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Should I start out simple with Yahoo! like html that is very straightforward and so on, or should I try to be more flashy and spend more money on design initially?
OR, should I get a working page going and then start on getting some visitors and improve the site as it grows?
Should I hire someone to do the design (even though I think I could do an OK job?)
Who is the best registrar and host for a small business without a big budget?
What are the best programs to use to write the pages?
OK, I know this is a lot of questions, but any help would be great.
If you're just starting out, you probably don't wanna fool around with learning to code each tag manually (if so, Ultra Edit certainly is great) go with 1st Page by Evrsoft (evrsoft.com)
It has different levels (Beginner to Hardcore) so it can grow with your abilities, it doesn't bloat your code like so many WYSIWYG HTML editors out there. It handles lots of different code (HTML, CSS, JAVA, etc.) Best of all, it's free (my favorite price)!
I am comfortable hardcoding in HTML, but I don't know all of the available tags so a program that lets you hardcode while also providing gui support would be great. I have checked out the Hot Dog software from sausage.com Does anyone else use this? Also, if I want to do some Java with out knowing much about it, are there packages that I can use to do this?
If you're planning on using HTML, CSS, Java, JS etc. you can forget about design for a while. You'll be spending most of your time trying to figure out how to get the darn thing working properly. And even if you do get it working correctly, with so many different codes and languages working together, you could be playing on the edge where some slight change in browser technology or language versioning could screw up the works. About a year ago I programmed some Java and JS to work together on a page. It worked fine then, but now when I try it, there is a problem. I'd say build a simple usable site now, and work on the complicated stuff in the background until it is time tested.
As for design, I'd say go ahead and design it yourself. All the best and worst designers have their work on display all over the web. Before I design I go around and check what's out there. Some people put together some really tight sites.
But, you may not have a talent for design. And it is a fortunate person who recognizes their lack of talent in some particular area. I used to think I could play piano. What a disappointment when I watched a twelve year old girl breeze through a piece I'd been practicing for three years! I learned my lesson there (and just about gave up the piano for good). So if you're strong in design, go ahead. If not, seeking out some advice probably wouldn't hurt.
I build the basic site with GoLive, and then use a plain text editor for scripting and fancy stuff.
Having a site look 'good' isn't nearly as improtant as having it look 'clean', IMO. Make sure everything makes sense to a novice user, and fancy it up from there.
- Give the user little -- if any -- visual distraction on the page.
- Keep graphics to a bare minimum.
- Keep links the the page trimmed to the bone.
- Skip traditional menus and other visual noise.
- Show the product, only the product, and any related info.
- More than 5 links on a product page? Too many.
- More than 3 graphics on a product page? Too many.
- Need for Speed. Keep the page and graphics together under 25-30k.
When users are in "surf and shop till they drop" mode, they are sniffing for information. Anything that distracts from that mission, is a waste of their time - hello back button. You throw a visual onslaught at them, and they are history.
What to see a good product page? Here is a page from one of our moderators, that suites most of the above qualifications: [oilmanpromotions.com]
Just a touch large in the page and graphics size (35k), but I think it as close to on the money (especially for a service page) as I've seen in awhile.
Can you design it yourself? I think you can. I'm not seeing any big sites tearing up the web with quality here. Most of the bigger designers will tend to sell you eye candy over pages that will actually produce sales.
My beta version of the site is at:
Note: The links are "dummy" links, just for show right now. Also, it definitely won't be ready by April.
What do you think? Did I follow the KISS formula closely enough, or is the page too cluttered? Also, I am considering changing the whole structure of the site to be more organized into tables ... which I know are bad for SEO but I have heard that the home page has no SEO value anyways. If this is true isn't it more important that the home page "look and feel" really good as opposed to being nice from a semi-reductionist SEO/design point of view?
That program can also be used to work on changes in scripts - in fact, it comes with a number of them all included in the package - so you do not need a separate text editor, and the files will stay pure ascii.
Since it is an art and framing store, as you indicated, here is a bit of a suggestion - you will definitely want to try for a local Yahoo listing eventually (when the site is ready). Browse through the appropriate category at Yahoo to get an idea of what their editors like - use that as one of your design idea tools.
You'll have to decide between using a plain background or a background image. I *much* prefer plain backgrounds - I happen to like a clean look, as well as have a craving for white space. It depends on the site. Sometimes "artsy" people want textures - that does not mean that they are experts on what good marketing or design is.
One thing I do like is a graphic company header top of page - I once read that having one helps to get a Yahoo acceptance, and since I've had them happen, it's almost a superstition with me to include them. Besides, I would rather use my first text passages on a page for keywords (unless the company name *is* a keyword).
I think an easy way to start with small business sites is to keep them as simple as is possible and build the SEO features right in from the ground up, if you are doing a combination of the two services.
Side note: I have to admit that rather than doing both together as I usually do, this time I've *not* included much optimization on my latest site beyond the barest minimum. When the site finishes making the rounds of announcements on various lists and newsgroups, that is when I will make some significant *changes* and resubmissions.
Aside from practical design, graphics, and optimization issues, there are also a number of other, busines-related issues that start to come up when doing small business sites - particularly if you're optimizing and starting to get rankings.
It's definitely worth-while reading some threads in our forum here on Professional Webmaster Business Issues, in addition to the technical and aesthetic aspects of web site development. Definitely a good time investment!
However, i can see how they attract a lot of hits and deliver a sound strategy for success..
Proof positive, that the first thing to do is develop a strategy for the site. What is its purpose, how will it atrract people, are you looking for repeat visitors or one offs..? These are key questions..
One feeling we have here is that once you refer to your websites as anything else otehr than a "Website" you are on your way... A "Website" is a poor way to describe a site. It should be something which reflects its purpose. eg: portal, e-mag, corporate site, directory etc....
My feeling, completely subjective, is that there is too much spent on creating "pretty sites" when they do not need to be pretty... (RC's site is a great example of strategic positioning for a travel portal). And making them pretty, causes heaps of problems with SEO..
Everthing is a trade off, and your competitive positioning and branding strategy is central. There are some great tips in this thread for building a small biz web site.
My modest tip is to position, build a competitive branding strategy, stick it on the walls, and stick to it in everthing from graphic design, SEO, page design, promotion etc etc. Avoid most new tech, expecially ones that limit access to the any of the prospect group you are targeting.
Avoid bells and whistles and anything that is trying to prove what a smartiepants the designer is rather than selling your products/services/info.. Brett was spot on - KISS Rules!
What utter nonsense!
I have 40 links on a main e-commerce site and about 30 graphics, the page is under 40k and this month i had over 1000 hits on the homepage with those visitors signing up for newsletters, buying online, viewing product pages etc.
As long as you can do what you want to do without confusing or hindering the user the go for it!
Design isnt just about creating 'pretty pages' its about designing user and browser friendly sites that not only appeal to the user but provide functionality.
If I'm totally missing the mark here just ignore me and I'll go hide somewhere and pout. :)
T H A N K Y O U Toolman! This suggestion lead me to the problem. Last night I added a line to my .htaccess file that was supposed to make me be able to rename any .php files to .html However, instead what happened is that *any* file, even the ones that are plan .html, had the problem I talked about above. When I remove that line all is good in the world. Cool, now I can spend all day messing around with my site some more ;)
By the way, that line was:
AddType Application/x-httpd-php .html
I guess the problem was --^ this d here, when I remove that all seems OK
That line was from Possible to change php to html? [webmasterworld.com] on WebmasterWorld.
Cheers <he says happily>
By the way, I am using 1stPage now and it's great. Highly recommended. Sausage software was cool, but 1stPage is just as good or better ... and it's free!
What I'm looking for now is:
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1) Program that will turn large images into thumbnails automatically (perl??)
2) More information on PHP and how to use it so I don't make similar mistakes as above ;)
3) Examples of perl code that people have used to build out static .html sites with.
4) A shopping cart program that is easy to administrate from within a perl script (i.e. add categories and products and so on) I'm working on this for AlaCart ... but just starting to see how.
5) Form mail script that allows people to upload files.
<end laundry list>