Connect 2 the Net Web Talk

Articles and information for business owners on how to maintain and gain a successful web presence. This blog is sponsored by Patricia Smith, of Yellowbelly Web Design and Cynthia Mackey, of Winning Strategies.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Building a Web Site Yourself Using Software or Online Tools

In creating a web site, you must determine whether you want to build it or not. If you like learning new things and feel that you are a creative person, then maybe creating the web site yourself is a great way to go.

Below are some questions to consider:
1) Do you have the time to learn and build your web site?
2) Do you have the desire?
3) Do you have the necessary skill set? If not, where can you get it?
Remember this is the Internet face of your organization, and you want to make it as appealing to your target audience as possible.

Creating a web site using software
There are software solutions available to create your own web site.

Popular ones include:
Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer™ for some is considered easier, but limiting in some features.

Macromedia Dreamweaver™
Adobe GoLive! Macromedia Dreamweaver™
is the predominant web development tool for professional web designers, and Adobe GoLive!™ is a close second.

Software prices vary from $300 to $600+

Other options for purchasing include where you may find cheaper versions of the same software, or if you are a student you may be able to purchase the software from you local college store.

Advantage – one time software fee (excluding software upgrades that are released)
Disadvantage – learning curve and time factor

The best way to experience these tools is either by downloading 60 day free trial copies from the vendor web sites, or taking a free or low cost class through a local community college, or similar. This way you can experience what tool might be the best for you to work with before making a purchase.

Creating a web site using online tools
More and more Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs) – companies that allow you to use an online application usually for a recurring fee – provide you with access to their tools to create your web site at nominal fees. These tools allow you to select a predetermined design, to change some basic elements of the design such as a central image or color, and enter text into the design. The drawback is that you do not own the design and they do have limitations in the amount of content you can add. However, these sites are excellent for designing a web site quickly, or when you need a web site for just one event.

The recurring fee is a form of “rent” for the use of the design template. This may not be desirable for the long term if you want to brand your company. We know of at least one client who found someone was using the same template as he. NOTE: It is possible, in some cases, to purchase the design, but the costs vary and vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars more depending upon the type of design.

These sites are quick to deploy and extremely affordable. You can often get a site launched with an hour – as low as $9.95/month in some cases. This is an excellent approach for a first phase solution, for those who must have a site right away.

Advantage – fast learning curve and quick to employ
Disadvantage – recurring monthly fees, you don’t own the web site and limitations in the amount of content you can add

Check with your Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to see if they have an online tool that you can use.

Other Online Options Include:
Network Solutions
Template Monster – a site where you can purchase pre-made HTML (Web) templates for those who know HTML
“Menu” pricing applies – the more features you add, the more you pay
You must create your own content (words and images that goes on the web page)

Next time I shall be discussing the future of FrontPage™ and Microsoft’s next generation web authoring tools SharePoint Designer™ and Expressions Web™.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Hiring a Professional Web Designer

Hiring a web site designer is a great option for the busy business or non-profit professional. This option allows you to gain the full benefit of an expert who can portray you business in a professional light. The key here is selecting the right person for what you want, and not wasting money or time in the process. Below are some suggestions to help:

Obtain Referrals From Trusted Friends, Family or Business Associates
A referral is always the best way to go. If you have relationships with someone such as a business partner who has a great web site, ask them who did it for them and would they hire the person/company again. If you are a member of a professional organization, consider asking them for referrals.

Check with Your Chamber of Commerce or Other Objective Party
Most chambers may supply a list of services when you are looking for something in particular. The fact that a web design firm is a registered member of a chamber may provide a sense of comfort with accessibility and reliability.

Google, Craig’s List and University Students
The Internet is an excellent way to find good designers and developers. However, be smart. Ask for references and portfolio of work they’ve actually completed. With students, you may be lucky enough to find someone is willing to give a price break just to break into the business.

Questions to ask when hiring a web designer:

  1. Ask to see samples of completed work – sometimes designers have different styles
  2. Ask for references – especially if you are working with someone from Craig’s List
  3. Ask about a timeline – so that you can establish an actual date to launch your web site
  4. Ask about pricing - gather realistic numbers so that you can define a budget

Should you need any help, or have any questions just write me a comment.

Please be sure to visit again, next time I will be talking about “Creating a Web Site Yourself” using online tools and software.

Pat Smith
Yellowbelly Web Design