Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Setting up your own Web site: Part one

Web site visual At first, it sounds like a daunting task in itself. You'd ask, "Isn't this something that only large companies with development and programming teams can do?" Actually, no--these days it's something that anyone can! So if you're thinking of popularizing your home business, or creating a platform for sharing your hobbies, or just setting up a home for your family on the Web, you can build a Web site easier than you can imagine! All it takes is getting familiar with the process, and understanding some of the jargon you'll encounter along the way. After that, you make like you're strolling through the aisles of your favorite supermarket as you set off shopping for the right online services--it's actually fun! From end to end, you can be up and running within a week. Here's how you go about it:

At this juncture, you should grab a pen and a few sheets of paper and put down a whole lot of questions to which you'll need to eventually get answers.

  • What will be the focus of your Web site? The first and most important part of setting up a Web site is defining a sharp focus for what it will and won't do. Here's where you should decide the purpose of the Web site as sharply as possible: it could be an information repository for your gardening hobby, or an online store for your home catering business, or it could even be a Web presence for your local Golf players club. Once you have a broad set of answers to these questions, you can proceed to the next (and most important!) phase of building any Web site--creating the content.
  • Content, content, content. I can't stress enough how important it is to deliberate, brainstorm, create, and fine-tune the content for your Web site. Before doing anything online, it is all-important to have the content in place first. A good way to go about doing this is by visiting some of your favorite Web sites, and checking out the Site map section. A Site map is a hierarchical listing of the various sections and sub-sections in a Web site, and is the skeleton around which a Web site's content is fleshed out. Start by defining the major 'tier 1' categories of your Web site, then drill down to sub-categories. Each category should have a well-defined focus, and together they should encompass everything your want your Web site to convey. Also, try not to have more than three tiers of categories--a Web site should be designed to facilitate easy and quick access to its information, so your visitors shouldn't have to dig too deep.
    The content creation exercise can be plenty of fun, so involve everyone who's going to be part of the site, so you can get the widest range of ideas and opinions. Ideally, you'll need to progress through several rounds of brainstorming, writing and re-writing before finalizing your content. As a rule of thumb, when creating Web copy keep it simple, concise and to-the-point.
  • What kind of interactivity would you like your Web site to have? A Web site can be as Spartan, or as feature-rich as you'd want it to be. What you eventually decide will be influenced by the answers to questions like:
    • Do you want to include features such as online financial transactions, blogs, user forums, feedback systems, mailboxes and the like?
    • Do you have access to the technical know-how to include these features?
    • Would you want this interactivity at launch time, or can it be incorporated subsequently?

By now, you will have gathered the bulk of the content for your Web site, and you should have a reasonably clear picture of how it is going to pan out--and that's a big milestone! The next step will be exploring online services for registering your Web site's domain name, and finding a Web hosting provider that suits your specific requirements. Look out for my next blog post where I'll provide more details on this latter part of this Web site creation journey.

Update: See my blog posting on choosing a Web hosting provider here.


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