Do you need a Website?

The following is designed to help you decide if you need a website. And if so, what is involved in building it? Not everyone ‘needs’ a Website. But most business will certainly benefit from a properly designed Website.

Your Internet Presence

There are no legal get rich schemes on the net. Building an online presence is not much different that trying to get your company recognised by any other means. It takes work, time and money.

SomewhereInCanada.com has taken 2 years and many man-hours to reach our present traffic level of 1000-2000 visitors a day. Don’t despair however. Depending on what you hope to accomplish, this level of traffic may not be required. Read on.

Your Website’s Purpose

When most companies think of Websites they might be thinking of it as a source of new revenue. Depending on the type of service you are delivering to your clients, this may or may not be a realistic goal for a web site. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Try and understand what they are seeking from your Website.

Some of the most important uses for your Website have nothing to do with directly earning revenue.

1. Form of Advertising: A Website has the potential to display your products and values to the growing number of people who use the Internet.

2. Convenience for your customers: Customers can examine and learn about your products at their leisure anytime, day or night. If you have an online store they can then easily purchase your product without leaving their seat. Impulse buying made easy.

3. Safe environment: The ability to study a company’s products and services without a high-pressure salesman hovering over their shoulder is a convenience many consumers appreciate.

4. Contact and support: The more avenues you have for your customers to contact you, the better. The Internet has benefits over traditional methods of contact. Your organization can be contacted 24 hours a day 7 days a week. No phone tag! This is an obvious advantage. Remember though, if you allow customers to contact you through email, check it regularly and reply promptly. Automated responses that state that you have received their message and you ‘will’ reply promptly are a must.

Generating Traffic / Attracting Customers

If you build it they will come, is one of the biggest lies. If you don’t actively seek visitors, you might have set up a Lemonade stand in the Sahara Dessert. No one knows you exist yet.

There are many ways to try and generate traffic; most of them take some amount of time. SPAM (unsolicited email) is the lowest form of advertising and we suggest you never do it. It is very unprofessional.

1.Word of Mouth: If a visitor is impressed with your Website, it’s content and your presentation, they will most certainly tell their friends and family about it. Links from other Websites are also ‘word of mouth’. If your Website is likely to generate traffic, many other sites will link to yours, increasing the visibility of your Website.

2. Traditional advertising: Signs, TV, radio, business cards are all very useful at letting customers know you exist.

3. Search engines: Most Internet users turn to their favourite search engine when looking for products. Think of them as a high tech Yellow Pages. If you are not properly listed with search engines, many potential customers will never find you. It takes time to properly submit your site with the major search engines.

a) To be displayed on the first three pages of most search engines you will need to carefully word your Website. To generate real traffic, you want to focus on the words that people will be using to find your products. When I say ‘real’ traffic, I mean visitors that are actually looking for the services or products that you offer. Too often Website designs will focus on attracting any visitors, whether they are looking for your services or not. That accomplishes nothing.

b) Having other popular sites linked to your site can also drastically increase the odds that your site will be listed on the first few pages.

4. Content: People need a reason to want to come back to your site time and time again. Fresh, useful information is one of the most important reasons for people to come back. People have come to understand and expect that “Internet = Information”. If you are selling widgets, make sure your site has information relating to widget types, costs, concerns, tips, care, other uses for widgets, etc. There are a hundred other widget retailers out there, why should they come to your site? Information!

Content can also be added by the customers themselves through interactive message boards, chat rooms, and mailing lists. They are not easy to get people talking, but once you do, they almost run themselves.

5. Promotions: Contests and Freebies (free giveaways) are a great way to attract customers to your Website. Everyone loves free stuff. And many will walk across nails to get it.

Sponsoring charities is another way to promote good public image and increase your visibility.

Designing you Website

The look of your Website can sway customer’s opinions. It should be quick to load, easy to navigate and work with most (all) computer configurations. While Java and Flash applications might look amazing, they can detract from your main message and turn a happy customer into a disgruntled customer. Who wants to have to download and install a 5-10 MB flash player before being able to surf your Website? Who will wait even 30 seconds while waiting for a high definition graphic to load? Most visitors will go elsewhere unless you are the only game in town. The KISS principle (Keep it simple stupid) works best with Websites.

What else do you need?

1. Domain name (IamHere.com): A domain name will cost you about $20-$30 USD a year and should be chosen carefully. Image, image, image.

2. Web host: For most of us, who don’t own our own web servers, we will need to pay a web hosting company to use their servers. Costs can range from $9 USD to hundreds a month depending on what you require. For the average user, you could be looking at $20-$30 USD a month.

3. Web store: There are free scripts that you can install yourself to do this. But in the interest of customer (and your) security you should seek the services of a third party host. There are many companies that make setting up a web store relatively painless. It is no worse than having a tooth pulled out through your nose. An added benefit is that it will cost a bit also. But if you plan to sell costly items online, it will be worth it.

For the low-end retailer, PayPal is very popular and very secure. It offers is the ability for people to pay you with Visa or Mastercard securely, but that is all.

Choosing Your Domain Name

First and foremost it has to be ‘easy’, I repeat ‘easy’ to remember. Finclesteingrommetimporium.com will not last 2 seconds in the average persons mind. GrommetsRus.com might make it to their computer however.

I believe in sticking with the .com domains, since most people expect to type in .com. However, if your name is taken and you ‘must’ have your chosen domain name, then by all means use a .ca or .net domain name.

Of course, it must not already be taken. That is the hard part. Most good names are already taken.

Check for available domain names at:

https://www.networksolutions.com/

https://www.registersite.com/

These databases are not always 100% accurate, but should be very helpful.

Be creative, and take your time. It is disastrous to change your domain name. People will not be able to find you.

Typical Web design fees

These rates were found from varying Web Design companies around the world.

While these are typical rates, there are Web Designers (myself included) who can do what you want for a more reasonable rate. I prefer to charge an hourly rate, as it is fairer to me. Per page rates are available but the design will be basic (not unique or customized) yet still functional.

Hourly rates: They vary from $35 - $75 – and up

30 hours for basic 6 page to 160 hours for elaborate 16 page.

Per Page: $100 USD per page - $5 USD per photo (not custom graphics)

$250 USD a page

Reasons for more costs:

E-Commerce: $1300 USD. E-Commerce is a big expense. You want to do it right for both your customer’s safety and yours. There are many options, maybe too many, for E-Commerce.

Interactive Websites: Scripting / Java, Flash or databases are all areas that require a degree of technical knowledge. They can be very time consuming to produce and debug. You can expect a higher hourly rate from most companies to do these sorts of tasks.

Company Logos: $500 USD. Ouch. Since Corporate image is so important, a lot of thought and effort should go into it.

Updates /Changes: This would most likely be the same as the hourly rate above.

Maintaining your own Website – Not as hard as you might think -One on one assistance / training

We can teach you to build and maintain your own Website. If you plan to update your Website often, maintaining your own Website is a cost effective option.

If you don’t know an FTP server is, feel the Internet is mysterious, or just want refresher training, we can help.