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Websites

"Well, we don't have a website" is one of those phrases that in the past, hardly had to be answered. In today's world however, not having a website is about the same as being in business without a phone number. Your own dot com is now one of the prerequisites of becoming a business owner.

But how do you go about setting up a website when there's so much technical jargon to sort through? Everywhere you look is web designer this and hosting company that, everyone and their great uncle will gladly charge you to build your website. How do you choose the right designer? This guide will show you the easy way, without boring you with big words. Let's begin.

1. How does there stuff look?

The first thing, and probably the most obvious, do you like their work? Do the projects they have worked on look professional? Does the site load fast? If the designer wasn't able to make other sites look good, then chances are you
might not be so happy with yours.

We recommend finding a designer whose style best matches the look and feel you have in mind for your site. Designer A might be much better giving you a 'high tech' feel, while Designer B excels at giving you a more rounded or stylish site. Your eyes won't lie.

2. Can I trust them to build my site?

One of the unfortunate aspects of the internet nowadays, is you can't physically talk to the person you are potentially going to be dealing with (well, locals excluded...).

There are by far too many shady companies operating online. Here's our advice:

  • Ask for references.
  • Check with the designers previous clients, how was their experience?
  • Do they have a telephone number? email? make sure it isn't a 'hotmail' or free email account.
  • Ask how long they've been in business.

3. How much is it?

In the end, price plays a huge factor in choosing a designer. Most small businesses don't have 1000's to shell out for a website. Not many small businesses have the need for a full time designer or developer. Hiring a web designer that can work with your budget is important.

A few tips on pricing:

  • Ask for a free quote for several different options; tell the designer what you need, what you would like, and how much it will cost.

  • Shop around! check different hosting companies. If you don't quite know what you need, be sure to ask the designer for advice.

  • Get a written or email estimate for design, hosting, and domain registration if needed.

4. All looks good, what else?

We've covered some of the most important aspects of finding the right designer. Be sure to follow your instinct when finally deciding. Did you enjoy talking to them? Were they courteous, knowledgeable, and patient explaining things to you? Be certain that you will not mind asking for small changes or advice down the road. It's one thing to be satisfied with your site design, but can the designer keep you happy? The internet is a constantly evolving living thing. You shouldn't have to worry about telling your designer that the site isn't current, or you need to stay modern. Don't be afraid to ask questions!

Website Improvements

Improving your website is a question that I'm frequently asked. There are many things that can be done to increase traffic, rank higher with search engines, and make your pages load faster. The following guide will show some steps to take to make your website better.

Planning website improvements

The first step to improving your website is simple. Go over the entire website, one page at a time, and write down a list of the things you would like to change. This can include a new logo, easier to read fonts, nicer colors, and suggestions from your visitors. Writing a list gives you a general overview of the trouble spots on your site and lets you develop a plan for improvements. Focus on the following:

Layout

Is your website easy to navigate? Have you had comments from people that can't seem to find their way around the website? Consider simplifying your navigation and buttons and using consistent headers & footers on every page of your website.

Colors

Does your website strain your eyes? Can you easily tell a link apart from normal text? Can you read all of the text on the site? Using colors that are pleasing on the eyes and easy to read is crucial. If visitors have a difficult time reading the text on your website, chances are they won't hang around.

Professional

How does your existing website compare with your competitors? Do they all have fresh & new designs? The internet is a medium which is continually changing and reinventing itself. Keeping up with your competitors' websites can sometimes be a chore. By keeping your site updated with fresh content, working links, and a professional touch, you can be sure you won't lose potential customers by the look of your website.

How to fix it

Now that you know what improvements you'd like to make, it's time to implement everything. If you design and maintain your own website, it's a good idea to get good feedback from friends and family. See what they like, dislike, and what they would like to see. Constructive criticism can really go a long way.

If you have a web designer or are shopping around for one, make sure you convey your thoughts. A professional designer will offer up suggestions and ways to improve upon your ideas. Be sure to check over their previous designs and ask their current clients.

Simplify your website by removing unnecessary text, graphics, bells and whistles. Not only does this increase load time, but it can be a big turn off to website visitors.

Before going live with your new design, make sure the new website has been checked on different browsers including Internet Explorer, Netscape, AOL, and Safari on PC's and MAC's. It's also best to check the design on several different monitors and resolutions. You wanna make sure that everyone is able to see the same website as you built!

Double check your spelling, grammar, Heading, Meta and Title strong> tags (next month's topic, improving search engine performance). You want to make sure your keywords are placed in the appropriate places, without making the page hard to understand.

Final website thoughts

Improving your website is a definite way to increase and retain new visitors. It also shows your existing visitors that you're in business and proactive maintaining your website. By utilizing the suggestions in this article, it can be very easy to improve your website.

Website Redesign

As many of us know, technology is constantly changing and evolving, and it's almost impossible to keep up with the latest and greatest. The Internet is no different. What's cool one day is old news the next. It's important for your website to stay current because your competitors aren't going to wait around.

One of the common questions I am asked is "My website looks old; how can you make it look new?" My answer, &quoteasier than you may think." The steps to redesigning your website are not much different than building it from scratch. Website redesigns, however, have a head start and allow us to really hone and sharpen your global Internet image.

1. My website looks archaic, help!

The Internet, in many respects, is no different from the fashion or technology sectors. Trendy is one of my favorite buzzwords to describe the Internet. One day, flash is the dominant 'cool' way to design a website. The next, simplicity and tables.

If you look at the major websites online, you'll notice that all the buttons, navigation, and general layouts are the same. They are built this way for one reason: people are used to using a website in that manner, the same way people are used to reading the newspaper. A modern, easy to use, and effective redesign will go a long way in showing your visitors that you are proactive, up to date, and in business.

2. The competition does it...

A website redesign allows you to continually put you above your competitors, because most of them probably have websites as well. With the Internet reaching such a broad audience, you can't afford to look second best to your competition! Find a designer that will evaluate the competitions' websites, discuss your goals, and offer up fresh design ideas. The typical small business budget doesn't allow a full overhaul every month, so make sure you pick a designer that understands the current trends!

3. Before & after

Your all-new website should look good! A simple comparison to the old site will allow you to evaluate the successes and failures of the original design and to see if you've made all the necessary improvements. Long time visitors of your site will appreciate the overhaul.

 

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