With advances in software and the growth of Web Hosting Services, launching a Web site is easier and less expensive than ever. But before you jump into cyberspace, there are at least 5 main issues you must address:
1. Who will design your site?
2. Who will publish or "host" your site?
3. What will your site address be?
4. Who will maintain your site?
5. What will the overall costs be?
Designing the Site
Hiring a Professional: There are many professional firms that will help you design and set up a Web site. Some are staffed by people with technical backgrounds; others are full service ad agencies who subcontract their Web work. Graphic design firms, Web hosting services and even small home-based Web designers are all choices to consider when shopping for someone to design your business Web site.
Prices vary depending not only upon whom you choose, but also on the type of site in which you're interested, the quantity and complexity of the Web pages, and how much copy, graphics and photos you will contribute yourself. In addition, Web packages vary in cost based upon the types of related services that will be provided by the company, such as whether they maintain and/or host the Web site or merely design it. For example, some Web hosting services have a very minimal charge to design a basic site, but can charge monthly service fees based on the number of times the site is visited.
Doing it Yourself: Today's Web authoring software can assist do-it-yourselfers (with little or no Web design experience) to build visually interesting Web sites quickly and easily. Book stores, libraries and the Internet itself will have books and/or software that can get you started. However, while a self-created Web site is generally cheaper, it may not always be cost-efficient, depending on how complex you want the site to be. The more complicated the site, the more time and resources are necessary to build and maintain it.
Regardless of whether you design the site yourself or hire a professional, you will need to determine the basic content of the site. Review your objective for launching a Web site and determine criteria for what should be included on each Web page in order to accomplish that objective. Basic marketing principles and design concepts should be applied to ensure that the Web site communicates information clearly and convincingly, and that it is appropriate for your particular target market.
Publishing the Site
Once the Web site has been designed, it must be published, or "hosted." This is done by moving the Web documents from your computer to a host computer, also called a Web server. A Web server remains connected to the Web all the time. This enables your site to be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by individuals browsing the Web.
Choosing a Web Site Address
Once you have designed your site and have a host, your customers and prospects will need a way to find your site on the Internet. In other words, they need to know your Web site address. Every computer that it is connected to the Internet is assigned an IP address (a series of four numbers separated by dots, such as 126.96.36.199) To make IP addresses easier to find and remember, they are assigned aliases called domain names (e.g. amazon.com). When you develop a Web site, you will need to register and pay for a domain name. Your domain name should be easy to remember and portray your business image.
Maintaining the Site
Maintaining a site has to do with upkeep of the design and layout as well as answering any e-mail generated or orders placed from the site. This takes a lot of time and patience, and if you are conducting your business on the Internet part-time or expect to be busy dealing with customers off the Web, you may need someone to maintain your site. The cost and time involved in maintaining the site depends on many factors, including: how often your site will need updating, whether you are involved in e-commerce, and how much of the design updates and/or order fulfillment you can do yourself.
Each decision you make about the function of your Web site involves a range of one-time and ongoing expenses, as discussed above. Evaluate various providers based on services available as well as costs.