Sandy says that she does not want to put lots of time and money into a website, but needs one that will "mainly be just a place for people who hear word of mouth and want to be sure we are a real company to be trusted. Suspect all we will need to do is have up some pictures, contact and company information and a paypal link. (Maybe also a guestbook and "hit counter".)"
I was just at the Austin Women's Entrepreneurial Luncheon and the advice given there was to hire someone to design your site. The successful women that spoke to us said that a well designed website is worth every penny. It should be a content management system so that you can update and change it yourself after the design is done. I am sure that this is great advice for most new businesses. A designer is an artist and it can make a huge difference in the impression that people have of your business.
However, I know there are lots of reasons for designing your own and it is easier than ever, so I am going to do a quick review of some website software and online possibilities and I hope it will answer that question and maybe more.
A server is just a computer, like the one you have, but it probably has more memory and some software to make it act differently than yours.
When you make a webpage you usually work on your own computer to create the website and then when it is done put it on the server so that other people can see it. As long as it is on your own computer other people cannot see it at all. A webpage has a URL, or address that lets you know where to find it called a Domain Name.
So there are three things that you need to have a working webpage:
1. A program on your computer to help you design the page.
2. A server to put the webpage on so that other people can see it.
3. A Domain Name or address for the page.
Luckily NOW there are lots of ways that you can make your own webpage without having to have your own server or even your own domain name. The sites that I share about below all offer FREE versions, but if you want to put your own Domain Name onto the page there is a way to pay a little bit and do it.
Wix.com says that you can create a website with no programming, just drag and drop! There are lots of templates to choose from and examples of what others have done. All you have to do is to go to this page and choose "START NOW" and you can make your page. You can use Wix for free or pay for a Premium website. A premium website includes your own Domain Name, good support services and premier hosting. Even with the free site your site will be hosted on their servers. Your Domain Name will be at www.wix.com/(your choice of name).
Sample site: http://www.wix.com/janic55/Imnotageek
Google Sites was not as easy as wix.com for me. You go to http://sites.google.com and sign in and then you choose CREATE SITE. You can choose among the templates that they provide. After that there are LOTS of choices. I found that I was frustrated with how to do certain things. It was not clear to me and when I clicked on things they took me to unexpected places. I think that taking some time I will be able to make a page looking about what I want it to look like, but it will take more time than I want to spend right now. Here is a link to the little I was able to accomplish on this page. I am sure it could be much better.
Wordpress is what many new pages on the internet are made with. There are two versions of Wordpress. One is Wordpress.org and it is the open source code so that you can create your own Wordpress site. I am sure that this is the best way to go, but it was intimidating to me. I went to Wordpress.org and downloaded the files and then I was sort of stuck. For this version you need to have your own hosting space, so that after you create the page on your computer you can upload it to the web somewhere.
For a recent project I decided to use Wordpress.com. It is the version of Wordpress that is connected to webspace. You can create a page here for FREE. It will be named http://(your choice).wordpress.com and will be kept on the Wordpress.com server. If you want to use your own Domain Name you can pay a little and Wordpress can use that name instead of the name with wordpress.com. They can actually sell you the Domain Name. Wordpress.com has templates that you can choose and then guides you through changing those templates so that they look how you want them to. Here is an example of a site using Wordpress.com http://austinmennonite.org
There are other softwares for creating websites and even a free one (Kompozer) that I know of, but I am not going to take more time or space talking about them now. I just want to end with a little advice.
1. Think FIRST about what you want your page to look like and what you want to have on your page. Collect all of the graphics first.
2. Make sure that you put the most important information RIGHT on the front page because often people do not click beyond that and may miss what is really important to you.
3. Try things and then preview to see if you like them. NOTHING is permanent. If you don't like something you can change it. Some times I don't know what something does when I click on it, so I will click on it to see. If it changes something I don't like I know I can go back and fix it, but I have learned.
Finally, remember the advice from the beginning: A good website is worth paying for. Especially if you are in business your website should communicate with people so that they want your product. It is worth hiring a designer to create a page that will work for you.