15+ years building web sites and having the big picture, long-view on Internet, here are some truths I know and use daily helping clients:
1. Don’t launch anything online, not even Youtube or Facebook, until you fully OWN a domain name and have a web site. Having a website lets you point visitors somewhere so you can make them do something: buy, contact, signup, read, watch, join, discuss, etc.
2. Never let your web designer register your domain name. That includes me. In fact, I specifically tell my clients to register themselves.
3. Register your domain and web hosting with separate companies.
4. Use a CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, unless you are building something super-custom, in which case, get some professional guidance.
5. Most business web sites with fairly standard content needs won’t cost more than 5k. That includes a blog. If you have some area of the site that needs some fancy functionality, it might cost more.
6. Use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster from day 1
7. If you are building an online shop, use Shopify or Magento (both are CMS’s), or one of the many similar variants. WordPress should be a tertiary choice for an online store.
8. Page layout and design is all about eyeball management. YOU decide what you want visitors to do. That’s page layout 101.
9. Responsive design is necessary. 40% on average are visiting from mobile and tablet
10. The site should be tested in multiple browsers before launch.
11. Content (text, pics, video, audio) is still king.
12. Each page should satisfy left and right brainers. Some like pics and bullets, some like the long read.
13. If your web designer can’t change the color of something on the page, hire a new web designer. Everything on a page can be changed. Everything. Really.
14. If your web designer doesn’t give you a back-end management tool to change/update your content, hire a new designer. No discussion. In 1996 I had to do the updates for clients, but today, the tools exist for clients to do the changes themselves. I still have clients that ask me to do the updates, but the tool is there for them anytime.
15. Adobe Flash is circa 2000 and should be used very sparingly – if at all. HTML5, Jquery, and cool CSS makes most things great and is SEO friendly.
16. If your web designer says he will get you x number inbound links for cash, hire a new designer and then Google “black hat vs white hat”
17. Register your domain name for at least 2 years. Google considers domain age in SEO ranking.
I probably missed about 100 others, but there you go.