5 tips for a more effective Website
The development and maintenance of professional Websites is not something that should be left to an amateur. If you treat the design of your site as an after-thought or a low priority, the finished product will reflect that.
However, while it is important to secure the services of Web-design professionals, it isn’t always necessary to empty the company coffers to get a quality product. So how can your site be both affordable and effective? The following five basic guidelines can help to steer you in the right direction:
1. Save money on the back end. Understanding all the costs that go into maintaining a quality Website is a key first step towards making intelligent business decisions about how (and to whom) you allocate your Web-design funding. Just like a mortgage, the up-front costs are only part of the picture. Don’t forget that the initial design fees are just that: initial. Hosting and maintaining your firm’s site will be an additional, ongoing expense. One effective way to save money on these back-end costs is to hire one firm capable of both handling the design and fulfilling the long-term maintenance and hosting requirements. Many professional Web-design firms will offer a package deal or a discounted rate for such an arrangement.
2. Understand your maintenance needs! If your firm’s Website will remain fairly static, with only occasional changes, there is no need to invest in fancy maintenance applications or expensive database update tools. If, however, you frequently add material like scheduling information or up-to-date product availability, the cost of hiring a professional to handle your updates will quickly become prohibitive. If frequent updates to your site will be necessary, it is well worth the initial investment to purchase a standard, or even a custom-designed, content management program that makes updating your site as easy as “point-and-click.”
3. Make smart decisions. What do you want your site to accomplish? Will it operate as nothing more than a “cyber business card,” providing basic firm details and contact information? Or will it serve a more complex business function, with fully functional interactive components, in-depth data-bases and constantly changing material? By thinking through these questions ahead of time, you can make sure that your site meets all your business needs and avoid overspending.
4. Market your site. Maximize the money you have spent developing and operating a great Website by making a concerted effort to market that site. A Website will only be as effective as the number of people that view it. A quality Web consultant can help your site appear on popular search engines like Google by using certain key words, metadata “tags,” targeted content and related site links, and a straightforward marketing strategy can also increase the visibility of your site. Whenever possible, include your Website address on collateral materials such as business cards and brochures, as well as in e-mail taglines and other business communications.
5. Don’t skimp on the visuals. Eye-catching visuals and a snappy title can go a long way towards getting someone’s attention. It is also important to maintain a consistent corporate image–carrying your firm’s colors, logo(s) and marketing concepts through onto your Website. While it may make financial sense for some firms to purchase a template-style Website, rather than have a site custom-designed, try to avoid stock templates that seem boring and uninspired. Work with a firm that has a wide selection of template designs and the ability to customize and personalize your chosen template.
Shannon Price and Darryl Husk own Southfield-based WebXetra Internet Solutions, a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
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