It’s Monday, July 13, 2020 in Austin, Texas
5 Common Website Mistakes to Avoid Making
We've been in the web design business since 1996, and have seen many small businesses make these easily avoidable but often costly mistakes with their websites. This article outlines common website mistakes that should be avoided.
Website Mistake #1 - Forgetting to Renew Your Domain Name
Nothing is more upsetting than losing the domain name that you've owned for years, but it does happen - probably more than you think. Some businesses forget that they need to pay their domain registrar yearly for the right to use a domain name, otherwise the domain will eventually be released to the public.
Once released to the public, established domain names may often be scooped up and registered by companies looking to either a) sell the domain back to the original owner at an exorbitant amount, or b) profit off the existing traffic and goodwill of the old website with advertising.
The most common reasons that domains accidentally expire are that people neglect to update their contact information - particularly their email address and phone numbers - or moreover they neglect to keep a valid credit card on file with the account. Most reputable registrars will make multiple attempts to contact the registrant via email and sometimes by phone if the registration is about to expire, and most will likely hold the domain in limbo for 30 - 60 days before releasing it for registration by the public.
To avoid this mistake:
- Know who your registrar is and when your domain expires. The registrar is usually the company you first registered the domain with. It is NOT necessarily your current web hosting company!! Even if you have moved your web hosting over time, your registrar may still be with the original company. The largest domain registrars include GoDaddy and Network Solutions.
- Check WHOIS database to see the current registration information - who the registrar is, when the domain expires, and what is the current registration information on file for the domain
- If any inaccurate registration information is found, either update the information via registrar's control panel or submit business documentation as "proof of ownership" to get the changes made. Try to make these changes before the domain actually expires.
- Login to registrar's control panel, make sure that the domain is set to "Auto-renew" and update any credit card information on file.
- Best practices would suggest that you should register the domain for as long a period as possible (usually up to 10 years) to avoid this issue from potentially occurring annually.
Website Mistake #2 - Forgetting to Pay for Your Hosting
Similar to mistake #1, small businesses occasionally forget to keep a valid credit card on file for reoccurring hosting billing. They may also neglect to update their email and phone numbers on their hosting account - which makes it difficult for the hosting company to contact them about billing issues.
The hosting company maybe different than the registrar company -- and they may even be different from the company that hosts your email. If you don't continue to pay them, eventually they will take the website offline, and after a period of time they will likely discard any backups of the website files and data. Thus, it is important to take action immediately if your website hosting expires. You should also make regular backup of your website files.
To avoid this mistake:
- Know who your web hosting company actually is.
- Know what hosting plan you are on, and when your hosting plan will renews (monthly/yearly).
- Locate the billing portal login information (or if you've forgotten it, reset the information).
- Login to the billing portal for your hosting company and update any contact information and any credit card on file.
Website Mistake #3 - Forgetting to Renew Your SSL Certificate
While this mistake maybe similar to #1 and #2, it is in fact a different and more complicated issue....
SSL Certificates are certificates used to encrypt communications between a web server and a user's computer using the https:// protocol. They also provide some level of validation that you are actually communicating with the party who owns the website. SSL Certificates are essential to shopping cart websites that accept credit card payments and any website that transmits confidential information.
The key thing to understand it that SSL Certificates are only valid for a specific period of time -- and they WILL expire.
You are essentially paying a Certificate Authority to validate your identity and ownership/control of a domain, and they issue you a SSL Certificate that is only valid for the period of time you pay them for.
After the SSL Certificate expires, if users attempt to visit your site using https:// protocol, they will receive a security error in their browser warning them not to visit the page. Obviously, such an alert is concerning to most web users!! Most users will not proceed and will abandon any shopping cart or purchase at this point - even though the alert is merely triggered by the expiration of a valid certificate (and the communication is still encrypted).
SSL Certificate expiration is complicated because the process for renewal and installation of a new SSL Certificate can vary widely depending on your web hosting company and the certificate provider. The key thing to note is that SSL renewal is often NOT automatic and will usually require some sort of technical support.
For instance, Hostgator provides a free SSL Certificate with their business level hosting plans. However, the free SSL Certificate they provide is only valid for a 1 year period -- and when it expires they generally DO NOT provide you any notice of the pending expiration. The renewal process generally involves contacting customer technical support, filling in a form for a new SSL Certificate, potentially repeating the email domain validation step, and waiting for technical support to install the new certificate. This can easily take a day to complete - so you should do the renewal in advance of the expiration.
Whereas, if you purchase an SSL Certificate from GoDaddy, they usually do alert you to the pending expiration, and they will generally "auto-renew" and automatically bill you for the renewal certificate. But just because they billed you for the renewal it doesn't mean that the new SSL is installed. One must generally re-validate ownership of the domain (usually via DCV - Domain Control Validation email), download the new certificates, and install the new certificate on the hosting account. If you are unable to do this yourself, many web hosting companies will charge you a fee of around $150.
These processes may be further complicated if a new CSR (Certificate Signing Request) or new keys are required to generate the new SSL.
To avoid this mistake:
- Try to pay for a SSL Certificate for a longer period of time so that you don't have to renew as often-- up to 3 years.
- Make sure to always setup an expiration reminder on your calendar - as no expiration notices maybe sent.
- Always try to deal with the renewal before the expiration date.
- Keep your domain registration contact information current so that you may easily complete any domain control validation that may be necessary
- Understand and remember what company provided your SSL Certificate, and the process for obtaining that certificate. Did it come with your hosting plan, or did you pay for it separately?
- Understand mere payment for the renewal certificate doesn't necessarily indicate that certificate has been or will be installed.
- Understand that SSL renewal may require re-validation of domain control via the registrant's email, and that the new SSL Certificate will likely need to be installed via technical support after it is issued. These processes are not necessarily automatic.
Website Mistake #4 - Not Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Smartphones have changed the way we use the internet. The enhanced screens, increasingly powerful processors, and faster mobile networks have made browsing the web possible from pretty much anywhere.
Website "Mobile-Friendliness" is now considered a major factor in search engine results. If your website is not deemed to be mobile-friendly it may get penalized in Google mobile search engine results.
In the past, some companies developed separate mobile websites on a different URL or subdomain of their main website, but this technique could cause content duplication issues, confusion in which URL was best to use, and often required double maintenance to maintain. Thus, this is no longer the preferred method for optimizing the mobile experience.
The preferred solution is to use responsive web design techniques and HTML5 to optimize your main website for use with all devices - from desktops, to tablets, to mobile smartphones.
To avoid this mistake:
- Check to see if your website is considered mobile-friendly.
- Hire a website company that can optimize your website for mobile using responsive web design.
Website Mistake #5 - Not Working With a Professional Web Design Company
Our company has been producing websites for almost 20 years now, and many of our clients have come to us after having poor experiences with other "web designers". We've heard countless horror stories about businesses who've hired someone off Craigslist, someone's friend, someone's daughter -- only to be disappointed in the results. Many would find out that the person they hired did this in their spare time, were often difficult to reach, didn't have the technical knowledge to implement the website, or got overwhelmed before completing the project,
Ultimately, these situations usually result in "you get what you pay for" - you may have saved money up front, but end up with an inferior website that doesn't meet your needs.
Building a website requires a wide variety of skills - web design, branding, user experience optimization, copywriting, marketing, programming, database implementation, quality assurance testing, search engine optimization, and technical skills to make it all work together. Most good websites will take at least a month to complete. You need to ask yourself if the web design company or person you're working with has all those skills, and what would be the fair price to pay them for a month of their time? Could they support themselves on what you are paying them for a month? If the answer is no, the person likely isn't qualified, or is underestimating the time involved, or is working only part time -- and you shouldn't be surprised if you end up with a less than satisfactory result.
To avoid this mistake:
- Work with an established web design company that has been in business for many years.
- Try getting them on the phone during normal business hours.
- Ask to see examples of their previous work.
- Talk to their references.
Pallasart is dedicated to our customers -- we have great references, great work, competitive pricing , and we're always easy to reach on the phone at 512-469-7454 during normal business hours.
Call us today to discuss your web design project!