Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting Started Building Your Website

By Gari Anne of Bead Lover's Korner

Deciding to create a new website can be a little daunting, but just like anything in life it is the challenge ahead and the goal at the end that leads you to experience and knowledge of things that you would ordinarily only dream of doing. Many years ago I decided to open an online business on EBay selling beads and other items that I thought were cool. That worked pretty well and eventually I needed a website, too. I am now on my 3rd website, and each time I upgraded to something a little better to stay in step with technology and incorporate more functions. If you are selling products, the shopping cart and how it is connected to the payment gateway is very important, as well as ease of use for the customer. That is where I become stupid, it is tricky and I really don't have time to learn that end so on this third website I hired an agency with design, technical and promotion experience to help me out. Most developers will only set things up and load maybe 50 products. After that they teach you and you have to do all the work, unless you want to pay them a whole lot more money. Really you are better off doing it yourself anyway, because you know your product better than they do.

I learned a few things from these three different website experiences, and the most important thing I learned is that while you need someone to help you with all the technical mumbo jumbo and programming, many times you are better off doing it yourself. Once you find this person to help you out, hook everything up correctly and pay their fee, you can never find them again! Then you're in a real mess and there's no one around  so you just have to wing it and figure things out for yourself. Everyone knows someone who knows html or programming but they are like Gnomes hiding under a rock or in the trees. When you go looking for them again, they have up and vanished!

A lot of websites today come with built in editors that will do the html for you. But it's always a good idea to know a little of the basics like how to make things bold, make something italic, etc. Lots of times those editors get all jumbled up with different things everytime you change something, so you can just view the code and take out all the extra stuff if you know what to look for.

Basic html examples:
For more instances this is a great source 

<p> causes a line break and adds a trailing blank line for paragraphs, to end a paragraph use this at the end </p>
<br> causes a line break with no trailing blank line if you just want to bring something down one line
This is a <b>boldface</b> tag.
This is how boldface appears.
This is an <i>italic</i> tag.
This is how italics appear

After those few things it's all pretty easy if you take things in steps. If you try to do everything all at once it is very overwhelming! Here are a few other things to think about:

Domain names and hosting: Match your domain with your brand. Most hosting companies can help with your domain name, but be sure to get a hosting company that has real people working there so you can talk to someone if you need help.

Branding: Use the same colors, logos, design (if possible) in all other areas like Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Blog etc. This way the customers are used to seeing the same things and will know it's YOU!

Image: Decide what kind of image you want to portray to the world, what kind of customers do you want, what do you want the customer to feel when they see your front page? Do you want them to read or buy? Think of things like that to help put together what your image will be in their eyes.

Photos: Invest in a good camera and photo editing program, it really makes a difference in the quality of the picture and what your customer sees. Etsy has some great write ups on photography. A picture REALLY is worth a thousand words!

Image names: If you are selling products and you have a LOT, be sure to start using a good image naming system so that you can find the pics when you need to. I use the manufacturer's product code along with a prefix that I assign to them. Example: BI-BS202 -  which is used for the image and the item code. Image management can be time consuming if you don't have some organization in the beginning.

Organize products: Do an outline or spreadsheet to help decide how to organize your products so the customer will have an easy time finding what they want. You may change your mind later, but if you have an outline in the beginning it makes it easy to know what you have, how products might work with each other as cross selling, etc.

Product Descriptions: You can do it however you want, but I think it should be fairly short. When people are shopping on the internet they usually know what they want and will only skim your descriptions.

Security: Make sure your site is secure from hackers, malware, and that encryption is high so there is no risk of your customers information getting into the wrong hands.

Marketing: In my opinion pay per clicks are a waste of money unless you have the time to sit and really figure out how the company presents your ads. I think Facebook, email marketing and good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are your best bet. Word of mouth is the best advertising of all!

Gari Anne, thank you SO much for sharing all of these great tips!!  I for one know next to nothing about html and really appreciate you taking the time to explain some of the basics.  Your website looks really great!  Check it out:  Bead Lover's Korner website, Bead Lover's Korner blog, and Bead Lover's Korner on Etsy.  Whew!  =)

Next week, we welcome back AJ from ErtheFae's Meandering Thoughts for another installment of ErtheFae's Faerie Lore.


Unknown said...

What a great post! One day I'll get motivated enough to build my own from scratch :)
In answer to your Jillian Michaels question, I did buy the Ripped in 30 DVD, and did it for one day, but now my 2 year old seems to have put it somewhere and I can't find it! I really liked it though and would love to find it and do it for the full four weeks.
I also heard that her yoga dvd is awesome , but I haven't tried that one yet.

Della said...

I have a blog/website for the shop with the same color theme. I cannot for the life of me keep up with regular interesting posts for it. I devote all of my time to the shop, and my others 2 blogs. One of these days it will all come together!

Athena's Armoury said...

I've been playing around with Weebly which is a WYSIWYG website builder and it's free. They actually have a bunch more option than I remember when I looked at them a while ago. It's something to check out if you're interested!

Jade, thanks for the info on the Jillian DVD. I may have to give in and buy it.