ALL THE OPTIONS|
You have several options for getting your business on the 'Web. The options are as follows:
1) a free web site
2) engage your "nephew"
3) do it yourself
4) paid for web hosting
5) have it done professionally
FREE WEB SITES
There are a few companies out there who offer free web sites. All have one thing in common; they are all template driven, and you can chose from a variety of web site templates in which you can insert your text and your graphics and images. But you are strictly limited to the templates. After this, these free web site providers break down into two kinds:
a) One kind plasters your web site with advertising, from which they obtain their income. These companies use your efforts to promote your free web site as a means to increase the exposure of their ads.
b) The other kind does not plaster your web site with advertising but charges a percentages, usually 15%, of every sale you make through your web site.
Both have the disadvantage that the URL of your web site is appended to their URL - such as "www.acmehosting.com/fashion/yourstore/" for example. This is a severe handicap in bringing visitors to your web site, because visitors would have to look for "www.acmehosting.com" to find your web site. And search engines still bring about 70% of all visitors to web sites. Typically, the difference in the number of visitors to your web site is about 1 to 100 as compared to having your own domain name. With your own domain name, you would typically get 100 visitors for every 1 visitor to your free web site.
ENGAGE YOUR "NEPHEW"
"Nephews" - the bright kids in the family who can do almost everything with a computer - are in almost all cases not the best of options. These kids invariably tend towards big, bold, splashy and blinking text, rich backgrounds, lots of decorative and animated graphics - lots of brightly flashing "NEW!" graphics are a dead give-away - and thoughtless navigation. All of this takes forever to download, and presents the worst possible 'image' for your business. These kids are typically far more interested in showing off what they can do, rather than coming up with a psychologically attractive, highly functional and effective web site.
DO IT YOURSELF
You can do it yourself, of course, and given the guidelines described here, you will be able to come up with a decent and effective web site.
For this, you'll need first of all a web page editing program, which range from free for half decent programs, to the $130.00 US for Microsoft's "Front Page", or Macromedia's $300.00 US "Dreamweaver". You'll also need several Graphics Programs because none of them do it all, which range from $30.00 US to $300.00 and more, for your letterheads and logos. You'll also need several Photo editing programs, again none of them do it all, which also range from $30.00 US to $600.00 US for Adobe's "Photoshop", for processing your photographs for your web site. Then you'll need decent .jpg and .gif compressing programs, to compress your photos and graphics files to manageable sizes, which also cost around $30.00 US. And last, but by no means least, if your web site has more than couple of dozen pages, you need a link checking program, because humans make errors, and it will save you tons of time checking all the links on your web site.
You'll also have to decide whether to use a WYSIWIG HTML editing program, or a 'hard coding' pure HTML editor. The former are mostly template based, like MS's "Front Page", and you can just paste your text and images into the places provided. For this you do not need to know any HTML code, but your web pages will have 'code bloat' - and especially so when done in "Front Page". This not only markedly increases the download time of your web pages - but it can also cost you money. Almost all web hosting companies allow you a small maximum "transfer" rate per month, based upon the amount of "bytes" transmitted to visitors of your web site, and charge extra if traffic to your site exceeds this amount. So, if your web pages contain redundant and unnecessary code - or "code bloat", as all WYSIWIG web editors do - it will cost you money if traffic to your site is what you hope it will be.
The other option is to do your web pages in HTML code, for which you need to learn, or be familiar with - and the more the better - with HTML coding. "Hard coding" your web pages 'by hand' gives you complete freedom of design, and also very lean and fast downloading pages. I would not recommend this unless you have at least a couple of years of HTML coding under your belt, because of the many little quirks of HTML coding.
At a very conservative estimate, and not counting your time, nor your investment in the necessary programs, your minimum cost per month will be about $60.00 per month for a very modest web site.
PAID WEB HOSTING
Here you have an almost endless choice of commercial web hosting companies (over 6.000 in the US alone, at last count), with an equally almost endless choice of options and price ranges, starting as low as about $8.00 US per month for an adequate but no-frills web hosting service. The allowed "transfer" rate, beyond which you will be charged extra, is a major concern if your web site attracts the number of visitors you are aiming for.
For this you also need your own domain name - "www.yourcompany.com" - which starts as low as US $8.95 per year at
www.godaddy.com, to the $35.00 US per year charged by Network Solutions. Although the latter is the original Domain Name Registrar, it is a female dog to work with. Thousands of companies, many prominent ones among them, have tried unsuccessfully for a year or more to get some simple changes made to their account information. It is all but impossible, and I would recommend anyone but. But do stick with ICANN licensed registrars.
HAVE IT DONE PROFESSIONALLY
I wish I could say "just hand it to any professional" and be done with it. Michael J. Fox did, for example, when he first started his web site for his "Michael J. Fox Foundation" to find a cure for Parkinson's disease, and he got a visually very elegant design. But this web site had a "Flash" introduction, took forever to download, and was almost impossible to navigate - although it just had 4 pages. It was deucedly difficult to get from one page to another. Needless to say, it was a total flop. Eventually it was redesigned, but it still was very slow loading, had many "Flash" elements, had "frames", and still was a total clunker. It was completely redesigned again, this time without any "Flash" elements and frames, and downloaded a lot faster, but suffered from a very uninspiring appearance, giving an impression of a web site for "Acme Mops". It was a shame. Finally, in 2003, it was redesigned yet again, this time with a decent business like appearance, and without any "Flash" elements or frames [www.michaeljfox.org].
The sad truth is that 90% of all professionally designed web sites are, for many and various reasons, just plainly ineffective. They don't result in additional business. Most are, as all web surfer know all too well, slow loading, cold, impersonal, unappealing, crammed, often much 'over designed', difficult to navigate, and crucial information is all too often frustratingly hard to find. Of the "100 Best Web Sites" as listed by "PC Magazine", the foremost computer magazine, only one (1) meets all the criteria of an appealing and effective web site. All the others are just so-so. Which inspires exactly the same sentiment in visitors.
What to do then? The only sure way is to surf the 'Web until you find one or more web sites which are appealing, and a pleasure to visit, to use, and to get around in. And then contact the designers. Or, save yourself all this time - for this will take a long time - and come to us.
Another absolutely crucial factor is whether these professionals know how to obtain top placement in the search engines. Most don't - to whit, the millions upon millions of web sites which are deeply buried in the search results brought up by the search engines. The fact is that about 70% of your visitors come through search engines, and if your web site is buried beyond the first 100 search results, hardly anyone will ever see it.
In sharp contrast, when you type in "web design Victoria BC" in the
"Google" search engine, this web site is the first search result you will see. And our web site "salescene.com/victoria" has at least 130 first place listings in "Google" and "Yahoo" (see
130 Positions) for its various categories. This is unprecedented exposure. In fact, I know of no other web site which has 130 first place positions.
Your costs for professional design can range from a minimum of $1.000.00 for a 10 page web site - to many hundreds of thousands of dollars for a large web site. And whether it will be effective - bring in the business it is supposed to bring in - is by no means guaranteed. To whit, all the pitfalls we have mentioned here.
Next, some of the major nitty-gritties of the 'Web.