4. Premises & Equipment

WEB SITE - Develop a Web Site for Your Business

Steps For Creating a Website
When you begin planning your website there are a few steps that you should follow before you ‘go live’ with your new website.

They are:

  1. Register a Domain Name
    Internet addresses refer to the domain name that you type into a web browser when you are looking for a website. You need to have a domain name for your website which is your unique address on the Internet. When you decide on your domain name (usually the best option is to have your business name if it is still available) you will have to search to see whether it is still available. (If you cannot have the domain name that you want, think of something that will easily identify your business or something that is not too complicated and long.

  2. Find an ISP
    An account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is necessary if you wish to connect your business to the Internet (or even if you wish to connect for personal use). There are many companies that offer ISP services in the USA - both big and small. The best thing to do is decide what your business needs are for the internet and then shop around the various ISP’s and see which services they offer. Then match your business needs with services offered to obtain the best ISP for your business.

  3. Decide on Content & Graphics
    If you are having a website created for you then your web developer will take care of the navigation of the site as well as content and graphics placement according to what is standard in the online Industry at that time. If you are creating your website yourself, then the following are guidelines that you should follow in terms of content and graphics: What is included in your website content will be dictated by whatever business you are running. Choice of content is very important. There is nothing worse than visiting a website and having to scroll through pages of text.

  4. Keep information simple and to the point.
    Information about:

    • Your business (including physical address, how long you have been in business etc)
    • Services provided
    • Prices
    • Site map
    • Contact information (including email addresses, contact online forms)
    • Information for meta tags (HTML tags that have information that search engine bots read)
    • Privacy policy (your clients need to know that any information that they give you will not be sold to anyone else or used inappropriately).

    This info should be provided to your web developer or included yourself when designing your website. If you are running an e-commerce site then a product catalogue, shopping trolley and online payment facilities will be necessary (as will the back end fulfillment procedures). Your web developer will do this for you or, if you are doing it yourself, there is software available to help you with your e-commerce site.

  5. Create a website
    Finally you can create the website. If you are having a website created for you then you will be involved in the creative process - giving your approval to the various prototypes that your web developer should be making for you. If you are doing it yourself there are a few different options. ISP’s sometimes offer the software or website development services that can help you create your own websites.

  6. Market your website.
    So now that the site has been created and up there on the World Wide Web, you need to employ some marketing and advertising tactics to drive people to your website and let them know that you are out there.

  7. Maintain your website
    Having your website go live is only the beginning. Your website is a living thing that needs to be updated frequently and maintained. Content should be added so that interest in your website is kept up and people re-visit your website. Any emails that you receive from the website should be answered efficiently (i.e. within a couple of days at the most!) as this shows how good (or bad) your customer service is.

By having current information, new content, fast response to queries and good customer service you will ensure that the investment that you have made in having a website is a fruitful one.

Website Design Options
When it comes to designing a website there are 2 options.

  1. The first is to have a professional web designer design the website
  2. The second is to design it yourself (or have one of your staff design it).

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages so you should evaluate both alternatives. The decision could be an easy one - you could have no experience with design, colour schemes, layouts or knowledge about what is aesthetically pleasing to the eye so you choose a web designer, or you could have a bit of experience in design and decide to do it yourself.

Choosing a Web Designer
The best way to tell if a web designer is any good is to look at their work. If you are evaluating a web design llc they will have a portfolio of work that you can assess. Most designers have a distinct style so make sure that you choose someone (who along with having a good portfolio) that you find appealing. There are basic design principles that apply to all website design so have a look around at different websites and compare what you like and don’t like about them.

Web designers tend to charge by the hour so you should decide beforehand what you want to achieve, any ideas you have on colour schemes and what you expect from the web designer. At the first meeting have a clear agenda and specify exactly what your needs are.

Designing a Web Site Yourself
Designing a website yourself is a difficult choice. There are advantages in that it will reduce the cost of developing a website, however if your design skills are less than optimal, a badly designed website could hinder your online success.

Some points that you should consider when designing your site are as follows:

  1. Overall Layout
    Layout deals with arranging type and visuals onto web pages so that all information is clear, legible and attractive. Questions that you have to answer when deciding on layout are:

    • Who is your audience? Who will be looking at the website?
    • What style is appropriate to this design? A corporate look will be more conservative than a computer gaming website.
    • What is the purpose of the design?
    • What information or message needs to be communicated?
    • Where will it be seen?

  2. Font Choices
    The type of font that is used in a website should increase the readability of your website. As a rule, there should not be more than 2 different typefaces in a page and no more than 3 different font sizes. Novelty or decorative typefaces should be avoided at all times as it will decrease the readability of the content. The type and graphics that are used should compliment each other - there should be a link between the type and the graphic used.

  3. Consistency
    Choose a general colour theme, font type/s, graphic size and page layout and stick to it throughout the website. This will ensure that there is consistency and look more professional than having different things on each page. Consistency is an important aspect of web design as it allows the reader to follow and concentrate on what is important - the content.

  4. Restraint
    As wonderful as the latest design technology is, or the amount of graphics and fonts that can be fit into one web page you must show restraint when designing. Less is definitely more when it comes to a great website - and this doesn’t have to mean boring.

  5. Contrast
    The most readable content is that which is highly contrasted. This means a black font on a white background or a white font on a black or dark blue background.

Website Software to Use
If you wish to create your own web pages there are a number of different software as already mentioned, Microsoft FrontPage is a web authoring tool that can be used to create web pages. Another tool that is popular is Macromedia Dreamweaver.

If you wish to place images on your website you will need image editing software that enables you to manipulate and alter graphics and other images from scanners or digital cameras. Scanners and digital cameras can provide their own image editing software or you can purchase them yourselves - a popular easy to use product is Adobe Photoshop.

Web Server and Host
A web server is hardware that is required to run the electronic commerce software and host a website. One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether you are going to host your website yourself (through buying your own Web server) or whether you will get a third party to host your site for you.

Having a third party host your site is typically preferable for most small websites as they can provide the hosting as well as provide you the electronic commerce software needed to have an online shop.

Choosing whether to host or not will boil down to whether or not you have the expertise, time and money to host it yourself. Most ISP’s offer these services and having them handle all the technical difficulties, maintenance etc will mean that you do not have to increase your staff or buy new hardware and software.

Web Site Shop for eCommerce
Regardless of whether you are a small company with a limited catalogue of products or a large multi national with thousands of categories, there are standard items that any type of electronic commerce solution must offer.

They are:

  • Shopping Cart Capabilities
  • Catalogue Display
  • Tools to manage the catalogue and storefront display choices
  • Transaction Processing
  1. Shopping Trolley Capabilities
    A shopping trolley keeps track of the items that a customer has selected to purchase as they go around your online shop. When a customer is looking through a catalogue they can click on the item they want to purchase and this sends this order to their virtual trolley. Similar to an actual shopping trolley in a supermarket, a customer can see the items that they have chosen in their trolley, see the quantity of items and the price.

    A Trolley also gives a total and can include shipping prices. The shopping trolley is just one step in the overall ordering process. Once a customer has finished ‘shopping’ they then proceeds to the ‘checkout’ where they enter their delivery details and credit card details to finish the transaction (at least at the customer’s end).

  2. Catalogue Display
    All products that are available for sale are held in a catalogue (which is held in the back-end operations of a database - usually provided with the software). This catalogue shows to the customer the details to each item, as specified by the business. For example, it could show the product code, name, price, quantity and availability and a photo of the item.

  3. Tools for Managing Your Catalogue
    A search engine could be provided that searches specifically through the products. A product index page could be provided in alphabetical order, and care could be taken to show the products on their pages in a logical order. If it is too complicated you run the risk of having customers leave your online shop, with their shopping trolley either empty (when they planned to buy) or half full. Keep it as simple as possible.

  4. Transaction Processing
    This step occurs when the customer has put everything they want in their trolley and has moved to the ‘checkout’. The e-commerce software performs the final calculations and then moves to a secure state where all communications are considered secure. This is shown by the lock shown (in internet explorer) at the bottom right hand side of the browser window.

Depending on what type of software you are using, you are then asked to fill in your details. Name, address, phone, email etc and then your delivery details if they are different from your normal address. Then the customer enters their credit card details and, through online clearing, the credit card transaction is validated immediately (or declined through insufficient funds).

The transaction is over as far as the customer is concerned. Now, the customer just has to wait for delivery of the goods.

Website Content
Website content refers to the text, graphics and structure of your website. Content is one of the most important aspects of your online presence and can make or break your site. Careful planning and thought needs to go into what content is added to your site as the online environment is a little different from the offline environment.

  1. Keep it Simple
  2. Keep graphics to a minimum
  3. Write from your customers viewpoint
  4. Spelling and Grammar
  5. Legal and Ethical Responsibility

Content is an important aspect of your website so give it the attention it deserves.

Maintaining Your Website
Maintaining a website is an important aspect of having an online presence. This is regardless of whether it is a simple static website with a few pages or if it is an e-commerce store with many pages and graphics.

The principles for website maintenance are the same. If your website was developed by a web development company then they will be able to offer you a maintenance package which will ensure that your website is online as much as possible (95 - 99% of the time, taking into account technical difficulties) and that the functionality of the website will be maintained.

If possible offer a customer feedback section when visitors to your site can give their comments on your site and how they think it could be improved. If you have enough visitors commenting on one aspect of your site you should take note and adjust the site to meet their suggestions.

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