There are many different types of website, and almost as many different reasons for having one.
For a small business, the most basic site can be an extremely effective and low cost form of advertising - letting potential customers know that you exist, describing the sort of services you offer, and providing a means for customers to get in touch with you.
For example, if you are in the building trade a website will say who you are and where you are based. It should give contact details, perhaps including a 'contact us' form which is submitted direct to you by email. Taking this a stage further, it would also include a showcase for details and pictures of some of your completed jobs along with comments from happy customers. Other topics for inclusion might be helpful information about building regulations and links to other relevant websites.
If you run a non-profit organisation or local club etc, then a website can again advertise a presence in your area as well as allowing all your members to keep in touch with the latest news and events for your topic.
Even if you don't expect customers to find and choose to use you just because they have found your website on the internet, having a site allows people who have perhaps been recommended by a friend to see who you are and what you do. A positive recommend backed up by a good, informative, website could make all the difference to their choice of supplier/contractor etc.
A website is really just an extension of standard, paper-based advertising methods - but crucially it is one that will be available for potential customers to see at any time of the day (or night), every day of the year. It can act as a message-taking service by collecting enquiries and sending them to you, allowing you to respond quickly but at a time to suit you. And it can be updated or changed dramatically very quickly to keep the latest information fresh.
So.... what do you need to get a website launched?
There are four distinct things needed - well, five if you include some potential customers as well!
The website itself is a collection of related webpages, which are generally linked to each other to allow viewers to move between pages, find information etc.
A website collection of computer files needs to be "hosted" on a server made available to internet users.
This is the website address - the bit after 'www.' that people type into their browser in order to visit your site.
Don't worry, this is just a fancy name for making sure that the search engines which people use actually know about your site.
For further details, follow the menu options to the left.
The website itself is a collection of related webpages, which are generally linked to each other to allow viewers to move between pages, find information etc. A very basic site could have just one page - something saying "hello, this is me!", and big sites can have many many thousands of pages running e-commerce systems etc.
The site can include pictures, words, associated documents, videos, links to other sites etc, facilities for users to add comments or information, and feedback pages sending information back to the site owner.
If you have a business which already has a logo etc, for example on your letterheads or vehicle paintwork, then this branding can be included in the site to maintain a consistent theme - the website is just another form of advertising so it makes sense to use the same styles if you have them. Alternatively, you can start afresh with new colours and logo etc if that's what you want.
A website collection of computer files needs to be "hosted" on a server made available to internet users. There are many hosting companies which specialise in this area, offering a variety of packages from the basic costing the equivalent of a few pounds a month [which is generally more than enough for small businesses or individuals etc] up to very expensive packages costing an awful lot more for very big businesses.
These companies provide space for an individual site on one of their many computers, and are experts in this area.
What's a domain name? This is the website address - the bit after 'www.' that people type into their browser in order to visit your site. Ideally it should be your name (or your business/club etc name) and should be easy for people to both remember and type - so avoid any complications such as dashes etc.
It's quite common for hosting providers to offer a deal which includes the purchase of a domain name for free or just a few pounds for a year. Domain name registration usually lasts for two years, so if you want to keep your website going you will have to renew the name every two years as well as continue paying for the site hosting.
What? Don't worry, this is just a fancy name for making sure that the search engines which people use actually know about your site and will start to include it in response to potential search questions. It's usually just referred to as 'SEO'.
Some of your customers will come to the site directly, perhaps as a result of you telling them about it or including the address on your business card etc, or following a recommend from one of your satisfied customers.
However, some people will only see the site if it appears on a list produced by the search engine when they look - eg. if you are a builder, when someone searches for "builder in Preesall", you want your site to come up. In order to do this, the site needs to be known by all the major search engines, and it needs to contain some detail that will enable the search engine to know that your site is appropriate for this search.
This doesn't happen overnight, it can take some time before the search engines update their systems to include your site, so it is a gradual process which needs to be considered as soon as work starts on producing the website.
Move on to see what web services I can offer.