Creating your website
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Choosing and Buying your Domain Name
To be the master of your domain, your first have to give it a name.
This is simple – if your company name is Passionate Pigfeet, you’d likely choose passionatepigfeet.com. But there could be a snag.
However unlikely, someone might already own the domain name www.passionatepigfeet.com. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a Web site by that name; some people buy up endless variations on domain names hoping to cash in later when somebody wants to use one of them.
But your domain provider’s Web site will have a simple method to check almost instantly. Web hosts – those with the computing power to “host” your site and all its inner working on the Web – commonly offer domain names as part of their basic package.
To find one that meets your needs and budget, search online for “domain hosts.” Or start with one of these:
Microsoft Office Live Small Business
Text, Images and other Graphic Elements
You might as well get going now on writing copy – the text – for your Web site, and how you intend to use images.
If your writing skills are sharp, follow your diagram of Web pages and decide what you want to say on each. This is a rough draft, so don’t sweat over it too long.
Writing effective Web copy is a special skill, and you need to edit and rewrite your draft along some specific guidelines. The broader ones:
Choosing a great domain name takes careful consideration
Internet marketing pro Ralph Wilson suggests brainstorming sessions with friends as a way to come up with creative options for your unique domain name. You’ll want plenty of choices on the chance that your first, second, third, even fourth picks have already been registered by someone else.
Wilson also recommends the following when selecting a domain name:
1. Keep it short.
2. Put two words together (combinations of short words often work well).
3. Make it easy to say and spell.
4. Use the .com or .net extensions.
5. Think about relevant keywords and incorporate them into the domain name.
Don’t make your Web site look or read like an ad. You may be planning to attract and sell online space to advertisers, and you’ll confuse visitors dismissed if your content looks like ad material. Keep your copy concise and use bullets If you refer to your company as “we” in your copy, be sure to address your customer as “you.” Engage them in this personal experience. Keep it simple and kill jargon. The point here isn’t to show your mastery of insiders’ language, but to make your customers feel welcome, at home and included. Write like you’re talking face-to-face, using contractions if it sounds natural. Be succinct. Don’t write: “If you happen to encounter anything that raises questions, we are prepared to address them.” Do write: “Questions? We’re here to answer them.”
As a start, look to these resources for more detailed guidance:
Power Words and Phrases
You’re not done until you spell-check your copy, then print it out and proofread, proofread again, and do it a few more times. Bad grammar, misspellings – especially proper names – and other basic errors will make you look like an amateur, not the world-beating pro you really are.
Invite others to read over your text and point out errors, or hire a freelance copy editor. You’ll find them all over the Web, but check their references. It won’t cost much and will be money well spent.
If you don’t think you can handle the copywriting yourself, you’re probably right. Hire a professional with Web experience. There are thousands of freelance writers online offering to do the job at a wide range of prices.
Graphics Content: Your only task now is to decide what photos, charts and graphs, illustrations and other visuals you need to help tell your message and show who you are.
Note what they are on each of your Web page diagrams, but not necessarily where they’ll go. We’ll get to that later. And keep these rules in mind:
Use only as many images or other graphics as you need to bolster your text and make your pages attractive. Here, as in nearly anything on the Web, less is more. Don’t visually assault your visitors.
Good pictures can speak a thousand words. If a photo or other image will save a lot of explaining, use it instead of text.
Forums: Planning Your Web Presence
If your purpose is just to put candid snapshots on the Web, your visitors will understand why they’re not slick, crisp and professionally done. For everything else, be sure your photos and graphics are all three.
Budgets, and Who Does What
Setting smart budgets saves money – period. Get your planning done now, and you won’t waste precious cash on things you don’t and won’t need. Set your Web site budget so you can comfortably handle the costs with available resources.
One of the great things about Web sites is their changeability. You can add bells, whistles, services and other enhancements later, as you need them and have more cash to spend.
It’s impossible to tell you exactly how to divide the pot in building a Web site. There are many factors in endless combinations, and countless ways to handle them. But think about these things and you’ll be in great shape to work out the details:
How many products or services are you selling?
If you’re a retail operation, how will you securely process orders?
Do you need professionals for writing, editing, photography, Web design, even budgeting?
How many marketing functions do you want? Newsletters? Surveys? Blogs?
How much can you spend on hosting, your domain name, your Web design package?
Does a free, all-in-one Web site service like Microsoft Office Live Small Business cover you, or do you need more flexibility, an e-tail “shopping cart,” an original look, detailed analytics?
How will you drive traffic to your Web site after it’s built?
When it comes time to shop for these things, let your budget dictate your choices. As revenue starts coming in the door, your business Web site can grow, too, in scope, sophistication and ambition.
That’s the plan, right?
In this step, we’ll fill you in on:
DIY Web Site Packages
Choosing a Web Design Professional
SEO and Red Flags
Step 2: Choose DIY or Go with a Pro
Feeling adventurous? Are your creative juices flowing like floodwater? Do you enjoy learning new skills and sopping up new knowledge? Do you, as a user, know your way around the Web and have clear likes and dislikes about sites you visit?
Then you’re probably ready to take on much of the work of building yourself a Web site. Depending on how much functionality you need, you can even do it in a day, start to finish – your business, live on the Web!
But if you find basic word processor functions a challenge, have never uploaded an image from a digital camera to your computer or bought anything from a retail Web site, if you still haven’t set up that e-mail account you’ve been meaning to get to, it would be a very good idea to seek professional help. Web-building help, that is.
Some people think of this step at best as BBI – boring but important. But don’t be tempted to skip ahead to the fun parts. You’ll regret it later or maybe sooner.
odcast: Creating Your Web site: DYI or Go With a Pro
DIY Web Site Packages
Before you decide to build your own business Web site, be brutally honest in judging your own creative abilities or potential. This is tricky, because a lot of it is a matter of taste, and facing certain realities.
When creating anything, do you have the ability to do it in a fresh or novel way?
Do you have a sense not only of what appeals to you, visually and functionally, but to a wide audience?
Are you color blind? (Many people don’t know the answer.)
When involved in a creative task, are you persistent enough to work through the rough spots until you get it right?
If the answers to these questions add up to limited creative abilities, many DIY (do-it-yourself) Web site packages, including site-builder software, will fill in the gaps for you.
Most include customizable templates – fill-in-the-blanks Web page designs that provide the visual look and feel of your site and have basic functions built in.
Some DIY packages include your choice of domain name, hosting, add-ons, search-engine optimization (SEO), Web site traffic reporting and other basic but vital elements.
Before you choose:
Be sure it includes 24/7 customer support. If one thing is certain in building and maintaining your own Web site, there will be bugs and you’ll have questions.
Even with assurances of around-the-clock support, choose a provider in your own time zone. If they’re asleep while you’re awake, you can easily end up waiting 24 hours for the answer to even a simple question.
Try it out. Most reputable DIY Web site providers now offer the option of downloading and trying their software free for a limited time.
That said, here’s a short list to get you going:
Microsoft Office Live Small Business
Godaddy Web site Tonight
Yahoo! Small Business
Choosing a Web Design Professional
If you don’t have the time, interest or ability to design and go live with your business Web site, hire a pro – or at least someone with enough knowledge or experience to assemble a simple but professional site that meets your needs.
One way to get this done, and a good choice if you’re on a tight budget, is to contact your local college and ask how to find a student designer. Many of them already have enough experience to handle fundamental Web site design; some of them much more.
If your budget allows some elbow room, hire an established, experienced and proven pro. Just don’t do it the way old Aunt Gert picked her horse bets – by sticking a hatpin in the racing form. There are resources all over the Web, like Website Pros (www.websitepros.com) that can help guide your research and sort out the field.
But before you hire any Web designer or team, there are some questions you need to answer:
Do they have experience with business Web sites?
Can they meet the needs of the plan you carefully laid out in Step 1?
Will you be working with one designer throughout your project, or passed around to different team members? The more personal attention the better.
Does the designer or firm have references? If so, call them. If not, move on. Ask about your candidate’s record of meeting or missing deadlines, ability to collaborate with clients and their work ethic.
Are examples of their designs at work on the Web? Carefully look over those sites, not just for quality and range, but for styles that agree with your own.
What payment plans do they offer? Beware of any that require full payment up front. By the time you discover they’re not as good as they looked, it may be too late to cut your losses.
What are their verbal and written communications skills? Can you understand them when you discuss your Web site needs?
It all comes down to using the same due diligence you would in hiring any member of your business team. If you wouldn’t hire them for a staff job, don’t hire them on contract.
SEO and Red Flags
Visibility on the Web, especially ranking high with major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN on relevant keywords, is essential to online business success. Be sure to look for search engine optimization as part of your Web design package. (See page 40.)
SEO is arguably the biggest single challenge in designing, building and maintaining an effective business Web site – or any other sort – because the “rules” keeping changing,
the Web landscape never stops shifting, and new technology regularly adds its own wrinkles.
It needs constant tending to stay competitive, and whether you have the time and patience to take on the challenge yourself, or pay a pro for SEO, you should be aware of some warning flags.
When someone says they’ll “submit” your new Web site to one, 10 or 100 search engines, it’s more sales pitch than substance. As long as your site has solid SEO built into the design, you’ll be found by search “spiders” – automated programs that constantly crawl the Web looking at sites to include in search results.
If a designer or team promises SEO but doesn’t say which search engines they will optimize your site for, ask. While “submitting” a site is a mostly myth, your SEO must meet the requirements of at least the Big Three: Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.
Don’t believe anyone who “guarantees” top search engine rankings. Nobody can back up that claim.
Don’t believe any claims of immediate results. It can take weeks for the spiders to find you and add your site to the search results roster.
Now it’s time to move forward with the hands-on work of building your new business Web site.
Posted bySumedh at 3:53 AM