Web Design is one major element of your entire business marketing plan. It fits into the business development process after defining the vision, the target audience and developing a brand identity. Today's technology offers a range of solutions for small businesses to build their own websites or to have a site built. The important question to answer before the start of any website project is what kind of site do you need?
Simple Brochure Sites
A brochure site can be a static site with very few pages, just enough to identify product or service and contact information. Always consider this a branding opportunity and be consistent with the rest of your marketing material. This is the best candidate for the "do it yourself" website because it is so simple. In most cases this site is used for being found by the search engines. With that in mind it is important to keep up with the current search engine optimization (SEO) trends, best practices for site design and content. Build it yourself but consider having a site review by a professional who is local and familiar with your market. (Beware of unsolicited offers that come in via your contact form. This is called form blasting and not worth your time!)
A portfolio site is an opportunity to showcase your skills. Although it is nice to be able to update your own site, it is important to be aware of the skills this takes. Some of the current frameworks like Wordpress or Drupal make this relatively foolproof if they are set up properly. By itself it will never be enough to drive customers to you unless you drive traffic to the site. Portfolio sites are used successfully in combination with push email campaigns and social media channels.
Restaurant sites deserve a category all their own because they are so dependent on mobile capability and find-ability. It is more than just responsive web design that makes a restaurant website successful. Search engine algorithms look at coding best practices so it is important to have a framework that allows client updates while maintaining semantically correct code. Wordpress is an ideal tool for this. Have it set up by a professional and make sure to ask about search engine optimization.
There are at least two categories of community sites and both require some Content Management System CMS framework. This can be as simple as a site that pushes information about local events that may or may not allow for user interaction such as comments or a more complex site that allows for forum discussions with a targeted audience. Many available online tools are coming online to fill this void at little or no cost. It is important to study the market first because a custom tool might be more expensive than necessary.
Online sales in the fourth quarter of 2014 were $96 billion dollars and growing. Who wouldn't want a piece of that market? But don't expect to hit the ground competing with all the big guys. It is good to start testing the market for your product with some of the established aggregated sales channels. You can get a semi-custom shopping cart for a reasonable cost but don't set yourself up for a monthly fee for a shopping cart and a credit card merchant account until you have a plan to drive traffic to your site.
A blog is a type of website that allows for regular posts of articles about what you are thinking, doing or selling. Blogs are dynamic sites that are highly regarded by the search engines and can create some traffic to your site if done properly. There are several free blogs where you can test the waters and see if you really have the meddle to post on a regular basis. Don't do a blog if you aren't going to use it. Do some research and take a look at medium.com, blogspot.com and wordpress.com. Keep an eye on pages that get recommended to you and go to articles on these sites.
...and so much more.
This should give you a little insight to the ecosystem we call "the web" and what you might need to know to go forward with your online presence. We are available for consultations that will help you get started on your project.