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Big Hazards To Avoid When Building Your First Website

May 15, 2008
In today's business world all small businesses should have some type of web presence. This web presence whether it is an information web page or an e-Commerce website is crucial to reaching, engaging and interfacing with certain growing market segments.

Today's customer likes to spend their money in ways that are most convenient for them. This may mean that they want to spend 10 minute researching your product or service online before investing 30 minutes driving to your physical location.

Different groups of customers will desire to do business with you in various ways - depending on what creates the most value for them. Those who are 50+ in age may be fine with traditional 9:00 - 5:00 business hours for everything from information gathering to an actual sales transaction. Those who are in their 20's will not be content.

They will want the ability to find information and perform transactions with your business via their computer or smart phone. This, to this age group, is considered a matter of convenience as it saves them time which in their fully connected, busy lifestyles, is a critical commodity. This thought process is even becoming prevalent in the Gen X and younger Baby Boom customer base who range in age from 32 - 50.

We have started several websites over the last year. We made some mistakes, but these mistakes have made us build a better foundation for the future. We thought that we'd share some of the lessons that we learned from these mistakes. Maybe you can learn from our experience so that you can focus more time and energy on the other mistakes that you are going to make as you grow your business.

Getting a website started is probably a breeze if you understand web design, programming, search engine optimization, key words, image loading, file transfers, web analytics and all the other bits and pieces of internet value creation.

If you do not have a basic understanding of these processes and the sequencing, priorities and relationships that they have to each other and your website success, then you are in for some frustrating and possibly costly mistakes.

One of the most important things that you can do when you start a website is to decide what you want the website to do. Who do you want the website to speak to? This will not only help you target your content to your audience, it will also help you to decide which website design, functions and features are best for your target audience.

Spend a considerable amount of time trying to decide if you want an information site or an e-Commerce site. This decision begins and ends with you knowing your customers and their needs.

When you have figured out what you think that you want then you should find someone to help you. Knowing what you want your site to do and then finding someone to help you do that is much better than turning over your web presence development to technicians. If you know your market you will want control in any interaction that you have with your customer.

A flashy website with problems and poor content will be of little value to your money spending customers. Remember, creating value for your business on the internet still requires prudent business skills - the internet is just a medium of interfacing with your customers. It has changed the communication rules but it still follows basic business principles.

Your customers are people with problems, concerns and interests. They want to feel as if they were treated great and got a good deal. Who wants to feel like they were treated like crap and like they got a bad deal? Only utilities can treat their customers that way and watch their sales grow. Making your customers feel great will make them come back. No technician is going to generate that type of feeling through your website.

The team that you select to help you design and build your website should be experienced. They should understand the type of site that you want as well as its purpose and functionality. If they do not, keep looking. This is not the time to get a low cost web developer who knows that they can build this type of website if they are just given the chance. Choosing this type of developer will cost you time and some functionality as there will probably be more minor glitches than you had anticipated.

Communicate clearly with your website development team. Make sure that you both understand the meaning of the different terms that you use. A due date to you may mean website completion date but to a developer it may mean beta site delivery date. Clear these points of potential confusion up at the very beginning of the website development project by making a simple project table that includes task, date, person responsible and notes. Also, it is very important that you determine who is going to develop and edit the content for the website. This may or may not be included in the website development project.

Make it easy for your customer to find what they need on your website. Your customers will visit your site to do one of two things. To find information to to take action.

Make it easy for them to do either. Taking action may mean getting more information or performing a transaction. Make sure that you have a way to capture some information from your potential customers in either case. An email address is a great start. You may want this later after you get the hang of creating business value on the internet.

Test everything on your website. Test it after every change. You would be surprised what a little glitch in code can do to a website. Just as improper grammar and poor punctuation can kill a business image, poor coding can destroy a web presence and any and all functionality that it may have.

Do not assume that just because it works on your website developer's computer or on your computer that it will work with all of your potential customers' computers or browsers. Again, image and perception are important and they can be directly tied to building relationships on the internet. A PC and a MAC can display the same web pages differently. Internet Explorer and Firefox can also display the same web pages differently. Make sure that your team tests under all of these scenarios. Your target customers definitely will.

It is a good idea to you tie all payments to milestones such as:

20% - project start
35% - site concept acceptance
35% - site launch
10% - debugging and final acceptance

This type of payment schedule will help to insure that you get a product that you are happy with. Paying too much up front can slow down your website development or give you a site that is almost what you wanted. Neither one will make you happy.

Paying attention to some of the details when you are starting your first website can save you lots of time and money. Delays and mistakes with your website development can discourage potential customers from ever spending money with you.

Know your customers and make sure you give them what they need on your web real estate. Also, don't forget to include all of the other support services such as email management and customer relationship management. These other services, though not directly related to your website development will be key to your internet success.

Being aware of these hazards will help you create your business value on the internet and increase your entrepreneur profit.
About the Author
Art Espey is a serial entrepreneur who has grown several businesses in both good and bad economic times. Art can be reached at thebusinessninja.info or www.4steps2.com.
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