Website Design Questions You Were Embarrassed to Ask

Questions You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask about Website Development


ou’ve got a grip on what website responsiveness is, why white space matters in web design, what CTAs are, and more. But what about some of the more complex elements related to website design that translate to not just a pretty site, but how they work? Don’t feel like you have to bite your tongue – these are all worthy questions you should never feel embarrassed to ask of your website partner.

In fact, to ease some of the awkwardness, we’ve detailed a few of the leading questions our own clients often pose to our team of web strategists and design consultants when it comes to better understanding the ever-evolving wide world of website design.

What’s the Difference Between a Web Domain Versus Web Hosting?

A domain is a website’s address, sort of like a street address (the domain for our website is You can have a domain without having a website, but it’d sort of be like sending someone to an empty lot. A host refers to the server that stores your website and serves it up to everyone trying to visit it at your domain or web address. Think of it as the virtual home (like an apartment, house, condo) where your website lives. The host and the domain need to be able to communicate with each other, but they aren’t the same thing.


Losing Visitors to a Muddied Website Design?

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Why Have I Heard the Terms “Open-Source” and “Proprietary” in Reference to a CMS?

Open-source refers to any free-of-copyright website building platforms – like WordPress and Squarespace – that allow users to construct websites starting from templates. Whereas proprietary (or closed-source) is a copyrighted CMS built by a web developer from scratch (think original code, not templates).

Does That Mean if I Build My Website in an Open-Source CMS, It’s Going to Look like Other Websites?

Not at all. Thanks to custom plugins and the ability to go in and tweak coding in an open-source CMS, you can drastically customize your own website – at a fraction of the price of what it would take to build the website entirely from scratch. Whereas, proprietary CMSs, while custom-coded for a brand, don’t allow much in terms of flexibility once the core elements are built. That means if you want to tweak something, it’s expensive and time-consuming. They are also copyrighted – meaning that the agency or web developer who built the CMS owns it outright, not the brand or company it is built for. This can lead to unhappy companies being stuck with the agency they started with.

Here, at Hawthorn, we only build websites using open-source CMSs, because we want the flexibility to easily update designs/functionality for our clients as the needs or trends change (after all, we believe a website shouldn’t be a static thing: It should grow and evolve as your business grows and evolves). We also want our clients to have ownership over their own websites outright and not worry that we could handcuff them – that just part of how we start to build trust.

Is Post-Launch “Website Maintenance” Really Necessary if Everything Was Clearly Set Up Correctly?

Think of it like buying a new car. After a certain amount of mileage, there is bound to be some maintenance requirements to keep things running smoothly. It’s the same idea with websites to monitor that everything is being indexed correctly, automatic backups and security are running properly, plug-ins are current, redirects are working – all of which helps to protect the site from hacks.

In addition, a good website agency or developer won’t just hit the “launch button” and send you packing. They should provide a level of support also related to how your website is performing – in particular, insights into traffic, top-performing pages (not just in terms of earning the most pageviews, but time on page, bounce rates, additional pages visited), number of conversions, etc. That way, they’ll be able to show you your website redesign’s more-than-worth-it ROI.


Fathom Companies’s Website Redesign

A dream website design that saw results, despite a tighter-than-usual budget.

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Other Web Jargon You Should Know (If You Don’t By Now)

  • UX Stands for “User Experience.” It’s a key component of all website design because it doesn’t focus on how something looks, but instead on how something works. Your consumer needs to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. If they don’t, they won’t stay on your site for long.
  • IA Stands for “Information Architecture.” It’s basically how people get around your website. Think of the options you see at the top of the homepage when you go to your favorite sites that lead you to different pages when you click on them. You want your navigation, or menus, to be clearly visible and well organized so people can get to where they need to go.
  • CTA Stands for “Call to Action.” A crucial part of any website, a CTA is a design element, frequently a button or link, that serves to highlight what you want people to do on your site. Some common examples include “Book an Appointment,” “Subscribe to Our Newsletter,” and “Contact Us.” See our blog post, 5 Tips for Writing Irresistible CTAs Every Marketer Should Know, to take your CTAs to the next level.
  • SEO Stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” There are a lot of ways to get people to your website, but the biggest driver of traffic for many hospitality websites is through search engines like Google or Bing. SEO is the term for a set of tactics that will move your site up in the rankings so that you appear first when people are looking for businesses like yours. It’s actually something that Hawthorn specializes in.


Case Study
Bluemont Vineyard

How this new website paired with targeted digital outreach delivered remarkable ROI

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