For any small business thinking about getting a web site built I recommend the following steps:
- Research. Look at your competitors web sites. What do they have on their site? Don’t freak out if the site looks like a million bucks – they probably took years to build it and sometimes its not the flash effects that people want – its normally facts and information. I would also recommend getting your customers involved in the research process as well. Ask them what they would like to see and also ask them for testimonials to add to your web site.
- Search. Think about key search words that people would use to locate your product online. Look at each web site that comes up on the first page of search results. Have a good look at what they are showing on their web site. This will give you some ideas for your own web site. Do they have articles? A blog? Product reviews? You can add these features to your web site at a latter date (if and only if your customers and prospects ask for it!).
- Discuss. Ask other business owners in your own town community if they have web sites and how it has helped their business. In this task you are building up an understanding of not only how much people can pay for a web site and the associated pain and stress but recommendations for contractors who could build your site.
- Plan. Remember the KISS principle – don’t get conned into paying for a web site that has all kinds of flash features such as forums, commerce, banners etc… You will find this overwhelming if you are not technical. Start with a basic web site then move on from then. The important part is to start simple then add features that your customers and prospects want.
- Get Quotes. I have seen business owners pay over $5000.00 dollars for a site that I know should only have taken less than $1000.00 to build. Do not go for the first quote – get as many quotes as you can. For each quote check out the business or contractors reputation. This is important as you can really make this very hard on your budget and stress levels.
- Don’t forget the domain name! It is vital that you register a domain name for your web site ASAP. Try and get a domain name that matches your business and do not make it too long, hard to spell or contains dashes “-“. The domain name is separate from your web site. For example a personalized car license plate is separate from the car which the plate is currently own. Same concept with domain names.
Helpful tips for choosing a contractor/business to build your web site.
- Ask for an example of a web site maintenance plan. A web site maintenance plan lists all the features and software that your web site is built on. For each feature/software product/plug-in there should be listed at least a monthly check conducted by the contractor who built your site for any fixpacks, security fixes or upgrades. A web site needs constant maintenance and if not maintained can lead to attacks to your web site. If they do not provide a pan or tell you not to worry about it – drop that contractor from your quote list immediately.
- Ask for an example backup plan for a web site. Your site needs to be backed up at least monthly (if it is not database driven) or daily if database driven.
- Ask to see the last 5 web site projects they did and if possible ask to speak to the business owner who engaged their services. Ask the business owner when was the last time the contractor applied software patches/upgrades to their site and do they know where their backups are. If they don’t know then the contractor is failing to keep the business owner updated. You need to remember that just like a bricks-and-mortar building you are ultimately responsible for web site.
- Ask the contractor what happens when the web site has crashed. Who do you contact to get it fixed?
- Make sure you get all license details for every piece of software on your web site and all the domain/web site passwords. What happens if the contractor gets killed? Where does that leave you?