By Tammy Miller, President, Virtualtech Web Site Design and Promotion
Creating a Web site can be intimidating and overwhelming if you don’t understand what is involved. These feelings stop many people from proceeding, which is a real shame as a Web site is a powerful marketing tool and can be a lot of fun.
There are four steps in creating a basic web site, they are:
Step One: Domain Name (URL) Registration-This is the address people will use to access your web site (www.yourcompany.com). Once you have determined that the URL you wish to use is available, the cost to register a name is anywhere from $8.00 to $35.00 per year. A domain name needs to be renewed every year.
When you register a domain name, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your contact information must remain current. If your email address is going to change (most often because of changing to a new Internet Service Provider) it is imperative that you change your contact email address BEFORE your old address becomes invalid.
- Use a position (such as “President”) instead of an actual person as a contact-this is more stable, in case the person ever leaves the company.
- Make sure your company/organization is listed as the “Organization Name” (the “organization” will be considered the “owner” of the domain name.)
To see if a domain is available, go to http://www.betterwhois.com. For more information about domain names visit http://www.virtualtech.com/news/may2001fa.htm.
Step Two: Design of the Web Site. This is where the look, feel, and content of the Web site are determined and created. Web sites are created using HTML (HyperText Markup Language). This can be hand coded, or a program such as Microsoft Front Page or Macromedia Dreamweaver can be used. Often companies/organizations will hire a student to create a Web site because they know HTML. Just as you would not let someone who has taken one shop class put a new engine in your car, don’t have someone with no experience create your site. Your web site will be a reflection of your company/organization. Don’t let it be a bad one. Cost for web site design varies greatly depending on where the company is located and what the needs of your Web site are. Designers will either charge by the hour or by the project. If the designer charges by the hour be sure to have a detailed contract as to what they will do and how long it will take.
Tips for hiring a web site designer:
- Visit their web site. Do you like what you see?
- Ask the web designer for examples of other web sites they have designed.
- Get the names and phone numbers from at least three of the web designer’s clients. Call them and ask if they would hire the person to work on another project.
- Do they have a contract that outlines the agreement, what they agree to do and what your responsibilities are? Get everything in writing.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, from cost, to design and search engine placements.
Step Three: Hosting your web site on a web server. This is basically where you rent space on a computer that is always connected to the Internet. Price will vary, depending on the amount of disk space you will have and the connection to the Internet. Be cautious of a free or low cost hosting service, as they tend to be very slow and may put ads on your web site.
When choosing a hosting company here are some questions to ask:
- Does it backup daily? If the server crashes, you don’t want to have to recreate your Web site.
- Does it offer POP3 (password-protected) email accounts?
- What kind of tech support is included?
- What type of a connection to the Internet does it have? The minimum connection a Web server should have is T-3 (45 Megabytes per second). A T-1 (1.5 Mbps), or worse yet a cable or DSL connection (0.768 Mbps), is not adequate for the amount of traffic a commercial site will receive.
- Does it support Full FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Access? This allows you to transfer files from your computer to the web server.
- Does it offer web site logs showing you how many visitors your site has, what pages they are going to, how long they are staying, etc.?
- Does it allow for use of forms and CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts? This allows you the ability to create a form where visitors can be asked questions or register for meetings.
Step Four: Marketing Your web site. You should be thinking about the marketing of your Web site as it is being designed. The content of the site needs to reflex the search terms you will want your site to appear on search engines. The first step to marketing your web site is to include your Web address EVERYPLACE your phone number appears. This includes brochures, business cards, print ads, etc. In addition, include your Web address on your telephone voice message and email signature.
Your site should be submitted to search engines a minimum of every six weeks. Currently you can submit to AltaVista, Google, MSN, Dmoz, Netscape, and Fast at no cost, while AOL, Excite, HotBot, and Snap are not accepting submissions. Yahoo!, Looksmart, Lycos and Inktomi all charge a fee to review and index your site.
Pay for click search engines, such as Overture, are becoming an essential part of web site marketing. These search engines work basically like an auction. First you determine what search terms you want your site to appear under, now search for those search terms and determine what the bid amount for the position you want is. You then open an account and place your bid. Yes, you can be outbid. For more information on marketing your web site visit www.virtualtechnews.com.