A user friendly and well-designed website can go a long way in engaging with your new and old customers, offer an effective communication channel with the decision makers as well as raise money from sales. However, creating a website in an affordable manner can be quite challenging especially if you do not have the right tools and you are relying on in-house talent that has little or no expertise in web-development.
Today, you do not need to be an expert programmer in order to create a web presence, neither do you need to take out a huge loan to pay for a professional web designer to do it for you. Below is a guide that will offer you pointers on how to design, or redesign, a website and maintain it in order to have a winning presence online using readily available skills and a bit of organisation.
Domain Name Registration
Even while you do not plan to have a website for quite some time, it is crucial that you buy a company website domain name. If you do not do it now, someone could snatch it up and use it for something very different from your business’ activities. The domain name can be any string of letters as well as numbers that help identify your business on the World Wide Web. You have the choice of choosing domain names that end in .com, .net, .co.uk, .ie or .org depending on your core business and the .ie name requires you to have a business link within Ireland.
To make things easier as well as save some money, consider having your domain name registered for five years and store away the documentation to ensure you and your successor knows where they go to when renewal time is approaching, five years down the road. You will also find that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can also help you with domain name registration.
Evaluate Your Website Needs First
Even though you are eager to get something up and running now, it is vital that you take the time to evaluate your needs before project kick-off in order to save on money and time down the road. Understanding the kind of presence you need, how to maintain it and how you plan to fund it in future will help you in the budgeting process as well as technical work requirements appraisal. The evaluation can be done by asking yourself the following simple questions:
- Why is the website important for you? - Do you need a place where individuals can locate your product information, contact information or do you need a place where they can network with others, post questions, register for events, find news or make online purchases?
- What are the resources available to build your website? - While simple sites will practically cost you nothing, complex ones will need special skills including editing, website design, information architecture and programming. Do you want manage your website, or will you rely on contractors?
- How do you plan on maintaining your website? - Simple websites will also require some degree of oversight and maintenance. Evaluate the staff resources that you can devote to running the website, doing website updates and keeping the website virus free and online every day.
- Do you plan to integrate your website with existing software and systems? - Depending on your particular needs, you might want to integrate your existing systems and software with your site. Consult with system vendors on the best online solution that will integrate perfectly with your 'non-website' systems in order to prevent costly customization work a few months down the road.
- How is the website going to incorporate with your current branding? - Ensure that your site’s branding is consistent with the rest of your business. If you do not have a visual style guide or logo, now is the time to look into getting a professional web designer in order to avoid expensive website overhauls in the future.
- Have you taken steps to anticipate future needs? - Although you might not have an immediate need for a blog, or a website shop ... you should consider now what would be required to add one to your website because you could need one shortly.
Web Development Tools
If your company needs a large site with more than 50 pages, or a highly customized website with lots of integration tools, the solution is unlikely to be found quickly - unless you have a web designer or a programmer within your staff. If you don't you will most likely need to hire a website professional. A Content Management System (CMS) used for automating and managing web content will also require a significant amount of investment in terms of money and installation/training time.
However, should your needs be less complex, you can find low-cost and free ways to create a dynamic, attractive online presence without requiring expertise in web development. Remember, even simple websites require some amount of upkeep. A simple solution is not always necessarily easy to maintain and cost more than hiring a professional for a few days.
Once you understand the basics of what's needed for your website, you are likely to be confronted by a number of additional questions as you plan your site. These include:
- Should you hire a skilled web designer from the start?
- Should you invest in a CMS for managing the site and online content?
- Is it prudent to rent server space or outsource the site-management to a 3rd party company?
- Do we have the skill sets in-house to do some or all of the work ourselves?
For small businesses and organizations projects like creating a new site, or redesigning the existing one, need not be expensive, time consuming or overwhelming ventures. A good website is a flexible business asset, so with a good one in place, your business can gain a strong sales position that you can then adjust as your business needs grow and change. If you have some website questions and you want some professional answers give us a call in Dublin on 01-6216866.