The Devil’s Advocate’s Guide to Planning Your Business Website now available.
Save yourself time, money and aggravation. Do you need to build a business website, but don’t know where to start? Should you build it yourself or hire outside help? What information should your website contain? Who will be your target audiences? Will you sell products online? Blog? How do you choose a domain name and a host (and what are they?) The Devil’s Advocate’s Guide to Planning Your Business Website takes you from start to finish on creating your business website. It serves up a hearty helping of needs assessment questions, a side of advice and a soupçon of snarky anecdotes.
What is a domain name and how do I get one?
Your domain new is your web address – www.yourname.com. There are plenty of registries out there that offer affordable domains for around $10/a year. EMGraphics can also easily register a domain for you. If you choose to register a name yourself, remember to:
- write down your username/ID number and password
- write down the email you registered the name with.
- keep your account email, credit card information and and address update. If you miss a renewal notice or your card is expired, you can loose your name.
Try to keep your domain short and memorable. Also, try to get a .com or .net domain if you are a business, .org if you are non-profit. Obscure endings (.tv or .biz) are not as memorable and often look third-rate.
Remember, just because a website doesn’t pull up in your browser doesn’t mean it is available. Someone may own it and not have a page up yet. NEVER publish a domain on print material until you own it. You can use who.is to check on the ownership or available of a domain.
What is a host and why do I need one?
A host puts your web page information on a special computer called a server. This computer can be accessed around the world by various browsers to see your website. Browsers are the type of software program you use to view a website – Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc. You are essentially paying to rent a certain amount of memory on one of the host’s servers. EMGraphics resells hosting from a wonderful Verona WI company called Northtone.com. Hosting starting at $6/month and includes emails.
If you choose to set up hosting elsewhere, you will need the address of the server where your site will be hosted. This is a name like name.name.net or a number like 10.0.0.1. This tells the world “I own www.myname.com and the information for this page is on the server named name.name.net. EMGraphics will also need any passwords/logins for third-party hosts.
Remember, you own your domain name and any information you host on a server, not the hosting company. You have the right to move your website to a new host if you want to.
How do I know who my host is and how do I contact them?
If your email or website is down or acting wonky and EMGraphics is not immediately available, you can contact the host yourself. If you are not sure who your host is, go to http://who.is/ and pop in your domain name. You will get a list of registration information for the name. At the bottom of the list you will see Name Servers. They will say something like ns1.northtone.com or ns1.hosthead.com. This means your site is hosted at hosthead/mojohosting (firstname.lastname@example.org – 866.746.3674) or northtone.com (email@example.com). You can then contact their support staff. Northtone and Hosthead are both small companies and know me well – simply tell them you are one of my clients.
If you see another name there, like ns45.domaincontrol.com, worldnic.com or others, they are a. something you set up yourself (and should have paperwork/bills from them) b. probably one of the biggies – godaddy.com, enom.com or networksolutions.com. If you are not sure, pop the name server plus keywords like “who owns” into google and they will direct you to the real owner of that name server.
When contacting tech support, be as specific as possible. Saying “it doesn’t work” is as helpful as going to the doctor and saying “something hurts.” Try to provide information like:
- What time the problem happened
- Did it resolve or is it still going or sporadic
- Does it work on one browser/computer/device and not another
- Can you access other websites or email accounts
- If there are oddities in your email, can you provide examples
- Can you send a screen shot of a web problem
- If you are getting an error, what does the error say
- What platofmr (mac/pc/linux) are you on?
- What browser and version are you using (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, IE)
- Were you using a computer, tablet, phone, other?
- Have you have the problem before, and did we resolve it?
Why should I have an email @ my domain?
Even if there are only 1 or 2 employees at your business, you may find it useful to have email accounts such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. These can all be separate accounts or all forward (empty out) into one account. Take full advantage of having an email with your domain name in it. Nothing looks more unprofessional than having a great new web page but a hotmail or aol contact email (email@example.com)!
Remember to keep track of all your hosting, domain name and design invoices and receipts. They are all tax deductible as business expenses.
So how do we go about designing a site?
EMGraphics will ask you A LOT of questions about what you want in your site, target audience, sites you have seen and like (or disliked), feature you would like and more. We will then come up with 3 or so rough designs based on your suggestions. The final designs are then combined and tweaked into a final look and feel for your site. This design is then made into a template to be used on your WordPress site.
Things to consider for your site are:
- Who will be using this site?
- Why am I creating this site? What are my goals for this site?
- What information do I want on this site? Do I need product or portfolio images, contact information, hours, location map, Frequently Asked Questions, request for information form, client testimonial, links, my logo, professional association logos, history, spec sheets, pdf forms, etc.?
- Have I seen sites that I like? What elements do I like – layout, colors, links, images?
- What is my budget for now? What are the most important areas to get done first? Can I do part of the page now and add other pages later?
- How often do I plan to update this page? Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly? Will I update this site regularly so information does not become dated, or should I put more generic information on it?
- Am I writing/gathering new text and information for this site, or can I pull it from previously created pieces such as brochures?
- Who has final authority on the site design/content/launch?
- Do I want to make changes myself, or perhaps blog?
- Do I want to sell products online via my site or another entity like etsy?
- What are the keywords you want to use for your site meta (hidden keyword for search engines) tags?
How much will a website cost?
This is one of those vague questions like “how much does a car cost?” It depends, are we talking a junker with 500 miles left on it or a Porsche? After discussing the various features and amount of content required for your site, we will provide you with a written proposal and contract spelling out what will be included in the site, ballpark estimate and other information. The contract and 30% are needed to start any project. EMGraphics will always let you know if the project is ballooning in scope and will need to go over the estimate.
What do I need to provide for my page?
Clients are responsible for providing their own written text, product images, pricing and text. Clients are also responsible for the content’s veracity and the rights to use any images/media provided. EMGraphics does not edit text nor check to make sure you have copyright to images or videos. If you have questions about using certain content, please ask. EMGraphics can always help you find stock images and will be glad to provide feedback on content if asked.
If you need help writing content, using social media for marketing, creating print pieces and more, EMGraphics can recommend the following wonderful companies:
Circore Creative – advertising and creative marketing services
Diane Walder – Public relations, communications and copywriting
Maureen Kane Design – graphic and print design, specializing in non-profits
Michael Proft Design – ads, direct mailings, brochures and more
EMGraphics will test the site on various browsers and platforms. Once the page is ready to launch, we will put the new site on your host’s server and register it in the search engines. The page will then be live.
How do I get the word out about my site?
At present, there are about 300,000 new sites added to search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and others every hour. The main browsers still accept registration of new sites for free. However, it may be often weeks until your site has filtered into the system. There are other ways to become listed and visited.
- The first is to pay for a listing. Sites like Yahoo charge a few hundred dollars to list you. This may not be the best use of your advertising dollars. The majority of people searching on the web now use Google. Google both lists sites for free and also offers a “pay per click” program. You can chose what words you want your site to show up for and how much you are willing to pay for it. You can offer to spend anywhere from a few cents a day to hundreds of dollars.
- Facebook ads are also a very affordable way to target specific audiences.
- Using social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) in a smart and savvy way can be a great way to reach new audiences. However, do take time to consider your message, how you will interest viewers, how often you will do updates and other aspects of using social media. The programs may be free to use, but your time rarely is “free” in any sense of the word.
- If you belong to any professional associations, make sure your page is listed. You may also want to consider paying a small fee to be listed on various local business listings. Far from being dead, print is actually one of the best ways to get noticed. Most potential customers expect a company to have a site. They will look for the web address on letterhead, business cards, print ads, phone book listings etc.
While you still need print advertising, the web site can save you money by:
- Spending less time on the phone giving hours, directions, rates and more.
- Show a wide variety of products in full color, without the cost of printing.
- Collect information from forms and emails when the business closed.
- Offer printable forms, brochures and other documents to be downloaded. This saves you the time and cost of printing and mailing them.
- Quickly make announcements, offer sales or coupons, newsletters and other up-to-date information without waiting for a publication to go to press.
Last, but not least, take a big breath. This is a lot of information to take in. Don’t worry about understanding it all at once – that is what we are here for. Feel free to call or email for help or with questions. We will be glad to explain anything that doesn’t make sense, work with you in getting the name and the host and help you in any way we can.
I often get asked, “Why don’t you always answer your phone?”
On an average day, I work on 12-25 different jobs. If I had even a brief conversation with each of these clients each day, I would never get any work done. I dislike having my concentration broken and focus dragged elsewhere when in the middle of a job (and don’t forgot, this may be your job being interrupted!). With email we both have a clear, succinct written record, rather than jotted notes. Want to talk with me on the phone? No problem, just email or leave a message and we can set up a time.