a Business Website
You've decided to take the leap and have a website designed for
your business - great! Now what? You have two options:
1) Do it yourself using a design package such as Frontpage or an
online template-based service, or
2) get someone to do it for you.
The Do It Yourself option is usually the first avenue approached
by small businesses or sole traders, mainly to save costs. If you
have a creative mind and can produce professional looking designs,
then DIY can work for you. Unfortunately for most businesses going
the DIY route, their design skills are limited and they therefore
rely on the templates that come with the design package they're
using, resulting in hundreds of similar amateurish websites. Such
badly-designed sites reflect poorly on your business and can only
do your reputation more harm than good, so only use the DIY method
if you are really confident of producing a website to be proud of!
You don't need to know HTML to create your own website. Packages
such as Frontpage and Dreamweaver allow you to create web pages
by simply typing in the text and inserting images using a typical
Windows interface. Spend some time doing the tutorials and getting
to know the package before attempting your own site and you will
find it much easier and the results much more pleasing! You may
find, however, that the cost of these packages is not much different
to hiring a designer for a small website, so get quotes first.
Another option is to use a template based service. These services
allow you to create your website online using one of a number of
pre-defined templates. The monthly fees usually include hosting
as well, and possibly a domain name. This is a quick and easy way
of getting your business online, but it is quite restrictive and
you may find you can't amend the design or layout in the way you
would like. Over time, this sort of service can work out a lot more
expensive than a website designer.
Your second option is to get someone to do it for you. This could
be a professional website designer that you already know or has
been recommended to you or a friend or relative that is capable
of designing websites in their spare time. This is where the first
warning comes in... It is a common occurrence for a business owner
to get a friend or relative to design a website for them, often
to save costs, sometimes to help the friend out. If the design is
good and the process runs smoothly, great.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that the site is badly designed
(and the business person doesn't want to tell their relative that
they don't like it, so they keep it), or there is no agreement in
place and arguments and non-payments soon become part of the process
with one or both parties walking off in a huff. When you're dealing
with family and friends you're asking for trouble. You have been
The final, and often best, option is to hire a professional website
designer. The choice is huge, and you can use either a design agency
or a freelancer to get the job done. Choose someone who has been
recommended to you or you like the design of other sites they have
done (always ask for a portfolio and you can even contact some past
clients to make sure they were happy with the service). Both should
give you a detailed quote, plus an estimated time for completion.
The quote should also state clearly what is required from you and
whether the quote includes hosting and domain names.
Before asking for a quote, draw up a detailed document of exactly
what you want on each page on the website. This will help you visualise
how many pages there will be and what sort of content you will have
to supply. It will also act as the design spec for any agreement
you sign with the designer. And make sure you do sign an agreement!
The agreement should contain an outline of each page or section
of the website, plus the costs and when each cost should be paid.
It should also contain the obligations of both yourself and the
designer. Do not proceed without an agreement!
Maintenance, Marketing and Support
Ask the designer about maintenance and marketing after the site
is designed but don't rush to sign up to get them to do it for you.
The website designer may not necessarily be the best person to do
your marketing as there are specialists in this area who may offer
a better service. The same applies to maintenance; designers are
sometimes too busy to continually update websites and may charge
a lot to do so, so you may find a better and more cost-effective
service at a specialist management company.
The after-care support of your new site is very important. This
applies whether you do it yourself or get a friend (especially!)
or professional to do it for you. There's not much point in having
a website, only to find the cheap designer you hired is no longer
in business, or your nephew who designed the site originally is
no longer interested in helping you! This happens often, so be aware
of it and make sure you have procedures in place to deal with the
updating and support of your site as soon as the design is complete.
Domain Names and Hosting
The last thing to mention is domain names and hosting. A domain
name is the (www.mycompany.co.uk) that you type into your browser
to access a website. Most design companies will register a domain
name for you and may include it in the overall cost of the design.
Domain names are usually registered to you for a minimum of 2 years
and should not cost more than £30 a year. Make sure the domain
has been registered in your name - you can check this by entering
the domain name at any domain registrar such 123Reg.
Hosting is the space on a web server where your website resides.
Hosting costs vary, and sometimes designers will have their own
hosting services which they will recommend. Usually this will be
fine, but keep an eye on your site so that you know when the hosting
is letting you down. Hosting for a small website should be no more
than £50 - £100 a year, so if you're being charged more
than that, get an independent assessment of your needs and what
you should be paying.
About the Author
Managed Web provides
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