Why do I need a Web site?
You're here, aren't you? ;-) You're looking at this page to get information, right? Are you at work? Are you at home? There are millions like you. The Internet can expose your organization to vast numbers of potential customers - local, national, and international. The Web is one of the least expensive and yet most targeted, flexible, and effective forms of advertising available. Plus, many companies discover that a Web site is a more economical, faster, and
efficient way to make information available to clients, customers, distributors and employees. Instead of spending large amounts of money producing newsletters, brochures, memos, product booklets, catalogs, etc., businesses are pointing people to their Web site where they can quickly add and change information at any moment, night or day.
Five Reasons to build a Web site
- Your competitors are beating you to it.
- Your customers are asking for it.
- You want to increase sales.
- You need to lose some overhead.
- You want to gain market share in uncharted territory.
I'm confused and overwhelmed. Where do I start?
We will guide you through the entire process from beginning to end. Whether you're a startup looking to create your first online presence or an established organization looking for ways to exploit the growing functionality of the Internet, Web Design by Cookie (WDBC) offers a full range of Web development and marketing services that can help grow your business. Here is what you can do.
- Step One - Think about what you want to accomplish with your site. Do you want to reach new customers? Do you want to service existing customers? Do you want to service internal users? Think about the Who, What, Where, How and Why for your organization. What information is most frequently requested from your organization? What content do you want to provide in a cost-effective manner e.g. specials, news/events, new products, etc?
- Step Two - Gather any/all materials that you think might be relevant: logos, pictures, graphics, text, brochures, your scribbles/doodles, etc. More is better.
- Step Two and a Half (recommended but not critical) - Research other sites. Start with sites in your field, but also consider sites that you have really liked/disliked for any particular reason. Look for content and features you like as well as designs/layouts.
- Step Three - Contact us for a free initial consultation.
Can't I just do this myself?
Yes, software and "web-sites-in-a-box" are available, however, for most people, the learning curve is steep and often the results do not meet expectations. At the end of the day, you want a site that is fully functional and professional in appearance. When you value your time and compare it to our cost-effective, experienced solutions, you will find that we always offer the better value.
Why not let our IS/IT people develop our site?
Many IS/IT departments are fully capable of developing Web sites, however,
many prefer to hire an outside firm for initial site development or site redesign. The reasons are many: time/budget constraints, lack of artistic ability, benefits of having an "outsider" view the site and process as if a potential customer, benefits of having an "outsider" guide the process with competing departments and interests (e.g. my stuff is more important than their stuff). If you use an outside firm to develop your site, your IT staff should be an integral part of the development process. Their suggestions and input may be critical and their commitment to the project and ongoing maintenance are improved if they are involved in the beginning and over the life of the project.
Should we hire a full-time Webmaster?
If you have a huge site that needs constant maintenance, yes, you should hire a full-time "Webmaster". However, we believe the term "Webmaster" is really outdated because the field is growing so fast and in so many directions that no one person can "master" it. Unless you have a very simple site, you will need a person with a large set of skills that must be constantly updated. Most companies are finding it very difficult to recruit and keep high-tech workers. Salaries are high. Many companies are offering salary bonuses of 10 percent to 25 percent to new hires and "retention allowances" - or training money - to workers with critical IT skills. What do you do if you hire a "lemon"? It is much easier to fire us than to fire an employee.
What is a domain name and how do I get one?
Our domain name is www.webdesignbycookie.com or www.wdbc.com. It's our unique internet addresses. On the web a domain name is like a unique phone number or street address. Our real address is 188.8.131.52 but that's way too difficult to remember so domain names were created. We will help you register a unique domain name for your site or you can do it yourself by using a service such as our domain registration system. Domain names must be less than 67 characters in length (excluding the .com, .org, .net, .biz, .info or .us pieces). Short names and ones that you won't have to spell out to your visitors are the best. Because domain names are vanishing at a rapid rate, we recommend that this be your very first step. You can look to see if the domain that you are considering is available by using our free domain name look up tool. You can even register it right through our site at a discounted rate.
How will people find my site?
Internet surfers will generally find your site in three ways
We will help you with all three approaches, as our goal is not just to design your site but to make it successful. Through experience, we know what works and what doesn't work.
- Via a search engine (Altavista, Excite, Google, etc.) or search directory service Yahoo.
- Through hypertext links or banner ads from other sites.
- Seeing your web address in conventional marketing/advertising materials developed by you - your Web address should be included in every piece of paper that leaves your organization and every conventional advertising campaign you launch.
What is hosting? Do you offer hosting? Do I need to buy/install a server?
The host is the computer or server that "houses" your Web site. It could be in your back office, at an Internet Service Provider in your town, or it could be hosted in another city. Physical location is not important but the reliability, capabilities and support of the hosting company are very important. For the vast majority of sites, bandwidth and storage are far less important than features, support and reliability. You want your site to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you want a host that will meet your current and growing needs.
Web Design by Cookie specializes in Web site design services...we do not offer on-site hosting ourselves but rather through our strategic partners. You can use our providers or choose one of your own. There are many excellent companies that specialize in hosting. We will help you choose a host that best meets your needs and then guide you through the setup process. We suggest that you do not make a decision on hosting at the onset, there is no need to pay for months of hosting if your site's completion is months away.
In our experienced opinion, unless you have a dedicated IS or IT staff that is capable of handling the demands of hosting and server maintenance, it is better to go with a company that specializes only in hosting.
What about package deals?
While package deals (bundled services such as hosting, Web design) may offer value to some customers, we have found that they do not meet the needs of most businesses/organizations. Most packages are very inflexible, requiring you to "force fit" your ideas into a template type approach and are often more expensive than the sum of individual services. If you buy a "Web site in a box", you are fitting your needs into someone else's package.
Do you use all the latest technology?
Yes, and we can provide all the latest technology for your site! However, we often choose not to use all the "bells and whistles". The key to success for your site is ease of use, speed of access, and content! Because of varying computer and browser capabilities, not every feature can be accessed by everyone. For that reason, we generally implement new technology only after it has been in the public domain for a while. We specialize in cross-platform sites that just about anyone can use. Also, complex graphics can be painfully slow to download for the average user. We generally design for the middle road since our goal is for your site to be seen and used by the largest number of people!
Can I see my site while it is under development?
Yes, we create a special private section on our test server just for your site. At various steps in the process, we will show you the current version of your site (at a special web address) and ask for your comments and feedback. For example, most projects start with the front or home page design. We will design test layouts for your review and feedback. Once you have approved this stage of the project, we will proceed to develop the "inside" of your site. During all stages we collaborate with you. There will be no surprises since your site does not "go live" until you have approved it.
How much do you charge?
Each project is different and some sites are more involved than others. For example, browse our portfolio to see the wide range of web sites that we have developed. We price jobs on a project basis, not an hourly rate. After an initial free consultation we will provide you with an estimate of the cost to develop your site. Then we will work with you to develop your site within that budget and we will keep you posted on additional costs that may be involved. One way to reduce the cost of your site is to provide text (and graphics such as logos) in digital format. If you are not proficient at scanning, let us take care of this step for you, however an addition charge accrues.
Will a Web site improve my bottom line?
It depends on how you measure your bottom line and how hard you "work" your Web site.
- E-commerce, e-business, new paradigm, the new economy are all buzz words. If you're selling products online, it's easy to see how your site can add to the bottom line. But e-commerce and e-business is so much more. Maybe the "e" in e-commerce should stand for efficiency. E-business encompasses all the ways that a Web site can improve communication, distribution, customer support, marketing, etc. Often e-business is more about reducing costs (e.g. reducing mailings of catalogs) or improving productivity (e.g. applications and content aimed at sales force support) than direct sales. And let's be frank, for many organizations, a Web site is part of their competitive image and marketing. Do your competitors have Web sites? We believe that a Web site is now a necessity, not a luxury ... it is the fax machine, cell phone of the 21st century.
- You must "work" the Web. If you do not update your site, add new content, give visitors a reason to return, you will not be using your site to its full potential. And you must market your site through conventional means by including your Web address on letterhead, advertisements, etc. Do not depend solely on search engine traffic to bring visitors to your site.
Can you provide online shopping for my site?
Yes, we have experience developing online shopping/storefronts and we will guide you through the process. However, keep in mind that adding this function to a site can significantly increase the expense of developing the site. If, like the majority of businesses, you want to accept online credit card orders, there are additional expenses (other than site design) and a few other things you need to know.
- You must obtain a merchant account through a bank or financial institution (if you already accept credit cards just contact your financial institution
and tell them you intend to accept online orders as well)
- Decide whether you want offline order processing (swipe, phone or computer entry of credit card orders at your place of business) or real-time order processing (all automatic - you are sent confirmation to fill the order - no order entry on your part). Both methods involve per transaction fees - real time order processing is much more expensive.
- Hosting charges will almost always be higher for online shopping sites.
- Decide on shipping and return policies up front.
- Determine whether you want order integration with a back-end database or accounting package.
A few businesses want to "sell" products through their web site but do not want to
accept online credit card orders. If that is your preference, we will help you develop alternatives to conventional online shopping.
I only sell wholesale or to businesses. What can a Web site do for me?
E-commerce or e-business is more than selling books, toys or CD's online. E-business encompasses all the ways that a Web site can improve communication, distribution, customer support, marketing, etc. Often e-business is more about reducing costs (e.g. reducing mailings of catalogs) or improving productivity (e.g. applications and content aimed at sales force support) than direct sales. For example, do you have product catalogs, product specs, brochures, technical manuals, procedure manuals, etc. that are expensive to print and distribute? Put that information on a Web site for your customers, distributors, and sales force.
What can a Web site do for my local business?
Several years ago, for most businesses, very little, but Internet usage has become so pervasive that even businesses that serve strictly local markets are finding advantages from doing business on the Web. Let locals and future visitors get to know you. How much money would it cost to effectively advertise all the wonders of your business using traditional advertising e.g. radio/TV spots, newspaper ads, etc? Buy a fraction of the ad space, include your Web address and tell the whole story on your Web site.