In 1998, I decided to
get a web site for my small business. I found the process to be confusing,
expensive and frustrating. After five months, two web designers and several
thousand dollars — and a still unfinished site — I just knew there had to be
a better way.
Much later, I discovered that
if I were somewhat familiar with the web design process and could formulate
key questions to ask potential designers, the process would have been much
smoother and less expensive.
Based on my personal experience, I formulated this guide to cover the basic
issues one should know to have a web site built.
This guide is for anyone who wants to get a
website, but have little or no knowledge of
By understanding the process
and language of web design, you will be able to converse with and convey key
ideas to a web designer in clear terms. This saves time and money — both of
which are usually in small supply for small business owners.
Questions and answers are
written in simple, easy-to-understand language. It is organized by section
and has a glossary of commonly used web terms at the end. It also offers
valuable insight into why you should do something, instead of just
saying, do it.
There are several blank pages
at the end of the manual for taking notes. I always jot down questions,
ideas and observations as I read. This makes it easy to revisit issues
So, how did my business
finally get on the web? Not wanting to risk more time and money, my partner
at the time and I built the company web site. We taught ourselves the
necessary software and completed the site within a month. I have drawn upon
all of the issues I faced during this difficult process to help you,
hopefully, avoid what I went through.
I hope you find the guide useful and it saves
you much in the way of time, money and
Welcome to the World Wide Web!
Technology and Small Business
According to research by International Data Corp. [IDC], it is increasingly
important for small businesses to have some sort of presence on the
Internet. About 513,000 small businesses, or 9%, maintained a home page in
1997, up from 2.7% in 1996.
"Smaller companies should realize using the Web increases their marketing
might and geographic scope," said IDC analyst Warren Childs. The typical
small business that uses the Internet is younger and growing faster
than U.S. small businesses as a whole, the report says.
What does the Internet do?
Technically, the Internet doesn't do anything. It allows you to do things.
Like what? Search databases (academic research, telephone directories,
people locator information, etc.); download/send data (request a catalog,
send grandma a photo, shop for clothes); participate in chat rooms, and much
more. It's an exciting world!
The different types of web
There are different types of web sites. They can be separated into three
distinct categories, ie, the: 1) Informational/Brochure Site; 2) Interactive
Site; and 3) E-Commerce Site.
The four main reasons why
every business needs a web site
Would you like to make money while you sleep? Essentially, a web site allows
you to do just that. Proof?
After launching a Web site, 41% of small businesses report an increase in
their sales volume, and more than half (55%) with a Web site say their sites
have generated a profit or paid for themselves. SmallBusinessComputing.com,
"Internet Future Bright for Small Businesses," January 14, 2003
The Web Design Process:
QUESTIONS, ANSWERS, ACTION
Basically, there are
five steps that must be taken to get a web site. They are:
1. Idea Formulation: What will your site be about; what do you
want to accomplish
2. Naming Your Site: Domain name registration
1. Idea Formulation
What you want to accomplish:
Before you contact a web designer, you should ask (and answer) the
following questions of yourself. Although they may seem elementary, these
questions will, in large part, decide which firms you decide to contact to
build your site.
Why do I want a web site? After reading the introductory information
above, you should realize what a web site can mean to your bottom line.
There can also be additional reasons, eg, to expand a customer base; to
project a more professional image; going from a paper to an online catalog,
etc. The list is endless. Have a clear picture of whatever this is.
Registering Your Domain Name
The first step in getting a web site is to register your domain name.
You can do this yourself, without the help of a web designer. Even if you
can't afford a web site right now, it is a good idea to register your
dot-com name. This can be done for under $10.00 a year. Ideally, this would
be the name of your company or of a popular product you sell.
CHOOSING A WEB DESIGNER
Choosing a web designer will depend greatly on the answers to the questions
above. Many designers/firms have a dollar minimum that you must spend in
order to work with them. This is fine because it doesn't waste your time or
theirs. Once you start to interview web designers ask, at a minimum, the
11 Questions You Must Ask All Potential Web Designers
Do you have a web site?
Elementary, I know. However, many seem to think that anyone can design a
site. You might be their first customer. A web designer without a web site
is like a tailor without a sewing machine. What can they possibly do for
Who will own the
Do not automatically assume
that because you are paying for it that it belongs to you.
How much will it
cost and what are your billing arrangements?
Many firms bill in increments — eg, halves or thirds. A designer may ask
for half to begin and the balance after the site is complete.
What is content development? The process of developing the information
(text, graphics, animation, etc.) that will go on your web site. If you
don't like to write, can't write, or simply are not confident in your
abilities in this area, pay someone to do it for you. It's an investment in
What pages must I
absolutely have on my web site
In my opinion, a professional web site should contain the following pages
(or information). Some of this information can be listed more than one way,
eg, on your About Us page you may also list your company mission. That's up
SELECTING A WEB HOSTING COMPANY
What is a web hosting company?
Simply put, a company that "hosts" web sites. Web hosting companies own the
facilities and computers where the files of your web site are served by
their web server.
What to look for in a web hosting company
The web hosting company you choose depends on the type/purpose of your
web site. Your choice of host is absolutely critical to the success
of your web site. You should become familiar with, and ask questions of your
web designer about, the aspects outlined below.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SMALL BUSINESS: A Snapshot
Definition, Statistics, Technology
Small Business and Its
Effect on the Economy
Technology and What It Means for Small Business
About: What is it? What does it do? Who runs it?
Web Browsers: What is it? What does it do?
What is the World Wide Web?
What is a Web Site?
Different Types of Web Sites
The Difference Between a Web "Site" and a Web "Page"
Four Main Reasons Every Business Needs a Web Site
The Web Design Process:
Questions, Answers, Action
Idea Formulation: How to Formulate the Key Ingredients of Your web Site
Domain Name: What is it? How to register it
CHOOSING A WEB DESIGNER
Eleven (11) Questions You Must Ask All Potential Web Designers
What is Content
Create Effective Content in Four Easy Steps
What to Look for in a Freelance Content Developer/Writer/Editor
Cost of Content Developers
SELECTING A WEB HOSTING
What is a Web Hosting Company?
What to Look for in a Web Hosting Company
Web Servers: What are they? What do they do?
Web Hosting Costs
About Free Web Hosting Companies
HOW TO SELL GOODS AND
SERVICES ON YOUR WEB SITE
Four Things You Need to Sell Goods & Services On Your Web Site
Shopping Carts: What are they? How do they work? How much do they cost?
Merchant Accounts: What are they? How much do they cost?
Online Credit Card Processors: What are they? How much do they cost?
E-Commerce — A Summary
WEB SITE MAINTENANCE
Maintaining/Updating Your Site
Pages Every Web Site Should Have
THE COST OF WEB DESIGN: AN
YOUR WEB SITE IS FINISHED —
What are Search Engines and Search Directories?
What is the Difference Between a Search Engine and a Search Directory?
How to Submit to Search Engines and Directories
What are Key Words?
MARKETING YOUR WEB SITE
Marketing Your Web Site Beyond Search Engine (Directory) Registration
The Myth: If You Build It, They Will Come
Web Terminology: Definitions
of Commonly Used Terms
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