10 Questions to Ask Before Setting Up a Website

Important: This article was written back in 1997. Here's
a newer version

Most of these questions don't have one right answer, they're meant to
get you thinking. However, as always I'll put my .02 in wherever I get
a chance.

Will my website be for marketing or sales?

answer could be both of course. However, it's important to
outline your goals before throwing money at the internet. If you've got
goods or services to sell, by all means do it. If you plan on taking credit
card orders online look into getting a secure line from your ISP (Internet
Service Provider) . Plan on having pictures of your wares (if applicable)
so people can browse your inventory.

However, it may be that you just want to advertise or market your services
online, create awareness of your organization or just disseminate information
to your members. Although you can change your decision later on you should
have a goal when first starting out.

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Are my customers online?

If you love new technology
you may want to put your business or organization on the web
regardless of whether your customers are online. This is a foolish mistake,
and you know what they say about a fool and his money.

A few years ago my first website was for my then employer, a medical
supply company. We sold to nursing homes and home health agencies as well
as some homebound patients. Most of our end users were 65 or above. Although
the demographics on the web have changed, at the time few seniors were
online. We ended up gearing the website towards caregivers and children
of seniors and got better response. However, we were still a little ahead
of the curve on that one.

Look at what you sell: who buys it? Are your customers spending time
online looking for what you have to offer? If the answer is no, your resources
could best be used elsewhere.

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What are the components to getting a website up and running?

1. Designing the site: creating graphics, text, content, etc.

2. Getting someone (most likely an ISP) to host your site.

3. Getting access to the internet (often through a dial-up account).

4. Managing your site: answering email, creating fresh content, redesigning
the site to keep it fresh.

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Do I hire somebody to design my site or do I take
it inhouse?

Do you do your own taxes or hire an accountant? Do you change
your own oil or go to Jiffy Lube?

It all depends. If you don't have the budget to hire someone, or if you
or an employee feel comfortable in creating a site then you should consider
keeping it inhouse. However, if you do have the budget or you don't have
a lot of experience creating sites, you should look to hire someone. Like
any other type of marketing your website should look professional or don't
bother getting one at all.

Like any business decision you have to decide if you're creating more
value for your company by doing something yourself or sourcing it out.

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How much time each month, each week and each day
can I set aside for my website?

Look at your schedule. Do you tell people
that you can't meet them for lunch until sometime next month?
Do you have trouble returning all your calls the same day? Are you booked
solid through next April? As simple as HTML is, it still takes time to
learn how to make it work best. Besides the learning curve of HTML or
an HTML editor, it takes a lot more time to learn how to make a website
attractive, how to upload your pages, how to make it rank higher in search
engines, and so on. If you plan on having fresh content that takes time,
too. The women selling rubber sunglasses on the AT&T ad are not real.

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What should I budget? For start up? For monthly

If someone else is creating a site for you their prices may range
from a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending
on your needs. If you're planning on creating your own site you may want
to invest in an HTML editor ($150 or so,) and at least one
book on HTML ($30-50.) Mac users can scrimp on the editor by writing the
HTML in SimpleText and Window's users can do it in Notepad, but editors
make it quicker and simpler. How much is your time worth?

You should already have a good image editor on your computer, Photoshop
if you can afford it. Often a Limited Edition version of Photoshop comes
bundled with a scanner ($400 and up) which you may need to scan in your
brochures, pictures, etc. You can avoid some of these costs by having
literature scanned at a local copy shop and working with it on a friend's
image editor.

If you choose to get your own domain name (www.yourcompany.com) it will
cost you $100 to register it for 2 years, $50 a year after that. You can
expect $20 or so dollars from your ISP as a one time fee as well.

As far as monthly fees go, you can expect $10-25 for a dial-up account,
and $30-60 and up to an ISP for virtual domain hosting. Getting a secure
line for online transactions will run you more in most cases.

Of course, this is all assuming you already own a decent computer.

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Should I get my own domain name? (www.example.com)

Although it isn't essential, the cost isn't a lot (compared
to renting space for a storefront, printing a catalog, etc.) and not having
one makes you look unprofessional. Fewer and fewer people will take you
seriously with a ` (tilde) in your URL.

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Where do I advertise my site?

Everywhere you can.
Put your URL on your business card, literature, stationery,
faxes, yellow page ads and so on.

Look into banner exchange programs such as LinkExchange and others. Search
the web looking for sites that may complement what you're selling. If
you sell travel videos try finding sites that deal with travel or that
advertise bed & breakfasts where your videos were shot and try and
trade links.

Use a small tag line as your signature to your emails. Many mail programs
such as Eudora have a signature file so you don't have to repeat your
signature for each email. It might go like this:




Jane Doe Productions

Travel Videos for the Couch Potato



Taking the example of travel videos you should check out some newsgroups
that deal with your topic, such as rec.travel. Don't just post an advertisement
for your site, however, many newsgroups frown on such blatant displays
of capitalism. Lurk for a few days, and if appropriate respond to a question
that someone might pose, and don't forget to leave your signature.

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How do I attract more traffic to my site?

(See above.)

Also, consider adding fresh content on a regular basis. By content I'm
talking about information that people who are interested in your goods
and services can get from your site. If you are selling gardening supplies,
a weekly tip or article explaining the intricacies of horticulture will
bring back a steady stream of visitors. Try putting a couple of appropriate
hypertext links within the article that link to a specific gardening tool
within your catalog.

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How do I know that my site is successful?

back at your goals. Have you met them? If your plan was have
your website increase sales are you moving more product? If it was to
market your business is it generating more leads for your sales staff?
If it was to disseminate information to your members is your receptionist
having to field less questions about next month's speaker?

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–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media