Choose DIY or Go with a Pro

Choose DIY or Go with a Pro

Feeling adventurous? Are your creative juices flowing like floodwater?  Do you enjoy learning new skills and sopping up new knowledge? Do you, as a  user, know your way around the Web and have clear likes and dislikes about  sites you visit?

Then you’re probably ready to take on much of the work of building  yourself a Web site. Depending on how much functionality you need, you can even  do it in a day, start to finish – your business, live on the Web!

But if you find basic word processor functions a challenge, have never uploaded  an image from a digital camera to your computer or bought anything from a  retail Web site, if you still haven’t set up that e-mail account you’ve been  meaning to get to, it would be a very good idea to seek professional help.  Web-building help, that is.

In this step, we’ll fill you in on:

     
  • DIY Web Site Packages 
  • Choosing a Web Design Professional 
  • SEO and Red Flags
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Some people think of this step at best as BBI – boring but important.  But don’t be tempted to skip ahead to the fun parts. You’ll regret it later, or  maybe sooner. 

DIY Web Site Packages

Before you decide to build your own business Web site, be brutally  honest in judging your own creative abilities or potential. This is tricky,  because a lot of it is a matter of taste, and facing certain realities.

     
  • When creating anything, do you have the ability to do it in a fresh or  novel way
  • Do you have a sense not only of what appeals to you, visually and  functionally, but to a wide audience
  • Are you color blind? (Many people don’t know the answer.) 
  • When involved in a creative task, are you persistent enough to work  through the rough spots until you get it right?

If the answers to these questions add up to limited creative abilities,  many DIY Web site packages, including site-builder software, will fill in the  gaps for you.

Most include customizable templates – fill-in-the-blanks Web page  designs that provide the visual look and feel of your site and have basic  functions built in.

Some DIY packages include your choice of domain name, hosting, add-ons  for more functionality, search-engine optimization (SEO)  to boost your site’s visibility on the Web, and other basic but vital elements.

Before you choose: 

  • Be sure it includes 24/7 customer  support. If one thing is certain in building and maintaining your own Web site,  there will be bugs and you’ll have questions. 
  • Even with assurances of  around-the-clock support, choose a provider in your own time zone. If they’re  asleep while you’re awake, you can easily end up waiting 24 hours for the  answer to even a simple question. 
  • Try it out. Most reputable DIY Web  site providers now offer the option of downloading and trying their software  free for a limited time.

That said, here’s a short list to get you going: 

Tip


If you decide to try building your new website alone, consider a DIY package, at least to start.

There are many DIY packages that make it easy to build your new online home in the business boomtown of the World Wide Web. Most include customizable templates – fill-in-the-blanks Web page designs that provide the visual look and feel of your site and have basic functions built in.

Some DIY packages also provide your choice of domain name, hosting, add-ons for more functionality, search-engine optimization (SEO) to boost your site’s visibility on the Web, and other vital elements. Even the free basic version of Microsoft Office Live, for example, includes them all, as well as 500 MB of online storage and 25 company e-mail accounts. As you research, be sure the package includes 24/7 customer support. No matter how smoothly your new task goes, you’re almost certain to need it.

Choosing a Web Design Professional

If you don’t have the time, interest or ability to design and go live  with your business Web site, hire a pro – or at least someone with enough  knowledge or experience to assemble a simple site that meets your needs.

One way to get this done, and a good choice if you’re on a tight budget,  is to contact your local college and ask how to find a student designer. Many  of them already have enough experience to handle fundamental Web site design;  some of them much more.

If your budget allows some elbow room, hire an established, experienced  and proven pro. Just don’t do it the way old Aunt Gert picked her horse bets – by  sticking a hatpin in the racing form. There are resources all over the Web,  like DesignFirms.org, that can help  guide your research and sort out the field.

But before you hire any Web designer or team, there are some questions  you need to answer: 

  • Do they have experience with  business Web sites? 
  • Can they meet the needs of the plan  you carefully laid out in Step 1
  • Will you be working with one  designer throughout your project, or passed around by team members? The more  personal attention the better. 
  • Does the designer or firm have  references? If so, call them. If not, move on. Ask about your candidate’s  record of meeting or missing deadlines,   ability to collaborate with clients, work ethic.  
  • Are examples of their designs at  work on the Web? Carefully look over those sites, not just for quality and  range, but for styles that agree with your own. 
  • What payment plans do they offer?  Beware of any that require full payment up front. By the time you discover  they’re not as good as they looked, it may be too late to cut your losses. 
  • What are their verbal and written  communications skills? Can you understand them when you discuss your Web site  needs?

It all comes down to using the same due diligence you would in hiring  any member of your business team. If you wouldn’t hire them for a staff job,  don’t hire them on contract.

SEO and Red Flags

Visibility on the Web, especially ranking high with major search engines  like Google, Yahoo and MSN, is essential to online business success. Be sure to  look for search engine optimization as part of your Web design package.

SEO is arguably the biggest single challenge in designing, building and  maintaining an effective business Web site – or any other sort – because the “rules”  keeping changing, the Web landscape never stops shifting, and new technology regularly  adds its own wrinkles.

It needs constant tending to stay competitive, and whether you have the  time and patience to take on the challenge yourself, or pay a pro for SEO, you  should be aware of some warning flags. 

  • When someone says they’ll “submit”  your new Web site to one, 10 or 100 search engines, it’s more sales pitch than  substance. As long as your site has solid SEO built into the design, you’ll be  found by search “spiders” – automated programs that constantly crawl the Web  looking at sites to include in search results. 
  • If a designer or team promises SEO  but doesn’t say which search engines they will optimize your site for, ask.  While “submitting” a site is a mostly myth, your SEO must meet the requirements  of at least the Big Three: Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. 
  • Don’t believe anyone who  “guarantees” top search engine rankings. Nobody can back up that claim. 
  • Don’t believe any claims of  immediate results. It can take weeks for the spiders to find you and add your  site to the search results roster.

Now it’s time to  move forward with the hands-on work of building your new business Web site. In Step 3, we’ll explain where and how to begin.

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
StartupNation
StartupNation

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