Verification: 89a4e8f4a1ec38a4 Taking Your Business Online: Tips for Launching a Small Business Web Site - Niches for You

In this day and age, your business card is a Web site. When people hear

of your company or wish to seek further information on it, they want to do

so on their own time, online. From there they can e-mail you with

questions, or place an order if you offer products online as well. In fact,

with the amount of trade that can be achieved through a Web site, it's no

wonder that so many “brick and mortar” small businesses have made

the jump to E-commerce.

The decision to launch a Web site for a business owner has gone from

“if” to “when,” in just a decade. However, the expectations of your

average site visitor have also changed in that time. Cheap, home-made

Web sites are no longer acceptable. The site you create for your

business is a stamp on its credibility; therefore the process of designing

and launching one must be taken seriously and considered to be an

earnest business investment.

If you were to invest in new equipment, new vehicles, or even new

employees for your business, you would take the time necessary to seek

out the best, most cost-effective, most-qualified selection. You certainly

wouldn't buy the first truck you saw at the dealership, or hire the first

person who walked into your office. The same time and care must be

taken when choosing a Web designer. Here are some tips to finding the

right designer, asking the right questions, and what to expect when

launching a Web site for your business:

Do not race to find a Web designer. What's the rush? Finding the right

Web designer is like finding the right architect to build a new business

office. The time you spend looking at Web sites, asking friends and

colleagues, and viewing portfolios is well worth it if you consider what it

would cost to rebuild your site with someone else when the designer

you hastily hired fails to meet your needs.

When you see a Web site you like, check out who designed it. This

information is usually available in the bottom of the page. Or, contact the

business and ask. If they are happy with the job done by the designer,

they'll be more than willing to refer you!

When you do narrow your decision down to a few designers, check out

their Web sites for look and feel and thoroughly examine their portfolios.

Bring samples. Surf the Web and determine the kinds of things you like

and don't like before ever walking into the office of a Web design firm. If

you have an idea of what you want your site to look like, express it –

even if it means providing an embarrassingly rough drawing on your

own. Web designers are very creative people, but if you don't give them

some direction, they'll create without your input.

You have to be specific. Don't tell your designer you want a “cool” site.

While it's true that you may want a cool site, you should bring to the

table the types of things you imagine to be cool. Your designer is there

to help you determine the best style for your site, so don't be afraid to

provide specific examples of how you'd like your site to look.

Get it in writing. As with any other business partnership, you must get

everything in writing. This means going beyond the initial contract you

and your designer sign. Keep notes during meetings and save every e-

mail and written communication. There may be times when things are

decided during “casual” meetings, such as when certain site elements

will be completed, or something as simple as adding a graphic or two.

By tracking these conversations, you will have a record to return to if

things go off track or off schedule.

Web Design Firm or Independent Programmer? Web design firms are

not your only option when it comes to launching a Web site. There are

many independent programmers out there who can provide the same

service as a design firm, and for less money. Most of these programmers

worked for design firms before striking out on their own.

There are advantages and disadvantages, of course. Independent

programmers may be less expensive, but you are limited to receiving

only the service that particular programmer is skilled in. If you decide to

add a component to your site that your programmer cannot develop for

you, you'll have to pay someone else to do it. Most design firms employ

programmers of all capabilities in order to meet customer requests, and

their services are part of the deal when you hire the firm.

Independent programmers are harder to locate than design firms. Part of

what makes an independent programmer less expensive is the fact that

he or she does not have the same overhead as a design firm.

Advertising is expensive.

If you think you would rather use an independent programmer than a

design firm, return to your friends and colleagues and ask around. If you

resort to an online directory or your local telephone book, use the same

process of selection as you would a design firm: ask to see samples and

a portfolio. However, getting a programmer recommendation from

someone you trust is best. Not all programmers are created equal and

an impressive portfolio does not convey an individual's customer

service skills.

Making Edits and Changes: the waiting game. When you hire a Web

design firm to create and launch your business's Web site, you are at

the mercy of their busy schedule. You must request edits and changes

be made for you, and they may not be made as quickly as you'd like

them to be.

Some Web design firms provide customers with site administration tools

that allow you to make simple changes and updates as needed. This

type of technology can be more expensive, but worth it if it gives you

more control of your site.

Understand what you're paying for. Determining the look and feel of

your Web site (the design) and actually building the site are two different

processes of launching a Web site. Be sure to understand what is

included in your contract and what will cost extra. If you wish to add an

eNewsletter sign-up, will it cost more? Will you be charged for every E-

commerce transaction? What will it cost to accept credit card payments

on your site? These are the questions you need to ask when negotiating

prices and deliverables.

You may be responsible for setting up your own business's and then

work with a programmer to incorporate it into your site. Web hosting fees

are an additional cost you must consider, as well.

Find out if your site is being built from scratch or from templates. Many

designers use pre-made templates, which can bring down the cost of

building the web site. Designers who create your site from scratch may

actually own the source code, which limits your ability to move the site

later on, if you wish to. Be sure to ask your designer up front how he or

she intends to build your site and get written or legal documentation of

the ownership source codes so you don't run into disputes down the

road.

Be patient, but attentive. Designing a professional Web site is not an

overnight project. It takes time to create and construct the Web site you

want. However, every day you and the designer spend tweaking the site

is another day you are unable to advertise the site, attract visitors to the

site, or sell products online. Be patient with your designer, but keep track

of the agreed schedule.

I also recommend hiring an attorney who is versed in E-commerce

businesses. You will need one to write the “Terms and Policies” for the

web site, as well as proofing the site for any legal complications that

may come up.

Imagine your Web site as a storefront. If you were building a brick and

mortar business on main street, you would: 1) find the right contractor; 2)

have an idea of how you want your business to look and what you want

it to contain; 3) expect the project to take time; and 4) be prepared for

set-backs in scheduling. These are the same responsibilities and

obstacles you will encounter while designing your business's Web site.

Creating a Web site for your business is an exciting and worthy

undertaking. Take the time to do it right the first time, because there is no

fun or enjoyment in having to do it all over again if you don't. For some

additional tips, review the Web Site Starter Kit at HYPERLINK “http://

http://www.inc.com“. To view “cool” and award-winning sites for

ideas, check out HYPERLINK “http://www.designfirms.org/awards/”.



Source by Karen Torbett

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