On the Internet, keeping up with the Jones’ is just as real as in your neighborhood. Having a flashy website is actually expected by today’s tech-savvy consumer. Or so most people think. Here’s the downside. Spectacular websites don’t come cheap – they could end up burn holes in your pocket – and straight through your business’s budget.
Here’s the good news: A flashy website is not the point. You want an effective website that achieves preconceived goals. Whether that’s capturing your leads’ details, attracting visitors via search engines, or making sales, you want your website to fulfill that purpose in the most effective way.
First of all, define your website’s purpose. Once you have established what you want to achieve, you can start the process to develop it. Based on this purpose, you can decide how to spend the development money you have budgeted.
There are generally four specialist areas on most websites. These are: web programming (development), graphic design, copywriting and photography.
Most freelance web developers and designers wear all these hats, but they are normally educated in only one of these areas. Some web development agencies employ people with these various specialties. If you decide to outsource and your budget allows you to hire an agency with an in-house developer, designer, copywriter and photographer, you’ve picked first prize. Fortunately, you don’t have to hire such an agency to get a highly effective website.
While it’s good to understand which area each specialist focuses on, there are alternatives to hiring expensive experts.
Web programming takes care of the functionalities of the website. This is everything from a simple page with static text, through interactive forms and shopping carts, to complicated database management. When someone gives you his business card and it says that he is a web developer, his area of expertise is mostly the functionalities of the website.
Graphic design is responsible for making your website easy to follow and easy on the eye. It should lead the visitor’s eyes to the most important information on the page. It should also create an atmosphere where your visitor feels at home. Web designers are normally graphic designers.
Whatever the message on your website might be, copywriting is the specialist field that studies the art of persuasion writing. The copywriter uses all their skills to gently move the visitor to take the action you suggest. This action could be anything from signing up for your free newsletter, to booking an appointment with you, to buying your products.
Photography is the last area that is present on most websites. We know how restaurants use photography on their menus. It will depend on your type of business whether a professional photographer will enhance your website, or just plain waste your money. A photo of your team might enhance the ‘About Us’ page or great photos of your unique artworks will definitely help to sell more product.
In all of these areas, let the purpose of your website and your type of business lead you.
Personalising your site
Whether you are launching a new website, or redeveloping your current one, you have a lot of options:
- You can hire experts to do everything for your site
- You can hire one or two experts to handle one or two of the above areas for you
- You could hire a jack-of-all trades-freelancer
- You could do everything yourself
- You could combine these options in any order you like.
If you do your research and compare prices, you will find there are cost-effective ways to develop a great site.
Creating a great site
In each case, there are alternatives. Here is how you can get a great website, without breaking the bank.
Web programming: There is almost countless DIY website building tools and software available. Some are free, others are not. Some are easy to use, for others you need a doctorate in nuclear science to operate. Some are very powerful, others are plain useless.
My recommendation is Joomla (joomla.org). It’s free, its difficulty level is moderate and it’s extremely powerful. It is also very reliable. There are ‘Joomla teachers’ out there that simplify Joomla as well. By using a Joomla teacher, it suddenly becomes easy to use.
Graphic design: Again countless options. Some website-orientated businesses gives free templates. A quick Google search for ‘free website templates’ would give you more than you’ll ever need. The software I recommend to make your own templates is Artisteer (Artisteer.com).
With their free version you can only create templates compatible with the most basic website programming language (HTML). With the paid version, you can create Joomla templates, as well as templates for most other mainstream web building tools and programming languages.
Copywriting is a little more difficult to come by, but not unobtainable. On sites like Freelancer.com or PeoplePerHour.com you can hire entry level copywriters at reasonable rates. You can also search for ‘easy sales letter templates’ or ‘direct response sales letter templates’. Over time I gathered a couple of guides to write sales copy fast. Doing the same will make writing marketing material in general much simpler.
Photography is relatively self explanatory. Maybe your cousin does photography as a hobby, or you own a nice digital camera. When I’m searching for standard photos, I always go to FreeDigitalPhoto.net to find good photos and images.
Getting the best
By doing a little homework before you get a website, you can even let the Jones’ drool in envy. Unlike their flashy website, yours gets the results you want. And you can sleep soundly at night, knowing you didn’t hurt your profits to build it.