Working the Web: Why does your business need a Web site? | NevadaAppeal.com

Working the Web: Why does your business need a Web site?

Kirk Caraway
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

The tools available for building Web sites have become so simple that even a child can use them.

But this is a problem for businesses looking to save a little money on their online presence.

It’s not that you can’t build an effective site using the sitebuilder tools available from Google or Go Daddy. I’ve seen sites built on the free Blogger system that get more Web traffic than all the Web sites in Carson City combined.

Simple tools sometimes mean that businesses create quickie Web sites without doing any planning. It’s so easy to just starting playing around with these tools and think your end product is sufficient. The Web is littered with these no-thought sites.

Most business owners and managers understand that having a Web site is almost a mandatory requirement for doing business these days. But do you know why your business needs a Web site?

It’s this simple question that needs to be answered before a business moves forward with creating a Web site, and that leads to other questions. What do you hope to get out of your site? What information are you going to include? How do you expect people to find it? How will they interact with it? How are you going to maintain it?

For some businesses, it may be enough to just throw up a simple page with some contact information. There’s nothing wrong with that, if your business is something like a house cleaning service or auto maintenance where your customers aren’t expecting you to be wizards of the Web.

But a Web site can be a negative for your business if your planning and execution are lacking.

For example, I ran across a site for a small marketing firm a few weeks ago. While they claimed to be skilled at online marketing and Web site design, the site was a single page with almost no information. Worse, the text didn’t display right in my browser, forcing me to scroll sideways to see anything. While this might be a good marketing company, its site made me want to run the other way.

Before you dive in and start building a Web site (or hire someone to do it for you), create a plan that answers the important questions. Start with the “why” question first, then concentrate on functionality, the things that make the site work for your business.

Don’t even begin to think about design elements like graphics, colors and multimedia until you work out the functionality first. A simple site that works is far better than the most fancy, cutting-edge designed site that doesn’t. If you need proof, take a look at Google. Simple design works.

And most important, write the plan down. That way you or your Web developer can have something concrete to use as a guide. Otherwise, it’s easy to go off on tangents that don’t help your business and cost you money.

Simple is good. But don’t do it without a plan.

– Business reporter Kirk Caraway has been building and managing Web sites for 14 years. You can contact him at kcaraway@nevadaappeal.com or 775-881-1261.