Everyday thousands of new businesses make the leap and take their business on line, what about yours? If you haven't already, I'll bet you have thought about it and wondered how much more business you could be doing if you just went on line?and right about then, you wonder what it would take to get your business on line?
Here are some things to consider:
1. What do I expect my web site to do? The question you must ask yourself first and foremost is, "What do I want my website to do?". There are many types of web sites out there from purely selling products, to purely informational and everything in between. Are you looking to start an online community with people who have similar interests? Do you need a one page online resume, portfolio, bio, or online brochure to really get your company's information in front of the public? No two sites are exactly alike, and because of that, the prices for your web design can fluctuate. This question is one you must ask yourself before you hire a web designer!
2. How much will a web site cost me? What is your budget for your web site? Be realistic when you set your amount. Though a good deal is great, rock bottom prices are not what you are looking for here! Remember, this is your virtual store front. You want your site to be professional, efficient, and look the very best it can-you want your dreams to come true, and they will with the right designer.
Honestly, you can find web site design from $35 (if you get this for a quote, and you have any hopes of ending up with a professional site?WALK AWAY!) to $10,000 (good for huge companies that can afford it, but not the best bet for a new business). Realistically, expect to spend from $85-$200 for a one page resume, bio or brochure site and from $300-$1,800 for larger full featured sites, and expect to pay either half or all of it upfront depending on your designer.
Aside from that there are monthly hosting fees that range from $10-$40 per month for a descent sized site. Ask your designer if they offer hosting in addition to designing your site? You will usually get a much better deal, and you already trust them to design your site (I'll go more into hosting plans and options another time). Do you have your domain name yet? (example: www.thebestmoms.com) If not, ask your designer if they can get you one? A lot the time, if you are buying a decent sized design job and hosting from them, they will throw in your domain name for free-although, you will have to pay the renewal fee each year which can range from $19-$35 (ask your designer).
3. What's my web address going to be? This is a question you want to really spend some time on before choosing. I suggest you pick a name that is A-easy to remember, B-as short as possible, C-as uncomplicated as possible; try to stay away from more than 1 or 2 hyphens, if any. People easily forget the hyphens when they remember the address, and you don't want to be sending business somewhere else. D-using correct spelling; it is fun to play with the spelling of a word, but take in to consideration your audience's ability to remember the way YOU spelled it as opposed to their natural urge to spell it correctly.
It's your job to get them to your site, not their job to find you, so make it easy. E-pick something that has to do with your business (optional); I know some sites have gone against this rule and been successful but they also started from a different place than you are starting. Come up with a list of your top 5 or 10 choices, because there is a good chance that your first choice is already gone! When deciding, ask yourself if you want your address to be a .com, .net, .org, .edu, .biz, .tv, etc. I suggest .com, or .net for selling (ecommerce) sites, but it's up to you!
4. How long will it take to design my site? There are a lot of different factors that determine just how long a site takes to be completed, including you. If you take longer to get your information (or your words for each page and pictures) it will of course take longer for your site to be up and running. Also, the more complicated your site, the longer it can take-though I've not seen a site construction take longer than 8 weeks. To speed the design process, have a clear idea of what it is you want ahead of time. Make lists, and write out your 'blurbs' (text) for each page. Your text is your responsibility, and a lot of designers will not consider creating it for you with out charging you for creative writing (which can cost $35-75 per hour).
I only suggest leaving the creative writing up to someone else if you are positive that you simply can not do it. If your designer does not offer writing as a service (ask), you can hire a creative writer online and sometimes you can even barter (trade your products for their services) with creative writers looking to build their portfolio. One other way that you can speed up the design process is to make sure you and your designer are on the same page as far as design.
You do not want to keep changing your design idea, especially after they have started working. A lot of work goes into web site design, and so what seems like a minor change in the design plans to you may actually be a major change in the overall design, and some designers will charge you for this because your initial quote is based on their expected design hours. I wouldn't suggest doubling it out of the blue.
5. How long before the public discovers my site? They won't. What I mean by that is, there is more to getting people to your site than just putting it on the web. Like any other store, you have to market your site. One great tool is search engines. Now, how do you get listed on search engines? You want to give your designer a two sentence description for each category or page, and a list of 20 words you think some one would use to find your site for each category. Your designer may be willing to do some of this for you, so ask.
Also, there are some search engine submission services out there that are great, and there are some that aren't. I suggest you ask your designer if they submit your site to search engines automatically or if there is a small fee for this? Is their submission once or repeated over a period of time? Simply submitting will not guarantee you top spot on the search engines; especially if you are in an already crowded field-even if you pay the $300 fees some search engines charge.
You can also market your site by putting the web site address on everything-return address labels, business cards, t-shirts, your car, your email signature; put it in your signature on message boards, etc. There are many ways to get the word out, but don't think for one second that just because you built it, they will come-this is by far the biggest misconception in web site building!
6. Who will update my site in the future? Most designers have policies about updates, from a monthly update fee only for the months you require updates, to an hourly fee per update. Talk to your designer, and make sure that they understand not only how often you expect to need updates, but the nature of your updates. If it is something like switching a picture, or changing a phone number, there may be no charge so ask.
After answering these questions, you are ready to talk to your designer about the fun stuff-the design. Write down a list of sites that possess the feel or the style that you are looking for so your designer can get a better picture of your ultimate goal, and the two of you go from there!
?2005 Samantha Olea
Samantha Olea is the owner and designer for http://GetWrappedUp.com ?All Wrapped Up Business Solutions. She specializes in visual design and web design for the small to large businesses. Not a tied to a particular style of design, Samantha Olea is able to create your vision and really make it your own. To discuss your site, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org today.