words and phrases that people will enter in the search box of search engines like Google and Bing to look for the service/s that you are offering. So, for instance, if you have a holiday property, you need to think about the most important words that potential guests will use when looking for it. Will they use "cottage"? If so, and if your property could reasonably be described as a cottage, then you need to make sure that your text uses the term "cottage" a fair few times. The same applies to the most important ways of identifying the location of your business.
We will ask you about keywords, and before we add your text to the website we will review its use of keywords and suggest changes if we think they are important.
Fonts: Your business name will be displayed in a particular font. You might want to browse fonts yourself and pick out one you like. To browse fonts that won't incur any further cost, see http://www.fontsquirrel.com.
Header and footer details: Your website will have a section at the top and bottom, which will probably be the same on each page. You should think about what you want to display there. You might want your phone number in the header, for instance. Let us know.
Social media links: It is important for future success to link your website to pages on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook (you can create a Facebook business page to keep things separate from any personal details you might be posting on your personal account), Pinterest, etc.. If you need help setting those up, let us know and we can do that on your behalf. Otherwise send us the web addresses of the social media accounts you want to use to promote your business.
Location coordinates: If you want an interactive Google map displayed on your site, please let us know the coordinates where the pointer should go (this can be exact or approximate if you don't want to show the exact position of the house on the map for security reasons). If you just want an approximate indication, you could just send us the postcode. If you want the exact location indicated, please visit the site below:
Use the address box at the top of the page to navigate to the approximate location. Then drag the map below and the pointer so that the pointer is indicating the exact location. Then click the black dot in the pointer to see the popup with the latitude and longitude coordinates of that location. Copy and paste the first line of numbers (two numbers joined by a comma, e.g. 21.409435,-74.812501) into an email to us.
Google Analytics: This is a system that records visitor statistics for your website. Most people want to use it. If you do, we will create an account with GA on your behalf, get the relevant piece of code and insert it in your website. However, to do this you need a general Google account, which you need to set up yourself. You could set one up especially for business purposes and keep it separate from any personal accounts you might have with Google. Create a basic Google account here:
If you send us the login details for that account (email and password), we can use those to set up Google Analytics for you on your behalf. You can change your password later.
Photos - orientation: When photographing your property/business, please bear in mind that usually the photos will be displayed best on the website if they all have a landscape orientation. That is especially true for photos that will go in a slideshow or a gallery.
Editing photos: If you need or want to send unedited digital photos to us, that is fine as long as you have selected the ones you want to appear on the website and they are accompanied by instructions about which is to go where (e.g. which you want to go in a slideshow and which in a page sidebar, etc). If you are going to manage the content of your website yourself later on, you will need to be able to edit your photos, if only to resize them and rename them. If you are not sure what software to use to resize your digital images, here are some options:
Mac users have their own image editor. See these Mac image editor instructions.
Windows users looking for a good commercial product might consider Corel's reasonably priced Paint Shop Pro Photo. This has all the bells and whistles.
Free Windows-compatible solutions include the Faststone Photo Editor. This is a very useful little programme for editing photos one by one. If you need to resize a batch of photos, changing them all to the same dimensions and saving them to the same folder, use the Faststone Batch Photo Resizer.
Photo sizes: A good rule of thumb is to resize photos so that they are 1000 pixels wide (the height doesn't matter). When you save the images there will be an option to specify a level of compression. This will determine the size in bytes of the final image file. Be careful! If you apply too much compression, an unacceptable level of detail in the photo will be lost. Try to keep the level of compression low so that enough of the detail is retained. If you are shown an indication of the final final size in bytes, give yourself up to 500kb (0.5mb) per image.
If a photo is intented to fill the full width of the screen (e.g. a wide background image), it should be 2,000 pixels wide.
Save the resized image with a new file name. Use only lowercase letters and leave NO GAPS in the filename. Use a name that describes what the image depicts (e.g. doublebedroom.jpg, not image0003.jpg). Save it in the JPEG format, using a lowercase extension (.jpg).
IMPORTANT: It is neither necessary nor desirable to try to lay out pages in a programme like Word, with the text and the photos exactly as you want them to look on the page. Text and photos should be sent separately, but with instructions about how they should go together. Formatting from a programme like Word cannot be copied and pasted into the website, so all we need is unformatted text and the original (edited or unedited) digital photos, plus instructions.
Awards/logos: If you want to display awards graphics or other logos, either send them to us as an email attachment or send us the URL (web address) of a page online where we can legally download a copy that you are entitled to display on your website.
Commercial photos: Sometimes you need a photo that you cannot take yourself. There are some very good sites offering low-cost, royalty-free commercial images. We recommend http://www.istockphoto.com. Browse photos there, and if you see something you need, send us the URL (web address) for the page with details about the photo, and we will buy it on your behalf (since we have an account with the company).
You will need to send us the digital images for your website. To do this you simply attach the image files to an email.
Don't attach more than 15mb of data to any one email. If you have lots of photos, or if they are big (in bytes), please send them in batches.
To send a batch of images you can put them into a zip archive so that you only have to attach and send one file. If you don't have any zip software, download the free 7-Zip programme for Windows. Mac users might try MacZip.
Please do NOT send photos embedded in Word documents or PDFs. Just send the original .jpg files.
Send everything to