How to Set Up a Web Site For Your Business
By Michele Marik
The idea of setting up a website for your company can be kind of overwhelming, but in fact it doesn't have to be. It's important that you understand what's involved (including the terminology) before you make any decisions.
- Domain Name - your website will need a domain name. Ideally, a name that is the same as, or similar to, your business name. John's Used Cars might look for johnsusedcars.com, for example. Give some thought to what domain names you'd like. Accept that many domain names are already taken, so you should be prepared with multiple variations of each name. Also consider whether you want a.com domain, or if a country-specific one (.ca,.us) would serve you just as well.
- Domain Hosting - when you type in a url in your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox), what happens behind the scenes is that your computer sends a request that is eventually routed to a hosting server somewhere in the world. That server sends a response, and you see the page. Something similar will have to happen with your business website. Many hosting services exist, at extremely reasonable prices (one month's website hosting comes in at roughly the cost of a large coffee at Starbucks)
- Website Design/Development - given a domain name, and a hosting server, all that's left is creating a website
A web developer can help you with all of this. Before you hire a website designer, think it through. Decide exactly what you want your website to do for you:
- You can start with a simple site (introduction, products/services description, pricing, contact information) that will provide information to people who heard about your business and want to know more.
- With search engine optimization (SEO), you can ensure that your site will have a high ranking on google searches for relevant key words (eg. John's Used Cars, in Sacramento, might target the following keywords: sacramento reliable used car dealerships) so that you can attract new customers.
- Depending on your business, you may want to sell your products and/or services online. An online shopping cart, combined with online payment processing, has the potential to add a new revenue stream to your business (especially useful if your product is something that can be e-mailed to the purchaser, or if your service is something that requires advance registration).
Spend a little time surfing the web - check out websites belonging to competing companies, get an idea of what look and feel appeals to you.
Once you've given some thought to what you want from a website, you should plan to hire a web developer to implement it for you - unless you love getting elbow-deep in new technologies (html, css, php, flash...), you should focus on carefully choosing a website developer you can trust to create the website that will promote your company online, and then get back to growing your business.
When selecting a web developer, consider the following:
- check out the other sites he's done.
- ask to speak with his previous clients - make sure they were happy with the process, beginning to end.
- does he have experience creating sites with similar functionality to your own (if you want an online store, and your developer is highly experienced in creating specialized blogging websites, it may not be a good match).
- decide how much involvement you want in the process - ranging from blind faith ("please create a nice website for me, and tell me when it's done") to obsessive compulsive control freak ("I think that line should be 2 pixels wide, instead of 3, and it should be dark grey instead of black"). Make sure your developer is comfortable with it.
- discuss the future maintenance of your site (if you want additions/modifications at some future date, is he prepared to support you? at what price?)
- and definitely, make sure that he's in your price range
Once you've found a developer you're happy with, work with your developer to create a detailed written specification of your acceptance criteria - so that it will be very clear when he's done, and whether or not he's performed at an agreed-upon level.
Finally - agree on a payment plan up-front. Once the project has been well-specified, your developer should be able to come up with a fairly accurate estimate of how many hours of work will be required, and should be able to provide you with a fixed quote and an estimated completion date.
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