Why do I need a website anyway?
Do you still use your phone book? In the past, customers looking for your service or product would open their Yellow Pages to find a list of vendors in a particular category. Businesses able to afford large, colorful and expense ads would get a prominent spot to advertise, and those with less money could still pay to get a line listing. The potential customer would scan the page and start calling vendors. Those days are long gone.
Today, people go online and use a search engine to shop for vendors. They Google a product or service (or use Yahoo or Bing) and get an online listing of businesses which offer the requested service. Generally speaking, businesses or websites with the greatest SEO (Search Engine Optimization) get the top spot on the list. Customers then click on the links to find out more about the business and make their buying decision. If your business is not high on that list, you are probably losing customers.
Your web page is the front door to your business and is the first impression that you will give to the bulk of your customers. It will be seen more than your Yellow Pages ad (assuming you still use one), more than your printed advertising, and may provide you more customers than word of mouth.
When people enter your physical place of business, do you allow it to look trashy or unprofessional? Of course not! That would convey a negative message to your customer. In the same way, you need to have a well-designed website that presents a clean and polished image for your business. Your website is the first impression most of your customers will have of you, so make sure it looks good!
What about Search Engine Optimization? How do I get a high ranking in Google?
It is very important to be ranked high enough for your customers to notice you. There is unfortunately no way to guarantee a first page ranking in Google Organic (the main search results area), but there are techniques that you can use to help your website obtain better rankings.
Search engines use two main methods to determine web page rankings: relevant content and inbound links. Relevant content means that if you are a plumbing business and your website talks about plumbing, then it will be ranked higher in a Google search for “plumbing repair” than a website that talks about pets. Inbound links are links from other web pages to your website. When more exterior websites “point” to your website, search engines interpret that to mean your website is more important and credible than a website with no inbound links.
Kropmark Design can implement several techniques to ensure that you have relevant content in your website. Before we design your website, we perform keyword research for your business category to determine which search terms are most often used for your business. We enrich your html code by using meta tags, alt tags for images, and other techniques to make your page more relevant to search engines. We can even help you to write copy for your website that will be informational to your customers as well as search engine friendly. Perhaps the best thing you can do to create relevant content for your website is to maintain a regularly updated blog about your business, and Kropmark Design can also help you to implement this feature.
There are ways to proactively increase the inbound links to your website. Once Kropmark Design has completed your website, we make sure to register your site with the major search engines so that they can find you quickly. If you choose, we can also help you register your business with other websites and online directories. We can even provide a service agreement where we update content and increase your SEO presence on a monthly basis.
Do I need to be a computer expert to obtain a nice web page?
Not at all. Many of our clients have little computer knowledge, and obtaining their website was their first venture into the online marketing of their business. There’s a lot to learn, but Kropmark Design will help you through the entire process. We will answer any of your questions in layman’s terms rather than complicated techie-speech.
Sounds great! What do I need to do first?
Generally, two steps will need to be completed before we can design your website. Kropmark Design can provide any of these steps for you, or you can do them yourself.
First, you need to acquire a domain for your website. You can search for available domains at www.godaddy.com or at any other domain name seller. We recommend that you get input from friends and family about possible domain names before you choose, and we also recommend that you discuss your top choices with us to ensure that your domain name works well for SEO purposes. It is up to you whether you choose a .com, .biz, or any other extension, but we feel that .com is preferable because most customers assume it is the default extension for a business. Generally, you should not pay more than $10 a year for a domain.
Second, you need to acquire website hosting for your website. There are many options to choose from, including national providers like Bluehost and local providers which are smaller but often have better customer service. We encourage you to seek the advice of Kropmark Design if you are unsure of which service to choose, as some website hosts may not be able to accommodate the specific needs of your website. You should not have to pay more than $10 a month for a hosting provider, unless you expect to receive a large amount of web traffic. Many hosting packages now include a domain name for free with your purchase, and we recommend this to get the best value from your web host.
What is HTML? What is a content management system?
HTML (hyper-text markup language) is the code that web browsers use to display the content of your website. It tells the web browser, for example, that a link goes here and an image goes there. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a different type of code that allows you to determine the format for the content of your web page. This includes font selection, line spacing, positioning, etc. For basic websites that only want to provide online information about their business, HTML and CSS will work fine.
However, if you want to include greater functionality for your website (such as blogs, contact forms or integrated e-commerce applications) then you may want to use a CMS (content management system). The most well-known content management systems are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. These applications use a different code, PHP, to add more advanced features to a website. One advantage of a CMS is that you, the website owner, can make changes to content (such as blog entries) on your website without having to worry about breaking your website’s code. This feature is not possible with HTML, unless you are very familiar with the code involved.
Kropmark Design specializes in providing custom-designed WordPress websites to business owners. Generally speaking, you will want to use a WordPress CMS for your website unless there is a specific need to get a conventional HTML website or another content management system such as the Joomla CMS or Drupal CMS.
How much will the website design cost?
Costs vary depending on the needs of your website and the complexity involved. For example, a five page website will be easier to design than a ten page website. Do you want to implement a complex contact form that dynamically changes based on information input by your customer? Do you need a large photo gallery with more than twenty images… if so, it will take time to input these features and that time will equate to a higher price. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay a minimum of $500 for a basic website and costs will increase from there based on the services you request and the size of your website.
Do you charge by the hour, or by a flat rate?
Either is acceptable. We prefer to work at an hourly rate as we believe this provides the fairest balance to both the designer and the client, but most of our clients prefer that we work at an agreed upon flat rate so that they can budget for the project.
Why should I design my website with you, when I can use a “free” website builder?
Many ways to design a website are available, and some of them are included with the cost of your hosting purchase. However, we would caution you to stay away from so-called “free” websites. We have encountered many clients who have used these website builders and were unhappy with the results.
These website builders use generalized templates to appeal to a broad audience, but provide few options for customizing your web page. You need to consider how to implement your company logo, color schemes and branding into your website. Free website builders rarely allow more than minimal changes to their templates and the results are often shabby looking. In addition, there is usually no way to customize your html to allow keywords or other SEO enhancing changes to your website. Clean, validated code gets higher rankings in Google and most of these website builders use inferior code that hurts your SEO ranking.
All things considered, the money you save on these “free” websites is not worth the customers you will lose from a poorly presented website. Evaluate how much money that you budget for marketing, and consider that your website is your most effective marketing tool. Your website is available 24/7 to your customers and is the virtual front door to your business. Don’t spend time fiddling around with a cheaply made website builder when you could recover those costs and avoid the hassles by having your website done by a professional.
What is Flash animation? Should I use it in my website?
Flash is a great way to add motion to a website. Some websites are even completely Flash-based, allowing cool page transitions, background music, or animated navigation menus. But as a general rule, we do not recommend that you use Flash animation in your website.
Why not? First and foremost, some online viewers do not have the capability to view Flash. For instance, Apple does not currently support Flash on their iPhones or iPads. Even those with Flash on their computers may not have the most recent version of Flash installed and consequently may not be able to view this aspect of your website without a necessary download (and some viewers may move on to the next site before taking the time to do this).
Another significant reason we recommend against Flash-based websites is that they greatly hinder your SEO value (Search Engine Optimization). Because you must embed ALL content of a Flash-based website within the Flash application itself, search engines that look for text and other content to rank your website will view your website only as a Flash file. You will lose a lot of the value of your website (and “content is king”) by restricting your website to Flash.
However, there are some things that can only be done using Flash animation, such as video overlay and complex animations. If you want to include these on your website, we would recommend using Flash. Many ways to add motion and simple animations are available that don’t require Flash, but to attain the best special effects on a website Flash animations still hold the top spot.
Image courtesy of ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net