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ProCut_48
09-25-2008, 10:48 PM
I was just curious on how to get started on my own website. Any help or suggestions on what to do to get started?

cbscreative
09-25-2008, 11:35 PM
Wow, that's an open ended question. I see you are in a great state even though the economy has been trashed, but let's not go there because it doesn't matter as much as some people believe.

Any additional info you can provide will help in giving you a more specific answer.

Here are a few general rules:

Whatever your competitor's are doing, be different
Be professional, but don't try to dazzle
Think of the first 8 seconds a visitor is there and get right to the point
Build a site that gets local search engine results
Think of the site as a "support" tool not a stand alone marketing method
Avoid the words "Welcome to our website"
Avoid the words "Click here"

And most importantly, focus on your business. You can DIY, but why? You need to run your business, and the learning curve needed to do a web site will cost you valuable time. Don't hire just anyone though. Any web designer who doesn't seek to understand your business before designing your site is cranking it out like a commodity. You are unique, and your clients are unique. Find someone who takes the time to understand that, and they will be much more able to help your business grow.

These recommendations are far from complete, but it gives you a few basic considerations.

Turboguy
09-26-2008, 07:21 AM
ProCut, I think you have not given us enough info to help you very much. Do you know HTML & CSS for example? If not and you want to try it that way I can recommend a good book.

Programs like Word can save a document as HTML but I doubt you could make an effective website that way.

You could buy a program like Frontpage or Dreamweaver which have WYSIWYG ability but there will be a learning curve. You could probably find one on Ebay. If you do that the easiest way of having a professional looking site is to buy a good template on a site like pixelmill.net. This is actaully what I do and I have about 6 sites that look fairly decent. If you want to see what I am talking about here is one of mine done with Frontpage2002 and a theme from pixelmill. www.turboturf.com

Probably the best way is to get a professional to do it for you. It will likely be a one time thing for you and unless you put no value on your time if would be a far cheaper way to go. My big motivation in wanting to do my sites myself was that mine need to be updated frequently. You won't have that problem and when you do need updates your designer can do that easily. Websites are changing so fast that what makes a site cool today will be obsolete in a few years. Having someone who keeps up on the lastest and greatest is a good move. I would suggest spending your time getting good photos of your work and making that available to a pro.

cbscreative
09-26-2008, 12:32 PM
Thanks for recommending a pro, Turbo, I completely agree, but I doubt that would surprise anyone.

I just wanted to comment on Word being able to generate HTML. Yes it does, but the code is awful. In addition to being seriously bloated which causes it to be slow loading, it is a Microsoft product which favors Internet Explorer (IE). Granted, most people use IE, but those who don't might not see your site, or it could look completely wacked. For the same reason, I don't like FrontPage very much either.

Turboguy
09-26-2008, 06:22 PM
I have never tried doing a real web page with word and I really agree that it is not a way to go.

Front Page does get that rap and it deserves it however there are lots of FrontPage sites and they do seem to get the job done. I think the new version, I forget what the call it Effects or something like that did address the extranious code issue and did away with the frontpage extensions as well. I have not tried it yet to have any feelings for it and have no plans to at the moment.

Most landscapers don't need a really complicated site. It does need to be well designed and attractive. If someone is going to need one site like most of the guys here and it is not going to be updated all that often then to me it makes a lot of sense just to get it done professionally.

Learning enough HTML to get a site up is not that hard. Getting something attractive and effective takes some work. If someone does not know what goes into a page site go to the top of your browser to the view section and click "view source" You will see what programing goes into a web page and I think one look would scare off a lot of people.

The internet has changed the world. I think everyone really needs a website and it will pay for the investment you make quickly. Going with someone good to put it up for you is worth the investment.

cbscreative
09-26-2008, 07:16 PM
I haven't tried the new replacement for FrontPage either, and don't intend to. It's enough to deal with the differences between IE6 and IE7. It seems whenever it looks good in one, it blows up in the other. You would expect them to be more alike, but the 2 different versions of IE are very, very different, and both need to be addressed with current web design. That is not something I recommend a business owner try to do on their own.

That is probably one of the most common mistakes made by DIY types and new web designers. They develop on the computer they are using. They design according to all their own settings and configuration. When it looks good to them, they think it's fine. It seldom is. Even us pros often have to settle for a happy medium because there are so many variables, but for beginners, it is dangerous territory.

Like you said though, for most members here, they don't need a complicated site. Sometimes though, things that seem simple are more complicated in cross-compatible web design than you would expect.

Turboguy
09-27-2008, 10:09 AM
Steve, I do feel that someone with a successful, profitable business is making a wise choice to go with a pro. I would suggest they concentrate of taking good digital photos of the jobs they do, preferably before and after. Great photos make a great selling tool.

For those who really want to do it themselves, perhaps someone who is just starting and struggling to put food on the table or to scrape up enough money to by the equipment that the desperately need if they really feel like trying it themselves probably any website is better than no website. Once their business is successful, I would suggest turning it over to a pro.

If they want to do it themselves. They can reserve a domain name with GoDaddy for $ 9.95 a year. They should be able to find adequate hosting for $ 5-10 per month. There is free hosting but I would suggest they stay away from it.

If they do want to learn to do it themselves a really great book is Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML by Eric Freedman. They can buy it used on Amazon for $ 19.00 or new for $ 26.39. It is really easy reading, very complete and probably the best book I have ever read dealing with programing. They can learn enough in a week to get a website up.

They will likely need an FTP program to upload it but one month trial versions are available and both cuteFTP and smartFTP are pretty good.

The other option would be what I talked about before going with something like Dreamweaver which is a little more difficult to learn than FrontPage but a little better program as well. I too have not looked at the replacement for FrontPage and don't plan to.

A lot of the more complicated and sophisticated websites now incorporate a lot of Flash and PHP. I don't see either of those being too important for someone in this field. I think good photos, well written text and a clean logical layout will do it for most guys.

Another option for those who want to do it themselves if my memory serves me correct is that I had one site hosted through PowWeb and I believe with a years hosting they gave you the complete suite of Coffee Cup software that includes a WYSIWYG program that is probably OK and about a dozen other programs that give you everything you need. Perhaps they don't do that anymore but I think it is likely they do.

As far as hosting, I would not touch GoDaddy with a 10 foot pole anymore. I really have been disappointed in their hosting. There are a million hosting companies. Most are ok. I think GoDaddy and Host Rocket are the two who have disappointed me. FWIW there is a small hosting company I really like which is montecarlohosting.net. Christian gives very good personalized service. I still have sites with Reliant, Valueweb and SpunkyWorld but will be switching most over to MonteCarlo. I was also satisfied with PowWeb that I mentioned before.

Having said all this, I still think if someone can afford it they are better off having a pro do it.

cbscreative
09-28-2008, 10:10 PM
Excellent advice. It makes me wonder about the person looking to put up some kind of site as opposed to none at all. By the time you figure a decent book, any kind of program that generates a web page, and the learning curve, I suspect even a cheap web designer will get you by in that situation. I say this because spending time on a web site that should be dedicated to building a business is too much lost productivity. You usually won't get a profitable web site with cheap designers, but at least you can focus on your business.

Even those user friendly DIY interfaces a lot of hosting companies offer are not a good option. Sure, you don't have to know web design or code, but they are ridiculously slow and time consuming, and the results are usually very disappointing. They have very limited capability, and create horrible code. Even a web designer of limited experience is a much better option IMO.

My main advice is not to get caught up in creating a web site when you have your business to run. Of course, trying to do that may give you a greater appreciation for what people like me do. With that in mind, I may change my advice and say go for it.

mdvaden
09-30-2008, 03:16 AM
With the open ended question, I'd say look at a bunch and find a look you like. Then contact a website person and show them a look or layout. Then have them put it together for you.

ProCut_48
09-30-2008, 08:24 PM
ok well then my next question is any know a good web site guy and what is it going to cost me?

Turboguy
10-01-2008, 09:56 AM
I would suggest if you go with someone professional to either register the name yourself or make sure he puts the website name in your name and not his. You don't want to be able to be held hostage.

Team-Green L&L
10-01-2008, 10:17 AM
A website can cost anywhere between $250 for a 5 page dynamic site with no forms and customer-supplied photos and text content all the way to $25 Mil (which is what Webkinz.com was built for). You have to know what you want your site to do, what you want it to say, and who you want to see it BEFORE you move forward.

Plan to budget $500-1000 on a quality non-templated website and $1000-$2000 on a custom database if you want to store all your visitors info, job info, inventory, maintenance needs, etc. on your site for future development.

Hosting will cost you around $100 a year and domain name registration is at $10 a year. You will need an SSL certificate if you want to accept credit card payments. That's $29.99 a year and you want private registration to avoid telemarketer calls. That's $2.99 a year.

Hope this helps, also let me know if you are seriously interest5ed in a good website. I know several great designers and they make my job of SEO a lot easier and cheaper for the end-user when you're ready for that.

Team-Green L&L
10-01-2008, 10:25 AM
Now for the results. We launched in April of 2005 and showed a net of $35,000 in 2004's taxes. On '05's return we showed a net of $64,000. That's almost 100% growth. In July of '05 I had successfully gotten "ranked" on Google and our Flash Reports attributed 3-4 jobs per month directly to the website. Our '06 taxes show our profits at $86,000. That's another 45% increase. I think you see the pattern here. I have been able to double my equipment, open a new location, and have ordered my garden center stock for next year paid in full, all from the money's and growth directly related to the website.

So, enjoy your new-found profits...

cbscreative
10-01-2008, 12:41 PM
I do know a really good web designer, but I'd mostly like to comment on Team Green's posts because he raises some excellent points that are not always considered. A good web designer is not going to come cheap (the $1000 budget mentioned should be expected for a basic lawn care type site), but don't get hung up on costs when the ROI is so important to your business.

Let's suppose that Team Green had invested $5000 to get the numbers shown above. I'd say that's a bargain. I've seen many businesses go for the $500 or less deal when they need to invest a few thousand, then they miss out on tens of thousands in growth. I also hear the "I'll do it when I can afford it" rationale enough to know that will never happen (proverbial cart before the horse). Team Green's experience demonstrates this perfectly.

I also second Turbos advice to be sure you register a domain in your own name.

Team-Green L&L
10-02-2008, 09:49 AM
cbs,

I will gladly share my expenses for this thread. I had my site designed by a local freelance designer that did strippedmusic.com for Clear Channel radio. He charged me $1000 for the mockup layout alone.

I started dabbling in CMS databases like Joomla and decided to add one to our administration area. That cost me another $3000.

I went to a local Technical College to learn SEO for future profiteering, which cost me $38,000 but it would have cost $3000 plus $75 a month from any reasonable SEO to get the rankings I desired, so I figured I'd rather buy a "cow" than some "milk".

I have a $300 per month online advertising budget to promote the site.

I get 300-400 unique visitors per month, but this is the number than counts: I have a 58% conversion rate to estimate request. That means we are currently selling 200+ leads a month and closing 10-12 sales for ourselves (avg. sale of $3000) a month directly from the site.

I was offered $30,000 for the domain about a month ago and turned it down. The guy wants to make it a lead generation site like Service Magic. We are currently in the Top Ten position for 50+ local keywords.

If I were to change anything that I did as a new business owner, spending the cash on the site is certainly not one of them.