What Features Do You Need on Your Website?

The right web space features can provide excitement, convenience and many other beneficial aspects for your visitors. However, the wrong features can have precisely the opposite effect. When a site is bogged down with features which don’t work properly, aren’t properly maintained or are simply in the way, visitors are likely to look elsewhere. Here, we’ll take a quick look at how to choose the best feature for your web space, along with a few which you absolutely don’t want to waste time on.

Determining the Best Features for Your Site

For nearly every site, there are a few basic features which are essential. If you run a business site of any kind, you need a reliable, trustworthy e-commerce feature to ensure smooth, easy transactions.

If you want your site to be interactive, you need a feature or features which allow for customer input. This might come in the form of a blog, a forum or a chat space – choose the feature which best reflects and complements your own unique business. Once that interactive feature is in place, be sure to maintain it properly—respond in a timely manner and ensure that it’s running well at all times.

Checking out sites which are similar to yours can be a huge time-saver when it comes to selecting features. Visit the web space of a company you are familiar with, and take a close look at which features they offer. If the company is selling a product or service which is similar to your own and is run in a similar manner, chances are good that the same features will be beneficial to your site as well. Taking a look at the most popular packaged plans can also give you a good idea of what may benefit your site. Check out the options here to get started.

Considering your target market is another very important step in choosing features. If your demographic consists of tech-savvy younger consumers, feel free to go crazy and add the most cutting-edge, up-to-date features you can find. Only add features you feel comfortable maintaining, however—those tech-savvy visitors will only be annoyed if they find a feature which isn’t running properly.

If, on the other hand, your target market spans several demographics, you must consider the possibility that many of your visitors may not be as computer-literate as you are. If you sell a product, it may be purchased as a gift—by somebody’s 90-year-old grandmother. If there’s even a chance that your site will attract visitors who are less than savvy when it comes to computer use, keep your essential features as simple as possible. You can still use any feature you think will be beneficial. Simply place the more cutting-edge features below the fold, or someplace else where they can be easily found, but where they won’t create confusion.

What You Don’t Need

Regardless of the type of web space you’re creating or maintaining, there are a couple of features you simply don’t need. They tend to annoy and turn away more customers than anything else, and they don’t have any real value.

Flash intros may be one of the most annoying features on the internet. These introductions were a great way to introduce visitors to your site and showcase your creativity—ten years ago. These days, they’re highly annoying, especially if they can’t be turned off. Ditch them if you have them, and don’t even think about creating a new one.

Auto-play video or audio is nearly as annoying as a Flash intro. We’ve all encountered these from time to time—irritating and inexplicably loud clips of sound, video or both which launch automatically when we visit a site. If you’re like most, you frantically click until you can shut them up. Don’t force your visitors through the same annoying process—avoid auto-play like the plague.

Going Mobile

One last component of your site which can’t be ignored is mobile compatibility. While it’s not technically a ‘feature,’ it’s something you need to have in order to reach more customers and keep them happy. With the increasing numbers of site visitors using smartphones and tablets, mobile compatibility is swiftly becoming a must instead of a nice ‘extra.’ If your site isn’t easily viewable on mobile devices, you’re cutting yourself off from a huge demographic of potential visitors and customers. Choosing the right features is essential to the success of your site, so start your research today and begin building the best possible web space for your business!

Annual or Monthly: The Best Billing Cycle for Your Web Space

Depending on which company and package you choose to set up your web space on, you’ll have to make a decision between annual and monthly billing cycles. There are disadvantages and advantages to each type of plan. Here, we’ll take a look at the best—and worst—points of each.

Annual Billing

Disadvantages

In an annual billing cycle, you pay up-front for an entire year’s worth of web space services. These services may include each feature on your site. In other instances, you might pay for a year’s worth of basic service, then add on individual features later at an additional cost.

Some companies make an annual package look extremely attractive by piling on additional website features. However, take a good look at each of those features, and determine which ones you’ll actually use before making your purchase. In many cases, these extras are a great value. Sometimes, however, they simply float around, unused.

Annual billing’s biggest disadvantage is its lack of flexibility. One-time billing sometimes means that you’re stuck with the service for an entire year—or at least stuck paying for it. This is often a sign of a less-than-reputable hosting service, and can easily be avoided by checking out our top picks. The best hosting services often offer money-back guarantees on annual packages, allowing you to check out the features and benefits without the risk.

Advantages

The biggest advantage of annual billing is cost. In nearly every case, the bundled price of a year’s worth of web space services is lower than paying month-to-month. If you are extremely familiar with the company and package, annual billing can be a great way to save money. Another advantage is the convenience of making a one-time payment and not having to worry about it for the rest of the year.

Be absolutely certain that a package is right for you before you make a purchasing decision. In addition, try to seek out companies with reasonable fees or penalties for early cancellation. These simple tactics will avoid feeling stuck, and can provide you with an extra layer of flexibility should your web space needs change.

Monthly Billing

Disadvantages

In nearly every instance, paying for your web space services on a monthly basis will cost you more money. Service companies want to retain your business, and offering annual packages at discounted rates is a great way to accomplish this goal. While this is the only major disadvantage of monthly billing, for those on a budget, it can be a deal-breaker.

Advantages

Ironically, although monthly billing costs more in the long run, it can be a budget-friendly option for small business owners who are truly strapped for cash, simply because a single monthly payment is lower than an annual payment. While this makes monthly billing attractive and sensible for many individuals, be sure to keep the ultimate total price in mind when structuring your web space budget.

As you can see, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a billing cycle. It all depends on which plan works most efficiently with your needs and budget. You can get started right way by checking out our comparisons of top plans.

 

Top 5 Web Space Mistakes

For those who aren’t already well-versed in running their websites, the web hosting market can seem complicated. It’s actually very easy to avoid making the biggest mistakes when looking for web space. Here are five of those, and what you should be doing instead.

1. Placing too much importance on a single aspect.

Yes, your site may very well require a lot of large video and audio files, and that would make having a good amount of disk space available very important to you. But it’s still not the only thing that matters. Good web space needs to have a variety of different things acting in tandem; you will regret it if you pick an otherwise substandard option because of one particularly attractive bullet point. Look for a provider that boasts an attractive feature set all around, not just in the one respect that you care most about.

2. Undervaluing tech support

Things generally do not go perfectly. Your web space should always come with solid tech support as a hedge against that. If possible, that should include live support via chat or telephone; however, even if those aren’t doable within your price range, a good ticket system and a sizable knowledge base are essentials. If the tech support isn’t up to par, then you want to look elsewhere, period.

3. Taking the host’s word for things

The job of a web host’s website is to convince you to give them your custom. They’re going to accentuate the things that they have going for them, and they’re going to downplay the things that they don’t. Once you’ve found an option that looks good, look up more information elsewhere. User reviews are ideal here. See what people who’ve already taken the plunge have to say about the quality of their service. The last thing you want is to be roped into using a substandard hosting provider because of the marketing. If you need to find a good web host fast, click here to see the web hosts we recommend.

4. Paying too far in advance

Yes, most paid web space is cheaper if you pay for it for years at a time—or more, for that matter. But doing so also locks you into them for the intervening time period; this is a big commitment, and it’s one that you should only really make when you’re confident that you won’t regret it. To start out, consider paying only for a few months; that way, if you decide that things aren’t working for you, it’s no hassle for you to move. Once you’re confident in your selection, then by all means go for the best bargain available—but don’t make big purchases prematurely.

5. Using over-specialized hosts that run single software packages

If you just intend to run a blog, a forum, or some other common piece of software, it may seem odd to go to the trouble of using general-purpose web space to set those up when you could just pick one of the many hosts that will run the same software for you, often free of charge. Dodging the hassle of managing your own software is attractive, but it’s still not worth it. You have very little control over “your” site with such a host; they choose when things are updated. They choose which plugins and themes you have access to. They choose which ads you run, and make all of the profit from those. You save a little work in the short term, but you’re going to make things much harder in the long run.

Windows Web Space

For a novice, Windows might seem to be an appealing server operating system. After all, it’s probably what you use on your desktop or laptop; why not choose web space that uses an environment that you’re more familiar with?

However, this isn’t as good an idea as it seems. Desktops and servers are two very different things. Windows is great on your desktop. But on your server, the standard operating system in use is Linux. In fact, when providers offer web hosting but don’t mention the server operating system, they’re likely referring to a Linux server.

Linux is a free, open-source operating system, originally based on the Unix specification. Linux distributions—typically Apache, but others are perfectly viable—simply beat Windows on the metrics that matter here. Most notably, it’s far more stable when running a large number of processes.

Processes

The Windows NT kernel’s stability degradation with process count isn’t a huge deal for personal use; you’ll never be running enough software simultaneously for it to be relevant. However, a large-scale server, like those used by the big web hosting companies, has to run numerous instances of the PHP parser, various database engines, and a host of other specialized software. Windows is significantly more prone to downtime under these circumstances.

Modularity

Linux is much more modular than Windows, too. This is helpful both for performance and security. With respect to performance, it means that servers can run a minimal subset of the operating system, with only the software they need. For you, this means that you can be allotted more CPU time and memory at the same cost to your host. On the other hand, even with the recent efforts to minimize the resource footprint on server versions of Windows, it’s still much clunkier and more bloated than its competition—which means that you’re looking at worse results for your money.

Security

Back to security, Windows has a similar problem—more complexity, in terms of the features that are currently running, means more opportunity for security flaws. Linux dodges this bullet, plus it benefits from its open-source development model, which corrects security holes with lightning speed.

Conclusion

Are there times when you want to use web space on a server that runs Windows? Well, yes; there are some limited circumstances where you need to use Windows-based web space in spite of its flaws. If you intend to use proprietary Microsoft technologies like ASP.NET, your best bet is still a Windows server. Linux-based implementations do exist for many of these, but they’re far from flawless, and as such most web hosts don’t bother. Barring special cases along these lines, though, there’s really no reason to bother with Windows as a server operating system.

Your user interface will be the same either way—typically, an online control panel. You won’t be using a desktop environment. Windows web space isn’t necessarily going to be any more familiar or easy to use than a Linux system, and it fares much worse on both performance and security. This means a greater total cost of operation, which is passed on to you in the form of greater prices or reduced service. Unless you need something that only Windows web hosting can offer, it’s better to go for Linux.

Free Web Space Providers

There are many web hosting services that offer free web space to store your files on their servers. If you’re looking for reliable free web space to build your website, there are a number of factors that you need to consider.

  • Advertisements. Some free hosts place pop-up ads on top of your site.
  • Disk space. They usually limit the disk space they give you to save on their own costs.
  • Bandwidth. This is the amount of data that visitors are allowed to use on your website every month. If your site gets more traffic than the bandwidth allows, your site will be down until the next month.
  • FTP support. Some hosts don’t allow you to upload your own files, so you have to create your website on the software they provide.
  • File restrictions. Some hosts restrict the file types and sizes of your uploads.
  • Reviews. Be sure to check out reviews from existing users so you’ll know exactly which free web hosts deliver as promised.

Here are five popular examples of free web hosts:

A free web host is a good option if you want to test your product’s market before investing more cash into your business. Also, if you’re going to publish a personal website, free might be more practical for your needs.

However, paid web hosting definitely offers better features than free web hosting. For example, here are some things you can get with paid hosts:

  • Larger web space
  • Higher bandwidth
  • More websites
  • More databases
  • More email accounts
  • Support for many scripting languages
  • No advertisements
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Customer support

Note that paid doesn’t mean expensive. You can actually find incredibly affordable web hosting if you know where to look. For example, JustHost has web hosting plans for as low as $3.25 a month. In the end, if you’re creating a website for your profession or small business, we recommend that you choose paid web hosting not only for superior technical features but also for peace of mind.

How Important Is Your Web Server’s Location?

Web space has a market in every country. The question is, should you purchase web hosting within your own country? Or are you better off getting it from one of the more established US-based providers?

Latency

Let’s start with the advantages of a local web server location. For you, at least, latency is going to be significantly lower than it is with out-of-country providers; after all, you’re sending signals a much shorter distance back and forth. That being said, it’s important not to overstate the significance of this. Modern broadband infrastructure has very low latency even across long distances. Unless you intend to run a demanding real-time service—for example, an online gaming server—latency isn’t that important.

Tech Support

What’s more important, though, is tech support. Any web host needs good, reliable tech support to be worth your money. Ideally, this should include live support. So there is a sizable advantage to having a host within your own country. Being in the same time zone prevents you from having to worry about the exact hours when live support is available, and having support in your native language can be extremely helpful.

All in all, though, you’re going to be better off looking at web space within the United States than at providers in most other nations.

Web Space in the United States

The US web hosting industry is much more mature than most others. These businesses have been operating for decades in some cases. There’s much more useful information available to you before you make a decision—you can consult years and years of customer reviews in order to figure out just how able they are to deliver on the features and performance that they promise.

Furthermore, the underlying broadband infrastructure in the US is relatively solid, and most of the large server farms are easily able to get more than enough bandwidth for their purposes. Other nations can vary in this respect, but generally they can’t produce the same results.

For English-speaking audiences, the largest proportion of your readers will likely be in the US anyway. This means that latency will be minimal for most of your intended users.

For non-English-speaking audiences, it depends on your language. For example, the US has a decent Spanish-speaking population and is relatively close to several Spanish-speaking countries, so having a US web server location isn’t bad for a website targeted at Spanish speakers. German, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as prevalent in the geographic region, so latency will be higher for most of your target audience. Again, though, latency only really matters with the most finicky of real-time services, so keep that in mind.

Conclusion

In the end, if you want to serve a non-English-speaking region and require live tech support in your native language—or intend to run real-time services which are hindered by latency—you’re best served by a local hosting provider. But otherwise, US-based hosts provide superior speeds, and have already worked out kinks that competitors in other nations are still figuring out. Just make sure that you select an established, reliable web host with good technical support.