Building a Winning Web Site on a Budget
Let’s face it, there are countless businesses in every industry that use the Internet as a showcase for their products, services and customer interaction, as well as an internal tool for client and employee management, scheduling and payment. Although the possibilities of what you can accomplish with technology are almost boundless, unfortunately, so too are the associated price tags.
Therefore, the two primary questions you must address when planning your business’ Web site are: 1) what is your budget, and 2) what services and user features are integral to your buiness’ site?
While unable to help answer the first question, I can start you on the correct path to answering the second, as well as examining several other important considerations. As a consequence, you will be better prepared to build an effective Web site on a budget.
Establish Site Goals, Check Out Your Competitors
After identifying your financial constraints, a key early step that everyone must take in Web site planning is to clearly define the goal of your site as well as its intended audience. Gathering competitive intelligence stands as a top priority for this process, as it provides you with a fundamental list of services, features, content and advertising/marketing that your competition is offering in their markets as well as a feel for their intended audience. Analyze your findings.
Check Into Technology, Compatibility for Best Usability
If you are approaching this project in an effort to increase sales and customer interactivity on your Web site, it will be important to focus on the design, security and ease of use of the user interface. It will prove important to present your company’s information in a precise yet comprehensive manner that is not only visually compelling but also intuitive to your prospective customers.
You will have to ensure that your site will offer the appropriate technology and compatibility to maximize end users’ access to and usability of your site.
Correct Applications Minimize Coding, Costs
Developing an internal Web site for management use can prove challenging. You must analyze the look and feel of the user interface, while additionally, optimizing its operational effectiveness in order to provide cost or time benefits that outperform your current standards.
Now that you have decided on a focus for your Web site, we can begin to walk through a breakdown of both the necessary and optional pieces of technology that you must integrate with the bulk of your intended content.
Watch Out for Unqualified, So-Called Developers
If your budget can support a Web site development team, this is the point at which it is important to bring it into the picture. When finding the appropriate design company, it is important to research not only its portfolio, but to read its development methodology and speak with past and current clients. If you are looking to build a Web site yourself, or with the help of a colleague, it is important to follow the following steps.
Stake Your Claim, Register the Domain Name
First, register an appropriate domain name (Web address) for your site. Many companies provide domain name registration services at competitive prices.
However, it can prove difficult to find an available domain name that is both appropriate to your audience as well as your products/services. It is well worth your time to investigate other security businesses’ domain names as well as manipulate security-related words, abbreviations and numbers in order to develop a proper derivative of your own.
Consider Storage Space, 24/7 Support in Host
Following the registration of a domain name is the task of finding a hosting company for your Web site. At this point, there are many different options to take into consideration due to vast competition within the hosting market. Hosting plans, in general, range from $15 to $50 per month with the variables in service being storage space, data transfer limits, E-mail accounts and services, specific technology and application hosting, 24/7 technical support, and service guarantees.
In considering these options, it is important to draw up a list of the necessities your site requires. Most small companies should not expect to exceed data storage limits of 150MB. However, it is important to make sure that you have the correct number of E-mail accounts available, and that any specific technology you intend to use on your site will be supported by the hosting provider. One service feature that I find indispensable for any small business Web site is 24/7 tech support, enabling a nontechnical administrator access and support for posting your company’s site.
File-Moving, Authoring Software Are Musts
Whether building an internal or external Web site, everyone must acquire both Web-authoring and FTP (file-transfer protocol) software. There are several prominent authoring programs available for purchase. These can also be downloaded from the Internet.
FTP software, developed to transfer Web files from your computer to your Web site server for posting on the Internet, is the last necessity in building a Web site. This software can generally be found for free through trial downloads. It is my recommendation to refrain from purchasing any until having tested one or more trial versions.
Get Useful Applications for Free on the Internet
I have briefly mentioned products that are available for free. There are a multitude of providers on the Internet that offer their main products either for free or at low monthly rates. It is within this arena of offerings that you stand to make your Web site excel above other alarm dealers. Due to the vast number of free applications and services available online, your success rests mainly with your desire to find and research services that add functionality to your Web site and its offerings.
Search Engines, Electronic Forms Enhance Functionality
Additional user functionality is a huge benefit for all who use your site. Two directly beneficial services that can be added are a site search engine and electronic forms for information gathering and management. Whether your system is internal or external, your users will derive direct benefit from the use of a site search engine to facilitate navigation.
Try Different Manufacturers’ Programs, Beware of Hitches
There are many providers of the products I have described, so it is important to make sure that you research and test a few competing applications before deciding which to use on your site. Also, you should try to keep in mind that, just as in the material world, all free services come with a hitch.
Therefore, to maximize site functionality and usability, while minimizing clutter, it is important to know your target and purpose as well as the associated “cost” of service.
Founder and partner of Boston-based Ineri, Joshua Moe has developed standards for operations, growth, and profitability on the Internet. Ineri specializes in digital solutions and development, including multimedia graphics and Web design, consulting, strategic development and deployment initiatives. Moe can be reached at (617) 783-4567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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