Terrific Websites May 18 2008, 0 Comments

Just about everyone has a website these days. One of the first things that I am asked as I conduct business, is, “Do you have a website?” Many times it is the first way that potential customers familiarize themselves with what I do before I meet with them. It is also the way in which I can invite the world to see what I do and what I have to offer. If you are in business it has become vitally important that you have an effective website, one that is easy to use and one that represents your company in a positive light.

Websites should be like your business plan, constantly under review and constantly being updated. No-one wants to look at an outdated website! I have learned finally, sometimes the hard way, how to go about creating a website that reflects my business, is easy for others to use, and is also a site that I can maintain. Hopefully, some of the following tips can help you avoid some of the mistakes that I have made as my websites has evolved…

First, decide what you want your website to do for you. Do you want to simply show off your restaurant or a tourist attraction? Do want it to be a website where people can make purchases? Are you an artist wanting to show off your work? It is important to know how you want your website to function so that you can explain it in detail to a web designer.

Secondly, once you have decided what you want your website to do for you, you need to come up with a domain name. “www.something.com”. You can purchase your domain name very cheaply, usually for a few dollars per year. YOU should own your domain name. The days of someone else owning your domain name and charging hundreds of dollars for web hosting are long gone. Be sure that you do not get involved in any long term web hosting contract or even a short term contract that charges more than $10.00-$30.00 per month. For me, I have found “Domains Made Easy” to be a quick and inexpensive way to purchase my domain names. I also like that I can get a human being on the phone if I have questions.

Thirdly, interview at least three potential web designers. Ask to see sites that they have designed. Ask for references. Also ask how they feel about teaching you how to work the “back end” of your site. This may involve a lot of your time but I have found that calling a web designer every time I want to change something that will take all of three minutes can be costly and annoying. I don’t want to pay someone for something I can do in three minutes. My current web designer is fantastic! He listened to what I wanted in a website, and then together we designed the company concept. He also insisted that I learn how to work the back end of my site. This did take a lot of time and commitment on my part but how sweet to have control over my own website! I can edit, make additions and changes whenever I want too. I have learned a great deal and I save money by being able to make my own changes.

Fourth, once you have your website up and running, you are bound to run into many who will want to “help” you to get your site noticed by one and all. DON”T fall for it. While there are many honest folks out there who can assist you with the marketing your website, there are many more that really do not understand the algorithms involved in getting your site recognized by the spiders that search the web. Google for example changes the way they find and recognize websites. Just because you are on page one of Google today, does not mean you will be there a month from now. I made the mistake of hiring a company who assured me that they could help me move up the internet food chain so to speak. After 120 days, I fired them. All they really did was use Google Ad Words at some crazy high price per click which does not drive the search engine spiders to find you. Google Ad Words are great but you should not dedicate more than $100.00 a month or so to those ads. The keywords that you use in your ad are what will help you come up in the ranking and while spending more may help, it is not always the case. Search Engine Optimization is something that requires a skilled tech. It is demanding and the information changes constantly. When you are looking for someone to help you market your website, ask what they know about SEO!

Fifth, images…images…images…We have become a world that makes decisions based upon a visual that lasts about three seconds! That is just the way it is folks! Your website images/photographs should be done by a professional photographer. Good product photography requires special equipment and know how once the photos are taken. They need to be edited and sized for your website. This is one area where you do not want to cut corners, especially if you have products to sell. The quality of your images can bring in customers just as bad images can drive them away!

Sixth, unless you are promoting your own music, don’t use music as an entrance into your website. Depending on what type of computer someone is using, your site may take longer to upload. If it takes too long to log onto your site, some people may just move on. Music can also be distracting. Think about your goal. What does having music add? If you choose music that someone doesn’t like, they may just click out of your site!

Finally, when in doubt, ask questions! Take time to do some research. Remember, your site is going to reflect you and your business.