Tips on Web Development
Building a Web site is easy. Building a good Web site is hard. There’s a difference between a site with a simple design and one with a cheap design.
A bad Web site sends a terrible signal about your business. A cheap, cluttered Web site with misspellings or display errors can harm the appearance of legitimacy of your business. Because it’s easy to just throw a site online, a bad site can make a business look like a fly-by-night operation and drive customers to the competition.
The first question to answer: what do you want your Web site to do for you?
Ask yourself if the site will simply be a brochure for your services – the online equivalent of a sign in the window of your store. Will you need to update the site frequently? Will you be hosting a social media conversation online with chat boards and connections to Facebook, Twitter or MySpace? Do you plan to sell your products or services online? Understanding your site’s purpose before designing your site will help you handle planning.
You’ll need a domain name and a hosting contract.
The domain name is your Web site address, like Company.com. Domain names registrars like GoDaddy.com and Register.com charge $10 or less per year for the service. Your Web site will usually run on servers operated by a Web site hosting company, at least at first. Hosting companies charge $10 a month or less to make your site available.
Most hosting services offer some Web design help, either with free templates or Web design software. If all you need is a dead-simple Web site posting your contact information, background and services, these tools should probably get you through. But if you want your Web site to be a competitive advantage for your business, you probably need a professional designer. A simple design might cost $600, if you supply all the graphics and text. Expect to pay at least $1500 for anything good that’s more complicated than a blog. We can help with that.
You get what you pay for. A cut-rate Web designer may have lower prices because of a lack of technical skill or experience. Cheap Web designers are also notoriously unreliable. Professional design costs money.
Host your site under your own domain name, and pay for a hosting service. There are free alternatives, but freebie Web sites usually carry advertising, which can muddle your own marketing message. (There are some exceptions to this advice – some eBay-focused retailers can get away with using eBay stores for a while, and musicians have adopted MySpace as the preferred medium for connecting to fans. If you’re finding all your competition in the same places online, you probably want to be there too.)
Have contact information on your Web site. A commercial Web site without a phone number, e-mail address and physical mailing address for a business screams illegitimacy.
Use a domain name that your customers will easily associate with your business. Shorter is better, but not if people have to guess if the Web site belongs to you.
Spelling and grammar matters. Google, Bing and other search engines rely on correct spelling to some extent to find your Web site. Many people view bad grammar and misspelled words as a sign that a Web site has been created by non-native English speakers – a classic warning sign for fraud on an e-commerce site. And bad English just looks unprofessional.
Don’t use PDF files for browsing. A PDF file forces your customer’s computer to load a new reader program to navigate the page. PDF files are also harder to search and hard for search engines to index.
Don’t use sound unless you need it. Most people will instantly close a Web page if sound unexpectedly erupts from their computer.