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My Website - Where Do I Begin?

April 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 160

The benefits of having a website far outweigh the costs associated with it assuming it's planned well, designed, well, and created well.

Having a website allows you to share and exchange knowledge with others reaching far more people than ever imaginable. Your idea, product or service will have increased exposure both regionally and globally. You have the freedom of changing your information any time of the day to meet your needs. Overhead is decreased due to less printing, publishing, and distribution. You can set up eCommerce features and your business will be open 24/7. It can be a great recruiting tool as you expand your business. It's also the right step towards a professional identity. The list of benefits goes on and on.

Now that you've decided to make a website, where do you begin?

Many people believe that getting a website set up and online is expensive so they are reluctant to pursue the possibilities. But the truth of the matter is, anyone can publish anything on the web and do it for far less than you might expect, even for free. Every website begins with an idea, but the first thing you should consider before delving into the process of creating some kind of online presence is,

"What will visitors accomplish by visiting my website?"

Most people visiting your site are doing so because a search engine directed them to your site and they are looking for something specific. Hopefully your website gets them the information they seek quickly so they'll stay on your site, come again, and share the relevant information with someone else, thereby increasing your exposure. Your website is about the people who visit it and understanding their needs, so always keep your visitors' goals in mind. If you don't, people will look elsewhere. Other questions you need to consider are:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What are you going to offer?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Who is your competition?
  • What is the nature of the content you want to present?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is your timeline?
  • What are your long term goals?
  • What are your short term goals?
  • Is everything on your site relevant to the user?

There is basic content that every business website should have. Think of your website as an online brochure, showcasing your business, product, or service. It should

  • explain what you do
  • contain contact information
  • showcase examples of your work or product
  • answer frequently asked questions

Of course there is more content you'll want to add to your site even if you don't want to do everything at first. But you'll need to have an overall plan so that what you do today will support what you want to do tomorrow.

Designing vs Building a website

Building a website is a technical process and designing a website is the creative process. Both are equally important for a successful website. Building the website has to do with the function of your site (navigation, content, ease of understanding) and the design is about how your site is marketed (color, flow, look and feel). The design is how you'll hook your viewer, but both aspects are important to make sure your site caters to the type of audience you're trying to attract.

Do it yourself or hire a web professional?

Budget may be a deciding factor on what route you go when designing and building your website. Do-it-yourself websites may work fine, and many email service providers or website hosting companies offer site building applications or templates that can get you up and running relatively inexpensively and quickly. If you're a bit more computer savvy and want full control over your site design and maintenance, perhaps some design and imaging software and site building applications is an option for you. However, I find that most software needed for comprehensive web design is expensive and not necessarily intuitive, so make sure you can handle the job before you invest in this option. Keep in mind that web design requires a degree of creativity and usability knowledge. Professional web designers are trained in web design standards, color theory, SEO, art direction, and content management.

Things you'll need for a website

Web Hosting Service

Web hosting service is what allows you to put your website on the World Wide Web. It's a company that provides server space where you can upload your files and make them available on the internet. Depending on the use of the website, your costs can vary from free to expensive. A lot of time, an email package includes the option of setting up a personal website included in your email package; check with your provider. There are many options to choose from when deciding who to use to host your website but the average consumer can get by with the minimum package. The most important factor in web hosting is down time. Make sure downtime is minimal.

A good Domain Name

A domain name is your web address (URL). The best domain names use the company name in the address. If you haven't created your company name, consider making something that's memorable and catchy and something your customers can relate to and associate with your business. Your name will have to be registered and can be done so by most web hosting companies.

Site Plan

Do not neglect planning your site. You should definitely have an idea of what you want on your site and how it should look. The more you communicate with your web design professional, the better. Pay attention to what was mentioned earlier and remember to consider your customers, the content, and the design.

  • Other things you might consider for your website
  • Add an email address that ties to your website.
  • Set up Analytics which tells how your site is doing and tracks visitor statistics.
  • Who's going to maintain your site? If you are, how?
  • Do you need eCommerce? How do you plan to collect fees?
  • How are you going to keep your site fresh and current?
  • How are you going to market your site?
  • SEO - Search Engine Optimization
  • Know copyright laws.

Roz Birkelo is a freelance graphic designer doing business as Clearly Golden, in Golden, Colorado. She specializes in print work, layout and design, production, and technical drawings.

Source: EzineArticles
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