Ultimate Website Creation Guide

The Ultimate Website Creation Guide

By: Troy Oltmanns

Have a great idea for a website? Running a business that could benefit from being open 24 hours a day, with a cheery (not to mention attractive) sales associate to close the deal? Looking to voice political views or just let the world know what’s for breakfast? The Internet is a vast pool of resources and technology that has brought about big international businesses, strides forward in educational applications, and bridges the gap between the media and handicapped citizens, among many others. A website can be as simple or as complex as necessary, dependent on business, organizational or personal needs.

There are many free collections of open-source technologies that allow for a simpler administration of a website, but can require more advanced knowledge not readily available. If at all possible, find a friend or colleague skilled in areas of web development and take him to lunch with a list of questions ready. Establish the goal of the website. Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Think about what the company or organization does well, or areas that are a bit of a struggle. Discover profitable new avenues in which to do business, and by all means, stay within the budget. Analyze the good, bad and ugly of competition and apply that research. Set realistic objectives for the site (i.e. $2,000 net sales per week, 25,000 visitors per month).

Next, a strategy must be developed to reach the goals established. Survey the business or organization and identify the ideal customer. At the very least, meet the minimum expectations of the customer. For example: a pizzeria will benefit from a downloadable menu, hours of operation, and an interactive map for directions. Search google for related businesses: “pizzeria” yields about 18 million results. Again take notes of the competition; try to understand what makes people flock to their sites, and what makes them successful. Develop a distinct look for the site, employ creative advertising techniques, offer irresistible product bundling and packaging; do anything to attract new customers and steal the competition’s.

Choosing a domain name should be the next step taken in the process. The domain name of a site is critical to it’s success: it’s what users will remember. Choose a website that


is easy to remember (think amazon.com, yahoo.com, ebay.com) or one that contains words that users will search with (pizzeria.com). Simply navigate a computer’s Internet browser to godaddy.com and enter a name to check it’s availability. Chances are, someone already owns the ideal domain and wants to sell it. The godaddy domain search will bring up all available top-level-domains (TLDs: .com, .net, .org, .edu, .co.uk, etc.) for your search, as well as related domains that may be of interest. Godaddy’s sister service, The Domain Name After-Market (tdnam.com), allows anyone to buy or sell registered domains and can be a great resource for domain hunting.

At this point a design is needed to encase the form and functionality of the site. Expenses allowed, hire a graphic design consultant, especially for designing a logo. If not so financially endowed, open a browser again and search for web site templates. There are numerous layouts, typographical styles, and eye-popping graphics available for use free of charge, though be sure to heed copyrights and acceptable use policies! The site’s functionality will ultimately determine what languages and technologies will be employed. Any site will depend on Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) to format and display text, images, and other data. A more complex site could use a scripting language (JavaScript, VBScript) to provide functionality by cycling images or text, verifying that all required fields in a form have been filled out, and physically sending that form data out by email. Advanced sites may call for a full blown object oriented programming language (PHP, ASP) often in conjunction with a database (SQL, Access) to track users, process sales, keep financial records, and other business tasks. Scripting and programming languages are most often used in a way to manipulate HTML data. Working with HTML requires nothing more than a plain text editor, such as Notepad for Windows. Development forums or message boards can be searched for answers regarding errors and related issues. Most forums will require ! registration (as simple as a name and email address) to post a new topic, but getting expert advice doesn’t get cheaper than free!

If the site will be used as an e-commerce outlet, critical components must be in place to process transactions safely and efficiently. Accepting major credit cards and electronic checks can be accomplished through a bank authorized merchant account. Compare set-up and processing fees between providers, and watch for hidden charges. Many merchant accounts come with software or a portal for transactions at a secure server. A secure server uses a encryption algorithm to transfer and store confidential data for consumer protection. Secure sites will display “https” rather than “http” in the URI and there is usually a padlock icon at the bottom of the browser. Merchant accounts may also come with a shopping cart system that calculates and totals orders for customers. For additional fees, a fraud detection system can be implemented to avoid penalties associated with merchant account chargebacks.

Publishing your site to the Internet requires a web hosting server. While it is possible to host a site through a local network, the looming threat of hacking, improper connectivity, hardware and software expenses, and technological know-how is best left to professional hosting services, such as godaddy. A shared hosting environment may be great for a journal or family vacation site, but a robust application such as a distance learning platform will perform best on a dedicated server.

After the site goes live, it should be fully evaluated for functionality and ease of use. Testing should be diverse: multiple browsers, settings, and operating systems should be tested, with adjustments made to the code to allow for the minority. The site should have no broken links, maligned elements, code errors, and navigation should be intuitive. The World Wide Web Consortium (w3c.org) provides a free online validation service that will highlight any errors in the code.

Many assume that after creating a website, users will flock. Somewhat on the contrary, promotion needs to take place. Lure visitors to the site, compel them to order your services or read your entries. Regularly review traffic logs (provided by most hosts) to analyze where visitors are going, where they are leaving, keywords used to get to the site, length of stay, etc. Get in contact with related businesses with websites and exchange links. Most search engines rank sites higher that link to, and are conversely linked from, high quality sites. Stay away from search engine submission services and link “farms”, they can negatively impact search engine rankings. Pay per click advertising can also be used effectively to pull in potential customers from other sites. Maintaining a balance of online and off-line marketing techniques is essential.



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