Setting Up and Maintaining a Website

Small businesses have really different website needs than a large company. They usually don’t have a need for a bunch of crazy functionality, and they don’t have the money to pay someone to work on their website full-time. The owner of the business usually does everything from sweeping the floor to updating the website. Your website needs to be really easy to implement and update.

The good news is, if you don’t have an online store, your website setup should be relatively cheap and painless. If you do have a store, it won’t be as cheap, but it should still be pretty easy.

Let’s walk through the Typical Website Design Process. There are just 6 simple steps to designing and implementing a website.

  1. Purchase your domain name.
    Your domain name is just the url of your website. For example, my domain name is paperfoxes.com. You don’t need to buy the .org or .net versions of your domain name unless you want a monopoly on the name, or you worry people are going to steal your brand or impersonate you. However, domain names are usually only $10 a year, so it might be a good idea to buy as many variations on your name as you can. I like to search for coupon codes so I can get them as cheaply as possible.
  2. Decide on structure.
    Some of my clients like to blog about their business on their website, which I highly recommend as a boost to natural search. Even if you are not planning on blogging yet, you can still build the website using blog software. This will enable you to make edits to the text and images on your website as easily as editing a Word document. If you need an online store, there are quite a few different storefront software solutions that aren’t too expensive. Whatever your needs, you can find the right fit. You should be comfortable with whatever technology you choose.
  3. Talk about the design.
    You and your designer need to determine the best look and structure for your site. Write down your vision of the site, your typical customer, and how you would like people to feel when they visit the site. What do other websites look like for similar businesses? What features do people like to see and use on each page? Keep in mind that color plays a very important part in the emotions people experience when interacting with websites. If you have a physical store, you should match the look and feel of your retail store so people know it is the same business. Send your designer links to website designs you like, as well as your ideas about the different features and links you need on each page, and pictures you want to use.
  4. Give your opinion.
    Your designer will create a preliminary design image so you can see what the website will look like when it is finally done. Often times the site design will be different than you imagined. Your designer had a reason for every decision he or she made. If you want to know why something looks the way it does, just ask. Let your designer know what things you would like to be different in this stage. Once the code is written, changing the design gets much more complicated – and much more expensive.
  5. Witness design in action.
    Once you have decided on the final design, the designer will get to work styling the website in html and css and integrating the design with your software. After the design is finished, you will need to host your website. Designers often offer hosting for their clients so they are the first one to be notified in the rare case that something goes wrong with the server.
  6. Learn.
    After the website is hosted, your designer should do a brief tutorial so you know how to edit your website. You should know where the website’s style is hiding so you know where to change it in the future. Most designers are available for additional design work for an hourly rate. Be sure to get all the original stock images and passwords from the designer for future use. Schedule regular backups of the website to off-site and virtual locations.

See, that wasn’t too bad.

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