If you’re in business, you can’t ignore the web; it’s not going away, and it will only get bigger. How big? Does anyone really know or care? The only things people care about are how easy your site is to use, how informative it is, and how quickly it loads when they visit it.
The web is ever-changing; in fact, what I’m writing about in this chapter today could be out of date by the time you read it—such is the nature of materials written about technology. So, to avoid this as much as possible, I’ll keep to the general aspects of your website, what your customers want to see when they visit, and how to get them to return.
Customers’ wants and needs won’t necessarily change much—but how you offer to fulfill them might. You want a visit to your site to be a pleasant experience and encourage people to explore what’s new since their last visit. Whether you’re taking orders or providing information, it should be done easily and quickly. People use computers in large part because they’re convenient and fast, so don’t let your site slow them down.
The price of designing and setting up a website has come way down in the last few years, and it is now affordable in most small-business budgets. Many creative and technologically savvy people design sites as a second job, and their services are usually very reasonably priced. Talk to a couple of them before you make a decision on hiring one. Or, you may already have a website design program on your computer. If not, you can purchase one at a reasonable cost. If you enjoy and understand the software, you can design your own website and change it often.
When selecting a web host, get several quotes and references. Ask friends or other businesses which one they use. You want to be sure that the host provides enough space for all the things you want to include on your site. Also, find out the monthly or quarterly cost from your web host and how you are supposed to pay it. Will they email you an invoice, or do you have to remember to make a payment on your own? Some may ask to keep your credit card on file and automatically charge your fees every month. You might also consider automatic checking-account withdrawal so you don’t forget to pay them. You don’t want your website shut down because of an oversight about payment.
You can have your site open while you’re designing it; just put “Under Construction” on the homepage. Allow visitors to send you an email to get additional information before it’s up on the site.