Internet - The World Wide Web
Build and Promote Your Web Site
When I was writing this article, I posted a message on the Online Advertising (http://www.o-a.com) mailing list asking people to tell me about how they made or saved money on the Web. One individual wrote to me saying that small businesses lose money more often than they make it on the Web because of the high cost of creating and running a Web site.
Unfortunately, there is some truth in what that individual had to say. Many small businesses have spent more money on the Web than they will ever make or save.
But the good news is that doesn’t have to happen. You can profit from the Web if you plan carefully and use your ingenuity.
Decide What the Purpose of Your Web Site Will Be
Some of them will have experience setting up huge corporate sites, some will have limited experience building Web sites, and some may be people claiming to be Internet consultants or Web site developers because they have just purchased a Web page creation program and assume that owning the program gives them the expertise to design Web sites.
Many will try to convince you to buy their services now, whether or not you know anything about the Web—or about them. Don’t be pressured by their solicitations. Don’t sign any agreements to buy Web site space or to have a Web site created until you have a clear vision of what you want the Web site to accomplish.
Every decision you make about your Web site should be focused on what you want to achieve by having a Web site. Do you want to use the Web site primarily as a capabilities statement or online version of your press kit or promotional materials? Will you be selling products to consumers directly from your Web site? Or will your primary purpose be communicating with customers, employees, or suppliers?
To avoid spinning your wheels or spending money on services you don’t need, make a list of all the capabilities you need and put them in priority order.
Determine Your Needs
Use the answers to these questions to determine what it will cost you to build the site and maintain it. Then compare your costs to the results you hope to achieve and determine if the cost will justify the results.
If the results will justify the cost, set specific goals and timelines for achieving the goals and start the project. At each step along the way, compare your progress to your needs to keep it on target.
If the results won’t justify the costs, look for ways to cut expenses or increase revenues. Or don’t build the site at all. You can reap many of the benefits of the Internet without having your own domain name and Web site.
Don’t Purchase Your Own Internet Server
Similarly, if you don’t have the time, skill, and interest to do a good job of designing a Web site, farm out the chore to a reputable contractor or Web design company. The reason is simple: The time you would have to invest to learn to create Web pages could be put to better use selling your products and services and running your own business.
Know What to Expect
You could get ripped off like this, too, if you don’t know what you are buying. Launching a Web site is a process that involves several types of activities. Depending on the nature of your site, those services will include some or all of the following:
Few companies offer all these services. Many, however, offer “complete” packages that include setting up and hosting the site along with design and limited maintenance. Although using a single source to do all the work sounds convenient, it isn’t necessarily a good idea. The person who is a whiz at computer programming may have no artistic abilities and no eye for graphic design. Someone who is capable of putting text into html format may not know anything about creating the editorial content for the site or about Internet marketing. (Don’t assume they can type well or spell words correctly either!) And the company that hosts the Web site may charge a small fortune to “design” your Web site, when all they do is plug your material into a cookie-cutter template that they use to “design” every Web site they create.
Furthermore, if you are charged a flat fee, you may wind up paying for services you don’t need, or overpaying for the ones you do need.
To make sure the price you are quoted is fair, ask the provider to give you an itemized list of services they provide and to specify the fee they are charging for each service.
Get quotes from several vendors and compare them. Look at how much disk space you get, how much bandwidth you are allowed (how much data can be transferred monthly for the fee), and what extra charges you’ll incur if you go over these amounts. If you plan to sell online, see if there are extra charges for a storefront, too. Ask whether you will have access to update the files yourself if you decide to; how many e-mail accounts you will be given; and whether there are extra charges for autoresponders, mailing lists, and other services you may want.
Know the Going Rates
In 1999, Web-hosting prices for people who could build their own Web sites ranged from as little as $15 a month to $50 a month or more depending on the amount of computer (server) space needed and whether the Web site would require database, audio or video capabilities. A site costing $15 per month in hosting fees is adequate for most small businesses whose primarily goal is to put sales literature on the Web to get sales leads. Some hosting companies included shopping cart software (software for setting up a retail site) at no extra charge with host plans costing about $25 a month. Graphic artists and programmers typically charge $75 an hour and up. Conversion of documents to simple html pages costs between $15 and $25 an hour.
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Doing business on the Web
Defining your needs
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Understanding the Internet
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