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"Nine Easy Steps to Take Control Of Your Website"

A Small Business Resource Guide
By Julie Watkins

Do you know your business better than anyone else? Have you been thinking of getting your own Web Site, but don't know where to start? Take control of your web design project with these nine easy steps. You will:

  • develop a focus and purpose for your Web Site;
  • prepare your business or organization for the Web;
  • gain confidence in dealing with your web designer.

Surfing the Web teaches you what you like about Web Sites and gives you ideas for your own Site.
1.  Surf the Web --
This may seem like an elementary thing to do, but it is very important that you understand the nature and purpose of Web Sites. As you visit Sites on the Web, take notes about aspects of Web Sites that you like and dislike. Surfing the Web helps you develop and define ideas for your own Site. The more knowledgeable you are about Web Sites, how they function, and what you want for your own Site, the better judge you will be of your Web Designer's work on your Web Site. Since most designers charge by the hour for Web Site changes, getting it right the first time will be a great money saver over the long run.
Defining the purpose of your Site gives you clarity and helps you focus on that purpose.
2.  Define the Purpose of Your Web Site --
Use this checklist to help you define the purpose of your Web Site. More than one may apply.
  • Increase profits
  • Increase awareness of your business or organization
  • Keep up with your competition
  • Compete in a global economy
  • To educate or inform the public
  • Increase sales locally or globally
  • Share talent, ideas, interests
  • Build a community for people of same or similar interests
Once you have your purpose, you will find it easier and less time consuming to gather information and materials for your Site.
Knowing your competition enables you to better design your Site to compete in the online market-place.
3.  Study Your Competition --
Use some of the major search engines to search for keyword phrases related to your business or organization. Visit those sites which turn up at the top of the search results list. Note what and how they offer their products and information. Do they have user-friendly, quality Web Sites? Are they e-commerce enabled or merely offering information about their products and services? Are there many, many sites out there with same or similar content or only a few? Finding a niche not taken by competing sites will help you boost your profit line.
While gathering information for your Web Site, refer back to the purpose of your Web Site.
4.  Gather Your Information --
Now that you have a good handle on the nature of Web Sites, your purpose, and your competition, begin collecting the information that you will want on your Web Site. Start by gathering everything you want on the Site and don't worry about organizing it. If you are planning on selling on line, gather your product information and descriptions. Refer back to the purpose of your Site to help you stay focused.
Sorting your information into categories gives you an idea of the number of links or pages your Site will need.
5.  Sort Your Information --
Go through and sort the information you have gathered into same or similar categories. As you sort, jot down descriptive headings for each category. If you have products, group them together into selling categories. Eliminate information that does not relate to the main purpose of your Web Site. Sorting your information will help you determine how many pages you will need for your website.
Prioritizing information allows you to easily select the most pertinent to help you stay within your budget.
6.  Prioritize Your Information --
Prioritize your information according to the most relevant and pertinent information on top and the least relevant on the bottom. When prioritizing your products, consider such practicalities as shipping costs, packaging and the value of seeing the item in person. It is easier and less expensive to pack and ship books then it is to pack and ship fragile items. Certain pieces of artwork or custom design work sell much better when the customer can handle the item allowing other senses besides sight to come into play. Don't eliminate based on these characteristics, but do take them into consideration. If you prioritize your information, when you are faced with budget constraints and have to cut back on the size of your Web Site, you will find it easier and less time consuming to select the information to eliminate.
Your images should enhance and complement your text and favorably display products you have for sale.
7.  Select Your Graphics --
Choose photographs and images to enhance and complement your text. If you like a personal touch, photos of owners, staff or the business can add a homey feeling to your Web Site. Photos of products should clearly show the product as the central figure in the photograph. All images must be clear and of good quality. Don't worry about making your images Web-ready. This is the job of your Web Designer. Sort your images into your information categories. Try to create a balance so that you have 2-4 images per category (web page). If selling products, each product should have its own image.
Now that you know what you need for your Web Site you can approach Web Designers competently and confidently.
8.  Research Web Designers --
Now that you are confident in knowing what you want and need for your Web Site, search for a Web Designer. Ask your friends, neighbors, and business acquaintances for referrals. Go back and visit some of the Web Sites you like and look for the Designers signature. Find companies that combine Web Design, Graphic Design, Web Hosting, Site Maintenance and Web Site Promotion. It is a big money-saver when you obtain the services of a "one stop shopping" Web Design Company. A Web Design company that performs search engine promotion will design your Site optimized for the search engines. Call or email each designer. Ask for a quote for the work you want done, including:
  • Web Design
  • Web Hosting
  • Graphics you need designed
  • Ongoing site maintenance
  • Search Engine Promotion
Keep track of response time and the cost estimates. Be certain you ask about packages which combine all of the above. Designers who offer package deals can often save you money while providing quality work.
Armed with information, you have not only saved yourself money and time, but you have taken ownership of your Web Site.
9.  Select Your Web Designer --
You are now in the driver's seat. You know what you want and you have a good idea of who can provide it for you professionally, quickly and at the best price. Select your designer with confidence and sit back and enjoy the unfolding of your Web Site.

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