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Basic Information to Get Your Web Site Started
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      1. Select Your Domain Name
      2. Hire a Web Designer
      3. Choose Your Web Hosting
      4. Set Up Your Email
      5. Promote Your Site
1. Select Your Domain Name

Choosing your domain name is very important. Why? It is how customers will find you online. A couple of things to keep in mind when deciding on a name:

Despite what many people believer, there really are still tons of domain names that have never been registered. Yes, the 'dictionary' and common single word domains have nearly all been registered, but there is a strategy to get around this.

You can see if your domain name is available at or we recommend that you simply type your desired name into a search engine (like Google). If it comes back "no website found" you're in business! Otherwise you risk it not being available when you are ready to register. (see note below)

Shorter is better. Keeping your domain name shorter is better because long names are hard to remember. Not only are they hard to remember, the longer the name, the more likely a typo. And, trust me, no one likes to be told that the reason they couldn't get to your site is because they can't type. Brainstorm with someone that knows you and/or your company, but isn't directly connect. You may surprise yourself with all the possibilities you can come up with this way. Sometimes it's clear as a bell when you're not banking on or invested in the perfection of the outcome.

Use the correct extension. An extension is what you put after the dot, to indicate the type of company you are. Here are the most common extension, and what they typically stand for:

  • .com=company
  • .org=organization
  • .net=network

Use unique components in your name. Okay, you've used every way you can think of to identify your company, keeping the name as close to your actual company name as possible. Try adding a descriptive term that further defines your company. For example, try adding something at the beginning or end or your name, like; deluxe, premium, best, online, cheap, etc. Anything that is easy to remember and distinguishes your company from others, like the state you operate in, may just be unique enough to give you a name that hasn't already been taken.

Don't worry if your domain name is not exactly what you wanted. A good designer will encode your content, titles and pages, so that these keywords pull your site up when someone is searching for what you have to offer.

Avoid using dashes or other symbols. Simply, these items are hard to remember, and are not usually what one would look for when searching for a company or product. But, if all else fails, and you just cannot come up with an appropriate name without them, then you should place emphasis on keyword and content searches, set-up by your designer or hosting service. Or course, you designer should do this for you anyway. Just be sure that you cover all possible bases before you begin.

NOTE: There are companies out there that (somehow) buy names that have been recently searched. Don't be surprised if you check out your name, find it available today, then gone tomorrow. If you are serious about your name choice, spend the $7 and reserve it now. This does not commit you to any contracts, it simply reserves the name for you. Once you reserve your name, you own it for one year. And, NO, it does not matter who you register with, it is universally yours once you purchase it.
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2. Hire a Web Designer

How your website looks reflects on you business as professional, or amateur. Research the sites that you like. If the site was designed for the company, the designer usually places a link at the bottom of the site. Click on the link and see what other sites the designer has done.

Along that same line, keep a list of the sites that your really like, to show your designer examples of your taste and preferences for your own site. A good designer can help you translate your vision into a visual reality. While you may want similar elements of your favorite site, a good designer will not copy, but re-create those elements to reflect the best visual impact of your company.

How much should it cost? That is a great question. The answer depends on how much you want to put into your site. Here are just a couple tips to keep in mind:

  • The backyard designer is free. Just remember that you get what you pay for.
  • If you are just starting out, find a designer or design company that is just starting out, too. While the more established companies may do a better job (technically), you will pay for the established overhead of that design company.
  • Designer charges will vary, depending on the experience and/or demand of that designer. Plan to spend between $20 - $50 per hour for that work.
  • If by-the-page sounds better because you only want one page; just remember that designers have a minimum. You will find that the rates are going to be close to the same when comparing hourly and by-the-page.

Templates? This can be a cost effective alternative, if you have the software or know-how to work with the template. Look for template companies that give your free advice and easy-to-follow instructions on uploading your information. Check with your hosting service, most provide some type of site design options with your monthly/annual fee. But, ultimately, you are guaranteed to have a site that looks like, who knows how many, other sites that picked the same design. Now, if you already bought a template, and this advice is too late, don't worry, a designer can help.

What about our company? Well, Chapman Web/Media Design Solutions is definitely young in the design community. And, frankly, we're learning something new everyday. But, we doubt you will find a qualified designer that will work as hard for you for less. We use state-of-the-art software, licensed and not 'borrowed' from a friend; and are always researching for the best methods and savings to pass along to our customers.

We're old-school with new-wave saavy. If we can't do it, we'll direct you to someone that can.

We value our customers and the old-school ethics of doing business in Nebraska.

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3. Choose Your Web Hosting

Who you select to host or publish your site to the world wide web, really depends on how much more you want from the hosting service. You can get hosting service for under $6 per month. However, you need to be sure they offer everything you need, including the support you'll need down the road. Here are a couple of things you can check right now:

Live Support - Call the technical support number (not the sales number) and see if you can actually speak to a real person about technical issues. Or, if they offer online chat support, go there and see if anyone responds. Did you get a live person? How long did it take for a response? If the person that you spoke to for technical support is the same person that signs you up, most likely they are a host reseller, who has to call the company (just like you would) to get help on the tough stuff.

Here's the key: Just because they offer live support, does not mean there will be someone there when you really need them.

Guarantees - Check if your hosting company offers a money back guarantee, price freeze, uptime, and a guarantee of a refund for unused portions.

  • Money Back Guarantee - There are not many companies that will let you sign up for less than one year. And, when you do sign up, it's not likely that you will get anything back if you change your mind in a couple months. If you're uncertain about which company to choose, select one that will work on a month-to-month basis until you are sure which company offers the best options for you.
  • Price Freeze - Ever sign up for a program that offers a great deal, only to find out that the price doubles at the end of a specified timeframe? Well, that is something that you need to check out before you sign on with a hosting company, too. While I have not really see this as a major issue, it could become one if you don't ensure that you are getting exactly what is promised in that ad for hosting cost.
  • Uptime - You want a company that can guarantee 'uptime' in the realm of 90% or better. Select a company that is located in a region of the country not regularly exposed to adverse weather issues that cause down-time. Most legitimate hosting companies understand the importance of uptime and will post a guarantee, right up front. Look for that guarantee! Also, see if they have a resume of current customers that you can check out.
  • Partial Refunds - There are not many companies that will refund a portion of your annual fee. The best option for this, is to select a company that offers a month-to-month contract, without termination penalties. In this, you can ensure service for a shorter amount of time and be able to change your mind without losing a huge chunk your web investment.

UpGrades - Hopefully, you will see your business booming in no time. When this happens, you may want to get more products or services from your hosting company. While you are shopping for the basics, it's always a good idea to shop for your future company needs as well. Here are some of the things you want to see as EXTRAS that will meet your future needs:

  • eCommerce - marketing and management tools for online selling, like shopping carts
  • SPAM/Virus filtering - firewall, e-mail protection, etc.
  • Marketing Tools - programs that promote your site to multiple search engines
  • Free E-mail Expansions - to send and receive larger files, to add multiple e-mail addresses
  • Scripting Extras - like guest books, counters, etc
  • Design Tools - templates and other do-it-yourself website aides
  • Dedicated Server Services - a hosting device (server) dedicated to your site only

You can easily compare companies by going to website's that offer a listing of the best companies, with descriptions and offers that are easy to understand. Here are a couple sites you can check out:

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4. Set Up Your Email

While this may seem like a 'no-brainer' to some, clearly you cannot operate an on-line business without some way for potential customers and clients to communicate with you. Having a telephone number and physical address are important, but you also need to have a quick link to online contact.

Also, to help increase your web business, have some type of tag-line or 'signature' statement that includes your business name, URL, and a brief description of your company, services or product line.

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5. Promote Your Site

We are all eager to find faster and more convenient ways to communicate with the companies we want to do business with. And, it is amazing how many different ways there are to promote your website. There simply isn't enough time or space here to list them all. Here are just a couple of the primary items:

Search Engines - The first thing you should do is educate yourself about search engines. Here are a couple sites that I found to be very useful:

If you have a budget for advertising, you can look at companies that work the search engines for you. These companies generally charge you $40-100 per month or charge a 'per-click' fee for every visitor to your website. The per-click fees can really add up, even at less than $1 per click. Plus you pay for those that click onto your site by mistake.

Marketing Materials - Put your web address on all of your existing marketing materials such as: business cards, stationary, brochures, newsletters, product sheets, etc. And then, you need to somehow let everyone know where to find your web address on all your promotional materials.

Word-of-Mouth - Sometimes the best web advertisement is free. Once the customers you have know you are on-line, they will visit; and if you're good, they will share your site with others. You just cannot buy the kind of advertising you get from word-of-mouth. Talk to everyone with whom you do business about your new website. And, even if they already have your business card (with the site address), give them another. Customers that are happy with your work may share that extra card with someone else.

And, every time you talk to someone, and the conversation leads (lead them!) to your business, have ample cards ready to hand out. Sometimes that nice person you met, standing in line to check-out, may be a potential customer.

Leg work - Go to businesses that don't already know about your service.

Keep in mind that your website should never be the only means of advertising you have. It isn't enough to have a great search engine directing viewers to your site. YOU need to take a proactive approach to your web business, too. Think of your website as another brochure or advertising venue; it has to be worked in the same way. The difference is in cost and approach. But, the best approach is to think of your site as one of the marketing tools, not the ONLY marketing tool.

Even if your business is totally web-based, you still have to apply old-fashioned marketing ingenuity in how to attract that target market to your business.

Good luck with your new website, and always remember that it takes time for a great business to get positive traction in the real world - the same is true for your website.
Still have questions? Contact us for the answers. If we don't have an immediate answer for you, we will research the question and find the answer.
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