So You Need To Have A Website…..You may have (or work for) a small business, run a youth club or other organization and have decided to (or been asked to) build a website for it. Where do you start?
Well, you don’t start by commissioning expensive web consultants to do to the job for you! Consider doing it yourself – or at least part of the work. What you need to do can be divided into three stages.
1. Designing your website
2. Build your website using computer software
3. Publish your website via a hosting company (you can host a website on your own computer, but this is an option for the more technically advanced)
1. Designing your Website
If you know how to switch on a PC, have experience of using Word and Outlook you will be able to handle many of the software packages that are freely available to design and build your own website. However, even if you decide that building the actual website yourself is beyond you, getting some initial ideas on design together will save you spending too much money paying someone else to tell you what you want. After all, no one knows your business or organization like you do!
Knowing where to start is often the hardest part. This article aims to give you some ideas. So, lets look at what you are going to have on your website first – remember you can start small, and then grew. Make sure you have the essential information together first, you can always add more detail later on. Your website should show who you are, what you want people to know about you, what you have on offer (either for sale or by way of facilities), where you are and/or how to contact you. You may start of with a list of headings such as:
Short description of what you are and what you do
Where you are located (particularly necessary if customers or clients are to come to your premises)
Separate pages for each of the activities you carry out (or ranges of goods or equipment you sell)
Prices (for membership or goods)
Do some research – there will be other organization’s similar to yours. Search Google or Yahoo and look at what information they carry, and how they are organized. Put yourself in the position of a customer – is the information you would require easy to find? If not, why not? Make notes on what you would improve about their sites.
Then think of yourself as the competition – what can you offer that is different? Are your prices or membership fees higher? Maybe you can offer higher quality. If your prices are cheaper you may want to focus on the good value you can offer. Even if you are thinking about a site for a youth club there what makes your organization different from the others?
Remember that all material on the internet is protected by copyright, so you must not copy blocks of text or pictures and present them on your own site as your own work. You can, however, reprint articles such as this (as long as you credit the original author), and articles relevant to your business may be a good way of putting content on your site.
When you are looking at other sites look at the layout and color schemes. There is a large variety in the way sites are presented – some are simple black text on a white background (probably the easiest to read and good for putting across large blocks of information), some are very colorful. You should consider your target audience – a youth club will want to appeal to the younger generation, and so may have a more bold use of color. Sites to appeal to older people may be more subtle. Look at the gimmicks that are used – sound, pictures, movies, flash intros, web polls and RSS tickers (news feeds). These gimmicks are not necessary when you first build your site, but if you like the look of them file the information away – you may think adding these to your site will always be beyond you, but if you decide to take the step to build your site yourself you will be surprised at how soon you will become an expert.
2. Building your website
So, having done your research, and having gathered the basic information about yourself, you will hopefully have come up with some ideas about how you want your website to look, what content you think you will need. What then is the next step? Well, you could now approach a website developer to turn your ideas into a website – but why not try this yourself? It will be a lot cheaper in the long run.
Even if you are unsure of your skills, it will cost nothing to give it a try.
Let’s talk about the software for a moment. Websites are usually mostly written using HTML which stands for Hyper Text Mark up Language (but you don’t need to remember that). You can use a software package such as Frontpage or Dreamweaver, and can build your website using HTML. But this is a lengthy process, and will involve you in learning all the code. Unless you wish to become a computer programmer you should consider using an HTML generator.
An HTML generator is a web building tool that allows you to design your website using similar functionality to Microsoft Word. It allows you to insert a text box, for example, together with images, and uses drag and drop functionality to enable you to place your elements where you want them to appear on the page. There will be easy ways to build a menu so that your visitors can find their way around your site, and, as you get more proficient, will enable you to add items like movies or sound to your page.
The HTML generator will work behind the scenes, turning the page that you are working with into HTML code which can then be published. The beauty of the web building tools which work this way is that you will be looking at the page very much as your visitors will, and so can try out different layouts easily until you get the formula you think will work.
Many web hosting packages offer a free website building tool – but beware, the free tools on offer are very good, but you will normally be limited to publishing your site with the hosting company who provide the building tool. This is not necessarily a problem, but does mean that you should look into how much the web hosting package will cost you with that company before starting to build your website.
It can be very disappointing to build your site and then find the hosting package is too expensive for you! Just remember, nothing is ever completely free – but that does not mean you cannot discover an excellent package! Vodahost, for example, offers a good value hosting package and an excellent web building tool with easy to follow online tutorials.
3. Publishing your website
As we mentioned above, you will normally be restricted to publishing your website with the same company that provided your web building tool.
Once you have designed your first page you can publish it on the world wide web. It is actually ridiculously easy to publish a website. With the click of a mouse your business will be part of the internet community.
However, it is necessary to give a word of warning. You will publish your website for ‘Joe Bloggs Widgets’r’Us’, and will expect to find it when you look for it in a search engine – this will not happen! As in a ‘real world’ business you will need to do some marketing before the world will be able to find you.
Finally, good luck and have fun! Website building is a great new hobby for the 21st Century which just about ANYONE can do!