Website Tips for the Little Guy

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If you’ve been thinking that it’s time for your business to have its own website, we’d like to walk you through the process of getting the project started. By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to intelligently request a quote from a few local website development companies. (We’d tell you how to build a website yourself, but we assume you still want to have the time and sanity to run your business.)

Before calling up a web studio, it’s important to assess what your company will need out of its future website. Walking through the seven questions below will help you determine your website’s scope, establish your budget for this project, and understand a bit about the development process.

Seven Questions To Answer Before Building Your Website:

1. What information must your website provide?
2. How often will it need to be updated?
3. Will your customers shop online?
4. How interactive will your website be?
5. When do you need it finished?
6. Who write and prepare the content?
7. What is your budget?

1. What information must your website provide?

Before thinking too much about your website’s features or look & feel, think about the basic information and details your company’s website should contain. Sort through your existing brochures and product support materials, think about the types of emails and phone calls you field on a regular basis, and try to put together a list of categories. How many categories do you have? How many subcategories?

2. How often will it need to be updated?

Many corporations choose to regularly publish news articles on their websites. Others like to have a “company blog,” from which they can frequently post stories, updates or thoughts about the business’ ongoing adventures. You might also like the option of regularly adding or updating info about your company.

If you imagine you will need to make updates to your website even as often as once a month, then be sure you talk to your web developer about a Content Management System. A Content Management System (or CMS) lets you, the business owner, easily make changes to the text and images on your website, without having to know any programming languages. A Content Management System is the current “acceptable standard” for websites that need regular updates: if your website isn’t built on one, you will likely find updates very inconvenient.

3. Will your customers shop online?

Do you have a product catalogue that you’d like customers to order from, directly on the web? If so, how many products do you sell? If you’re a non-profit, will you be accepting donations through your website? Do these transactions needs to synchronize with an existing database your company uses? Since online shopping often requires specialized technology solutions, having these answers ready before your first meeting with a web developer will help them establish an accurate quote for you.

4. How interactive will your website be?

Like online shopping, anything that “moves or gets moved” on your website can require specialized solutions that require some advance planning. If you’re hoping to have any moving elements (like animated menus or header graphics), any embedded videos, or any other multimedia downloads like podcasts or photos, try to compile a list of all your expectations in advance. If you’ll also need interactive areas like login screens, sign-up forms, quizzes, surveys and so on, it would also be helpful to have a general sense of how many, and what they’ll be used for.

5. When do you need it finished?

The typical web project will take 3-5 months to complete – although, that will vary depending on your answers to questions 3 and 4. Knowing when your website needs to be live and online will help you decide when to commence the development project with your chosen studio.

6. Who will write and prepare the content?

Many web studios leave it up to you, the client, to write and add all the content and text to your website. If you’re not prepared for this task yourself, do you have somebody in your organization that specializes in writing, copy editing and content planning? If not, it’s important to let your web development company know this, so they can factor the writing process (or outsourcing) into your quote.

7. What is your budget?

The pricetag attached to your website depends on your answers to all of the questions above, and especially on the web development company you approach. Bearing that in mind, here is a very rudimentary glance at the types of prices to expect.

Basic site: $2,500 – $8,000
(Under 50 pages, limited custom features)

Intermediate site: $10,000 – $15,000
(Consisting of 50-150 pages, could include a customized e-commerce system)

Advanced site: $20,000+
(Consisting of 200+ pages, geared towards high flexibility and extensive visitor interactivity)

It’s also important to factor in the annual fees that may be associated with your website. At the very least, you should expect to pay around $200 to have your website hosted on your web company’s server. If you end up using a Content Management System to which your web studio holds the rights, you might also have to pay a licensing fee, which can add to the cost of the project. (If that seems like an unsavoury fee, ask your web developers about WordPress, which is an open-source Content Management System that will cost much less.)


Conclusion:

Building a website can seem like a daunting task, so be sure to take it one step at a time. The studio you choose will help you through the process, and will help you shape your website so it is the powerful, effective, personalized tool you need it to be for your business. Knowing what you need is the first step to getting what you want in a website.