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Website Development: Become Your Own Expert

Article source: http://www.webdevarticles.com/. Used with author's permission.

Starting and maintaining a business is challenging enough without the additional financial burden of hiring a web site expert to put your vision on paper. If you are starting your business on a "shoe string budget," hiring someone to take your written materials to type a basic format, add a few pictures and charge you to edit what you tell them may not be sound money management.

It is not necessary to be a computer "wiz" to develop your web site. You do have to know your product or service and be able to follow directions. Even if you have a web site consultant, "hands on" content and presentation development will be your responsibility-the buck still stops with you. Before you hire that web site expert, consider the following information. It may save you money and unnecessary waste of time.

One strategy is to utilize web site packages that provide software to enable you to select the number of pages needed, choose background color schemes, and will include "download" features that will identify various products and services you offer. These packages offer you control over content 24 hours, 7 days per week, as opposed to contracting someone at $450-$600 for initial development then $50-$75 per hour to generate the inevitable changes in content as you grow your business.

Although you do not have to speak an unfamiliar computer language to master the development of your business web site, you do have to know your product or service and a commitment to marketing and developing your business. Let's take a look at the basics of web site development for a five (5) page site:

1. What do you want your visitor to see when they visit your site? Begin with "colors" for background and the printed words. Depending on the service or product, it will either be a soft gray background with black or maroon print or black or dark blue background with white print. Others may have pastel colors with soft print. Color selections are based on the product or message.

2. What information should the visitor see first? The Welcome page should be viewed as the same as the welcome mat at your door. Its content will convey the purpose of your business or service. Your welcome message can be developed using the executive summary section of your business plan. You are introducing the product or service and giving your visitor a brief overview of what they can find on the other pages of your site. You are letting potential customers know they are in the right place.

Remember, you have 15 seconds to capture your audience. Not unlike other personal presentations, don't waste time on unnecessary words. Get to the point. Entice them to want to know more. Information on this page must be prepared by someone who knows the company.

3. Who are you? The "About Us" page is your "brag bag" opportunity. This is where you talk about business accomplishments and expertise, awards and recognition. You can also provide a brief overview of yourself (especially if you are promoting consulting services) or background and expertise of any partners or key staff.

4. What are you selling? Let's take a look at the product or Service page. Here is your sales pitch opportunity page. Describe how your product or service will be useful to your target market. Why is it unique? Who will it help? Why should they purchase it? This page, more than any other, will be fine tuned on a regular basis in the beginning. Wording, pictures, headings, etc. may need to be adjusted and revised as you develop and grow your business. For this reason alone, control over your web site should be a paramount consideration.

Pictures are worth thousands of dollars. Invest in an inexpensive digital camera. Your ability to take pictures of your product and download to your site provides immeasurable savings of time, money, and aggravation in the long haul.

5. How can they purchase the product or use the services? The Contact and Order Page provides easy access to you or a company representative-essential to business growth. In this fast paced society, people still want to know they can communicate and receive immediate responses to inquiries they may have and gain clarity about the services or products they are purchasing.

The order page can include an Auto Responder (auto responder provides a section for automated responses to questions. The message is automatically sent to your e-mail). This is a great way to build your customer base and attract new customers while exchanging information and ideas. Including Auto Responders also suggests you care about customer opinions and concerns.

Investigate several e-commerce companies that provide merchant accounts so that people can buy immediately. Pay Pal is one free merchant on line service.

Be Mindful of Traps

After reading this article, you may feel challenged by the process of web site development. My caution is that you take each step a bite at a time. If you decide to contract with an independent web site consultant, make sure you have direct contact with this individual via phone or visit. Prepare a list of questions including clarity about the level of control you will have over your site.

What is the rate for additional and ongoing costs? Have the consultant detail, in writing, exactly what is included in the basic development package, how they charge for maintenance of the web site, and when does it begin (for some charges do not occur until the site is up and running; for others charges begin as soon as they have completed the design).

Be sure the final contract for service is in writing, providing a clause for both to terminate the agreement, with proper notice, without penalties for you. Ask questions! Ask questions! Ask Questions! The only stupid question is the one you don't ask. The key is that you establish a comfort level before moving forward.

Theresa V. Wilson, M.Ed., CPBA (Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst) is a "Work-For- Hire" Freelance Writer and Success Management Training Consultant with over ninety bylines in several business, family and women online and print publications. Visit at http://www.writersinthemarketplace.org or Email at ACWritersgroup@aol.com

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