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When one starts a new business, one may consider the physical aspects of the store or office. The other key component to look at is just as important or even non-negotiable, that is, of course, in the internet cyberspace world…
10 questions you may ask yourself before starting a website:
1. Do I need a Web site?
Maybe you don’t. It could be that your marketing dollars are better spent somewhere else. However, many people won’t discover your services through any other means. The Internet has become an expected tool of modern business like the mobile phone or fax, and companies or professionals without one may appear out-of-step.
2. What are my goals for the site?
If you do decide to move ahead, it’s important to know why you’re building the site. Is it for sales or marketing? Is it a tool for communication or an online brochure? Do you want to sell products through the site, or just educate consumers about them? Do you want to increase membership in your organization, or offer Web-based benefits to current members? Do you want visitors to email you? Call you? Subscribe to a newsletter? Or maybe ALL of the above? Knowing your objectives will help focus your ideas for the site.
3. What am I trying to sell or promote?
Even if you don’t like the idea of selling yourself, it’s what we all do, every day, if we want to be successful. Finding the answer to this question will determine what are the most important themes of the site, what to name the buttons, and the tone to use when writing the content.
4. What are the components to getting a website up and running?
Design & Development: The architecture of the site needs to be built. An appropriate look and feel must be designed. The copy needs to be written and any additional tools such as online forms, shopping carts and audio clips need to be added.
Hosting: Just as you might rent office space, your Web site needs to be hosted somewhere so people can reach it.
Maintenance: Once the website is ‘live’, a good site continues to post fresh material, giving people a reason to return.
5. What content do I need to build the site?
First, create an outline around the themes you want to promote. Second, remember that each line of the outline is a page that needs content–text and images that will help educate your visitors. The images may include a logo or photos of people or products. Poor quality photos or bad clip art can make the most attractive site look amateurish; sometimes no photos can be better than poor ones.
6. Do I hire a professional or do it myself?
If you have the skills, the time, the talent and most importantly the desire to design and develop the site, then by all means, do so. However, keep in mind that when you hire a professional–whether it’s to create a Web site, or give you financial advice–you immediately acquire hours of experience, access to the latest tools of the trade and insider knowledge of the industry. Since an unprofessional Web site can be worse than no site at all, I strongly suggest to do what you do best and outsource the rest to us.
7. What are my responsibilities to create an effective site?
Even if you hire a professional Web developer your input is essential since no one knows your business as well as you do. Before you hire a developer you should review their portfolio and ask for referrals. You should expect to help develop a site outline with your developer, pull the copy together and give input on the layouts presented to you. Once your site is live you should also budget time to add content on a regular basis. You should reply to emails and inquiries in a timely fashion to show you haven’t abandoned your site.
8. What will this cost for start-up? For ongoing maintenance?
This is a relatively young industry so there’s still a wide range in billing rates. As a rule, you get what you pay for. An experienced designer and developer are worth their weight in gold.
You should also budget money for search engine submissions, but nowadays can run into hundreds or thousand of dollars per month/annum.
9. How do I attract more traffic to my site?
Search engines, links, advertising and more. A good developer will make your site search engine friendly and submit your site to search engines and directories on your behalf. You should create reciprocal links with complementary sites. Consider advertising on specific search engines, email newsletters, and traditional media. Put your url (Web site address) on your business cards, stationery, voice mail, and so on. Send out free email newsletters. Add a Recommend This Site to a Friend form on your Web site. Continually update and improve on your site. Reviewing your site’s traffic reports can alert you to what visitors are finding interesting and what they’re ignoring.
10. How will I know that my site is successful?
Review your goals every 3 to 6 months. Is there any increase in your physical traffic to your store or an increased in phone enquiries?