How (and why) we built our new website

In April 2019 Vander Host launched the second major iteration of the Vander Host website. This was the accumulation of about two months of work, from conception to final deployment.

First of bit of background on the first iteration. Our first site was designed to get us up and running quickly. After both partners had gone in separate directions for a few years we decided to collaborate on building a new hosting company. Core to running a hosting business is having exceptional billing and automation systems, and luckily we had already identified what we wanted to use. Our billing system is part of a huge ecosystem and many 3rd parties offer “skins” to make it look good. We settled on something that looks reasonably okay and had quite a lot of built-in functionality.

A few months after having launched the site we start running into some major roadblocks. It turned out that customising the look and feel on our previous site was not that straightforward. The interface was clunky. Adding technical SEO was difficult. Storm decided we should rather do something from scratch and he initiated this mammoth task.

The new site is designed around a much more simple interface. Each page has its own dedicated section where we can add technical SEO information quickly and easily.  We’ve kept our billing system but carefully integrated it to make it work seamlessly and look good with the rest of the interface. A key design consideration is a simplicity. It’s always simpler to add than to take away. Storm kept some of the original design colors, but greatly reduced the overemphasis on red and brought it down subtly with more white space. A beautiful map was introduced to show off our international server network. Fonts are slightly larger to cater for mobile. In fact, the new site has been extensively tested with mobile and we’ve yet to find a page that doesn’t look exceptional on a phone.

Behind the scenes, our new website has a sophisticated back-end. Each partner has their back-office configured for key metrics. For myself, it’s important to view the quality of our Knowledgebase articles. I have a dashboard where I can see popular articles, and from which part of the world they are being accessed. This helps me to focus on improving the quality of the information. The panel also includes key metrics from Google Analytics, to further see how our target audience is accessing other parts of our website.

So far the results are outstanding. Whereas before we rarely visited our website to see what’s happening, we now have a powerful tool that we visit every day multiple times. Adding (or removing!) from the site has never been easier or more fun.

Beautiful Vander Host Website Footer
Our website is complemented with a beautiful elegantly designed footer.

Launching and migrating away from the old website to the next one was an intense experience. Since it’s impossible to cater to every single eventuality, we simply did our best. We covered all the most important basis, and launched the new site knowing that we’d have to fix some bugs. In the first few minutes, hours, and days we were on constant standby attending to small things that are very hard to spot in development mode. It’s really a case of being pro-active and testing as much as possible as quickly as possible. Random things pop up. But you fix them. My advice is to not wait until you think a site is absolutely perfect. Rather launch early but be willing to work around the clock to make sure it’s perfect once it’s online. Make sure your website caters for rapid adjustment to content and structure if needed.

All and all we are extremely pleased. From a personal point of view, this has been one of the most successful and rewarding website launches I’ve been so lucky to be involved with.

Contact Vander Host today if you want to find out more about building an exceptional website that will take your business to the next level.

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Eugène van der Merwe

Eugène van der Merwe

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