Some brief points about choosing a web host for my students today .

What should you look for when choosing a web host?
Artists and designer have lightly different needs to regular commercial web hosting solutions.

Free web hosting
There are loads of free web hosts which impose advertising on your website. Either banner advertising or popup adverts raise revenue to cover their costs.

Hosting on a free site downgrades your site and your work.

Amount of web space
Does the package you are looking at have enough space for your needs? Can you expand your site? So think of that now.

How big is your site? What space do you need?

Check and see if there are there upgrade packages are available.

File type and size limitations
Also make sure there is no maximum size on the files you upload. I have also seen hosts in the past restrict the file types you can upload to HTML and GIF/JPG files. This is obviously no good if you have used flash, want to load music files and video. Cross them off your list if restrictions like this apply as they are not providing a true hosting service.

Data Transfer Traffic/Bandwidth allotment
Data transfer (sometimes referred to as “traffic” or “bandwidth”) is the amount of bytes transferred from your site to visitors when they browse your site. Look at your bandwidth allotment. 2-3 GB traffic allowance per month is usually adequate for new site just starting out.

Don’t believe web hosts that advertises “unlimited bandwidth” usually the bandwidth allotment is hidden in the fine print and if your site uses a lot of it, you will suddenly receive a bill for having “exceeded” the “unlimited bandwidth”. (Not nice when its not in the budget)

Reliability and speed of access
You need a host that will house your site on reliable servers as a site that is frequently down will lose visitors. Slow access is equally frustrating. It is false economy to make a decision based on price alone. Cheap hosting often comes at the expense of server reliability and performance. Not only should the web host be reliable and fast, it should guarantee its uptime (the time when it is functional). Look for a minimum uptime of 99% or 99.5%.

Look for a host who can provide a regular, daily back up of your data
Good hosts will have back up systems in place to guard against network or power failure. The last thing you want is to lose your data or to have your web-site go down for a long period. Find out if they have more than one connection to the internet, in case one of their connections goes down.

Email, Autoresponders, POP3, Mail Forwarding
Email addresses at your own domain, like, is something most people want. Does the host provide this? Can you set an email address to automatically reply to the sender with a preset message should you be away (called an autoresponder)? Can it be automatically forwarded to your current email address? Can you access it via a web browser if need be?

A Control Panel
A control panel will allow you to manage different aspects of your web account yourself such as setting up an autoresponder. Smaller hosting firms often require that you contact their support staff to this type of task. A control panel allows you to do it yourself as the need arises.

Technical support
Does its technical support function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (often abbreviated 24/7), all year around? Just because a host advertises 24/7 support does not necessarily mean is is so. Test them out by emailing at midnight and on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, in their local time. See how long they take to respond.

FTP, PHP, MySQL Perl CGI-BIN access, SSL, .htaccess

Some hosts do not allow you to install PHP or CGI scripts without their approval. Since this means you have to wait around for them to do it this is not good service.

PHP and MySQL: WordPress which is run by using PHP and MySQL.

“.htaccess” is needed if you are to customise your error pages or to protect your site against bandwidth theft and hotlinking, etc

You will need FTP access if the hosting providers only allow you to design your page with their online builder rule them out.

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption: You will definitely need SSL if you plan to have a shopping cart

Subdomains and virtual hosting
This is for those who are thinking of selling web space or having multiple domains or subdomains hosted on one account. This could be an advantage to a group of artists who want a common site with individual sites and domains for each artist like a virtual artists co-operative. Look to see if the host can provide this, and how much extra that they charge as you never know what direction your creative life may take you in.

Initially you will be looking for a shared server not a dedicated hosting service.

Domain name
Usually you can register your domain name with your webhost. You can always move it afterwards if you shift web hosts. Choosing a domain name is tricky too. Domain name tools is a round up of tutorials and tools on the subject

Look at the Monthly/Quarterly/Annual Payment Plans. My advice is that to begin with pay monthly until you are sure of their reliability. When you have found a host that you are happy with take advantage of the discounted annual plans.

Set up costs

There are plenty of good hosting companies that have no set up costs. Don’t be taken in by those that do.

Money Back Guarantee

Many providers offer a 30-Day money back guarantee so that you can try their service risk free. Look for this option so you don’t get stuck with a service that doesn’t suit your needs.

Do Some Research

Check out reviews of various sites like the CNET Most popular hosts

Top rated: best hosting top 10 and while on the site you might like read Web Hosting Tips For Beginners

The Web Hosting Show has done a piece on Secret Taboo Topics in the Web Hosting

Jonathan Bailey has written and excellent article about some of the issues to consider in 10 Rules for Finding Good Domain Hosting

Blogflux has published a good Webhosting FAQ publishes a huge number of hosting company reviews

The Elements of Design Applied to the Web is an excellent summary of the basics of design. Kyle Meyer applies the elements of balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis, and unity to web page layout and illustrates these key elements with screen shots of good examples where these principals are applied expertly.

10 colour contrast checking tools to improve the accessibility of your design

Skout is a huge resource list of fonts, colour tools, stock illustrations and photography, textures, tutorials and web tools it will keep you busy browsing for hours.

W3 Schools is a huge resource site that houses web building tutorials. Their resources cover Web technologies, such as HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML and others.

The World Wide Web Consortium has  released their Mobile Web Best Practices guidelines which offer mobile web designers a set of best practices

The McFarlane Prize for excellence in Australian web design and development is on again.

The winning site is judged on design, coding, accessibility and usability. Entry is free and  the winner will be announced on the final day of the Web Directions South conference which will held this September in Sydney.

While on the site check out last years winners and short listed sites. It is always interesting to see what the industry sees as its best.

Sitepoint CSS Reference is a new reference collection of articles. What is CSS? Is particularly well done

CSS Showcase Galleries

CSS Zen Garden
CSS Drive
CSS Vault
CSS Elite
CSS Beauty
CSS Mania
CSS Import

You will be on overload if you manage to browse this list that Jessica Hupp has put together. Inspiration Overload: 100 CSS Galleries You Need to Check Out. Over morning coffee for the next two weeks I might be able to finish looking at the sites listed but the one I have managed to browse have been great.

CSS Juice has produced a useful list of 20 Popular CSS Online Tools and Generators

Over on Nettuts is a list of Solving 5 Common CSS Headaches written by Jeffrey Way

CSS Reference sites.

All CSS Properties Listed Alphabetically

CSS2 Reference from W3

CSS Properties provided by html dog

CSS Cheat Sheets

Many designers are insensitive to those with colour blindness. It is not that they mean to be, they are simply unaware that one in twenty people have some form of colour blindness. Many sites are difficult for people with vision deficiencies to use. This Colour Blindness Simulator allows you to test your design and if needed correct it to make it more accessible and usable.

IDEA (Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement) has conducted a survey about Factors That Improve Online Experiences These snipits from the executive summary  are really worth thinking about.

“Good visual design and up-to-date information are critical. Over 80% of designers and organizations believe that good visual design is important. A healthy 50% of the visitors agree. Fully 80% of visitors and organizations believe that up-to-date information is very important. Only 60% of designers believe that to be the case. When budgeting for your project, don’t be overly seduced by fancy graphics and multimedia. Invest in strong, clear design and simple methods to quickly deliver current information to your visitors.”


“Visitors want information fast. Web site visitors are looking for simple, accurate, fast, and easy to navigate web sites – preferably with links to information they seek. A significant number of comments revolved around the need for speedy access, including but not limited to download speed, in order to find the information visitors are looking for. Even in a broadband age, visitors value fast sites, both those that are fast loading and those that quickly deliver sought-after information.”

and this taken from the cnclusion

“Throughout the survey, designers were optimistic about visitor experience compared to organizations and the general public. For example, visitors have higher expectations, by at least one point on a five-point scale, compared to what designers believe as an effectiveness standard. When asked if a personal navigational aid would help improve the effectiveness of the site, a majority of designers downplayed the effect while visitors overwhelmingly supported the idea. The gap between visitors’ needs and designer perceptions is a serious issue that should be addressed.”

The full report can be found via the site


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