Getting Started

Help! I need a website!

The steps to create a 'web presence' for yourself or your company will vary but here are some things to think about.

Why do you want or need a website? — This isn't an idle question. Sit back, close your eyes and think of the reasons why you need a website. If the answer is "because everybody has one!" then maybe you're not ready.

If the answer is, "I want more exposure for my business and my products because ....." or "I have a really unique item to sell..." or "my client base is all over the country [world] and it would be nice to keep them up to date on new ...." then maybe you are ready.

The real point is to determine what your goals are for the site. If you can't think of good, concrete reasons to have a website, then you probably don't need one. Many small, local businesses aren't interested in becoming conglomerates, aren't interested in having more people on the payroll, are already booked up with work for months in advance. A website would be just another maintenance chore that wouldn't have a lot of positive value.

I'm ready to proceed. — Okay! You've gone through the exercise of explaining to yourself why you need a website. Now, write it down and share it with the website developer you'll eventually select! Believe me, it will mean a lot to that person.

Know what you want before you shop. — Before you go looking for a web developer for your site, sit down with the Internet and write down what you like. Find sites that please you; find your competition and see what they're doing to attract visitors (what attracted you, or didn't); what functionality do you like or hate? Do you like plain menus that are like a list of links or the dynamic menus that 'do something' when you pass the mouse over or click on them? What colors do you like? Do you have graphics that you can give the developer like photos and a company logo?

Functionality — If you're going to have a relatively small, simple site, do you want a contact form to collect information from site visitors? Do you want to be able to update the site yourself easily or leave maintenance to someone else? Are you going to be selling something and want a shopping cart and secure payment processing? There are lots of options so knowing the scope of your site (small, medium, large, online selling or not, etc.) will determine much of the functionality.

Designer or Developer — The title is not important. You need to find someone you can work with easily, who understands and honors your wishes, is within your budget (hint: get a quote) and maybe even has some references!

It's always a good idea to get a couple of quotes but be prepared to have them vary widely. Large, professional firms will probably be at the top end of the scale. Smaller, 'grassroots' designers might be much more reasonable. But for both and anyone in between, look at their work, ask for references, check the references! Nearly 99% of our work comes from word-of-mouth in the form of recommendations from current clients. I still want people to look at my work, ask for a proposal/quote and references if preferred.

Some last thoughts...  — 

  • Is the web person willing to register your domain name or help you through the process?
  • Do you need hosting for your site (every site does) and can the designer/developer arrange that or provide it for you?
  • Have you discussed how the search engines will find or index your site?

Doing your homework — it pays off.

Here are some suggestions of things to do or plan before you start building a website.