Deciding who will build your Web site is an important step. It can mean the difference between success and failure.
Your Web site makes a statement about your business and the way you operate without anyone having to read a word. That’s because when it comes to Web sites, first impressions are everything. You may not get a second chance.
Therefore, depending on your type of business, your Web site should project a professional image – an image which will give your customers confidence in your company. If a site looks amateur, it reflects badly on your company and your company could be perceived as being amateur too.
Your three options
A site which has all the “bells and whistles” but lacks purpose or coherence can be just as off-putting to a viewer as an amateur site. So you need to think carefully about the pros and cons of building a site before you make a decision.
Depending on the type of site you want, you basically have three options when it comes to creating a site:
You can do it yourself using DIY software such a Microsoft’s FrontPage or through templates which may be offered through your ISP.
You can employ a full or part-time Web designer/developer to build your site and then maintain it.
You can contract the work to a Web designer/developer who will then create your site and depending on the contract, may maintain it for you as well.
Your choice will depend on the type of Web site you want, the technical difficulty and your budget.
Building your site yourself
With the current technology and software available, building your own Web site has become a lot easier and you no longer have to be a part-time programmer!
The big advantage of building the site yourself is that you have complete control over your site and it can be your cheapest option. You can do whatever you want with your site, providing, of course, that you have the time, technical knowledge and your site isn’t too complex.
That should be your first consideration when thinking about building your site – how intricate or complex is the site going to be? Are you going to have basic pages with text and links or do you want extra features such search functions and registration details? Do you have the necessary skills to build basic pages?
Obviously, if you are a retail business you will probably also want some sort of e-commerce module in your Web site. You then need to consider the ramifications of setting up an online store, security and online payments by yourself.
And to build an effective site, you do need a certain amount of skills and knowledge.
For instance, you will need:
Design skills so that you can design a site which looks professional and is appropriate for your business.
An understanding of how the Web and its pages work so you will know how graphics, texts and links will interact with each other, creating an effective navigation system.
Web authoring skills regardless of whether you use templated software so you can turn your design into a fully-functioning Web site (such as how to turn text or graphics into links).
Administration skills and knowledge so you can upload your Web site via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and then edit your Web pages.
Without this knowledge or skills, you will either have to learn them or hire someone to help you. The worse case scenario is that you may have to pay someone to come in and fix your mistakes.
How to build the site
Nowadays, however, knowledge is not hard to achieve. There are many low-cost packages available, such as Microsoft’s FrontPage, which make creating a Web site easy and fairly cost-effective.
FrontPage comes with a number of templates and design “wizards” so all you have to do is plug in the words and any extra graphics you may want.
The drawback to FrontPage is many people now recognise a FrontPage template and your site could be labelled as “amateurish” as a result. Also, FrontPage doesn’t use industry standard HTML to create Web pages. It is optimised to work with Internet Explorer so some features will not work or will be viewed differently if your customers use another browser, such as Netscape Navigator.
Of course, there are other software packages which do use industry standard HTML, such as Macromedia’s Dreamweaver or Allaire’s HomeSite, but they will require more work on your part.
Many of these companies also offer free trial versions of their software online so before you purchase a software package, check whether you can “try before you buy” and see whether the software is right for you before you spend money on it.
In addition to using third party software packages, most ISPs now offer clients Web site templates where all you need to do is put in your information. You don’t have to know anything about programming and your site can be ready in minutes.
Unfortunately, the thing that makes this so easy to use, the template, is also its main drawback. You do not have a custom designed site and you are limited to what you can do. Plus your site will look the same as any other client who has chosen this option.
In addition to deciding if you can build your site, you also have to consider the cost of your time – remember, time is money. Is your business going to suffer while you work on creating the site? Who is going to do your work while you are focussing on the Web? What is the true cost of the Web site if you apply your hourly rate?
So you also need to consider if it is in your company’s best interest to spend your time building a Web site.
After taking into account the type of Web site you want, the skills you will need and the time it will take, your best option may be to hire someone else to build your site.