with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Website Development and Design Form Instructions

The process of beginning or redesigning a web site begins with a step-by-step process of gathering information about your web site content, information, links, format, and structure. To follow is a step-by-step form to help you gather the most critical information regarding your business and help the web site developer and designer plan your site and site promotion. Treat each question seriously and provide as much information as possible. From this information, the content of your site will develop.

Here are some specific explanations and instructions you will need to know to help you maximize your “visibility” on the Internet.

Company Information

This is the information you want the public to know, such as address and contact information, driving directions, product line descriptions, mission statements, and information a web page visitor needs to know about you and your company to help them decide and choose you.
Web Site Name Requests

Web site names come in many shapes and sizes. When considering your site name (domain name), be careful with abbreviations or plays-on-word names. For example, the site for Barbra Streisand is barbrastreisand.com, simple and easy to remember. The Jewish Federation of Seattle’s web site name is www.jewsinseattle.org. A nice play on words but not helpful to remember. The site for the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, famous for their bird enthusiast founder, simplify their site name to rtpi.org, but only those familiar with the Institute get it. Your first, and even second choice, might not be available. If you are serious about having a specific domain name, you may be able to buy a name already in use. Provide some alternatives you are willing to live with to make the registration process easier.

Web page names end with an extension, typically com, edu, net, or org, though biz, info, art, and store are becoming more familiar and readily available. The extension is limited by the type of business, and commercial businesses are typically limited to com, biz, or store. If your desired web site name is unavailable, consider using the name with biz or store if you are unwilling to choose an alternative.

Advertising
Many web sites feature advertising, or they are advertising in and of themselves, promoting the business. Pure advertising web sites are unwelcome on the Internet in general. Commercial business sites that also offer content such as informational articles, resources, tips, and advice will attract more interest than a blatant billboard. Consider adding helpful resources to your site to help promote your business and business expertise as part of your web page design.

Many web sites expect to pay for themselves through advertising. Advertising can be added by asking related businesses or industries to pay a small fee for adding their ad to your site. Or they can be brought in automatically through the inclusion of Google Ads or Yahoo Ads or other direct marketing. There are also products and services called “click through” sales, designated to generate a small income as people click on the ads from your site to theirs. Some of these are based upon the “click through” while others, like Amazon.com, generate income after a purchase

Ads tend to clutter the look of a web page design, and can distract from your content, or can be part of your overall helpfulness to the web page visitor by providing related information and products. Maintaining your advertising services can be time consuming, so if your web site is simple and not easily updated and maintained, consider avoiding advertising or having very simple, self-updating ads.

Categories
When someone picks up a telephone book and begins to search for your business, where do they start? How do people find you? What are the categories people choose to find you? Consider your competition? How would you find them? Under which categories? For example, an ink pen company might be listed under: pens, office supplies, stationary, writing resources, writing supplies, educational materials, and teachers supplies. Brainstorm this list and try to come up with as many variations as possible.
Resume/History
Sometimes the history of the company is critical to helping people understand the value and expertise of a company before making their decision. If the site is for an individual, or sole proprietorship, a resume can also help establish the reputation and expertise of the company. The Singer Machine Company, famous for their sewing machines, has a history/time line on their site of the development of their company, an informational resource many customers enjoy with pictures, news clippings, and historical events related to their business development. Sometimes a history page can add information and value to a web site.
Newsletter, Weblog, Journal, or Diary
A weblog is simply an online journal or diary, a daily (or frequently) updated element on your web site. If your business or interests require a page on your site frequently updated with tips, advice, news, or information, consider adding a weblog. While these are not complicated to do, they can be time consuming and require some basic HTML and CSS knowledge to use effectively. Once you are familiar with the process, it may only take a few minutes a day to implement. If you start it, you must maintain it

A newsletter is similar to a weblog, but usually emailed in a timely fashion (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly). There are software packages to help you manage your newsletter and mailing list, or you can handle it yourself with software already on your computer. Either way, a newsletter can be time consuming to generate and maintain, and if you start it, you must maintain it, so consider its addition wisely.

Audience
As with all business plans and advertising, the better you understand your audience, your customers, the more directed your advertising will be, maximizing your financial resources towards people you know want your services. Please be as specific as possible in your description, even to listing related interests and industries, so the development and promotion of the site can be maximized.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Every business gets the same questions repeatedly. Where are you located, how much does it cost, how long will it take, and why should I choose you. List all the questions your business encounters frequently to provide this information on your site.
Keywords
Similar to categories, keywords are words people use to search for you. These words may be specific or related to your business or industry. For instance, if you are searching the Internet for ink pens, your list of keywords may include: pen, pens, ink, color, red, black, blue, pencil, pencils, colored ink, colored pen, writing, write, scribe, scribble, wrote, journal, diary, letters, stationary. What words describe your business or company? Brainstorm over this list with others by asking them what categories or words they would use to find your site on the Internet or in the phone book. Consider all the possibilities and list as many words as possible. Keywords are one of the two most important elements for developing and designing your web site.
Links
The second important element for developing and designing your web site is links. Links (hyperlinks or targets) come in two forms: incoming and outgoing. Outgoing links include links to similar web sites or sites that complement yours with information and resources to help your audience. For example, an ink pen company might feature links to paper companies or blank book manufacturers and sellers. Incoming links are links from other web sites to yours, such as a paper company linking to your ink pen company

These are critical because a search engine evaluates the “value” of a page to move it up the ranks on the search results by performing a “test”on your site which includes checking who is linking to you and who are you linking to. This is based upon academia techniques related to recognizing a published paper as valuable by the number of references other published papers give it. The more references, the more likely the paper, and the author, will gain fame and recognition. Thus, the more links, specifically “good links” (links from other reputable sites), the more likely your web site will rise towards the top of the search results lists on search engines

Consider who you can link to and who would want to link to your site carefully and provide as many sites as possible. By providing a “link exchange” with other sites, they are also more likely to include your site on their lists.

Search Engines and Directories
To be found on the Internet, your web site must be listed with search engines and directories. A directory is like a phone book on the Internet, a categorized listing of sites. People would look up “Office Supplies” and then go down the list to “Pens and Ink” and then into that list to find a specific ink company. A search engine is a searchable database of web sites, set up by categories, but also searchable through the use of keywords, such as ink, pen, pencils, writing, etc.

To be listed in search engines and directories, the process is usually free, but not always. Many search engines use other search engines’ data included in their site results, such as Ask Jeeves (askjeeves.com) which uses at least five other search engine’s data in their search results, which means if you are included in one of those search engines, your site will probably turn up on Ask Jeeves.

Google and Yahoo are among the essential search engines in which to be included, but many times there are smaller directories or search engines specific to your industry, places where people who “know” about your industry would go search for your business. Be sure and include those on your list as some of them are member only or not easily found

The process of search engine submissions can be time consuming, requiring from 3-10 hours for filling in forms and answering questions required by the search engines, dependent upon the extensive numbers of submissions needed.

Web Site Structure
Think of a web site like a tree. It begins with the roots and develops a strong trunk. From the trunk, branches reach out towards the sun, and more branches reach out from them, and leaves form on the branches. The roots of a web site are the informational elements which go into the development and design of a web page. They include company information, resources, links, articles, content, and the material which make up the purpose of the web page. The trunk of the web site is the first page, the main page, of the web site, typically the first thing seen by the public. It must be strong with information and content to invite people to stay on the site. The branches of the web site are the links within the site that move the visitor from page to page, and the leaves of the web site are the pages

Almost every web site you visit will have a few traditional pages featured. In addition to the main page (called the index page), these include:

  • Contact Information
  • FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
  • Products (product descriptions and prices)
  • Links and Resources (outgoing)
  • Articles/Content (tips, advice, information, and more informative resources)

The specific structure of the web site will be done by the web page developer and designer, but the information and content on these primary pages is required.

Completing the Form

It is now time to fill in the Web Site Development and Design Form. Be as specific as possible in your answers, but also brainstorm with the help of others where appropriate, especially when it comes to keywords and categories, as well as link exchanges

The more accurate and extensive the information you provide, the easier it is to prepare a web site, providing all the information from the very beginning. The more information and helpful resources you provide to web page visitors, the more likely they are to choose you, the whole purpose of the web site.

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