by Lorraine Hart
President
Ideal Consulting Services, Inc.

I am often asked about websites. These questions range from “should I?”, “must I?”, “should it be fancy?”, “should it be simple?”, “is it cheap?”, “is it expensive?”, “can I live without it?” The answer to all those questions is yes, and it depends. If you haven’t stopped reading by now, you deserve some real answers to those often asked questions.

In answer to the question “should I?” I am tempted to ask you if you should have a phone or more to the point a cell phone. Why do you need to have a website? Quite simply, because as a business it’s the thing to do and people expect it. That does not mean that you are going to get an influx of new clients simply because you have a website. However if and when you do take the plunge or when you decide it is time to redesign your website you will want to take some steps to make it possible to find you on the World Wide
Web. One of the simple steps is to include your website in all your other promotional materials. Another step has to do with what the technicians refer to as making your website search engine friendly. This is also known as search engine optimization or SEO.

Practically speaking what can your website do for you? It can serve as a good communi-cation tool; it can give you the opportunity to brag a little or a lot. It is an opportunity to show off your work, to show how you are different and of course to show that you are up with modern technology. Even if doesn’t really matter, people like it. Often, even if people never visit you online, it makes them feel good to know you have a real “address”.

The next question is how fancy should it be? That depends on you and your potential guests. Some people like very fancy, with lots of bells and whistles, others like very simple. Tastes vary greatly, just as they do in styles of houses, furniture and even clothing. I like simple, but that’s me. What do you like? More importantly, what will your visitors like, or should I say those who you want as potential clients. Keep in mind that although the animation and music can add life to your website, these features can also become very
annoying. Costs vary greatly and no, quality is not directly proportional to cost. I have seen some very nice, inexpensive websites, but unfortunately, I have also seen some very expensive, really bad websites. Beware of the very high cost and very low cost solutions. Make sure you know what you are getting so you can compare your options. If you plan to have a gallery of photos, you will need more space and more pages.

One of the first steps in planning for your website is deciding what to call it. Even if you are not quite ready for building your website now, you should still decide what name you want and buy that domain name now. Then you will have your name when you are ready for it.

Part of your planning process must include website maintenance. Although you may not want to be bothered with major updating, you absolutely do want to have the ability to make simple changes and updates. And it has to be simple. Unfortunately we have probably all heard of people waiting weeks and months for a simple change.

Once you take the plunge you will be glad you did. In addition to a storefront on the web, you will have another way to communicate to your clients.

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