Creating Website Part I

In Step 3, we’ll explain where and how to begin.

Tip

Ways to stand out online

Online marketing now offers so many cost-effective options that it’s hard to know where to focus. Plus, recent studies estimate that a staggering 6 million documents are posted to the Web every day. You can’t simply launch a site and sit back. You must take action to get noticed.

. Make it easier to find your site. Much of search engine marketing is complex and time-consuming. But there are three fast ways to improve the odds of prominent placement.

�� The right keywords. Top rankings come from having content on your site that matches the keywords or (better yet) specific phrases customers use to search for what you sell.

�� Affiliate links. To find effective links, search for the phrases or keywords associated with the product or service you offer. In your search results, skip competitors, and choose marketers that support what you do. For instance, a kitchenware company might link to a table linens shop. Then send an e-mail or call to ask about exchanging links.

�� Vertical search engines. Besides the broad horizontal engines, harness the targeted power of engines specific to your industry.

2. Reward customer error. Countless numbers of potential customers input a wrong address or misspell the name of the company when searching. Make sure they end up on your site anyway.

3. Offer e-learning. The technology to create online courses or solo Webcasts is now relatively inexpensive. By investing in producing online courses, you can reach out to remote and large groups of prospects on an ongoing basis.

4. Use offline ads to trigger a search. Offline and online marketing is increasingly blurred. You see a roadside billboard, a trade journal ad, a URL on a coffee mug and, bam! Next thing you know, you’ve pulled up the browser.

5. Get friendly with Web 2.0. The rise of online social networking has been fast and furious. Real-time and peer-to-peer outlets, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, and the ballooning blogosphere directly reach thousands of customers for mere pennies. You can use these outlets to start online conversations, post editorials or product data and to announce news or products that build your reputation and expertise.

We cover it in four parts:

Web Hosting

FTP: File Transfer Protocol

Merchant Accounts

Managing your Web Images

Select the Tools for Making Your Home on the Web

Now it’s time to assemble the “toolkit” for putting your business site on the Web. Some you’ll need, no matter what type of site you build. Others apply specifically to e-commerce sites.

In this step, we tell you what they are, explain what they do and offer some resources to begin shopping for just the right set of tools to build your site and take it live to the biggest market in the world – the world itself!

Now put on a work shirt, roll up your sleeves and get to it. By the time you finish this step, you’re going to know a lot more about the mechanics of getting your business site on the Web.

Web Hosting

Unless you own or plan to invest in a server – a powerful computer that’s always online, and “big” enough to store all your Web site files, as well as the content and operations of your company’s network – you need to find and hire a reliable Web host.

Just like someone who accepts you into their home and tends to your needs, a Web host accepts your site into its computers, securely stores all of your files and data, and ensures that it will be available every day, around the clock, to you and your customers.

The host also handles most of your other technical needs, including up-to-date backups of your entire site; properly tuning the software; and giving you enough bandwidth to keep from slowing down your site’s functions, and how fast the pages load.

Because there are a whole lot of hosts, all trying to get your business, most keep their prices low (some are even free), for any size business and budget.

Hosts commonly offer other necessary Web site services, either with all-in-one discount packages, or individual low-cost add-ons.

Just remember, you will be placing your entire Web site and all its functions in the host’s safekeeping, so don’t be tempted to use anything but a well-established outfit with a proven track record. There’s plenty of comparative information, user reviews and other critical material online to provide this confidence.

Some good starting points:

Web Hosting Review

Hosting Review

ConsumerSearch

Tip

No HTML required

With Office Live Small Business Small Business, you can design the look of your Web pages without having to know a lick of HTML using a state-of-the-art tool called Site Designer.

With Site Designer (included with every subscription of Office Live Small Business Small Business), you can design page themes that match your organization’s personality and appeal to your customer base without having to know any HTML. Insert your organization’s logo, choose a navigation layout, set colors, and add headers and footers.

You can even modify the text on your Web pages, choose a page layout, change the font, set the font style, insert images, create tables, and add hyperlinks using simple online menus.

You can also:

�� Easily create and add new pages to your Web site

�� Change the link order of pages in the navigation pane

�� Preview your site using View Site

�� Upload and manage images and documents without using FTP

�� View traffic reports.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol

So you don’t get confused, understand that “FTP” is both a noun – referring to the software that transfers or “uploads” Web site files from your computer to your host’s server – and a verb – referring to the actual transfer: “I’m going to FTP these files.”

That also pretty well takes care of explaining what it does.

While hosts commonly include an FTP tool as part of their service, there’s often a limit on the size of the uploads it can handle. No matter. Plenty of free downloadable software on the Web can easily transfer your files to your host. A few that we like:

FTP Navigator

FileZilla

CoffeeCup Free FTP

Core FTP Lite

With some hosting packages (such as Office Live Small Business), no FTP software is required. You can just find your document, image or file on your desktop and easily upload it.

Merchant Accounts

To do retail business on the Web, you need to set up a merchant account to deal with credit card companies, banks and other financial services used by your customers.

You can do it yourself, often through your company’s bank, but you’ll have to do the hands-on work of processing every order. A better choice is one that grows easily with your Web business and does all the sensitive processing work for you automatically – a commercial merchant account provider. Although it actually refers to only part of their function, they’re also sometimes called “gateway” services.

Your customers enter their information in your “shopping cart” (we’ll get to that in Step 7), the merchant account service processes it securely, makes sure the money gets in your company bank account, and sends you an e-mail notice of the transaction or why it was refused.

Be sure, when shopping around for yours, that the provider handles all major credit cards and debit cards, e-checks, bank transfers and any other buying methods your customers will expect.

One of the best known is PayPal, and many of your customers may already have an account there to connect with yours. If they’ve ever bought anything on eBay, it’s likely.

Article: First Steps of Building a Web site For Your New Business

PayPal makes its money by taking a small cut of the sale, and charges nothing to set up your service.

Fees will vary among merchant account providers, so shop around for one with a reliable record, the services you need and at a cost you can handle. You can start with these:

Advanced Merchant Services

Network Solutions

Yahoo! Merchant Accounts

Avanti Merchant Services

Managing your Web Images

Unless you plan to hire a designer to take care of all the photos and other graphics on your Web site, you’ll need a tool to do it yourself.

Basic digital photo and graphics editors are available for free whereas sophisticated top-end programs like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Digital Image Suite, pretty well recognized as the professional gold standard, can cost into the hundreds of dollars.

What you’re looking for is editing software that can resize and crop images; repair problems with color and contrast; set their resolution, which controls how sharp your graphics are on the Web page; and save them using color modes and formats specifically for the Web.

The photo organizer built into your operating system, like Windows Photo Gallery packed with Microsoft’s new Vista, might even take care of your needs. Unless you really want to get into graphics editing and creating your own unique images and photo illustrations, you don’t need to understand the technical ins and outs. But you should be sure that your choice of software supports all standard graphics formats for the Web, mainly JPEG (jpg), GIF, Bitmap (bmp and others) and Ping (png).

Here’s a few good choices at a range of price points:

Microsoft Digital Image Suite

CoffeeCup Flash Photo Gallery

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Corel Paint Shop Pro

Quick Web Photo Resizer

PhotoPlus

Now you’re ready for Step 4, where we’ll explain some important design choices you should make before going any further.

e’ll prepare you to move forward with briefings and resources in three parts:

General Design Principles

Getting Around On Your Web Site

‘Seniors’ and Special Needs

Make Key Design Decisions

This is where the hard work you did in Step 1 comes into play. Having a clear definition of your target customer will help guide many of your decisions when the specific work of designing your new business Web site begins.

Doesn’t everybody want basically the same things from a Web site? Well, yes and no.

Any visitor wants to know quickly what your site is about, what you have to offer that’s of value to them, a well-designed system to move them through its pages and freedom from sensory assault by unexpected, unwelcome noisy and flashy graphics which can slow page load times.

Remember always: Your Web site is there to serve your customers and their needs. If you’re turned off by endless popups, grating audio and graphics that look like they’ve been lifted from the Vegas strip, then you shouldn’t expect your Web site visitors to react any differently.

Your target customer may also have special needs that should be included in your site design. The same features that are meant to serve them may also be just as welcome to a general audience.

This step assumes you’ve already chosen design software (Step 2) or are looking into it. We highlight important considerations for your Web site design, but cannot handle such a complex subject here alone. So we’ve included useful resources and tools at the end of this step to make up for it.

General Design Principles

Don’t be a showoff. That’s another way of saying what we’ve stressed before, and will again: When it comes to Web design, as in so many other things, simple is better.

Of course you want photos and other graphic images to tell your company’s story in the best way. And without some eye candy, any Web page is blah.

But use only what’s needed to enhance your central message and tell it quickly and clearly in an attractive setting. Never make your customers work to get the information they need.

As you move ahead in building your site, stick to these basic design rules:

Keep it clean. Empty white space on your Web pages is itself a design element. Use enough to keep each page uncluttered and uncramped. Do the same if you decide to use a dark background.

In the dark. Never use dark text on dark backgrounds, or for that matter, light colored text on a white background. Black-on-white is a safe bet.

Gray blocks. Because you’re already keeping it simple, make your text as concise and straightforward as possible. Don’t waste words – they waste your customers’ time. And break up long paragraphs. What the eyes see in a split second – about all it takes for a Web user to split from your site – is a big, challenging block of gray text. Give it some air.

Choose colors carefully. You wouldn’t wear red plaid pants with an orange striped shirt (we hope!), and you should use the same design sense in picking the color palette for your Web site. There are even free tools to help. (See page 25.)

Use successful models. The things you like or hate about other Web sites are probably the same for most other users. Take notes on what works and what you’d like to imitate. Better yet, save a screenshot in your design file. It’s easy:

With your cursor anywhere on the Web page you’ve chosen, hold down the Alt key and press the Print Screen key.

Nothing happened? Don’t worry, you just couldn’t see it.

Now open a blank document page in your word processor or Microsoft Paint, right click anywhere on it and choose Paste. An exact duplicate of the Web page you selected will appear! Getting Around on Your Web Site

Easy navigation through your site is absolutely essential to a successful design. If the path you lay out for your customers to follow is long, twisted and forks off without reason, they’ll get lost – and you’ll lose the sale.

As part of planning in Step 1, we asked you to draw a simple diagram of all the pages on your future Web site, beginning with the home page, then connect them in the order you expect customers to follow.

Did it get messy? Too complicated? That’s your draft. Now you’ll refine it.

Try the same exercise by starting with the last page on your site diagram and working back to the home page. A lot of designers find that much easier.

Now, is every page linked directly to the home page like spokes on a wheel? That can work, but it requires your customers to go back to the home page every time they want find more information, more page links. Do you have patience with that kind of back-and-forth?

Tip

7 Pages every Web site should have

on’t look now, but your Web site might be missing a few pages—very important pages.

ou’re not alone. Most small-business sites are a work in progress—constantly being revised, improved, and updated. So invariably, something is always missing. But some pages are so important that not having them could hurt your bottom line.

ere are seven pages every business Web site must have, and where they need to be:

. Contact Us. Every small-business site should have a Contact Us page and it should offer visitors a complete list of ways they can contact you – from e-mail addresses to toll-free numbers to a physical address.

. Testimonials. Many companies skip the Testimonials page because they consider it too self-serving, While having a page like that may seem self-promotional, people will look for it. And when they don’t find it, they might begin to make assumptions.

4. FAQ. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are frequently forgotten, too. Why is an FAQ page so important? Mostly, they’ll ensure you won’t have to answer the same questions over and over. But it also is a convenience for site visitors.

5. A "gimme" page. Want readers to sign up for your newsletter or regular special offers? Add a section where users can be persuaded to give up some of their personal information (such as their names and e-mail addresses) in exchange for … well, something else. In many cases, this is an informative report, a keychain, a chance to win tickets to a ballgame, or a cash prize.

6. About Us. But just because you can do business with people you might never meet doesn’t mean they don’t want to know about who they’re doing business with. The most effective About Us pages are succinct and use no jargon.

7. Confirmation. A decent confirmation page that acknowledges an order and thanks the visitor for his or her business is essential—and often lacking.

article: Current Design Trends on the Web

Every one of your Web pages should have an obvious link back to home, and many companies use their logo (with an embedded link) for that purpose. But it’s not enough.

Persistent navigation is much better. As long as one or more of the following elements appears exactly the same way in the same place on every one of your pages, your customers will be able to go wherever they want from any page on the site without first heading back home. Here’s how to do it:

Menus. Every Web user is familiar with menus and how they work. Often found on the left side of Web pages in vertical format, they may include clickable buttons linked to products or categories, blog pages or glossaries, size charts or shipping tables – anything that appears on the site’s other Web pages.

Tabs. Amazon.com was the first to use a horizontal row of “file folder tabs” at the top of its Web pages to give users an easier way to find popular content on the massive Web site. The fact that you now see tab-navigation everywhere on the Web is proof of its usability.

Site map. This can a simple text list or a more visually appealing diagram that shows where everything lives on your site. But if you have a large site, the diagram can become unwieldy. Just be sure your site map includes everything on your Web site with links to each page. You don’t need to put the map itself on every page; just link to it from your menu. This can also help you with your SEO efforts.

‘Seniors’ and Special Needs

As a businessperson, you should already be well aware that the Baby Boom Generation is here, it’s clear – get used to it.

This gigantic market segment not only is a consumer wonderland, but Boomers know what they want and how to throw their intimidating collective weight around to get it. When they were coming of age, they turned this country – and much of the world – on its head. Now they’re doing it again.

They’re older, of course. So they’re changing the definition of age. When one of the icons of Gen-Boom, feminist Gloria Steinem, was asked how she felt at age 50, she replied, “Exactly like I did when I turned 40,” or words to that effect.

The point is that 50, 60, 70 ain’t what it used to be. Unlike their parents, among other things, Boomers aren’t afraid of new technology and are flooding onto the Web. But they want it the way they want it – easy to read, especially with eyeglasses; mellow instead of jarring; and definitely free of (how would they put it?) crap.

5. Not closing the sale. If the site doesn’t call the user to some sort of action, whether it be phoning, faxing, e-mailing, or forming an order or at least a question, the user won't be drawn to jump through the hoop.

Bonus Tip

5 Mistakes every Web site should avoid.

But let’s go beyond bad font choices, graphics, and animation. What are the biggest usability mistakes that aren’t as obvious? Here are five, with tips on how to avoid them.

1. Having a confusing or counterintuitive site structure. Nothing drives users away faster than a site that forces them to click around aimlessly until they stumble upon the right page. An expert user should be able to get where she wants to be in no more than three clicks.

2. Making the menu too complicated. Menus are the rough equivalent of a Web site’s spine. You want to keep them clear, straight, and strong. Navigation is normally found running horizontally across the top of a page in a tab-like orientation or stacked vertically along the left side of the page. No funny coding. No funny scripts.

3. Lapsing into industry jargon. An overabundance of marketing-speak and technical or industry jargon is a very common mistake. Your goal should be striking that balance between efficient search engine optimization and easy-to-read copy.

4. Overpromising, or even under-promising, what you can deliver. A Web site becomes unusable, and thus irrelevant, when it tells users that it will do something and then does not do it. That will drive those visitors away. Permanently.

As you design your Web site, also think about customers with impaired vision, hearing loss or other disabilities, and their special needs. The Web site Accessibility Initiative is a great source of tips and design techniques for doing this.

Some high points:

Audio and video. If you intend to use either to assist your customers – instructional videos, product tutorials, testimonials – be sure transcripts, captions and video descriptions are also available.

Clarity. Pay attention to contrast and sharpness, not only in your images, but throughout your Web site.

Color. Important for “décor,” but don’t use it to convey your message. A portion of your potential customers may be visually impaired and will miss the point.

Flicker. It amazes us that so many big, professional and otherwise good Web sites intentionally assault their users with flashing, flickering, strobe-speed

graphics as “attention-getters.” Not only is flicker extremely annoying, it can touch off seizures in some people with epilepsy.

Before moving on to Step 5, where you’ll get into the guts of a Web page, be sure to check out these design-related resources:

Web site Accessibility Initiative

SitePro Color Scheme Chooser

Barry’s ColorChooser

Wheel-Color.com

eFuse Navigation Basics

SmartWebby Navigation Tips

Bravenet Web Tools

MF&A’s Boomer/Senior Market Report


In this step, we’ll look at HTML basics in three parts:

1. What is Hypertext Markup Language?

2. How Does It Work?

3. Understanding HTML Tools


Posted bySumedh at 4:09 AM  

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