Building basics

Andrea E FlatelyGone are the days of the phonebook where everyone looks up phone numbers or addresses by flipping through those thin ink covered pages. Now it’s all about online search.

“Google is king,” explained Shawn Crull, owner of 4Byte4, a Vancouver-based computer service, repair and networking business.

In today’s world, Crull said you need to make sure your business is prepared for the way people find information, and having a website is a necessity, whether you like it or not.

“Realize that there are people out there who use the internet whether you do or not, and some [business owners] are really doing themselves and their business a disservice by not having a website,” said Dotty Scott, owner of Premium Websites, a local website design and development company.

Web creators around the Vancouver area admit getting an online presence off the ground isn’t the easiest process and can even be an overwhelming thought.

Finding a web designer & developer

Developers say you just need to do your research. And while that might seem like a daunting task, all it takes is a little web surfing to get started.

“The key to finding a good web designer is finding a business that’s happy with their website,” said Crull. “Don’t talk to the person [designer], talk to their clients.”

Cross them off your list “if they don’t have a list of people that are happy and promoting them,” he added.

Once you narrow down the search for a designer, find a developer who will do what you need. If you’re a website rookie, Scott said, it’s okay to expect a little more from the person helping control you and your company’s success.

“Find someone who is willing to work with you and hold your hand,” she said.

“It’s about building an ongoing relationship and trusting the people you work with,” added local designer and search engine optimizer Jeff Hollett.

The key to working with a developer, according to Scott, is being organized so that the process doesn’t feel like a chore. If both sides tell the other what they need, it should be easy to create a successful product, she explained.

Maintain your focus

According to Crull, clients should make a list of what they want and developers should make sure those customers know exactly what is needed to build a successful site.

“Many people design sites so that they’re pretty,” he explained. “The fancy tricks are not necessary. People come to their site to buy that product.”

Developers say you don’t have to create an ugly site, but you want it to be focused and simple enough for all users. Simplicity also helps in terms of search engine optimization (SEO), according to Crull.

“The site has to be about what it is you’re selling or promoting, and I’m talking about on a computer level. The text, images, layout – the computer has to read what the site is selling,” he said.

In addition to carefully considering the key words you use, Scott said SEO improves with a website’s use of links.

“Writing an article and linking it, making sure that all the social media that you’re using is linked to your website – anything you can do online to link back [to your website] will help with SEO,” said Scott.

Looking ahead

While building a website, developers recommend thinking about the future and how technology is changing. Consider that in the last few years, smartphone and tablet use has increased. A summer 2011 Pew Internet Project study found that more than 35 percent of adults own a smartphone.

“Some 87 percent of smartphone owners access the internet or email on their handheld,” the study states.

Looking toward the future and helping customers prepare is something that Scott said her company, Premium Websites LLC, works hard at each day. In fact, Premium Websites was recently awarded a 2011 Best of Vancouver Award from the U.S. Commerce Association for their service to the community and customers.

“Business owners should look to get some sort of website that you have control over, making sure your website is mobile ready,” said Scott, adding that mobile websites typically have less information but should be easier to access on the go. 

Once you’re up and running, Scott said there isn’t much left to do unless you have some major business changes. Because despite the fact that companies like Premium Websites are in the business of developing and revamping sites to make money, Scott said constant upgrading isn’t good for customer satisfaction (just look at the reaction Facebook users have when the social networking site makes changes).

“If your website is performing well for you, I would leave it alone,” said Scott.

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