A quick list of what you should consider before starting a website
You are a small business owner and know the importance of having an online presence, the time has come to get a website. If you are tech savvy and dabble with graphic design you can build your own site (depending on the level of complexity), but if you are like most people, or are color blind, or don’t have a clue about web design, you are better off asking a web designer to build it for you. Below is a list of what you need to consider:
1- Get your own domain name. Most of the time people allow the web designer to provide the domain (the name of your web address ex: www.lindsayscupcakes.com), the problem there, is that your designer will own the domain and not you, and that can create headaches for you if the designer goes out of business or doesn’t pay the domain renewal fee. Your designer can get the domain for you, just make sure it's under your name. Don't get a domain name that is super long or difficult to spell or your customers won't be able to find your site. We recommend getting your domain from godaddy.com, hostgator.com or 1and1.com, they are reliable and reputable companies. Domain names range in price from $.99 to $100+ a year depending on what you chose.
2- Know exactly what you want. In other words, you need to be very specific with the type of site you want, is it just informational? Do you want an e-store? The best way to express what you want is by going to your competitor’s website and explain to your designer what you like and dislike about it so that the end product is not something completely different than what you had in mind.
3- Logo and branding. Unless you are starting from scratch you should have a logo and branding sheet in various formats available for the designer. This will ensure your site will represent your business seamlessly across your physical store/business and your online presence. If the designer is creating a new brand identity and logo, make sure you are specific and request finalized copies of your logos in different sizes, formats, etc. so you can use them on your social media networks and printables.
4- Hosting. WTF is hosting? Hosting is the place where your site will be living (stored). This is also something you need to have access to since you are the owner of your site. Your designer will suggest the best platform depending on the software where your site is being built. If your site is built in Wix, they offer their own hosting, if it’s a WordPress based site you can host it in places like hostgator.com, 1and1.com, etc. The average hosting cost is between $12 to $15.00 a month unless you offer services that require uploading huge files or video.
5- Mobile Friendliness. Most people navigate the web on their mobile devices, so confirm with your designer that your site will be mobile friendly or your clients won't stick around if they can’t see your products/services correctly.
6- Content. You are responsible for getting photos, descriptions and all other content for your site. The web designer can’t pull that info out of their ass (nor would you want them to), you are the one who knows your product/services better. This will also affect how long it will take for your site to be ready, the more you delay getting the information to the designer, the longer it will take to get your site finished.
7- SEO. Here is another one of those WTF type words you hear mentioned all the time but have no idea what it means. (Search Engine Optimization) this is actually very important, this is how search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) find your site. If your site has poor SEO, your site will not be found on the first page when someone is searching for your products or services, hell, it may not even be found! Emphasize this to your designer so he/she takes the time to optimize your site.
8- E-store capabilities. If you want to set up an online store, you need to know that most of the time, that is a service provided by a third party app (like shopify, cisco, cartsync, etc.) and there will be a monthly cost. Take the time to do the research to see which platform fits your needs best, your designer should be able to make suitable suggestions. Also, be aware that every time you discontinue or add a new product, you will have to go into the back end of your site, ask your designer to teach you how to do that or ask if they can do that for you (for a fee).
9- Usernames and passwords. After you test your site to ensure everything works as it should, ask your developer to give you a list of usernames and passwords for all the platforms used for your site. You will not believe how many times we have encountered clients that have no idea where their site is hosted or how to get in there to update or make changes, don’t be one of them!
10- Maintenance. Most web designers will offer a month to month or yearly package for basic updates and maintenance, if you don’t know how to do that or simply don't want to mess with it, it's a good idea to make the investment.
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