In the past year, has more than one person asked you for your business’ Web site address only for you to say that you don’t have one?
Have you always “been meaning to” get a Web site, but don’t know where to start or how to get help?
We have created a two-part guide to help you down the right path towards having your own Web site. The first part of this guide covers what you need to do before you go looking for someone to build your Web site, while the second part will address how to find a Web developer and what costs you should expect to pay. We couldn’t include every aspect of Web site processes; however, we hope this will get you started in the right direction.
Everyone knows the old adage, “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” As with anything else, the more work you put into something upfront, the better the end result. If you are thinking about getting a Web site for your business, there are few things that you will need to do first to make sure that you will only be “cutting once.”
Research and planning
The first thing you will start doing is researching and planning your Web site, so it is probably a good idea to start a “Web site” folder. This is where you will keep all your Web site findings, content and notes for when you do actually meet with prospective Web developers. Please note that I use the term “Web developer” instead of “Web designer.” There is more work involved in creating a Web site than just design. I feel that the term “developer” more accurately describe the business of creating Web sites. With that said, here are the first steps:
• First, know what is out there and who is out there in your line of work.
Using your favorite search engine, type in your business industry. Looking at what is currently online is the best way to get an idea of what you may want. For example, if you are in the manufacturing industry, go online and find some examples of manufacturing companies that already have Web sites. Make note of the Web sites you like, and don’t like, and print them out. You will need to use them as references later on. Now do the same with your competition by typing their name into a search engine. If they have a Web site, make note of their domain name (this would be the www.domainnamehere.com part) and also print out their Web site. If you can’t find your competition online, then you will be ahead of the game once your Web site is online!
• Outline your Web site.
Create an outline or a list of the sections you want on your Web site. This information will be used to create your Web site’s navigation and individual Web site pages. Most Web sites have a “Home,” “About Us” page, “Contact Us” page, etc… in their navigation. Look at the examples of Web sites that you like, as well as your competitors’ Web site, and use these as a guide for ideas on design and content.
• Collect your Website Content
The best way to really save money and time on Web site development is to be prepared before seeking out a Web developer. Along with your Web site outline, you will need to provide the information that is to be displayed in each section of the Web site, including all text and photos.
Most Web developers will be more than happy to help you create text about your business to put on your Web site; however, you will be paying a premium price for this service.
Since you and your employees know your business better than anyone else, have someone in-house create the text for your Web site. Use your Web site outline that you have already created as a guide for gathering and/or creating the info you want displayed on each page. If you are not sure what you want to say or how to say it, look at the example Web sites you have printed out and/or get back online to find examples, but don’t plagiarize. Remember! Keep your content informative and concise and use bullet points when you can.
Referencing your Web site outline and example Web sites once again, collect photos or artwork you might want to use on each page. If you have photos of your product(s), employees, office, etc… these are all things you might consider putting on your Web site. It is very important to know that poor quality photos and bad clip-art can make the most professional of businesses look amateurish on the Web. If your photos don’t look up to snuff, hire someone to take professional digital photos to use on your Web site.
Remember, first impressions really do increase your credibility on the Web.
Final note on content
Before submitting your content to a Web developer, be sure that most, if not all, of your content is in digital format.
This means, all text needs to be typed into a word processing document and saved as a .txt file so that is universally useable. All photos you wish to contribute to the Web site will need to be digital and preferably already burned on CD. This will help expedite your Web site creation, as well as cut your costs.
At this point, you should have a better understanding as to what you want your Web site to do, what you want it to say, and maybe a few ideas on how you want it to look. (Better than your competitions’ Web site, right?!)
Part two of this column will not only cover how to go about finding a Web developer, but will address how to find the right one, and more importantly, who to avoid. We will also go into the costs involved in having a Web site.
Patrice Anderson has been building Web sites since 1996, and she is currently a Web developer for RedMagnet Inc. of Tupelo. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the company is online at www.redmagnet.com.