Building Your Way To Online Success: Part 2

In Part 1 of “Building Your Way To Online Success,” we took the first, very basic, step toward turning your online business dream into a reality, by deciding what exactly your business is going to be. We looked at the importance of having either a knowledge of the field that your product or service is in, or at least a passion for your particular business idea.

So with that first, fundamental, decision out of the way, it is now time to move on to the next stage–which is the essential foundation and framework for every online business. If you get this all-important step right, you will be well on your way to building that online success of your dreams.

Step 2: CREATE A WEBSITE

When it comes to running an online business, your website will be the first impression that potential customers have of your service or product. Building a website isn’t necessarily all that hard–as just about any high school student would tell you. However, building an excellent website, that has great consumer appeal, is another thing altogether. To do that requires more than a slap-dash, homemade, bargain-basement job.

With excellence as your goal, it is important that you make a decision right now to consider your business website as a valuable and vital investment in the ultimate success of your venture. It can be very tempting to try and save a few pennies here and there, particularly in these early stages, but it really is true that you get what you pay for. Saving a little bit of money on your website design now, could end up costing you a fortune in sales in the future.

So, with that decision made, let’s look at what you need to do in order to create your business website.

1. Register a Domain Name

If you were preparing to build a house, you wouldn’t go out and buy all the bricks, tiles, floor-coverings and furnishings if you didn’t already have a block of land to actually build your house on. The same is true when it comes to building your business website. Your online business “home” also needs an address. That’s why the very first thing to do when creating your website is to register a domain name.

Having a custom domain name will give your business a professional image, as well as making it easier for customers to remember your website address, or URL. When choosing your domain name, make sure that it isn’t too long or complex. Instead, aim for something that people will easily remember and quickly relate to your business, product or service.

Here are some examples of custom domain names:

You.com
YourName.com
BusinessName.com

There are many domain extensions to choose from, such as .com, .net, .org. The wide variety of extensions provides a number of alternatives should your first choice of domain not be available.

2. Designing Your Website.

Creating a website can seem like an overwhelming task to the web novice, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks to technology, there are now options for everyone–those who want to do it themselves, those who need some help to do it themselves, and those who want someone else to do it for them. Here is a quick and easy guide to the options available:

A. Using HTML Editors:

If you already have an extensive knowledge of HTML and website coding, then the next thing you’ll need is a good HTML editing program to write your HTML code. I have always used First Page 2000, which is a full featured HTML editor. There is a free, slightly limited, version of their latest release, First Page 2006, which you can try by downloading the program here.

You can also use programs such as DreamWeaver, which is one of the best HTML editors available. You can learn more about DreamWeaver here.

All these programs are designed for the user who has a good knowledge of HTML. If you are scratching your head and wondering, “What’s HTML?” then this type of web design program is not recommended for creating your website. Although these HTML editors are excellent tools for those with HTML know-how, they do require a certain level of proficiency to achieve a professional result.

Always keep in mind that the look of your website is critical for your business success. It must appear professional–even if you are selling something as simple as homemade handcrafts. You will quite literally only have seconds to make a good first impression when a potential customer visits your website. If your site looks as though it has been thrown together by an unskilled web design wannabe, your online presence will suffer.

Although they may not actually put it into words, most visitors will subconsciously believe that any business that did not put any expertise, thought or professionalism into the creation of their site, will probably be just as lacking when it comes to the provision of their service. The immediate impression made is that the business is inferior and unreliable–and it is an impression that is made an instant before that potential customer clicks their mouse and is gone forever.

If you do have the skills and knowledge to be able to create your own website using an HTML editor or web design program, there are still two more things that you will need before your website can be revealed to the world.

The first is that you will need to arrange for website hosting. If we think back to the analogy of the website being the house and the domain name being the address, then the web host would be, more or less, the suburb. Quite simply, a web host provides you with the space to be able to upload your website so that others can view it.

To be able to upload your website files to your choice of web host, you will need an FTP program. FTP is short for “file transfer protocol,” and is essentially a secure and simple way to transfer files from your computer to your web host’s server. If you do not already have an FTP program, it is quite easy to find and download one. Do a search on the web for “FTP program” and you will discover that there are many to choose from.

B. Use an Online Site Builder:

If you have been left with your head spinning after reading about HTML, editing programs, web hosts and FTP, then don’t despair. Thanks to some great, new, technology, there is a solution designed with you in mind.

Probably the easiest and most cost effective way to build a professional site is to use an online site builder. These online web design tools make it possible for anyone to create a site that can get results.

Website hosting is normally included as part of these services, and there shouldn’t be any need for the user to know anything about FTP. Instead of building your site using an editing program on your computer, you do it all online with an easy to use site builder. As you build your pages, your website is automatically updated from your site builder account. If you do need to upload any pictures or files, the file transfer is normally handled from your site builder account, rather than from your computer to your host.

Most online site builders incorporate technology that allows the user to create their web pages as simply as if they were typing in a word processor. However, not all online site builders are the same, and it is important to compare the relative benefits of each–but keep in mind that best value for money does not always mean the cheapest service available.

There are some very inexpensive online site building programs that do look quite good at first glance. However, these services often have many hidden costs, with the user being charged for extra features, such as additional pages, ecommerce, shopping carts, etc. So when comparing online site builders, take particular notice of what is, and isn’t, included in the initial cost. Once again, remember that it is very important not to pinch pennies at the expense of having a great website.

The best thing to do is to look for an online site builder that includes all the features in the initial cost, without the need to upgrade. One such service is the Quick Store Builder.

In my opinion, here are some of the best site builders on the web today:

http://www.quickstorebuilder.com/
http://www.highpowersites.com/

C. Hire a Web Designer:

If the thought of creating your own business website is giving you a headache, then it is probably time to call in the expertise of a web designer to do the job for you. However, be prepared that this is not an inexpensive option. Hiring the services of a good web designer can cost thousands of dollars. Even so, if you believe that this is the only option available to you, the end result should be worth the extra cost.

D. Free Services:

When considering how best to go about creating your business website, using a free service is NOT one of your options. In fact, I will go so far as to say that you should never use a FREE web hosting service or a FREE site building service, PERIOD!

Free web hosting services normally place ads on your website, which may be fine for personal use, but is far from desirable for a business website. Apart from the barrage of questionable advertisements, you will also not be able to use your own custom domain name, which is reason alone to avoid this type of service when showcasing your business to the world. A business that uses a free host and site builder is sending the wrong message to potential customers and should be avoided at all costs.

Every business website should aim for excellence, but an online business has to go even further.

Building an effective and professional online presence does require time, effort, and creative thought, however it is an investment that will go a long way toward reaping financial rewards for your online business. In fact, if done well, it will put you in “site” of excellence, and in touch with success.

About the Author

Pam Lindsay, has been a work at home mom for many years. Her website WahmZone.com has teamed up with HighPowerSites.com to bring work at home moms the WahmBuilder Easy Website Builder the easiest do-it-yourself website builder on the web. No programming or design skill required. Get your own website online in just 5 minutes with the WahmBuilder Easy Website Builder.