There are literally thousands of ways of creating a business web site. In every town and village there are businesses who will create you a business web site. Prices can start from under £100 a year for a basic 'shop window', whilst other people prefer to produce their own site themselves, using any of the web site tools that are available across the web.
But all web sites are not created equal. A good site can generate significant amounts of business for you. Yet a poorly designed or poorly conceived will simply be money down the drain and could even put prospective customers off from contacting you.
So what is the best way of setting up your business on the internet? What do you need to consider before launching yourself into cyberspace? We're not going to explain how to code a web site from scratch - if you're interested in that, there are plenty of other sites out there to teach you all the technical bits - but there are some pointers that can either make or break a businesses web presence.
Before you start work on your web site, or even before you talk to a web development company, there are a few things to consider first:
For most businesses, a relatively simple site is normally the best approach. You need a web site that search engines like Google and Yahoo can index correctly, that provides enough relevant information to interest a prospective customer with enough 'hooks' in the text to grab their attention, and you need a site that looks professional. If you can achieve those three goals, you are well on your way to success.
There are lots of different types around, but here are a few of the more common ones for small businesses:
A 'shop window' is usually short, sweet and to the point. It explains what the company does, gives reasons for prospective customers to choose your business over anyone elses, provides answers to common questions and makes it easy for prospective customers to get in touch via e-mail, phone or by letter.
You can include photographs showing your product or service, may include any relevant information such as maps to your location, or opening hours.
Most shop windows consist of 3-5 pages of information and that's all. The sole purpose is to get a prospective customer to get in touch and find out more.
Information web site
An information web site - like this site - contains lots and lots of relevant information. They are usually set up either to promote a business service or to generate advertising revenue on the site itself.
Consultants, for instance, often set up information sites in order to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge in their specialist area. Prospective customers may use it as a regular reference for many months - or even years - before contacting the consultant and using their paid services, but consultants with high quality information are rarely poor.E-commerce
There are two ways of creating a business web site - do it yourself, or get somebody to do it for you.
If you want to do it yourself, don't under-estimate the amount of work it will take to get it right. Even a very simple design will take you a few days to get it right and a complex site incorporating e-commerce, for example, can take many weeks of hard work.
Unless you are a web guru, and if you are determined to create your web site yourself, it is best to use a high quality web creation tool to help you. There are online builders that can guide you through the maze and ensure your online traffic grows through choosing the right search phrases and by getting your site listed on Google and all the other web search engines.
The one we use ourselves, and would highly recommend, is Site Build It! which includes detailed tutorials, web page generation, search engine optimisation and full web site statistics.
If you are interested in finding out more about creating your own web sites, we would recommend this: Web Design Success. Working with Site Build It!, this explains a lot of the do's and don'ts of creating your ownsite and how to get the best out of the world wide web.
By far the best approach, for most businesses, is to get a company to create your web site for you. There will be plenty of businesses in your local area that can do this and normally the best approach is to talk to a few local web design agencies, discuss your requirements and see what they propose.
Prices will vary dramatically, depending on what sort of web site you want. However, for most businesses, smart but simple is the best solution and thankfully these can be the cheapest to produce.
Some Do's and Don'ts when selecting a web design company.
Do ask for references from other small businesses. Call these companies up and ask them what they think of their web presence.
Don't ask a mate to create your web site for you. Unless they know what they're doing with web optimisation and design, you'll end up with a third-rated product.
Do keep the design simple, with lots of text and information that can be picked up by search engines and capture the interest of prospective customers.
Don't be tempted by animated 'flash' presentations. They annoy many people and don't get picked up by search engines.
Do check that your web design company can effectively identify the best 'key words' for your business - these are words that prospective customers will type into Google to find your web site and make sure your business is ranked near the top of the search engines list.
Don't tie yourself into a web design business that won't allow you to make simple changes yourself.
Do set a budget and stick to it. It's very easy to get carried away on the development - and the costs can soon add up.
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