Developing Your First Web Site
Why you need a web site
- Be competitive
- Create authority and street cred
- Spread ideas
- Get social
- Get in search engines
- Share your story and info
- Save costs
- Target your local area
- Build an email list
- Go mobile
Why do I need a Web site?
You came to our web site to get information. Are you at work? Are you at home? Are you on your cell phone? There are millions like you. The Web exposes your organization to vast numbers of potential customers - local, national and international. The Web is one of the least expensive and yet most targeted, flexible, and effective forms of advertising available. Plus, many companies discover that a Web site is a more economical, faster, and efficient way to make information available to clients, customers, distributors and employees than traditional print methods. Instead of spending large amounts of money producing newsletters, brochures, memos, product booklets, catalogs, etc., businesses are pointing people to their Web site where they can quickly add and change information.
I'm confused and overwhelmed. Where do I start?
We will guide you through the entire process. Whether you're a startup looking to create your first online presence or an established organization looking for ways to exploit the growing functionality of the Internet, Web Design Carolinas offers a full range of Web development and marketing services that can help grow your business. Let's break it down.
- Step One - Think about what you want to accomplish with your site. Do you want to reach new customers? Do you want to service existing customers? Do you want to service internal users? Think about the Who, What, Where, How and Why for your organization. What information is most frequently requested from your organization? What content do you want to provide in a cost-effective manner e.g. specials, news/events, new products, etc?
- Step Two - Gather any/all materials that you think might be relevant: logos, pictures, graphics, text, brochures, your scribbles/doodles, etc. More is better.
- Step Two 1/2 (recommended but not critical) - Research other sites. Start with sites in your field but also consider sites that you have really liked/disliked for any particular reason. Look for content and features you like as well as designs/layouts.
- Step Three - Contact us for a free consultation.
Can't I just do this myself?
Yes, software and services are available. However, for most people, the learning curve is steep and the results often do not meet expectations. At the end of the day, you want a site that is fully functional and professional in appearance. When you value your time and compare it to our cost-effective, experienced solutions, you will find that we nearly always offer the better value. If you've played around with some designs and are just not happy with the results, contact us to see our affordable and professional solutions.
Can't our in-house IT tech people develop our site?
Many IT departments are capable of developing Web sites, however, many prefer to hire an outside firm for initial site development or site redesign. The reasons are many: time/budget constraints, lack of artistic ability, benefits of having an outsider view the site and process as if a potential customer, benefits of having an outsider guide the process with competing departments and interests (this can prevent departmental turf wars eg my content is more important than their content). If you use an outside firm to develop your site, your IT staff should be an integral part of the development process. Their suggestions and input may be critical and their commitment to the project and ongoing maintenance are improved if they are involved upfront. We have deep business experience and an IT background, contact us to see how we can meet the needs of everyone.
Should we hire a full-time Webmaster?
If you have a huge site that needs constant maintenance, you may want to hire a full-time "webmaster". However, we believe the term webmaster is very outdated. Technology is growing so fast and in so many directions that no one person can "master" it. Unless you have a very simple site, you will need a person with a large set of skills that must be constantly updated. Most companies find it difficult to recruit and keep good high-tech workers. Salaries are high. Many companies offer salary bonuses of 10 percent to 25 percent to new hires and retention allowances — or training money — to workers with critical IT skills. And what do you do if you hire a "lemon"? It is much easier to fire us than to fire an employee. And, most importantly, we have very low overhead. We specialize in affordable, professional site maintenance. We partner with experts in all the latest technologies so you can be assured that our skills are current and cutting-edge.
What is a domain name and how do I get one?
Our domain name is www.webdesigncarolinas.com ... we will help you register a unique domain name for your site or you can do this yourself by using a service such as Go Daddy. Because domain names are vanishing at a rapid rate, we recommend that this be your first step. You can also register multiple domain names and have them all point to the same site. Domain names are cheap. Don't overpay.
How will people find my site?
Web surfers will generally find your site in three ways
- by using a search engine/directory service such as Google or Yahoo
- by seeing your web address in conventional marketing/advertising materials developed by you - your Web address should be included in every piece of paper that leaves your organization and every conventional advertising campaign you launch (TV, radio, print, etc).
- by finding you through links or ads from other sites
We will help you with all three approaches, as our goal is not just to design your site but to make it successful. Through experience, we know what works and what doesn't work. We properly title your pages and add meta tags and descriptions to make your site search engine friendly. When we develop your site, we automatically verify it with Google.
What is hosting? Do I need a server?
The host is the computer or server that "houses" your Web site. It could be in your back office, at an Internet Service Provider in your town, or it could be hosted in another city. Physical location is not important but the reliability, capabilities and customer support provided by the hosting company are very important. For the vast majority of sites, bandwidth and storage are far less important than features, support & reliability. Most important is customer service! You want your site to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you want a host that will meet your current and growing needs.
In our humble but experienced opinion, unless you have a dedicated IT staff that is capable of handling the demands of hosting and server maintenance, it is better to go with a company that specializes in hosting rather than hosting your own server.
Because we specialize in Web site design and development, we do not offer in-house hosting. Instead, we guide you to a hosting company that will best fit your needs. From years of experience, we know the companies that perform best. We will guide you through each step of the hosting process. Contact us today to get started.
What about package deals?
While package deals (bundled services such as phone, internet, hosting, Web site design) may offer value to some customers, but we have nearly all fall short in some key area. Most packages are very inflexible, requiring you to "force fit" your ideas into a template type approach and are often more expensive than the sum of individual services. If you buy a "Web site in a box", you are fitting your needs to someone else's package.
Do you use all the latest technology?
Yes, we keep our skills current and partner with experts in all the latest technologies. One caveat, however, sometimes it is best not to use all the "bells and whistles". The key to success for your site is ease of use, speed of access, and content! And with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, your site must be cross platform compatible. For that reason, we generally implement new technology only after it has been tested in the public domain for a while. We specialize in cross-platform sites that anyone can use. We generally design for the middle ground. Our goal is for your site to be seen and used by the largest number of people! We never use proprietary or obscure software and we still believe that the most important component of your site is content. Contact us to learn more.
Can I see my site while it is under development?
Yes, we create a special private section on our test server just for your site. At various steps in the process, we will show you the current version of your site (at a special web address) and ask for your comments and feedback. For example, most projects start with the front page design. We will design test layouts for your review and feedback. Once you have approved this stage of the project, we will proceed to develop the "inside" of your site. All stages are a collaboration between you and our team. No surprises ... your site does not "go live" until you have approved it.
How much do you charge?
Each project is unique and some web sites are more complex than others. For example, browse our portfolio to see the wide range of web sites that we have developed. We price jobs on a project basis determined by the needs and requirements for your unique project. After an initial free consultation we will provide you with an estimate of the cost to develop your site. Then we will work with you to develop your site within that budget and we will keep you posted on additional costs that may be involved. One way to reduce the cost of your site is to provide text and graphics such as logos in digital format. The more work you do up front (eg proper planning, thinking about navigation and content and how the site should function etc) the lower your final cost.
Note: Copyright to the finished web pages and underlying source code (intellectual property) produced by Web Design Carolinas is owned by Web Design Carolinas until final payment has been received from the client. Upon final payment, the client is assigned rights to use as a website the design, graphics, code, and text contained in the finished assembled web site.
- E-commerce, e-business, the new economy ... all buzz words. If you're selling products online, it's easy to see how your site can add to the bottom line. But e-commerce/e-business is so much more. Maybe the "e" in e-commerce should stand for efficiency. E-business encompasses all the ways that a Web site can improve communication, distribution, customer support, marketing, etc. Often e-business is more about reducing costs (e.g. reducing mailings of catalogs, answering frequently asked questions, providing online literature) or improving productivity (e.g. applications and content aimed at sales force support) than direct sales. And let's be frank, for most organizations, a Web site is part of their competitive image and marketing. Do your competitors have Web sites? We believe that a Web site is a necessity, not a luxury.
- You must "work" the Web. If you do not update your site, add new content, give visitors a reason to return ... you will not be using your site to its advantage. And you must market your site through conventional means (include your address on letterhead, advertisements, etc.) ... do not depend solely on search engine traffic to bring visitors to your site. Because of our deep business experience we bring more to the table than just a web site. Contact us to learn more about marketing strategies for your business.
Can you provide online shopping for my site?
Yes, we have experience developing online shopping/storefronts and we will guide you through the process. If you are only selling a few items, we can help you use PayPal for your shopping cart. For many small businesses with limited products, this is a cost effective solution. However, a full-scale shopping cart experience will significantly increase the expense of developing the site.
- You must obtain a merchant account through a bank or financial institution (if you already accept credit cards just contact your financial institution and tell them you intend to accept online orders as well)
- Decide whether you want offline order processing (swipe, phone or computer entry of credit card orders at your place of business) or online/realtime order processing (all automatic - you are sent confirmation to fill the order - no order entry on your part). Both methods involve per transaction fees - real time order processing is more expensive.
- Hosting charges are usually higher for online shopping sites.
- Decide on shipping and return policies upfront.
- Determine whether you want order integration with a back-end database or accounting package.
A few businesses want to "sell" products through their web site but do not want to accept online credit card orders. If that is your preference, we will help you develop alternatives to conventional online shopping.