Why is my domain showing without www?

So, you've got your nice, brand new, shiny website - it's launched and you're waiting on the edge of your seat for it to appear in Google's results... and there it is! Time for celebration!

But hang on, something looks a little... different. For a minute you can't put your finger on it, and then you realise, all the other results are displaying their URL (aka domain name or web address) with 'www' at the beginning, and yours isn't. It makes yours look kind of - stunted.

So, what's going on?

Well, if you've been configuring your website in IIS on the server, then you'll know that you set up a www and a root domain. If you didn't, then go ahead and do that now, and if you didn't configure your IIS, then you'll need to check with whoever did.

This is good practice, because if you don't define it both with and without www, then is anybody tries to go to your website without the 'www', then they will get a flat fail, which is a jolly bad show.

The problem is that when you set both of them up, for some reason best known to themselves, Google treats them as two completely separate URLs.

Luckily, Google offers you the option to sort this out by merging the two and deciding which one you'd prefer to display. You do this by setting your preferred domain. Simply go into Webmaster Tools, Configuration - set preferred domain. It gives you three options:
  • Don't set a preferred domain
  • Display URLs as www.mydomain.com
  • Display URLs as mydomain.com
Unfortunately, as is often the case, things are not always so straightforward. When you try to choose one (display URLs as www.mydomain.com, if you're sensible) Google gives you an error that says:

'Part of the process of setting a preferred domain is to verify that you own http:/mydomain.com/. Please verify http://mydomain.com/.'

Great - but how do you verify that you own it?

Luckily, it's not that hard (once you know what you're doing - natch).

Simply go back into your Webmaster Tools overview and 'Add a site' with the domain without 'www' (or with, if you initially added without).

It will take you to the verification page. If you're left the original verification details in place, then all you need to do is click 'Verify' and hey presto, it will be verified. If you've removed the code, you'll need to go in and add it again.

Once this is done, you can go back to the configuration settings, select your option, and finally, Google will be happy, and will start displaying your URL correctly.

Comments and improvements on this post are welcome!

Questions your web designer should be asking you

Choosing a web designer is hard. You want to get someone professional and skilled enough to build you a good quality site, but you want to pay as little as reasonably possible. But how can you tell if you're paying peanuts for monkeys or if you're getting ripped off?

Well, experienced web designers are unlikely to just say 'Yes, I can make you a website' without finding out a bit more about the project, the objectives and the client's expectations.

Below is an example list of questions a good web designer will be asking very early in the process - probably in the first conversation, or certainly at consultation. The answers to these questions will help a web designer get a good grip on the project and get an idea of timescales and development effort involved.

If they haven't asked any of these questions, it's possible that either they don't know what they're getting themselves into (and therefore may not be able to meet demands) or are picking a number out of the air, instead of honestly estimating the amount of work involved.



1. Can you describe your business in a few sentences?

2. Do you want mostly an information site, or do you want extra functionality, e.g.

· Ecommerce

· Social media integration

· Private login areas

3. Do you currently have a logo / branding?

4. Who will be responsible for the website’s content? Text and Images?

5. Do you have any websites you’ve seen that you particularly like?

6. Where are you based?

7. Do you have a specific budget and deadline?



1. What’s your USP (what sets you apart from you competitors)?

2. Can you name a few of your competitors?

3. Can you describe your target customers?

4. What search phrases would you like to be found for?

8. How did you hear about us?

For more advice and tips on choosing a web designer, check out our resource bank.

Should I have a W3C HTML / CSS Validation button on my website?

If I’m amazed at how often I see the W3C html or CSS validation button on a website, I’m gobsmacked at how many times I click it and the validation fails.

These widgets check the quality of your code against the W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium - the closest thing to an official industry body) standards and tell you whether you’re following all the rules perfectly or not. If you’re not, it indicates how many broken rules there are and where they are, so that you can correct them if you wish.

There are several issues professional web designers have with putting this code on the website.

Who cares?

The first one is the same as the hit counter – it’s self-indulgent. No visitor gives two hoots whether the website is standards compliant or not. They’re only interested in their experience, and whether the website is easy to use and helps them achieve their goals, or not. 

Plus, normal mortals don’t have the first idea what that button is about or what it means. So the only people who are interested in having such a thing displayed on the site are: the person who designed it and possibly the person who owns it. And if you’re prioritising these people above your audience, you’re losing your noodle.

What does it prove?

The second issue is that ‘standards compliant’ does not equal ‘excellent website’.
Meeting the W3C standards is basically a box checking issue, and as anyone who’s used any document spellchecker knows, dogmatically following algorithmic rules is still nowhere near the level of the complexity of the human experience. Spellcheckers are excellent now, but if you blindly followed their rules, you could still end up with a garbled mess.

The same goes for standards compliance. It might help some web designers to keep their code tidy and cross-browser compatible, but it won’t stop them building a terrible websites with, for example, a confusing structure, busy pages, jarring colours or misleading navigation.

And by the same token, some of the best websites out there will NOT be standards compliant. You may wonder how this could be the case, but the reason why is quite simple.

The Internet is Alive

The Internet, computing and coding are modern technologies which are constantly moving, constantly updating and always changing, improving. Organisations that have to set industry standards are slow, plodding things. 

With its priority on only approving technologies that are completely robust, reliable and work in pretty much every context, W3C standards compliance is about five years behind the cutting edge.

That means that if you stick to the standards, you greatly reduce the options that are available to you.

Now, if your website is a community service website for the hard of hearing, for example, you probably will want to make sure your website is as solid and accessible as possible, and those with ancient computers aren’t going to have trouble. Plus, you’re providing a service, so you don’t need to convince anyone to visit your website.

However, if you’re running a high-fashion online clothing store, sticking to the standards will frustrate your target visitors and give the impression the company is ponderous and old fashioned, because the website can’t do any of the little flourishes and quick responses to make their experience sexy – because the technologies that do those things are too new to have been approved yet.

Crossing the line

And to finish with the ‘failing’ point – next time you see one of those buttons, try clicking on it. About 95% of the time, it come up with a big red warning that says ‘ERRORS!’, often with many of them being ‘fatal’. The absurdity of including this button when the site doesn’t even pass is beyond words.

How long does a website take to build?

This really is like asking how long is a piece of string - it hugely depends on what sort of web design  you're looking for. But I'll try to give a few guidelines, explaining the process, to help give a rough idea.

Technically, you could make a website in a few hours, if it was a simple html page (or possibly two or three), you didn't care too much how it looked and weren't worried about fancy graphics. However, it would take at least 24 hours to sort out the domain name and configuration, so unless this is already set up, a day or two is your absolute minimum.

However, this process only works if there is one person responsible for building and approving the site.

Once you bring a client into the picture, everything changes, because you have to go through a feedback and approval process. Assuming the website is built directly as above, that the client gives feedback immediately and doesn't want too many changes, you're looking at about a week minimum, or up to four weeks of back and forth if the initial design is too far from the vision and the communication process is inefficient.

However, for more complicated design, fiddling around with the code in order to make interface changes is inefficient, and means you end up with ugly code at the end that's been hacked about. It's better to get the design signed off before the coding is started. This means that a client approves a concept first, again, this could take as little as a week if the design is spot on and the client is prompot in feedback. Or it could take weeks, or even months, if either party is a bad communicator or dawdles with updates. Once that's done the coding should be much swifter and the only thing left to do is adding in the content - which can be quick if it's all ready and in good shape, or delay things greatly if it's not.

We've found a comfortable time frame for website design for a fairly standard small business website without any fancy back end, from initiation to launch is about six to eight weeks, and breaks down like this:

Concept web design and approval - two weeks
Development build - one week
Content insertion and fine tuning - two to three weeks (assuming it's ready and in good shape)
Final sign off and launch - one week.

Obviously if extra services are needed, such as database development or logo design, that's going to take longer.

Find out more about our Leeds web design services.