Saturday, January 10, 2009

Designing a website for your small business

So you have decided to quit your day job and want to start a small business. If your customers are like you they probably look online for choices and selections. These days online presence is just as essential as a business card or business portfolio used to be over a decade ago.

Step 1: Presence on the Internet starts with the selection of a Domain name. It should reflect your business and must be unique. There are several places that enable you to check whether your domain name is available. They also offer alternatives should your choice be taken. Cost of registration ranges from $2.95 to $50 per year and varies depending on your choice of registration site and whether you go for a dot com, dot net or dot tv etc. Choose wisely.

Step 2 involves writing about your business and its features. What makes your business so unique? How it is different from your competition? Do you offer any specials? Pay extra attention to detail and if you have a mental block, hire a professional to outline your thoughts.

Step 3 involves designing the web pages. Most sites offering domain names also offer site development programs that supposedly allow individual to use their building blocks and create professional sites. They even have samples of finished websites. I confess, I have never succeeded in building anything with these programs. If you have had success, I would like to hear from you. (Send me links to your sites). I recommend using a reasonable cost website developer to develop your site. You can find them for as low as $140. If you need to sell items on your site, purchase a SSL certificate from your domain provided. A reasonable alternative is to use Google checkout or Paypal type service. A good design can make or break your business - so work very closely with your developer. For a reasonable fee, they can even maintain it for you.

Step 4 involves selecting a hosting plan. These can be had for as low as $7 per month. Choose a plan that offers multiple email services. They are the equivalent of choosing a telephone answering machine with multiple mail boxes (in the past).

Step 5 involves spreading the word. Online pay per clicks, google adsense, etc are all options available for online advertising. Be careful, set limits on what you would like to spend with these agencies. Failure to do so can result in huge bills as the meter keeps ticking. Be sure to monitor your rate of return on these services. Low return could indicate that the target audience for your ads has not been well defined and could need further fine-tuning.

This is a challenging task and there is much more to it than what I have written here; but these would be first good steps to take on your way to becoming an Internet Maharaja.