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How do I put my business on the web?

I am a small business owner and it’s time to have a presence on the web. I’d
like to do as much, if not all of it, myself. What would you recommend for
someone that is not computer savvy and has no experience / expertise with
creating and hosting a web site. All I want to do is list our products, a line
card, contact info and monitor hits.

In this day and age, it’s almost become a requirement to have a presence on
the internet, even for the smallest business. Even before reading this
question, I’d just looked up our local dry-cleaners on the web… not a web
business, but the contact and other information I was looking for was right
there.

More and more and more people expect at least that much.

So you’re definitely headed in the right direction.

Let’s look at what it’ll take.

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For web hosting there are two basic directions for starter sites:

  • Purchase your own domain (like I own “ask-leo.com”). I actually recommend
    this regardless of what else you do – even if you don’t use it right away, you
    want to get it now to make sure you can use it later. Most registrars will
    provide you some amount of web hosting for a not too outrageous fee. Owning
    your own domain is the most flexible option because as your needs change you
    can move your site to another host without your customers noticing or caring –
    the URL will not change.

  • If you just want to dip your toes into it a little first, sign up for one of the
    free services – even myspace might be a good way to start. Other services like
    geocities, or even blogging services such as typepad can work well. Another
    option, if you’re a retail store interested in selling on the web, is to set up
    a Yahoo or eBay store. I’ve seen businesses with presences on all of these, and
    it’s most definitely better than no presence at all,

Now, I’ll admit that having your own domain has a better ‘cachet’ than
hanging off of some other domain – particularly a free service. But besides
being better than nothing at all, these services also tend to help with the
next issue somewhat as well.

You’ll need to learn a little HTML.

“The amount of HTML you need to learn to produce a
clean, efficient web site is typically small.”

There are folks out there who’ll disagree with me on that – and say that in
order to put up a web site there are approaches using wysiwyg tools that would
completely hide the HTML. My counter arguments are:

  • Wysiwyg tools rarely hide HTML completely. There are still some fundamentals
    that you’ll need to learn anyway.

  • Most tools are limited in some way. Eventually you’ll find yourself wanting
    to do something that you know can be done, that the tool doesn’t
    support.

  • Most tools produce very inefficient HTML. Microsoft Word, for example, is
    often used in this fashion, and produces a horrible mess.

The amount of HTML you need to learn to produce a clean, efficient web site
is typically small. The concepts are important, but once understood the details
of HTML itself are fairly easy to deal with.

One of the advantages to the services I mentioned – like MySpace, TypePad,
Yahoo’s Geocities and others, is that they typically do a lot of the heavy
lifting for you. Most will give you a template with a lot of the base HTML
already done. All you need do is complete your part to include your
information, and customize your own look and feel.

Then, when you’re ready to move on, you can take what you’ve learned, and
even most of the HTML that you’ve already created, and move it to your own
hosted domain and web site.

I mentioned earlier that I believe strongly that you should purchase your
own domain name regardless of what approach you take. Owning your own domain
gives you that much more legitimacy, prepares you for an eventual move to
hosting on that domain, and protects you from someone else coming in and
getting it. In the mean time you, or your domain registrar, can redirect that
domain so that you can actually use it now – redirecting to the temporary
solution until you move on. Print the domain you own on your business cards,
and you’re set no mater where you take your site.

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6 comments on “How do I put my business on the web?”

  1. I would suggest that the person who is interested in establishing a web site for his business check out the free service offered by Microsoft: “Windows Live”. A domain name is offered free of charge through this service. I have used it successfully for our church and my wife’s small business. The tools are very easy to use.

    Reply
  2. “Most tools produce very inefficient HTML. Microsoft Word, for example, is often used in this fashion, and produces a horrible mess”

    DON’T USE WORD! The only browser that can read that mess is I.E.

    Also, give some thought to your domain name. It can help you with the search engines. Using the dry cleaning example, bubbasSeattleDryCleaning.com is likely to score higher on a web search for Seattle Drying Cleaning then bubbasDryCleaning.com.

    Reply
  3. I strongly agree with the sentiment regarding the mess Microsoft Word (all versions at least since 97… perhaps even 95) makes with HTML code.

    FrontPage is not much better. Occasionally the problem even shows up in email sent from Outlook Users who have Microsoft Word setup as their email editor. This makes the emails much bigger and ‘heavier’ than they need to be as Word adds it own useless convoluted code.

    This often shows up when copying & pasting to/from word or documents that have been created into word to another HTML editor or email program. The messy code sometimes goes with and doesn’t display properly.

    Also the advanced features of Word won’t work in Firefox or Opera (or any other non-Microsoft browser). The same effects can almost certainly be achieved for Firefox or Opera with much simpler methods.

    If there’s one message to take it is: Steer clear of Microsoft Office (Word, FrontPage, Outlook, Powerpoint, Publisher and even Excel – yes I’ve seen mess from each one of the aforementioned programs) for anything web/email/internet based.

    Reply
  4. Heard of myspace marketing (http://www.profilepitstop.com/articles/myspace-help/effective-business-networking-with-myspace.php)? It’s actually a way of promoting your product or service to millions of Myspace users.

    What’s the significance? These 9 billion users and counting can be your potential clients, depending, of course, of your product. You can choose your target market, build your own friends list, advertise with them. Send them message. Myspace is free, so you only need to spare some time to apply all the marketing strategies.

    Reply
  5. I have gone through this site it was very good i got more information on small business and i have seen similar site it is also a very good in giving the information on smallbusiness

    www. businessbooming.com

    Reply
  6. Hello Leo thanks so much for your advice in regards to HTML and how important it is to my business. You said the HTML that i will need to learn is very small. so what exactly do i need to know please advice.

    Reply

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