published in The Jerusalem Post, July 2003)
Doing your Homework Will Benefit your Site
When people finally realize that they can no longer avoid
establishing a Web presence for their business or organization,
they're often tempted to think that making this decision,
calling a designer, and writing a check ends their part in
Nope. Sorry. If what you want is not just a Web site, but
one that's effective, you've got preparatory work to do. The
more thought and care you expend at the start of the project,
the better the final result will be. Of course, you could
dive in immediately, blithely trusting that everything will
turn out fine; but in most cases, "fine" is not
so fine and the project drags on as many basic elements get
redone repeatedly. In the end, you waste much time and effort,
and yet are likely to be disappointed with the result. So
plan ahead and use your time productively.
Following are steps to take before even beginning to look
for a designer. Take a pad and pen and write your responses
down; often, putting reactions into writing helps clarify
thinking. Your notes will also serve as a shortcut, later,
to communicating effectively with your designer.
- Characterize the sort of visitor you want to attract
to your site. Be as specific as possible.
- Go on a Field Trip. Surf the Web and make a list
of sites that relate to your project in some of the following
categories: appeal to same target audience; have attractive
colors and layout; similar in size to your planned site;
your competitors' sites; quality of content; quality of
graphics; functionality (things sites do for people, such
as e-commerce or feedback forms); overall favorite sites
(for whatever reasons).
- Next, jot down a few words about what made you select
each site -- what, specifically, appealed to you.
- Try to figure out whether there's a common denominator
to some of these sites.
- For your site's overall look, indicate your general
preferences in each set, keeping in mind what most suits
the character of your company and your intended audience:
o Elegant OR fun?
o Traditional OR highly modern?
o Quiet, restrained colors OR very colorful?
- Establish at least a rough outline. Plan how many
categories you need and what pages belong to which categories.
At the very least, you'll need the following four pages:
Home Page, About Us, Contact Us, Services (or products or
- By now you should have a better idea of the sort of site
you're aiming for. Your next task is to gather the content
that will be used on the site: text, photos, logo, etc.
Estimate how many weeks you think this will take.
Write that number down.
Now quadruple it.
Unless you're relying solely on text and photos that have
been previously gathered, edited, and digitized, this is
a time-consuming task. And a crucial one. The most attractive
interface in the wired world will not help your company
unless you're using it to present compelling content. Gather
this content before you contact designers. Of course, they
may have good suggestions for even more things that should
be added, but at least you'll be off to a solid start.
o Text must be written, edited, and then proofread.
If you cannot write professional copy yourself, hire someone.
o Images can be obtained in a number of ways:
One option, most expensive, is to hire a good photographer.
A second possibility is to look online for decent-quality
stock images, which cost $25-50 each. (This search is rather
time-consuming.) As a third option, some designers can furnish
images from their own royalty-free collections; these are
usually of acceptable quality, but limited selection.
- Register a domain name for your site. (A domain
name is the means of locating an entity on the Internet.
For example, the domain name for my site is www.atartec.co.il.)
Ideally, this name should be easy to remember, easy to spell,
and reflect as closely as possible the actual name of your
company or organization. Do this as soon as possible. Many
names have already been reserved, so you may have to get
creative if your choice is no longer available.
- Investigate hosting for your site. This is not
an area in which to economize! Annually, there’s not
a huge difference in price between a solid, established
host -- with tech support available 24/7, multiple servers
with good backup systems, and excellent infrastructure –
and a private host with iffy support, a lot of downtime,
and no guarantee that all e-mails will reach you. (Note that
some cheaper hosts have simply contracted a large amount
of server space from an established company, and are reselling
to you. In case of any difficulty you won’t be able
to contact the actual host directly, but only through the
reseller – who may not always be available.) Don’t
actually sign with a company yet. Depending on the specifics
of your site, you may have particular needs. Your designer
will advise you.
Finally, set aside a block of time for interviewing
potential designers and for pre-design consultations, whether
in person, by phone, or via e-mail. If you see to these preliminaries,
the project can proceed on time, within schedule, and with
results that will delight you.
- Domain name registration is easy and affordable at Godaddy.
- To register domain names ending in “.il” you
will need to use the
Israel Internet Association.
Photos is an Israeli site with a very wide range of
images at reasonable rates. Read the Terms carefully and
make sure you purchase the correct license; prices vary
for commercial and personal sites. Unless you have a very
generous budget, focus on photos classified "Royalty
free". The lowest resolution is fine.
Do you have any questions? Contact
me and I'll try to answer them in upcoming articles. Also,
you may subscribe for
free to the AtarTec newsletter, which consists of new
articles as well as notifications of critical Windows
updates and relevant virus information.
Request a free
estimate for your web site project.