Pro or DIY Website ???

  *mark 17:40 14 Feb 03
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I am unsure what to do. I need a business website for a new business and Im torn between buying some quality S/W and attempting to do it myself (which Im sure I would enjoy, but unsure Im capable of doing effectively), or paying a small web designer/builder to do the work for me ?

The time the site will take to download is obviously important. Ive read that internet sites load noticeably slower if they have been created with Front Page, as compared to Dream-Weaver - considering the arrival of FP server extensions etc is this true ?

As far as website novices go, is FP much easier to use than DW ? Which product is capable of producing the better site ?

Considering my very limited budget and the reletively high cost of such Software, - would I save much money doing the site myself compared to paying a small co./individual to do a professionall job ! Realisticly - are my novice efforts going to be atleast passable, let alone anywhere near as good as that of a Pro. ? It is paramount that the site looks very professional, simple & uncluttered, is as 'bells & whistles' free as poss., and is easy to navigate.

What would be the likely fee for an unfussy 15 page site ? Approxamately how long would it take ? Would I own the copyright of the design etc. ? What would the likely monthly/quarterly fee be updating the site ?

Any help appreciated,

Regards.

Mark.

  Forum Editor 18:36 14 Feb 03

and the cost varies enormously.

A 15 page site could cost £1000 or it could cost £20,000 - it's just not possible to put a proper figure on a project without knowing a lot more about the business and its requirements.

If you buy Dreamweaver, or Adobe GoLive, or MS FrontPage 2002 you could spend some time getting to know the software and produce your own, perfectly respectable site. If you don't have any experience - either with the software or with web design concepts - you could end up spending a lot of time and still not being happy with the results.

In my opinion there's a world of difference between a DIY site and a professionally designed one, but I would say that wouldn't I?

Whether you do the work yourself, or get someone to do it for you the copyright will be vested in you - after all, you'll be paying for the owrk if someone else does it. When I design sites I normally transfer copyright to the client once the final payment is received.

Maintenance costs vary. In my company we charge a fixed amount per quarter for web-mastering, and that includes minor text changes, uploading fresh images, and generally keeping the site updated and fresh. More major changes to pages, or the insertion of new pages or sections are charged for on an ad-hoc basis.

I share your view that a business web site should look clean and professional - no animated gizmos and background music etc. and that it should be fast and easily navigated. It is showcasing the business to the world after all, and nothing damages a company's image more than a badly designed and constructed site.

FrontPage is being used more and more nowadays, and a well-built FP site is as fast as any other. Dreamweaver is probably more versatile, and there are other good applications. Of them all, Dreamweaver probably has the steepest learning curve.

Don't hesitate to come back if you need more help.

  STREETWORK 18:48 14 Feb 03

Go on give it a go, what do you want to do with a site, sell items or advertise. If selling then I'd go for a professional design, cost would be dependant on site turnover. Just advertise, try DIY, if your not happy see if you have a competent friend to help you. I have designed and maintained 2 websites from little knowledge but lots of time.

The tools, Frontpage, Dream Weaver and a good graphics program, also try Zara Web Style for the navigation bit. Good luck and don't be scared you can always delete it and start again...

  RomQ 11:49 15 Feb 03

What do you want to do with the site, sell items or simply advertise? If you want to sell, then you'll need shopping cart software - another cost to factor in.

I'm not keen on FP personally. Dreamweaver entails a higher learning curve but I think it's worth the extra trouble in the long run.

  *mark 12:42 15 Feb 03

STREETWORK - The site will be primarily for advertising although I would like the option of being able to offer an online (slightly discounted?) ordering/payment page for my service.


F.E,

Thanks for your feedabck. My prefered Domain Host, OneandOne, offer free full versions of Net Objects 7, WiseFTP, HelloEngines, Picture Publisher, and Star Office with its Business Hosting Package. Is the Website software any good and does a site constructed using it load at an acceptable rate ? BTW, I will dowload the 1 month free trial version of FP2002 shortly, and see how I get on with it.

Its a shame my site would cost around £1k to have built professionally as I dont think I can stretch my £400/500 budget that far. So unless a competent web-building fellow Forum member is feeling generous it looks as though my only option is to build the site myself.

One extremely important question I forgot to memtion regards Search Engine's. It is imperative that my site can be seen prominently on the first!/second page of a Search Engine enquiry such as Google, prefferably immediately it goes 'live'. The site is the ONLY way potential customers will know my small niche business exists. I have some understanding of Meta-Tags & Hello Engines etc and realise these are important. However from what Ive read it would appear that these alone are far from enough to guarantee the desired results. What (excluding difficult to budget things like 'cost per click' & sponsored links which I doubt I could afford) are my best fixed cost (one off payment?) options to make sure my site features on the 1st page of a POPULAR Search Engine such as Google/Copernic when a search enquiry has been entered, and how much is it likely to cost ?

Incidently, would the £1000 or so fee charged by a professional web-designer include the above ???

Thanks again,

Mark.

  spuds 12:50 15 Feb 03

Why not try a simple DIY test. 1&1 hosting have a site creator package, and within their site you can run a free self build experimental demo web page creator. Another suggestion for consideration.Xara have various full package free 15 trial day deals available.This will allow you to make up a website, and if you like the results, you then purchase the software.You will have nothing to loose, and if your DIY attempts fail, then seek professional help.

  -pops- 13:13 15 Feb 03

The very fact that you're even thinking about a DIY website most likely means that if you have a commercial one done, you will never be wholly satisfied with it and you'll spend loads of time wishing that there was this , that or the other, bit or bob there.

If you do it yourself (which need not be difficult) you will be able to construct it exactly how you want it but best of all, you'll be able to change it as and when you want to.

Have a GO!!!

Brian

  davidg_richmond 20:46 15 Feb 03

you mentioned generous forum users doing it at a reduced rate - try the local universities as a lot of students need projects to tackle.

I myself am about to do a business site involving dynamic webpages etc and also a site for a school - all for absolutely nothing (though they pay any incurred costs) so it may be worth a look if you want to do it on the cheap!

  Forum Editor 00:17 16 Feb 03

can be complex and time consuming, and there's very little chance of a new site going into the top twenty or so returns on a Google search, unless it has extremely unusual content.

Different search engines require submissions to be made in different ways - some of them have automated submission pages, and some require manual input. Some engines have web spiders that look at your site and score it, and some (like Yahoo) ensure that each site is looked at by a human being. Listing is by no means guaranteed, sites that are hosted in free webspace for instance are less likely to succeed.

A single submission isn't enough - you must do it repeatedly, although not too often, and you must ensure that your site is 'right'. That means no broken links, good HTML, good metatags and 'doorway' pages, and above all, a neat and tidy site with no suspect content. Optimising a site so that it does well with search engines can be quite a task.

Some designers include the cost of one submission in their design feee, others don't.

If you are planning to self-build the site I recommend that (whichever software application you use) you use one of the inbuilt templates to start with. This will ensure that you get a decent looking site with the minimum of delay, and you can always tweak it later, when you feel more confident. If I might offer a couple of do's and don'ts

1. Do take your time when planning the navigation. Many first-time designers get this wrong, and it's the single most important factor in keeping people on the site. Make the navigation logical, and easy to understand - no fancy drop-down menus on a simple site, they can be irritating to some people. A good rule of thumb is to aim for no more than two mouse clicks to get you from the homepage to any other page.

2. Avoid animated gifs if you can - they tend to give the site an amateurish look. Likewise, no background music, and no hit counter.

3. Keep the colours subdued and don't use too many. A white background works better than anything else, and you shouldn't use more than three font colours throughout the site. Use web-friendly fonts like Tahoma, Arial or Verdana (my favourite), and the site will look the same to everyone. If you use a fancy font, and a site visitor doesn't have it installed on his/her machine the browser will substitute its default font - in Internet Explorer's case this is Times New Roman - which cab totally alter the look of the site.

2. Keep font sizes small in body test - no more than 8point, or 10point at a pinch. Once again, large font sizes are an amateur-build giveaway. If you need a fancy logo, or a header, create it as an image in a graphics editor, and save it as a jpeg (or a Gif, if it's not too rich in detail) and load it to the page that way.

  Taran 01:05 16 Feb 03

Getting your site into the top ranks of search engines is best done by supplementing the sites initial and subsequent registrations with the engines by using standard methods of advertising - business cards, letterheads and similar. The more requests for your site online, the more likely a search engine is to index it regularly and keep its information current. Since you say the web will be the only advertising media used for this site, you've limited yourself straight away and will have to work even harder in your efforts to maintain good rankings.

Regarding NetObjects Fusion, it's a good program. I'd rate it behind Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive and FrontPage, which I like and use in about that order. It does have one feature in its favour for your project though; it has a PayPal e-commerce component which allows you to drop a "Buy" button onto your page. You configure the button with the relevant purchase information and you're up and running. There's a bit more to it than that, but it does give you a good start in that direction. It also has some nice CSS and layout tools and perhaps of interest to you, it has an online users group similar to this forum where you ask questions that are answered by a mix of professional and amateur Fusion users.

Going solo and designing your own site may be well and good, but here we enter the minefield. You not only need to design and publish it, you have to keep it up to date and publicise it too. All from a more or less zero knowledge base (and without trying to be offensive by that last comment, that is the impression I get from your posts).

While this may not be impossible, you're potentially trying to take on the whole arena of web design and publishing for a net gain without the experience or knowledge to do so. It isn't easy.

Keep one important factor in mind. The web editor you use is only as good as the web designer using it. It doesn't matter whether you use Dreamweaver or FrontPage, just so long as you get the design side of things right. At the end of the day a good web designer could generate a killer site using Notepad and any half reasonable image editor, but the sheer repetitive entering of code tags would probably result in said designer ending up dribbling into his/her coffee mug...

Ask your questions in the Helproom on design/publication/publicising and we can get down to the nuts and bolts of things for you. Once you've tried what you have in mind, you'll no doubt appreciate the web designers fee in full.

Regards

Taran

  Forum Editor 09:10 16 Feb 03

Getting that button on your site is pretty simple, no matter which HTML application you eventually use. The PayPal site offers you the chance to cut and paste the HTML code for the button, so once you have set up your PayPal account you can be up and running almost immediately. You'll also have the advantage of being able to accept payments in virtually any currency.

If you are planning to sell from the site you must take time to acquaint yourself with the legislation applying to distance selling and online trading. You should also plan your fulfilment system carefully. By that I mean the methods you'll use to provide the goods and/or services, once an order's been placed. People who buy things via the internet expect a very rapid response from suppliers, and many first-time online traders have been caught napping when orders started flowing from as far afield as Australia, or Borneo.

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