How to Create Your Water Lab Website From Scratch
Every water lab, no matter how small, should have a website. Your lab simply won't look credible or professional without one. Just to start, a website explains the value of your lab's services, provides helpful information in an efficient manner, increases your brand recognition, attracts new customers, and drives sales.
And unlike the early days of the internet, when websites were cumbersome to create and looked like it, you can now easily build a well-designed, effective, mobile-friendly site yourself. The following tips will get you started.
Choose Your Domain Name
Your domain name — for example, IDEXX.com — should be short, simple, descriptive, and easy to remember and type in. Many labs have the words "lab" or "analytical" or both included in the domain name, with some other descriptor. That might be the owner's last name or initials (SmartLab), a nod to the city you're in (GreenvilleLab), or prominent features (GulfAnalytical). Run it by your employees, customers, and colleagues to see what they think, and settle on the option that resonates best.
Register Your Domain Name
Your next step is to choose a domain name registrar, a company authorized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to sell domain names. Popular choices include Domain, Bluehost, Hover, GoDaddy, and DreamHost.
Domains are registered for at least one year and up to 10 years at a time. Check the prices and deals for the first year, but beware that renewal rates can come as a shock with some registrars. You really shouldn't pay more than $15 a year for your domain. If you're afraid you'll forget to renew your domain name after a year — and potentially lose it — then set it up to renew automatically instead of expiring.
Before you sign up, read the reviews to make sure the registrar provides the support you expect. Also, check the domain transfer policy just in case you want to change after a year. Some domain name registrars also offer other services, such as web hosting. That's where you're headed next.
Select Your Web Host
You'll need a web host to store your website files on a web server. Web hosts make the content, images, and coding in your files available for the world to see. You'll want to evaluate their array of plans, claims for speed and reliability, customer reviews of support, and price.
PC Magazine has done some of the work for you with their list of the best web hosting services for 2021. Among the most popular web hosts are A2 Hosting, BlueHost, and DreamHost.
If some of those names sound familiar, that's because many companies offer all-in-one packages that include domain registration, web hosting, and content management. That can be a one-stop way to get all the services you need in one place.
Pick Your Content Management System
Next up, you'll need to select a content management system (CMS), software that lets you build your site without knowing a programming language or code. WordPress has the dominant share of the CMS market and powers about 35% of the websites on the internet, according to WPBeginner. Other popular options include Joomla, Drupal, Wix, and Squarespace.
You should consider several factors before choosing the best CMS for you:
- Website templates and designs: A CMS will include predefined templates. Check out the options your CMS provider offers, along with the possibility of switching to another template if you don't like your first choice.
- Ease of use: Make sure you'll be able to create and edit content easily, preferably with drag-and-drop capabilities. After publishing, you'll want to make changes quickly, too.
- Extensions, add-ons, and plug-ins: You may want special functions and features for your site, such as social media integration or online forms. If so, choose a CMS that offers a wide selection of possibilities.
- Customer service: All CMS platforms should make building your site simple, but you may hit snags. Read reviews on support, then decide whether you want help immediately or you're OK waiting a few days for an answer.
- Cost: Be sure to compare the price for various CMS platforms, as well as how you might save by buying an all-in-one package.
Build, Test, and Publish Your Site
You're ready to start building your site! When it's nearly finished, test your site on various browsers, including Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Explorer. And be sure to check for common water lab website issues and fix them before you press publish.
Still, don't be afraid to go live with your site even if it's not quite the be-all and end-all. This is one area where getting a solid site online is more important than getting it perfect. Include analytics to see how your website is performing and where you can make tweaks to make it even more impactful.
Go ahead and set it, but don't forget it. You can — and should — work on your site continually to upgrade it and post fresh content. That will encourage prospects and customers to visit often and keep your lab front of mind.