Thursday, June 10, 2010; 12:00 AM
Are you considering building a website for your small business--or having one built for you? Before you dive in and create one, it's crucial that you consider your website an investment in your business and act accordingly. This means looking down the road and making sure that the way you build your site allows you flexibility and a cost-effective way to grow the site--and, in turn, your business.
Redefining the WebsiteA website, though based on technology, is fundamentally a marketing tool. This is an important concept to understand because when you think about your website this way, you will recognize that a website, like your other marketing initiatives, should always be changing. Your website is not like a book, where you print a copy and are finished.
When you decide to build a website with a template service or through a web developer, avoid this statement: "I want a basic five-page website to get me started." More important, avoid the packages of services that sell you on this idea; it is a way to get you to rely on them for everything.
Changeability Is KeyNo, you don't want your first website to be a static five pages long. The truth is, in two months you are going to need to make changes to your services, products, special offers--the list goes on. Now you're paying for changes and new pages to be added, and the price tag for that small, basic, cost-effective website will, at the end of the year, be triple what you planned on spending.
Remember that your website is a marketing tool, so if you are planning on using search engine optimization or search engine marketing as marketing strategies, you will need the ability to make changes to your website. This is because search engines give high value to fresh content on websites (along with a slew of other factors), and SEM strategies include creating fresh landing pages.
You don't know what you don't know, so here is the truth about what everyone needs--even ifyou're just starting out. You need a website that gives you the ability to grow. You need a website that gives you a way to add pages, edit content and upload files. And because you have these needs, the best solution is using some type of content management system.
Invest in Function, Not PagesToday's small businesses need the ability to control their content just as much as larger companies. You don't need an advanced design, but you do need a website that allows you to change the text on all the pages, the ability to add photographs to your pages and embed code from outside sources like today's social media tools.
Think of it this way: You are not buying a prefabricated, rigid square box with sides, a top and a bottom. That would be limiting. You are investing in the flexible software for your website that will allow you to swap in and out designs and add functions as you wish to grow your website into its own unique shape. Invest in scalability.
A Picture Is Worth1,000 WordsToday's template applications and modern content management systems don't require that you be an expert in HTML and CSS, but if you are adding images or badges from your favorite social networks, you should get a little training on how these items work.
Working with an image program ahead of time to resize or crop images before you upload them will help you better understand how picture size and image size relate. Many of today's content managers will resize photos for you, but to ensure that your website's photos load quickly, it is better to resize before uploading. A little training will increase your success in managing the visual aspects of your website.
Remember: Your website is essentially a marketing tool for your business, so it should be able to change and grow alongside the other dynamic pieces of your marketing plan. Don't paint your business into a corner with a "cost-effective" website that could eaily become costly and ineffective.
Jennifer Shaheen, the e-marketing and Technology Therapist, has more than 10 years experience working with small- to mid-sized businesses on their e-marketing and web development needs. You can learn more about her by visiting her website, TechnologyTherapy.com