How-To

10 Hot Tips: Build A Website

A very effective and affordable way to promote and sell your product line is through a website. A website should be set up initially anyway for business contacts and effective networking. With Internet sales and promotion being the mainstream today, it would be a very smart move to promote and/or sell through the Internet. This section will tell you what you should know about starting a website, things to consider, and the steps involved in accomplishing your goal via the Internet. You may even consider writing a secondary business plan that is molded to fit your ideas for a website.

Things to Consider

Who will be accessing your website? Identify your customer base. It is important to note that a website that targets business rather than general consumers may look very different in design attributes, language, and overall focus.

What is your goal/objective? Are you starting this website for promotional purposes and/or selling your products/service?

After writing your initial business plan, you should already be confident in what you want your business image to be, how you want to be viewed. Again, it depends on what your overall purpose for your website is. If you are targeting businesses, you may want to consider making your site conservative and/or traditional, whereas if you are selling and promoting to a consumer base, you would want to base your image off of them. For example, if your consumer base are trendy, young adults looking for the newest trend, you may want your site to be somewhat avant-garde, full of color which is fresh and young. Your website should reflect your company and it’s personality, as well as your target audience.

How do you plan on keeping your customers/audience coming back? If you are targeting business professionals, what will you offer that will make them loyal customers? If they are general consumers, what will you sell/promote to them that will want them to keep coming back as well? It’s important to think of different marketing and promotional strategies that will help to develop a strong following of customers. If you can do this successfully, you in turn will be prosperous.

1. Know your audience and keep them in mind when writing:

Since you have already mapped out who you are targeting, take them into consideration when writing the site, not just designing. If you tailor fit your site to your target audience, you can make sure that they come back.

2. Keep your pages small:

If you keep them small, you are more than likely to have customers scroll through your entire site. If pages are too long, customers may become bored and will go to another site.

3. Use a table of contents:

This helps to make it easy for customers to navigate their way around. If you make it easy and convenient for them, they will more than likely scroll through your entire site and view everything that your site offers. It also makes it easier for customers to know what you are trying to promote and/or sell.

4. Keep images small:

If your images are too big, it may take too long for them to download, therefore sending your prospective customer somewhere else. If the picture takes too long to download, it also slows down your entire site. Large pictures also often tend to annoy people as they can get in the way and distract them. Stick to icons, and if necessary slightly larger pictures, but don’t put them too close to your text.

5. Use web colors:

Colors are the most effective way to capturing an audience. If the colors pop, you are more likely to get attention.

6. Avoid lots of text:

Web surfers usually don’t read websites, they skim them. If the site is clear and concise, you can keep the attention of a customer longer and more than likely move them to coming back and even making a purchase. Provide enough information for the customer to know what your business is about and the products/services that you offer.

7. Check your spelling!:

Checking spelling is so important. If your site has spelling mistakes, it takes away from the professionalism and credibility of the site. Customers may feel that if words are misspelled, then the products/services may not be of the best quality.

By doing this, the credibility of your site soars. If you have links on your site that don’t work anymore, customers are more inclined to go to another site to find what they need.

You want to let the customer know where they are being sent to. Whether it is to another part of your website or if it sends them somewhere else, let them know what it’s for. This can help cut down on confusion and keeps things easy and convenient for your prospective customers.

10. Put contact information on your pages:

This is crucial. If you don’t let the customer know who you are and where you can be reached, credibility for your site is lost. This lets customers know that your business actually exists outside of the Internet and it also serves as sort of a comfort factor, knowing that if there is a problem with merchandise/services, you can be reached to fix the issue. Don’t put your information in an area where it is difficult to find. If you hide information, it looks like you are trying to cover something up, something that you don’t want the customer to find, and that also takes away your credibility.

Starting the Site

Now that you have in mind the kind of website you want, it’s time to actually start to build it. It may be helpful to surf the Internet, look at different sites, to get an idea of what you may want yours to look like. After all, even over the Internet, competition is fierce and if your site doesn’t catch the attention of a potential customer, then you are out of luck.

You can hire a company to build and design a website for your business needs. Costs vary and depend on the content. For information on hiring a company to build one for you, visit www.networksolutions.com.

If you want to build a website yourself, there are several sources that can help you accomplish this. Visit Network Solutions., Web., Ward Design Solutions., www.inc.com, and Register..

So here are the steps that are to be taken to start a website:

-Outlining Outline your ideas. You already know what the purpose of your website is. By writing things down, you can organize your ideas to more effectively implement them.

-Domain Name Think of a name. Your domain name will be what will initially catch the attention of a prospective customer. It needs to be catchy and clever, but easy to remember.

-Web Hosts If you don’t have your own server, make sure to find a RELIABLE web hosting service. Web hosting is a service that provides server space, in a lot of cases for small businesses. There are so many cases in which unreliable web hosts have resulted in huge losses for companies. You wouldn’t want customers to type in your web address and receive an “ERROR”message, would you? That would just send them somewhere else. If you have a good, reliable web host, then your chances of this happening are very minimal. Below is a list of signs to watch out for that may indicate whether or not a web hosting service is ready to collapse:

Lack of Customer Support:

If you are trying to reach your web hosting service in need of help, whether regarding troubleshooting or the like, and they are continuously unavailable to assist you, there is reason to suspect and/or question the stability of the hosting service. This can indicate that they have cutback on crucial employee departments, including customer assistance, and this can further lead to a downfall in the hosting service altogether.

Profits:

You want to check on how your web hosting company makes a profit. Usually, hosting companies that offer free services or charge very little are in danger of making profits and could therefore close. You wouldn’t want your website to be in the middle of that. If your web hosting company offers free to low fees for services, you may want to consider changing to a more profitable company. As long as the money is coming in, your website is in good hands.

Media Attention:

Web hosts are what you call the “man behind the curtain.” They are low key companies and require little to almost no media attention. If you see your web hosting company broadcasted on the nightly news or CNN, you better hope that it is good news. More often than not, many company scandals are uncovered by the media, usually popular media outlets, and if your web host is featured as the latest company scandal, you are in trouble. Keep up to date on what is going on with regards to web hosting companies, including your own. Read business publications and reports; if your company is mentioned positively, then you are on the right track. Be aware of ownership changes, cutbacks, deals made, etc., to make sure your host is still reliable.

Decreased Services Available:

If you notice that your web hosting company is cutting back on services that it used to offer, you might want to find out the reason why. You may also want to check up on what is going on in case you notice that prices for certain services are going up. Usually, price increases are no cause for panic or alarm. But if it is rather unusual for a price increase for a certain service, you may want to find out the reason behind the change. If you notice that your web host is not only cutting back on services offered, but also increasing prices, it would be in your best interest to find out why. This could be a result of cutbacks and downsizing, as well as possible company failure.

Site Design

Now its time to think about your site design. It may help if you sketch out a design template so that you have an idea of what you want your website to look like. This can also help with laying out where you may want certain things to go, i.e.: links, pictures, etc. Now you can hire a web designer. As mentioned earlier, prices for web designers vary based on content. If you plan on hiring someone, the most important things to do is to do your homework, know your industry, and network with others to get great recommendations. You want to work with someone that you trust and can rely on. You also don’t want to be scammed, so make sure you know everything about the company that the designer works for, or if they are freelance, make sure you have a professional interview with them, including a resume, portfolio, and contacts.

It also helps to look at different websites that are in your specific industry so that you know what to expect in the marketplace. If you work with a designer, this can also help when actually designing the site. By having a clear and concise idea in your head of what you want your site to look like, you can more effectively relay your ideas to your designer. Also, you want to make sure that you design your site for your USERS. Make it what they would want to see, and of course, make it easy to navigate around. Your homepage is the MOST important part of your website. Besides your domain name, this is the first visuals that your users will see. Here are five essential questions to ask yourself when designing your homepage:

  • Who are you? You want your customers to see right away just exactly what your purpose is. In some cases, if you are well-known, a logo might be all you need for your customer to know and identify who you are. Make sure to have a clear and concise statement that outlines who you are and what your company stands for. Don’t use your mission statement for this; mission statements are usually too long and too involved. An example of a “tag line,” so to speak, for a footwear e-tailer could be: “The Internet’s Largest Footwear Retailer.” Something that is quick and can let your customer know what you do in a sentence or less is ideal.

  • How is the information organized? The information on your site should be easy and follow a simple and logical form of organization. Is the site in order of product or service? Is the site in order by department or region? This is where your “table of contents” comes into play. Make sure that is easy enough for your users to find what they need and easy to navigate around the entire site.

  • What’s upcoming, hot, and new? Most websites use their homepages as their initial promotional area. This is where you can display new items, promotions, sales, etc. Often times, a promotional headline on your homepage can result in more users wanted to know more about what you offer. This in turn would make them want to scroll through your website more thoroughly.

  • What can users do at your website? Websites promote interaction. Make it fun and interesting for your users. Let them interact with your company so that they feel that they can be involved. This could be in the form of signing up for a newsletter, taking part in a poll or quiz, or even having a discussion board. Some websites even offer personalized interaction. Based off past purchases and/or viewings, websites can offer recommendations to that particular user based off of their interests.

  • How can visitors get help? As mentioned earlier, don’t make users go on a hunt for your contact information. Make sure there is contact information on your homepage OR at least have a link that will send users to your information. The Web is all about customer service, so make sure that that is your ruling card.

Promotions/Public Relations

One of the most important things to remember is that you need to find a way to get your website to show up on popular search engines. Learn what kind of rankings will move your website up on the list of internet searches. You want the highest ranking possible when it comes to this; it is what will ultimately bring you customers. Search engines, from time to time, change their ranking standards, so it would be a good idea to keep up to date on what they are looking for. It would also be wise to go to a search engine (Google, Yahoo, AOL) and type in keywords that would relate to your website. Once the results show up, actually go to the websites that are at the top of the search results and see what types of keywords are on their homepage that would make them higher in rankings. By doing so, you can identify which keywords to put on your website that will make your site rank higher in internet searches. You should also employ the ever-successful promotion ploy of “Word of Mouth.” This by far can popularize your website and keep promotional costs low. A name can spread very easily, especially if you know the right people in which to give it to.

Site Maintenance

As mentioned earlier, nothing can weaken a site’s credibility as a non-working link. If users click on a link that is on your site and it sends them to an error page or a blank page, you are in for some trouble. It is common to have a few sites that have broken links, so you want to try to minimize these occurrences as often as possible. Make sure to check internal links (links that take users to pages within your website) and external links (links that direct users to other websites). Furthermore, you want to make sure that you minimize problems with downloading, in addition to broken links. Downloading problems will more often than not lead to loss in customers. There are several low cost and free online work repair shops that can help with problems such as these. If you have a large budget and can afford to keep an expert, either as a consultant or in-house, to keep and maintain the site for you, then that would be a good option. However, with most small businesses, there are several do-it-yourself websites that help you with maintaining your site. This is by far a cheaper and simpler option. These types of sites offer low priced web services that can help you fix any problems that you have. Here are some problems that can cause customers to go somewhere else:

  • HTML glitches
  • Browser incompatibility
  • Broken links
  • Slow downloading
  • What site? Sometimes when visitors click on your website’s link, the webpage doesn’t even show up.