A Simple Guide On How To Find the Best Website Hosting

A Simple Guide On How To Find the Best Website Hosting

The Website Hosting Dilemma

Would you put cheap gas in an expensive BMW? Most of us would not.  Similarly, would you trust your website to a shady hosting company?

It’s sad that many people happily invest tens of thousands of dollars into their website without learning more about AKEA and other genuine web hosting websites, but balk at spending $50 per month for a reputable website hosting company!

What causes this?

Is it the proliferation of “cheap” website hosting companies that offer hosting services for as low as $5 per month?

Or is it the promise of unlimited everything included in these hosting packages?

Website hosting appears to have become commoditized and has affected what people think in a big way. If you select a good web host, you will avoid the hassles of downtime, the eventual cost of moving your website to a new host and loss of revenue and more than anything else, you will avoid the frustration of dealing with a poor web host.

So here’s a look at some aspects of website hosting:

Performance

Fast website performance matters. Remember, search engines take website performance (load times, server response times etc) into account when a website is ranked on search engines. So invest the time into selecting a good web host.

Carefully look at the overall reliability of your selected web host(s) and pay particular attention to server performance, network connection speeds, and server uptime: these factors should be the main determining factors of who you select.

Reputation

Take the time to research your selected web host(s). Base your decisions on what the average website owner is saying and not what the web host is saying. Use search engines to find and read customer reviews and be sure to look into online forums that discuss web hosting. Read actual customer reviews and not reviews that are paid for by

It may be tedious to do this but it is well worth your effort. Do not fall for some of these dubious web host review forums that are actually sponsored by hosting companies!

Customer Service

If your web host provides a telephone number for their sales group, or if they provide a live chat feature, use it to talk to their sales group. Determine the friendliness of the sales group and figure out how technical they are and how fast they respond to you.

This is usually the first point of contact and the responsiveness of this group can usually be a good indicator of how the rest of your engagement with your selected company may go. Kinsta wordpress hosting review features how to make it attractive to a wide variety of clients.

Support

Support is another area that you need to look into carefully. Before you sign up, try to contact the support group at your selected web host(s) and see how fast they respond, how technically savvy they are, and how quickly they answer your questions.

Some companies hide behind email addresses – it is much better to have a hosting company that provides a contact telephone number or live-chat features for both sales and support so that you can call or get in touch quickly. After all, time is of essence. In fact, try to call their support group and take note of how long you have to be on hold. If hold times are unacceptable, select another host. Even better if the selected company uses Twitter to manage support issues. Monitor their tweets to see how fast they respond.

After all, time is of essence. In fact, try to call their support group and take note of how long you have to be on hold. If hold times are unacceptable, select another host. Even better if the selected company uses Twitter to manage support issues. Monitor their tweets to see how fast they respond.

Pricing

With website hosting, what you pay for is generally what you get. Sure, you can get website hosting from as little as $3.95 per month for a cheap shared account to as much as $900 (or more) per month for a dedicated server. It is worth investing money into getting a good web hosting company. You may, or may not, need a dedicated server to start with but do take all factors into consideration and then select a proper fit.

Whatever you do, avoid the cheap, spammy web hosting companies that are known to overload their servers with hundreds, if not thousands of websites. Look to spend an amount that is proportionate to how serious you are about your online presence.

A Caveat about Unlimited Everything Hosting

Many web hosts will dangle the proverbial “unlimited disk space” and “unlimited bandwidth” carrot in front of you so that they can lure you in. The fact is that most websites will never use unlimited disk space or bandwidth. And if you do try to use unlimited disk space or bandwidth you may be surprised at how quickly your account gets flagged and possibly suspended! So don’t be lured by these so called unlimited everything web hosts.

I can recall a conversation I had with one of our (cheap) website hosting companies a couple of years ago. They warned me that our file storage had exceeded 10GB and that we would need to reduce file space usage to under 5GB. So I quickly pulled up their website and told the support rep that, hey, but you guys, uh, offer unlimited everything. He actually chuckled and told me to read the fine print at the bottom or the page. It clearly said that the maximum space per account was 10GB but in the sales copy, they said “unlimited” everything. Suffices to say that we no longer use their services!

Final Words

Most website development companies also offer website hosting services. It is prudent to give this a second, and sometimes a third look. It may be worth hosting with your web design & development firm:

  1. so you have the peace of mind of a one- stop support call
  2. because most web development companies maintain one or more dedicated servers and they do not load hundreds of websites on their servers and
  3. because these companies value their relationship with you and want to continue it, they will work with alacrity to resolve any hosting related issues

What has your experience been when it comes to hosting?

How to Make Your Website Load Super Fast

How To Make Your Website Load Super Fast

Website performance is often overlooked during the design and development process. The amount of time it takes for a website to “load” impacts most everything from a user’s experience on desktop and mobile devices to search engine crawl rates and can also affect its rank on search engines.

Generally, websites that load fast get longer-lasting visits which, in turn, leads to more conversions and to potentially increased sales. So it is important to take necessary steps to make your web presence – whether it is a website, a web application, an e-commerce site or a blog – load as fast as possible.

Here are some tips that can help your website load super fast:

Measure Loading Speed

Start by measuring the loading speed of your site. There are several tools available that will help you to measure and establish performance benchmarks.

Yahoo’s YSlow

The venerable YSlow Tool  still shines and has been around for several years. It also offers extensions for Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome and suggests ways to improve website performance.

YSlow! Speed Test for www.yahoo.com

Above: Yahoo’s YSlow Screenshot

Google’s Page Speed

Google Page Speed is an open-source set of performance tools that can analyze your website for loading speed issues. Not only does Google’s Page Speed include tools that measure website performance, it also includes extensions for Firefox and Chrome. And what’s even better is that you can also do an analysis for mobile performance as well.

Google Page Speed Desktop Test for www.yahoo.com

Above: Google Page Speed Screenshot for Desktop Performance

Google Page Speed Mobile Test for www.yahoo.com

Above: Google Page Speed Screenshot for Mobile Device Performance

ShowSlow

ShowSlow is another open source tool that monitors website performance by capturing multiple website performance metrics from Yahoo’s YSlow, Google’s Page Speed and dynaTrace AJAX rankings and graphics to help website developers understand how performance is affected by design and development changes.

Show Slow Speed Test for www.yahoo.com

Above: Slow Speed Screenshot

WebPageTest.org

WebPageTest.org provides a waterfall view of a website’s load performance and provides suggestions for improvements along with an optimization checklist

WebPageTest.org Speed Test for www.yahoo.com

Above: Web Page Test Screenshot

Pingdom Website Speed Test

Pingdom Website Speed Test provides a snapshot of issues and along with a detailed list of issues and also offers suggestions for how to improve performance.

Pingdom-Load-Test

Above: Pingdom Website Speed Test Screenshot

Please note that many website designers and developers may not offer detailed website load time optimization during the design & development part of the project, rather, they may offer this as an add-on or additional service at a later date.

Recommended Performance Updates

After you measure page load speed, look at what changes can be made to improve performance. Start by focusing on the following areas – you can work with you website designers and developers on these improvements pretty much immediately.

Reduce the number of HTTP requests

Minimize the number of HTTP requests made to the web server. A lot of time is spent downloading components from the web server (images, graphics, style sheets & scripts) and simplifying the design of the website can reduce the number of these HTTP requests.

Implement Server Side Caching

By implementing server-side caching, you can speed up your website by dynamically storing generated data for re-use on your web server so it is served immediately rather than being read from the disk and database every time it is accessed.

Expires Headers

If your website is not being continually updated, you can make the non-changing components such as images, style sheets and scripts cacheable. This can also serve to reduce the number of HTTP requests. Try to add a far futures expires header with an expiration date in the future to see if this improves load time

CSS Sprites

CSS sprites allow you to combine background images into a single image by using the CSS properties such as “background-image” and “background-position”. By doing this, you can adjust how images displays on your site. You can also use image maps to reduce the number of HTTP requests that are made to load multiple images. Here is what Google has to say about CSS Sprites.

Multiple Style Sheets

If there are multiple style sheets attached to your website, you can reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining them into a single CSS file to speed up loading times.

Compress Site Components

In addition to reducing the number of HTTP requests, you can also compress certain components to reduce the amount of data transmitted over the network. By compressing resources such as scripts and CSS style sheets, you can improve loading times. The most popular and effective compression method is gzip.

Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Wikipedia defines CDNs as “A content delivery network or content distribution network (CDN) is a globally distributed network of proxy servers deployed in multiple data centers. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance”.

When properly implemented, CDNs deliver content faster and are optimized to deliver this content without cookies.

Let us consider an example. Cloudflare, a popular CDN, has servers in 74 locations across the world. So, when someone that is accessing your site from, say, Madagascar, they will probably get content served from Johannesburg. Similarly, when someone from the Caribbean accesses your site, they will probably get content served from Miami.

HTTP Keep Alive Response Headers

HTTP keep-alive works by keeping a single connection open to send and receive multiple HTTP requests & responses instead of opening a new connection for every single request & subsequent response.  The advantage is that larger amounts of data are transferred during an open connection and this, in turn, speeds up website performance.

Code Minification

Code minification removes all unnecessary “white space” such as spaces, new lines, and tabs and reduces load time because the amount of time to download the file is decreased thereby improving website performance. Popular tools to minify JavsScript files include JSmin and YUI compressor.

HTTP Redirects

Keep HTTP redirects to a minimum and use then only when necessary. There are times when one or more redirects are required (for example, when you move a website or are in the processing of restructuring pages) but know that redirects will cause a website to load slower as the browser will go through the process of loading the original page and then go through the process of loading the re-directed page.

Website load time optimization can be a complex subject and it is best to test and the improve performance incrementally and then to repeat the process as needed. Website optimization takes time and patience; and if you do invest the time to optimize your website, the results can be gratifying.

Other suggestions include the reduction of the number of DNS lookups, elimination of CSS expressions, moving JavaScript and CSS to external locations and more.

Summing Up

The above tips will get you started with the process of optimizing your site; if you want to delve deeper into the process, consider approaching each of the following as an independent project as part of the website load process. Remember, web pages are typically loaded in sequence and some of the steps can repeat multiple times.

You could tackle each of the above steps of the loading process as a single smaller project. Remember to continue to test your site performance and to make incremental updates to improve the performance.

Regardless of what approach you take, at the very least, we recommend that you get started with the steps outlined in this article.

Remember, the results you get may vary but if you can shave off even couple of seconds from the load time, you will have a faster website.

What has been your experience after you optimized the performance of your (or a client’s) website? Have you been able to make your (or your client’s) website load super fast?

 

11 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Web Design Company

A good web design and development company like https://thedigitalswarm.com will make sure that your website is designed and developed properly. Since this is a very competitive field, it can be challenging to choose the right web design company for your project.

Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Web Design Company

What that in mind, here are some important questions that you may want to ask before you hire a web design company. Remember, you don’t have to ask every single one of these questions. Feel free to add or change as you see fit.

1. How long has your web design company been in business?

A simple rule of thumb says that the longer a business has been around, the more likely they know what they are doing. But it ultimately depends on your level of comfort. You may be comfortable working with a start-up or you may want a company that has been around for a long time.  Regardless of who you actually choose to work with, be sure to vet the company thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.

2. Can you share customer testimonials with us?

Established web design companies will be more than happy to share their list of satisfied customers. Most of them will also make this list available on their websites to show their capabilities. Companies that are unwilling or unable to provide a list of testimonials should automatically raise a red flag.

3. Can you show us samples of previous and existing work?

Web Design Portfolio Concept

A good web design & development company will have a strong and varied portfolio of work they have completed. This portfolio should clearly show their capabilities. A few important things to watch for: creativity & uniqueness of design, streamlined and clutter free layouts, designs that are easy to navigate and how well the design ties into the brand.  A “large” portfolio is not necessarily an indicator of capability. The old adage of “quality over quantity” will always apply. So, look for quality, rather than quantity.

4. How experienced is your team?

A freelancer will cost much less than a professional company. But, with a professional company, you get access to a structured approach that signals that the company has spent time and effort into cultivating a team culture:

(a) robust design, development and test processes

(b) access to the knowledge and ability of an entire team of highly qualified individuals

(c) a proper quality assurance mechanism

(d) access to a large library of tools and components

(e) the ability to collectively solve problems and brainstorm as a team.

5. What types of processes and methodologies does your web design company use?

Web Design Process Concept

Regardless of the size or complexity of a given project, the company you select should have a proper project management process in place. They should also (generally) assign a project manager who will be your point of contact for the duration of the project. Effective communications, project tracking, timeline, and milestone management are all essential parts of professional project management and a formal process will help make sure that your website project is completed successfully and on time.

A set of and formal design & development processes is a good indicator that the company has invested time and effort in creating a formal approach to their work. Beware of a web design company that does not have formal processes and methodologies in place. In fact, amongst things, your selected web design company should take the time to educate you about your roles and responsibilities during the project.

6. How do you handle changes?

A formal change management process is also important: at some point, your website will require changes or updates. So, a good change management process will make sure that the changes are formalized, properly reported, implemented, communicated back to you and thoroughly tested before being rolled into production.

7. What technologies does your company work with?

The answer to this question is critical. Given the ever-evolving nature of technology, companies must keep up with the times. A good web design & development company will be able to work in both open source and closed source (or proprietary) software.  They should also have expertise in database technologies such as Microsoft SQL Server, mySQL, Oracle, Microsoft Access. In terms of design tools, look for names such as Adobe, Microsoft and other recognizable companies that put out serious design & development tools.

8. At the end of the project, who owns the completed work?

You are investing money in your online presence and there is only one acceptable answer. You. As the client, you have the right to own the website, the code, media and all content. If your website uses components such as a content management system, or a shopping cart system, be sure to find out about the licensing and ownership. Examine your contract or agreement before signing to make sure that all ownership. Including that of design elements, transfer over to you at completion.

9. Do you provide support and maintenance after completion of work?

Ongoing support and maintenance are also important. Technology is always changing and developing positioned company will provide ongoing support and maintenance. Be sure to understand how your selected vendor handles this area. One word of advice: avoid locking into an annual support and maintenance contract unless, of course, support and maintenance is critical to your operation. It may be more cost effective to pay for maintenance as and when you need it. Some companies may offer creative options, such as prepaid or recurring charges for maintenance that are typically discounted.

Web Design Warranty10. Do you provide a “warranty” after completion of work?

Make sure you have a “warranty” or some assurance that the company will fix any bugs and defects that may crop up after the project is complete. In fact, make sure this is part of your contractual agreement. A warranty will protect you if something breaks or stops working. The longer the warranty, the better. Typically, most companies will cover their work for 30 to 90 days.

11. How do you charge for your work?

There are 2 ways for a web design & development company. They can charge you by the hour, day, week or month. Or they can charge you a fixed amount for your project. In order to set up a fixed cost, the requirements and specifications have to be very clearly laid out. In fact, most web projects can be estimated fairly accurately if a given company has the experience in the industry. If a company is unwilling to give you a fixed cost for a project, it is advisable to be careful…time-based billing can get ridiculously expensive.

Conclusion

The purpose of the above article is to help you filter out companies that are not doing it right. If you are going to invest hard-earned cash into building a website, you want to make sure that you hire a company that has a solid background and a strong track record.

What has your experience been when it comes to hiring a website design and development company?

If I left out any questions, please feel free to let me know by posting a comment below.