On June 29, 2007, an unbelievably large number of people waited in line for hours, some for days, to get their hands on iPhones. BlackBerrys are everywhere and some laptops can fit in your shirt pocket. We’re right in the middle of the digital age. Over the past few years Web sites have gone from a useful marketing tool to an absolute necessity. People no longer use phone books. Why dig out a huge book when you can type what you’re looking for and find it in two seconds?
There are some important things that everyone should know before having someone create a Web site for them:
• Work with someone who is local! Unless absolutely impossible, meet face to face with perspective Web designers. Although the finished work will be in the digital world, this will be your Web site for a very long time and building a working relationship with the designer will help increase communication and give you certainty throughout the process.
• Many Web design companies seem to forget the actual design part of the work. Go to the Web design company’s Web site and browse through their portfolio. Templates and stock photos are often used by Web design companies, with the end result being a generic-looking site with no individuality or personal flavor. Remember, this is YOUR site! The worthwhile designers will make you aware that your input is appreciated and necessary to make the site as effective as possible. A design should be approved by you, with changes able to be made at no additional charge.
• Do a little bit of homework. Think about what you’d like on your site. If you want a company bio, try to have it already prepared. Take some photos if you can. Spend a few hours online looking at different sites and write down the addresses of ones that you like. The more you can bring to the table, the more satisfied you’ll be by the finished site.
• Ask for all prices up front. A one-of-a-kind site for a small business should cost you less than $800, often a good bit less depending on your needs. Many companies charge monthly “maintenance” fees. These are unnecessary and are often used by big companies who hire recruiters to find them clients. The recruiter’s payment is this “maintenance” fee. Most reputable Web designers will include up to six months of free updates with the price they give you, then simply charge an hourly rate for updates after that. If you do not need anything changed on your site, you won’t have to pay a cent. Web hosting is another aspect of Web site creation. Usually you will pay a flat price for the Web design and need to pay an annual amount for your site to be hosted (hosting is what keeps your site visible online). Simple, small business sites can be hosted for under $40 per year. This also includes registration of your address (i.e., www.yourWebsite.com).
• Sign a contract. This will protect you from any copyright issues and give you all of the information of the company doing the work for you.
• Make certain that you are given your Web site ftp information (it is used to transfer your site from a computer to the Web site) and you know where your site is hosted. You should be given your username and password for your site. If it is not given to you, ask for it. With this information you’ll be able to have any Web designer edit and update your site.
With there being so many companies out there, you will be able to find one that you can trust to build you a Web site that fits your needs and your style. Remember that this is your representation on the Internet. It is accessible all over the world and should be something that you’re proud of. Should you currently or ever need to have a Web site created, I hope these tips will make the process easier, more comfortable, and save you some money. Use the Web, but don’t let it use you.
Matt Arbogast is the founder and designer of Leadtooth Web & Print Design in Chicago. He has been designing Web sites and print material for 12 years. For samples of Matt’s work, check out www.hfritschlaw.com and www.xexchicago.com. Feel free to contact Matt with any further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-318-3993.