In the 10 years or so of being a part of a professional web development company, I’ve worked with hundreds of people looking to create a web site for their businesses. In most cases, I’ve found the clients to sorely lacking in the knowledge of how it’s done… which is why they came to us in the first place:-)
Having said that, yes, a lot many clients do not know the basic steps involved in creating a web site. Some expect you to do everything, even register a domain name or write their web site text content! And this is why I wrote this article – If you want to create a web site for your business, you should read this word for word!
Creating a web site is not rocket science – I, and my former colleagues, don’t have Ph.D.s from NASA! Though developing a professional web presence involves a lot many things, I believe clients should at least know the basics of how it’s done. So here we go…
The very first step is to sit down with pen and paper (a cup of tea is optional, but helps) and list out all what you want from the web site. You may involve a professional at this stage but it would definitely add to the total web site cost. You don’t need to be very thorough because a lot many things will change later but do create a basic framework or a foundation, if you like, on which details concerning your site are added gradually as you move forward.
Spend a day or two (maybe more) visiting various web sites, especially the ones of your competitors (or “prospective competitors”). See how the information has been presented and note the good and bad aspects of each site – what you liked and what turned you off. These web sites can provide you enough fodder for your brain which you can then shape into original ideas.
Web pages consist of both text and multimedia content such as images, video, audio, animation etc. Creating the content of web pages is probably the most time consuming aspect of developing a web site. This is, typically, your responsibility and NOT of the web developer you would hire. So do not shirk away from your work! Remember no one can understand your business better than you.
You can use a word processor such as MS Word to write the content of the web pages. Make sure each page has a heading and sub headings. Place text in paragraphs and create lists when you need to. This is like going back to school when you had to prepare a report on a topic. Do not blatantly copy textual content from other web sites. This will not help your cause. In fact, major search engines like Google are adept at finding duplicate content and will probably give you “negative marks” – more on search engines below.
And while you are developing the text, think of the images and graphics you want to place with the content. Again, I advise you not to use images from the web because most of these would have copyrights – you don’t want a lawsuit a couple of months after putting up the web site, do you?
This is where the services of the professional web developer would come in play. However, based on your homework of visiting competitor’s web sites, do offer suggestions. Ask the web developer to provide the design for your web site homepage and a sub page as an images because these would be easier and quicker to change if you want the design to be modified.
A very important note: Do not be obsessive and try to come up with the “best” design, if you know what I mean. I’ve had clients who kept making very small changes to the design which delayed the process of getting their web site online. Your web site design and layout is important without doubts. But since design is highly subjective, what looks good to you might not appeal to another. As long as the design template and the layout are clean and to-the-point, you don’t need to worry about whether to use a slightly darker shade of blue or increase your logo by 10 pixels! Remember, web surfers (including yourself) are always in a hurry – they come to your web site looking for information and if you confuse them with a “wonderful” design that makes it difficult to find that information, you’ve lost the battle and the war.
A professional online presence should have a domain name. These are pretty cheap and you can get one for a few dollars per year. There are tons of domain name registrars – I highly recommend Network Solutions. Registering a domain name is simple, but coming up with a good one can be frustrating because it is difficult to get a unique name. Please refer the article on how to get a domain name for your business for details. Always purchase domain names from reliable companies like the one I mentioned and do not be bought in (pun intended) by a few dollars.
Important: Do not ask the web developer or anyone else to register the domain on your behalf. This may, and most definitely will, lead to problems in the future. The domain name is most important aspect of your business – it is your online name. Losing your domain name is the worst scenario an online business can face – your web site, email accounts (of the web site) will all be gone!
If you already have a domain name use the Network Solutions WHOIS service to check if it’s indeed in your name. If not, make sure you get this corrected. The WHOIS information should reflect your name, address, contact numbers AND your email ID.
The second expense involved in creating a web site is the web hosting package. A web site needs to be located on a web server – a dedicated computer connected to the internet 24/7. When you buy a web hosting package, you essentially take hard disk space of a web server on rent. Web hosting is quite cheap nowadays and you can get a good deal for roundabout $100 for a year. I suggest you take a look the list of reliable web hosting companies.
Though not important as a domain name because you can change your web site hosting company anytime, make sure you buy the web hosting package yourself… it should be in your name and not the web developers! Ensure that you have the login details (username and password) and have full control on them.
Assuming you have hired a web developer to create a web site, you now have everything in place – the web site design, the page content, the domain name and the hosting. It’s now time to ask the developer to complete the web site.
Once the developer creates the web site, you need to check it for the final time. Ask them to upload the web site in a temporary directory on the web server… something like www.your-domain-name.com/review/. Check and test your web site pages – all the web pages!
When you are satisfied and found everything to be correct, ask the developer to make the web site public. This would be a great day in your life so go ahead and rejoice – take your partner out on a luxurious dinner.
Important: Ask the developer to provide you with a full copy of the web site – web pages and associated content like images etc. – on a CD or as a compressed zip file. This way you have a copy of the site and if the developer backs out, you can always get another.
The cost of the web site can now be broken down to three:
The best way to promote a web site and have visitors pouring in is by getting it to rank high on search engines for the chosen keywords. Obviously, your web site can’t rank high for everything or even for all the selected keywords. In fact, in the first few months, it would be fortunate that your site comes on the first or second results page of search engines.
The last cost associated with a web site is for search engine optimization. You can either approach the same web developer or a specialist – a SEO company. The cost for SEO depends on several factors including whether it’s a onetime work or requires continual effort. Select a reliable search engine optimization company, one that offers some sort of guarantee in getting your site ranking high on search engines.
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