The Web Design Process
If you're new to having a web site designed, or already have a website elsewhere, you might want to know what's involved in us creating a website for you, or moving your existing website to Salon Alchemy.
Domain Name Registration
One of the most important steps in setting up a website is registering a domain name for your site. This gives you the web address that people will type in to their browser when going to your site, e.g. www.mysalon.co.uk as well as being used for email, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org
You will need to register your own domain name for use with one of our websites. We strongly recommend 123-reg.co.uk, as we have found them to offer highly competitive pricing, excellent service, and the ability to easily update DNS (Domain Name Service) settings to point to our server - vitally important for us to be able to host your website. However, if registering a domain yourself, please DON'T pay extra for services such as hosting (Salon Alchemy will only work on our server, so there's no point in paying for hosting on somebody else's server that you won't be able to make use of). Once you have registered your domain name with 123-reg, it is free to set up e-mail forwarding to an existing email address; if you need a dedicated POP3 e-mail box then these are available from 123-reg for an additional charge.
If you already have an existing domain registered, and want to move it to Salon Alchemy, please let us know, and we will be happy to help with the technical side of things. We've already helped clients update domains to point to our server that were registered with companies such as 1and1, LCN and Namesco. Sometimes it might be necessary to move a domain from an existing provider to 123-reg.co.uk if the existing provider doesn't offer the ability to update DNS settings (or you find that you are paying over the odds for your domain name), but again we will be more than happy to help with this.
Attractive, professional-looking graphic design is crucial to the success of any website.
For new websites, where you don't already have a logo or branding for your salon, we highly recommend Verve Designs to handle the graphic design of your website. Verve already have an excellent reputation within the beauty industry for providing quality yet affordable graphic design (such as logos, websites, flyers and business cards) - and it will then also be easy for Verve to assist with materials such as flyers, posters and price brochures to perfectly compliment the design of your website, should you later need them. While we are perfectly competent at graphic design, we have found that Verve offer that extra bit of "flair" and are also quicker at graphic design than we are - so collaborating with Verve means that you will get better graphic design and stronger branding whilst giving us more time to concentrate on the technical aspects of your website, where we particularly excel. Incidentally, Verve recently helped re-brand Salon Alchemy with a new, funky logo design, and have also designed our advertising in Guild News.
If you already have an existing website that you want to move to Salon Alchemy, or already have a logo and other promotional material designed, then we can use this as the basis for your new website, subject to getting the necessary copyright permission.
Building Your Website
Once you have your domain name and graphic design sorted, we can then start work on building your website proper.
If you already have an existing website, and want to keep that up and running until your new Salon Alchemy website is ready, then we can set you up a temporary domain name, e.g. mysalon.salonalchemy.net which we can use for prototyping your website, while your clients will continue to visit your existing website. Then, once your new website is finished, we can update the DNS settings for your domain to point to our server. Because of the way that DNS works (with DNS settings being "cached" on various servers across the Internet), it may take anything up to 48 hours for the DNS settings to be completely updated to point to your new website. During this period, some people may continue to see your old website, whereas other people will see your new website.
Once we get the graphics for your website from Verve, we will invoice you the £120 setup charge. Once payment is received, we will then start work on turning the graphics from Verve into a working website. This will usually take from between a couple of days to a week or so, depending on how much other work we have on at the time. Once this work is finished, we will then set you up a login to the Salon Alchemy system, where you can add the content to your website. The £12 per month hosting charge will commence from the day that we set you up the login to manage your website.
We strongly recommend using the Salon Alchemy system to add the content for your website - as you can make as many changes as you need to to your website for no extra charge. There is a dedicated section for setting up treatments (treatments are organised in a hierarchical system with "treatment types" (e.g. Waxing) at the top, then "treatment groups" (e.g. Facial Waxing, Intimate Waxing, etc) and then the individual treatments themselves. Salon Alchemy also lets you add descriptions for each treatment, and (should you wish) an image for each treatment. The advantage of setting up your treatments in this way is that any changes made to your treatment menus will automatically appear on your website, as well as ultimately being available for functionality such as online appointment booking. So you only need to set up your treatment menus in one place.
You can also add special offers, news, gallery images, testimonials, links, a "How to Find Us" page with a Google map, and a contact form to your website; any pages you don't need can be removed as required.
If you prefer, we can manage the content on your website for you, but this will cost extra - we charge an hourly rate for updating websites. If you want to take this option, we will need to know what pages you want to have on your site, e.g. a home/welcome page, "About Us" page, price lists/treatment menus, descriptions of treatments, image galleries, testimonials page, "How To Find Us" page, contact details page, etc.
Please send us any text you want appearing on your website in an electronic format if possible, e.g. in an email or as a Word document, as it is much quicker and easier for us to copy and paste text from an email or a Word document into your web pages rather than have to type it in by hand off a piece of paper. There will also be less delay in getting your site up and running, especially if there is a postal strike on!
Images and Copyright
A picture speaks a thousand words, whether it's photos of your salon, examples of your work, company logos of products that you use, or just stock images to add interest to an otherwise dull web page.
One critical thing to bear in mind when adding images to a website is copyright. When using company logos or any other promotional images of products that you use, it's common courtesy to ask permission first, unless the company in question specifically states that they are happy for therapists using their products to use their logos and images on their websites (e.g. Wow Products lets therapists that have trained with them and use their products to use their images on their own websites).
If sourcing stock photos, please be VERY careful. Many people falsely believe that it's OK to use Google Image Search (or similar) as a free source of images for use on their own websites. However, many of the images appearing on a Google Image Search will be subject to copyright. If you use a copyrighted image without permission on your website, you will be in breach of copyright. If someone finds out that you are using one of their images without permission, the very least you can expect is to receive a "Cease and Desist" letter asking you to take the image down immediately, with threat of legal action if you don't. However, some companies (such as Getty and Corbis) will often go further, and demand that you pay them a large sum of money (often hundreds if not thousands of pounds) for unlicensed use of their images, with threat of taking you to court if you do not pay. If you think it's unlikely that they'll ever find one of their images on your website, please bear in mind that they often use companies such as PicScout to trawl the Web looking for unlicensed images, so you'll be playing a game of Russian Roulette as to when they'll find your site and call in the legal team when they find that unlicensed image. Don't think it won't happen to you either - at least two people on the Salon Geek website have had demands from Corbis for hundreds of pounds during September and October 2009 because of unlicensed images on their salon websites. Ironically, in both cases, it was because unscrupulous web designers had used unlicensed images on their websites, yet it was the salon owner that was deemed responsible, not the web designers themselves (although please note that we have Professional Indemnity Insurance that will cover us for inadvertent breaches of copyright for any images that we supply for your website).
The safest way of getting images for your website is to take them yourself. However, if you do need stock images, we would strongly recommend that you legally purchase them from websites such as Fotolia or istockphoto. And to avoid all reasonable doubt, we also recommend that you keep all documentation relating to purchases of stock images in a safe place (as well as sending us a copy for our records) just in case any company gets over-zealous and tries to sue you for an image that you've legally purchased (unlikely but possible, given the automated nature of some of the "bots" that trawl the Web looking for unlicensed images). Alternatively, Wikimedia Commons is a good source of royalty free images that can be used on websites, but please check the licence under which the image is offered for use, as some images are under a type of Creative Commons licence that requires "attribution", i.e. an acknowledgement on your site as to the source of the image.
To protect your copyright, particularly for portfolio images, e.g. nail art or make-up, Salon Alchemy can be configured to automatically add a copyright watermark message to gallery images. This allows a wide range of fonts and sizes, and will also let you set the opacity of the watermark message, so you can choose how intrusive (or otherwise) the copyright message is.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation is all about making your site get the best placement on search engines, e.g. getting as close to the top as possible on a Google search.
Many companies will claim to get you to the top of Google (usually for payment of an exorbitant fee). The problem here is that improvements in search engine ranking are hard to measure, and while you might be top of Google for certain search words, you almost certainly won't be for others. Our advice to you is to treat any such claims with a pinch of salt (particularly if what the company in question wants to charge sounds suspiciously expensive). Often you would probably be better off by paying for advertising on Google, such as using Google AdWords, rather than chancing a company that cold calls you promising to improve your Google ranking.
Please speak to us first if you do seriously want to consider taking up the services of a third party search engine optimisation company. While we don't currently undertake search engine optimisation work ourselves, we can recommend companies that can help with search engine optimisation who do excellent work at a reasonable price.
We make no claim to get you to the top of Google (or any other search engine), but have designed our system with the intention of getting your website as high up as possible in the search engine results. However, there is a lot that you can do yourself to improve your site's placement in search engine results too:
Be careful in the way you word the text on your website. There used to be a TV programme called Catchphrase, where the host would say "If you see it, say it". It's a similar game with the search engines. Search engines will only pick up words on your web site if they occur in the text on your web site. So if you use a particular brand of products, mention that brand in as many places as possible. People that want a treatment using that particular brand will find your website easier if so.
Likewise, it makes sense to mention the names of towns in your surrounding area as well as the town and city you are based in, as then people will find your website when doing a Google search for those other towns. e.g. suppose your salon is based in Shipley up in West Yorkshire (like Essential Beauty). If you mention that your salon is based in Shipley, then you'll probably only come up in Google searches for salons in Shipley. But if you word the text on your site to say "Essential Beauty is based in Shipley, close to Bradford, Bingley, Baildon and Keighley, but also accessible from Leeds, Halifax and surrounding areas in West Yorkshire." then you'll likely come up in searches for salons in Bradford, Bingley, Baildon, Keighley, Leeds, Halifax and West Yorkshire too. This would be especially useful if you offer a particular treatment or product range that no other salon in the area does, particularly if it's a high value treatment or prestige brand of products.
Make best use of your Meta tags. Meta tags occur in the "head" section of the web page - they are not visible to people browsing your site (unless they are the sort of geeks that click "View Source" to look at the underlying HTML code of a web page) - but are visible to search engines. Important meta tags for search engine optimisation are "Robots" (this tells the search engines how you want them to index your site), "Description" (where you give a brief description of your web site for the search engines) and "Keywords" (where you give a list of keywords specific to your site - e.g. for a spray tanning site where the therapist uses Nouvatan, it might be things like "Spray Tanning, Spray Tan, Nouvatan, Spray Tan Parties, Sunless Tanning, Safe Tanning" etc).
Fortunately, Salon Alchemy makes it easy to set your meta tags. Simply log on to Salon Alchemy and select "Website -> Edit Website", fill in the details on the form and click "Save Changes". Your meta tags will be instantly updated on every page of your site.
Get as many links in to your website as possible. Google uses something called "Page Rank" which is based on how many other websites link to your website, especially if the links mention words relevant to your site. If more websites link to your site, then Google treats your site as being more important, and will rank your site higher up in its search results.
Consider adding your site to the many free index websites out there, particularly if it's a site specific to the beauty industry, or to your local area.
Consider swapping reciprocal links with other websites. Obviously you'd want to avoid swapping links with competitors in your area, but there's no reason not to swap links with salons further afield.
If you are on any forum websites such as Salon Geek or Makeup Advice Forum then make sure that a link to your website appears in your user profile, or, even better, in your "signature" which appears at the bottom of each post that you make - that way, every time you make a post on the forum, it's another link in to your website for Google to read (as well as getting other people from the forum to visit your website too).