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Should You Do Web Site Design In-House?
You've got a small business. You think you
need a web site to provide
information to potential customers, which is absolutely in the
right direction. But you don't have a big budget. Maybe you could do it
yourself. Or, better yet, you've got a relative or friend who
knows a lot about computers - why don't you ask one of them?
This is a typical scenario for many small businesses. The
owners of these businesses are savvy enough to know that
they need an online presence, but many have turned to a
family member or friend to design their web site.
Making web site is fairly easy any way. With a good "What
You See Is What You Get" software and ready-to-use
content, any beginner can create a simple web site in less
than a day, or even less than an hour.
Your younger brother in junior college can surely do it
over the weekend. After playing around with the software
for a while, you can make it too...without knowing a single
line of HTML code.
The only problem is, a web site done by a beginner
can be easily spotted as so - done by a beginner or
amateur. Like any other things in life, simply knowing the
basics does not mean you can do it well enough.
It may work for some first-generation web sites, but small
businesses, just like big ones, need to move on to the next
generation of web site design. Without necessary skills
and experience, you have little chance to design a web site
good enough to present your business to the world.
I'm sure you've come across some of those amateur-looking
sites before - most of them are on free servers, is that
a coincidence;-)? Sites take forever to download, annoying
background music, strange color scheme, tons of banners,
flashing animated images, hard to read text...
It's perfectly ok to have a family-feel or amateur-look
if your sole purpose is to share your baby's photos with
relatives overseas. But to run a business on the Internet
and make visitors open their wallet, you have to take it
Before making any decisions, lets see what are the required
skills to design a quality business web site.
I think nobody is going to argue about this. Your business
web site has to look professional. The first impression
will either build strong credibility deep in visitors mind,
or make them click on back button in a heartbeat.
You may not need a genius graphic designer here. Actually
you should avoid fancy graphics - words sell, not images.
But you need basic stuff - trained eyes with good sense
of balance, layout and color.
With today's technology and easy access to vast resources,
you don't have to write any code by hand, but you have to
know how to modify or configure them.
For example, you can use "WYSIWYG" (what you
see is what you get) software to build your web pages. But
sometimes it just doesn't work. These software do mess up
codes quite often, especially FrontPage. It's a big advantage
to know HTML to make sure everything is properly set up.
Then comes CGI scripts.
You need it unless you don't want to communicate with visitors
in any way. (Why do you need a web site then?) You don't
need to write CGI scripts most probably. There're thousands
of free scripts out there. However you need to know how
to install, configure and debug.
There're many other things you may need to know, ftp,
Server Side Include,
CSS, DNS server, shopping cart...just
to name a few.
Web Promotion Skills
This is the missing part for most online businesses. 99%
of all "professional" web site designers don't
understand web site promotion, not mentioning average businessmen.
You may have the most beautiful web site, but traffic does
NOT come automatically. You need to market it actively.
If your designer is telling you," This is not my job.
You should go advertise on newspaper, TV..." you'd
better go away. You will waste thousands, if not millions,
of dollars that way.
Web site promotion
starts right from the beginning of web development. A real
web site designer/promoter knows how to attract visitors
without spending a dime on advertising.
Take search engine
optimization as an example. More than 80% of all online
traffic come through search engines. The best part is, it's
free and targeted. Yet it's hard to get high rankings nowadays.
You have to start search engine optimization right from
planning stage. Site structure, proper HTML coding, choosing
right keywords, copywriting, keyword position and density,
internal linking strategy...
Without broad experience and up to date information, you
chance of getting first page listing is really slim.
So are you game enough to master
the big three?
Rare is the small business which has all the skills in-house.
Honestly, there are also very few outside web design companies
or designers who understand the Internet well enough. The
stereotypical computer guru often doesn't have much graphics
sense. The genius graphic designer may not be marketing
savvy. The marketing consultant is probably an expert only
in offline world.
Presenting your company's image on the Internet needs a
careful blend of graphic skill and taste, online marketing
savvy and technical know-how. You have to choose carefully.
Having said that, in-house web site development does have
many advantages. In fact, I'd suggest you do it in-house
in the long run because:
- You save money
- Knowledge increases and stays with the company
- Greater control over the final product
- Ease in updating (and you do need to test and update
The Best Way
Contract with a web site company/designer, who can build not
only a professional-looking and functional web site but
also a powerful traffic puller, to set up your initial web
site and provide maintenance for the first year.
Then assign one of your employees, or yourself, to learn
to use the web page template and existing structure your
designer has set up to create other pages that look as good
as the initial web site. Learn how to use
CGI script, SSI,
Don't work with a company or designer who retains copyrights,
whose real designs are making you dependent upon them. Find
someone who understands your mid-term goals to bring web
site maintenance in-house.
Feel free to use this article in your
publication or web site.
It's pre-licensed to you.
The only requirement is to include this resource box:
Article by Zac Hewlett at
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