ALL websites must have the following to be placed on the Internet for visitors to see:
A Domain Name: A domain name is like the address of your business. When someone sends you a letter, they write your address in the envelope. Similarly, when someone wants to look at your website they type your address or domain name into their browser to see what you have to offer.
This can cost around $9.99 per year. BEWARE - Some companies double, triple, quadruple this cost and pass it on to you! Your domain name should be registered in YOUR OWN NAME or BUSINESS NAME not under the person who designs your website. All website expenses should be tax deductible.
Website Hosting: Hosting is like a bookshelf. It is a place to hold or store websites until they are called by a user to view.
This can cost from $3.99 per month to upwards of $189 per month for secure servers. Do your homework on this one. You really do get what you pay for. If you choose to purchase low end hosting your website may not be available all the time to all your visitors!
A website: A website is like a book. It has a cover (homepage) and many pages within the book all held together by a series of links like a chapter index.
You may either choose to buy a pre-made template, use a free service online and use their templates or you might choose to have a custom website template designed just for your business ...and HOMEPAGE.
NOTE: The homepage, index, starting or default page or whatever you want to call it is what people see FIRST. This file is like the exterior of your business or home. Make it an appealing and professional first impression! It should also have "calls to action" These are links on the page that people WANT to click on to get more information, see specials, new products / services, etc.. Whatever you would say to a potential customer or client to get them to buy from or hire you SHOULD be the focal point of your homepage.
Do not make this decision lightly. *Free* is very appealing especially in today's economy. However, you really DO get what you pay for.
Imagine what sort of business you would gain from placing an add in a local newspaper which was written in crayon, misspelled and ugly. Do you think the people who saw that type of ad would want to visit your store or buy anything from you?
Another reason you should have a custom design is for the sake of branding.
Think of branding like this... Close your eyes and try to envision what your favorite jar of peanut butter looks like. What brand was it? or coffee.. anything you have a preference for. Those companies recognize the need to stand out above their competition. So, when you go to the store you can easily recognize your favorite "brand" of whatever you are buying. Yes, I know we all look for sales but given the choice, we choose our favorites.
You have letterhead designed, logos, store monikers, and more just to make sure your customers recognize you by sight. Same goes for your website. If you have taken the time to "brand" yourself don't destroy it with a free, unprofessional and ugly website.
A website, like a book, can have as few or as many pages as you have content.
Content: Text, photos, video, PDF's, Diagrams, animations, etc, etc, etc. anything you can think of to add to the pages of your website.