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Website Design on a Budget

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In today’s economy, small businesses are struggling to get a foothold, and they must watch their bottom line closely. Online sales can open up new marketing channels, but if you’re not careful, the price may be too high. When tackling the challenge of online sales, you will need an effective and resourceful web site, that doesn’t break the bank.

Cost reduction opportunities are around every corner during the web site design process. A common design mistake made by new businesses is to over estimate the resources necessary to build and maintain a web site. However with careful planning and direction with your web site designer, you can have a great web site that is also affordable.

Your web site cab be your most valuable business asset. Shop around for a good web site designer, look at their prior work and speak with their customers. Pricing can range drastically from one designer to another, so be thorough in evaluating the perfect balance between price and quality. If you have the time and ambition try to develop your own web site, the skills you learn will save you considerable money over the years. Sales lead generation web sites tend to be far less complicated than retail web sites, and they can realistically be created after a month or two of self-taught design lessons. Retail sales web sites, however, generally require an adept professional or other advanced design resource.

Prior to embarking on web site design, you should register your own domain. Tips on finding an effective domain name can be found in the SharpNET article SEO Friendly Web Site Design. When your web site is nearing completion, you should also acquire your own web hosting account. Just be sure that your web hosting account is compatible with the web programming language used by your web designer. When selecting a web hosting account, do not overestimate your web hosting needs. Lead generation web sites can usually be hosted for less than $15/month, and ecommerce retail sites for less than $50/month.

Do not use a domain name or hosting account provided by your designer, keep control in your hands. It can often be a ploy of web site designers to “hold hostage” a web site, demanding payments beyond the initial contract or other malicious behavior before will release your web site to you. More detailed information about this web designer scam can be found at ZeroMillion.com Are You Being Scammed By Your Web Design Company?. This is a situation where spending 15 minutes to set up a domain name registration account can be like an insurance policy against a bad web designer. Most domain name registrars, such as GoDaddy.com also provide web hosting solutions.

Common problems with Web Designers

SharpNET is regularly approached by companies looking for help, who have been sabotaged by web designer scams. Web sites are often “held hostage” in demand for additional payment that goes beyond the terms of the original web design agreement. On many occasions, SharpNET has had to rebuild web sites for these businesses to put control back into the customer’s hands. While seeming unusual, this is actually a common occurrence which could have been avoided with early planning. More detailed information about this web designer scam can be found at ZeroMillion.com:

Are You Being Scammed By Your Web Design Company?

  • Before hiring a web designer, make sure that your design contract states that YOU are the owner of the web site and the content.
  • You must purchase your own domain name from your own domain name registrar. DO NOT let your web designer purchase your domain name. Most domain name registrars, such as GoDaddy.com also provide web hosting solutions.
  • You must purchase the hosting account. It’s okay to give your web designer access to the account, but do not let them purchase hosting for you. Otherwise, they can lock you out if things go bad.

The web programming language that your web site will be designed in is also important, and you should have a discussion about this when you are selecting a web design company. It is important to have your web site developed in a popular web based language. Obscure languages such as Cold Fusion may require more expensive hosting and design maintenance fees. Other languages including Flash make your web site difficult for the search engines to evaluate and understand. Stick with industry-standard programming languages including HTML, PHP, C#, VB, VBScript, or JavaScript. Similarly, popular database options include Access, SQL and MySQL, which can be readily found as an option with most web hosting companies.

The search engines must be a consideration when designing your web site, and you need a web environment that is cooperative with search. Avoid programming languages that interfere with search engine ranking such as Flash, or a purely graphical web site design which is common for a “landing page” web site. In order to grab the attention of the search engines, you will need a web site rich with text-based content. In general, your web site should be design with marketing in mind, and additional tips can be found in the SharpNET article SEO Friendly Web Site Design.

Web designers tend to be quirky bunch, and often have a hard time wrapping up projects, or they jump on something new before completing the work on another project. You will need to keep your web designer focused on your project. Do not pay for your entire web site design up front. Try to pay as you go, or pay half up front and the remainder after completion. Keep your web site designer on track and motivated to finish the job.

Before going “live” with your web site, ask friends, family and peers to test-drive and evaluate the site. Costly mistakes such as broken links, spelling corrections and navigation confusion should be worked out before the big launch. As your business grows you will need to make web site updates. Updates can be a source of ongoing expense, and those expenses may be considerable. However if you learn the language of the web, and become familiar with the coding used for your web site, you will be able to implement simple web site changes and save your company money in the long run. Many of the changes you will need to do are no more difficult than changing the wording of a sentence (typing), and it would be silly to pay a web designer hundreds of dollars for something so trivial. You CAN do this.

Your web site is too important to not take seriously. It involves too much money, and its role in your business is too critical to not get your full attention. Plan ahead, avoid the risks, and your web site will pay off over and over again.