What Does It Take To Start A Website?
This month’s article is inspired by questions I’ve been asked directly about setting up a website for a new small business.
So where do you start, what do you need and what does it cost?
Where do you start? Figure out what you want the site to achieve – what does it need to do? It is a 24/7 marketing tool and has the potential to be very powerful with the results it brings in. To harness this potential you need to be focused about the purpose of the site. Figure out, and write down, what are the three main purposes of the site from where you are now. Is it to tell others where they can find you, what you do and what makes you different? Do you need straight away to be selling from it? Is it to educate customers?
Defining the purpose of the site allows you to focus on what you are doing, it saves you from being all over the place.
My website has been developed over a series of phases. Each phase has a core focus and is supported by 2 – 4 other related themes. Phase one was about letting people know which markets I’m at and was supported with info about me and the beads. This was initially a single page under my company’s website. It was a start.
Phase 2 was about launching www.creativelybelle.com itself with the same focus as phase 1 but with more info and more pictures.
Phase 3 was about eBay info and business system, phase 4 about the newsletter and the business area. And so on. A website site grows organically but to stay cohesive it needs to start from an overall plan.
So when planning your site and determining your purpose and focus you are giving yourself the power to know where you are going and what you will create and achieve.
So write down your focuses and purpose and then prioritise – what is the most important feature and purpose? This lets you think in terms of phases – Phase 1 will achieve this, Phase 2 will focus on that and so on.
So with this you have started.
What do you need to achieve this?
To build a website you need:
* purpose of the site
* website address – URL
* words for the pages to tell your story – this is call “copy”
* pictures for the site – this could be product images but if you have a service you need images that represent the service
* graphics for the site – buttons, logos etc
* development tools – I use Macromedia Dreamweaver (for the webpages) and Fireworks (for graphics and pictures – this is what I use for my jewellery etc pictures) and find them easy to use. Microsoft Frontpage is easy to use but be careful about using their templates as they are very well known on the net and it can be difficult to make your site look different to others.
* skills in using the development tools – go to courses and learn how to use the applications yourself or have someone else do it for you. I think it is wise to develop the skills yourself so you can save money in the updating and development of the site. Maintenance can be costly when paying someone else to do it.
* web host provider – the website is housed on computers called servers. I use an independent web host provider down in Tasmania and they are affordable and reliable. Depending on what you what to start with I’d say budget for between $200 – $400/year hosting fees. This gets you lots of features that are purely your own (ie. doesn’t have anyone else’s advertising flickering across your site. “Free” websites and webpages are paid for with other people’s advertising dollars with their ads showcasing on your ‘free’ website). My site doesn’t have anyone else’s advertising because I buy the server space. I also have unlimited email addresses, autoresponders, direct updating myself, a control panel so I can look after my website on the server myself – saves me money having this access. Here is the address of my website host provider: www.ezihosting.com
* FTP provider – this lets you transfer the website files from your computer to the web server. FTP = File Transfer Protocol. I use WS_FTP Pro and have tried Cute FTP – I could recommend both as they are easy to use.
* To access the internet you need an internet provider – an ISP. I use iHug and find them reliable and easy to use.
* key words – what are the words associated with your business that people would use to find you through Google? For my site it is words like markets and jewellery. My advice is to have a brainstorming session that involves pen and paper, friends, food and maybe some wine! You can’t have too many key words to start with.
With the website address – URL – you need to decide which type best suits you – .com, .com.au, .net, .net.au etc. It depends on your audience – who do you want coming to your website? If you have and want a mainly Australian audience then a .au extension is appropriate. If you want an international audience then consider whether they will think to add the .au extension. I want an international audience so I’ve gone with a .com. As my site is for a business I went for a .com, if it was a network a .net would be appropriate, an organisation a .org would apply etc. It simply comes down to who your audience is and what they will think to do.
As for the cost of domain names (website addresses) the appropriate prices are $US15/yr for .com, .net, .org etc. Many Australian based registrants try to charge $AU60/yr for the .com, .net, .org and this is too much. For Austrailian extensions com.au, .org.au, .net.au the top price should be $140/2 years.
So how much should you pay for a website? That is a difficult question because the answer depends on what you want with the site and how much you do yourself. Basically, the more you do (writing the words, designing the structure of the site, getting the pictures together etc) the cheaper it will be. I know people who have paid $10,000 for a site that was hard to use and rarely visited because of the lack of usability and this didn’t include the copy (words) for the site and others who have got a great site with pictures, key words, copy and up and running with 8 pages for $600. The look of the two sites is vastly different – one slick and fancy, the other functional and informative.
I would think a reasonable budget for a new site providing information (brochure site) would be $1000.
So the costs, what does it boil down to?
Start with $1000 for the initial site development cost for a brochure site.
Domain name (website address) $140/2 years.
Website Host between $200 – $400 per year.
Internet service provider – if you’re reading this email you already have access to the net. But if you need to get it connected at home you’re probably looking at about $10 – $25/month.
Development tools – Macromedia Dreamweaver and Fireworks – $500 – $900 initial investment (depends if you get them on sale or at full price). This will save you maintenance and development costs and can be bought after the site has been initially developed by a website designer.
FTP Tool – so you can transfer files from your computer to the server on the net. I bought mine years ago but I think $US50 is reasonable – a once off cost. You can get a free trail version for 30 days and then decide. Just get something in the middle of the product range as you probably won’t need the fancy features – I don’t but I’ve only learnt what I’ve needed to.
Additional costs can include getting pictures and words (copy) together. I do mine myself so I recommend doing courses to build skills so you can do it yourself and save ongoing costs.
If you have someone develop your website for you make sure you are provided with:
* copy of the site on CD and when updates are made you have the backup copy of the site – this protects you and your business if something happens to computers or business relationships.
* a handover document detailing fonts names and sizes, style sheet info, template details, file structure, colour codes, development tools used, key word file location etc – this lets you have to hand all the info you need maintain and develop your site.
* Have on file all the passwords and registration details for domain names, website host provider details, email addresses etc.
As for hardware, the computer you use in your business get something reliable, a known brand (Dell is quite good at the moment is the word from my IT friends) and stable. Laptops are not stable because they get knocked about as they travel about. Laptops are very convenient but it is a double-edged sword – their convenience makes them vulnerable. I have a big chunky, rebuilt machine that churns along. I like to have it stable and keep it stable. I don’t open email attachments that I’m not expecting and I generally don’t download files from the net (I did this last year and it cost me my C Drive – even though I thought it was from a safe site – I was wrong and should have stuck to the policy of protecting my machine and not downloading).
Well there you go, I hope it is helpful and lets you feel more empowered and a little less overwhelmed with starting up your business. The best thing to do is to research and keep a note book with details. Spend your money wisely and don’t believe people who tell you that it costs tens of thousands to start up. Learn your lessons in an affordable way and you’ll be fine.