Today’s businesses require letterhead and envelopes, business cards, ads in the Yellow Pages, and web pages as part of their business stationary. Even if you have the smallest of businesses with a limited clientele, a website is part of your professional arsenal to attract and keep clients.
People new to the Internet or web pages tend to see them as complicated or expensive. They are neither, unless you choose to allow them to be. They are, in their simplest form, a billboard on the information highway, advertising your wares and expertise for all to see – if they can find you.
Like a billboard, potential clients must travel down that particular road to see the signs. To ensure a successful website, make sure your website address is featured on all of your business cards, letterhead, classified ads, shop signs, yellow pages listings or ads, emails, and any advertising.
The cost of a website should be a natural inclusion in your financial accounting as a business expense for advertising or stationary. The initial set up costs may be high, but add these to the long term expense of the site to make the figures more reasonable.
The process of creating a website is three fold. Let’s look at the various areas you need to focus on to develop your own website.
Most companies think of websites as promotional tools for their business. Today, websites are an arm of your business, representative of your company’s customer service efforts and policy. They serve the public needs, not your needs. Developing a website today means understanding how people use websites to gather information and and make decisions, and maximizing that criteria with the resources, services, and products you offer.
Putting the user first, your website design and development needs to be organized way so people can easily access the information they require to help them make a decision or be informed. What information do they need to have, what do they want, and how can you best provide it.
Another important part of website development is targetting your audience. In order to make your website work, you need to help people find it. This includes search engine submission, concentration on keyword writing and content, and providing content worth linking to, letting others direct users to your site. Most of all, the content must have value, so a lot of focus needs to be on the writing, writing style, spelling and grammar, and creating clear, easy to understand content. The better the quality of content the more likely people are to find the site and stick around.
Designing a website is the creative side of the process and involves the expertise of the site owner, marketing and advertising departments, artists, photographers, writers, technical writers, programmers, and code experts. This list of experts can be a whole team or one person. Either way, it is a team effort to combine all these skills and talents to complete an interesting and professional website.
Website design requires clear direction from the research within the website development plans. Focusing on the user’s access to the information, a solid navigation menu is critical, helping the user find the information they need.
Website design and layout needs to combine navigation and content with graphics and photographs that help guide the user and showcase products and services. Website designers are constantly battling between new technologies and their creative desires and bandwidth, seeking a compromise between the three. It’s not an easy task, and requires good coding and design skills, so this isn’t part of developing your website that should be cheap. It is the largest part of your website budget.
Along with the design comes the writing. Search engines can’t find you if there is no text to search. Quality written content is critical to a successful website, rich with keywords and website style writing. While the look of the site is critical to its visual success, what it has to say is more important. Content matters, so make sure that it is well written.
After the development and design, someone must maintain the site. This can be as simple as looking at it once a week to see that it is still there and working, or more intensive such as adding frequent updated information or content regularly. In general, a small site (1-10 pages) may require 2-20 hours a month to maintain properly. If designed well to begin with, a small site can be ignored for months on end, except for the occasional check-in.
For good search engine optimization (SEO), you need to really consider how page rank in search engines plays a critical roll in how people find your site when they search. Part of the criteria is how often the site and the content and links are updated. So frequent additions and updates to your site will help keep your site at the top of the search engine results.
Links need to be checked for dead ends, responses to comments and feedback checked and action taken, the site and database backed up, and a whole variety of common website maintenance tasks. You can do this yourself, or hire someone called a webmaster to maintain and monitor your site on a regular basis.
How Much Does a Website Cost?
The more time you spend preparing for your website design and development, researching demographics, identifying your audience and collecting the information needed for the website, the less time and money you have to pay a developer and designer to research this information for you. The developer and designer will go through the information with you, but the better prepared you are, the faster and easier the process is for everyone. If you have money to splurge, hire them to do this research and preparation for you, as they will know what to look for as they prepare your site.
A lot of information is required before sitting in front of the computer and laying out the first page, though many people start with the design of a page before getting to its content. What goes INTO a web page is more important than how it looks, at least to start. The prettiest web page is worthless without good content that keeps the viewer there after the first blush of “wow” is over.
For your information, the average price for development of a basic website (5-10 pages) is between $250 – $2000. The diverse range is based upon how many professionals are involved, their expertise and reputation, the length of project time, the complexity and sophistication of the development and design, and the inclusion of animation, interaction, e-comerce or advertising.
On average, it can take 5 to 20 hours to design a one to five page website, even for a professional. Expect longer hours for more pages, dependent upon their complexity and content. Hourly rates range from $20 – $50 an hour. Different regions offer more or less than the average rate.
The bottom line? If you pay less than $250 to produce a web page, you are probably getting someone inexperienced or less than qualified, which could result in problems in the future with the design or less promotional coverage. A well-designed website must meet certain standards and requirements established by professional organizations, including meeting the country or state accessibility laws for the handicapped, which means you need to go with an experienced web developer and designer, or spend hours learning these rules and regulations yourself.
Domain name and website hosts fees are typically not included in the website design and development. Domain name fees are for one year, though they may be discounted if purchased for more than one year’s service. They may be included free with the fees of a web server host or a separate fee, typically $35-$50 per year. Web site host “rents” space on their computers to host your website. The come in all shapes and sizes, offering various products, storage sizes, email accounts, and services. Prices for a small, simple site can range from $10-$50 a month, with discounts for a single or multiple annual payment. Commercial sites with many email accounts and e-comerce range from $50-$200 a month.
Plan your website budget to include the initial set up fee spread across the length of time you expect the site to remain basically as it is. Typically, a website requires only minor changes and updates to its development and design for at least three years, sometimes five if the page is very simple. The website design and development industry is still evolving, so changes to the underlying structure might be required within the three to five year life of the site to keep up with technological advances.
technorati tags: blog administration, website, website administration, website development, web page design, web development, web designer
site search tags: blog administration, website, website administration, website development, web page design, web development, web designer
© Reprinted with Permission