If you're not sure about what's involved in creating and getting a website up and running then this guide will give you a few starting points and tips. There are also some links to places where you can find out more.
The benefits of a website.
A lot of your potential customers will be choosing a decorator from a selection they have made. Your company will probably be just one on a shortlist of three or four (or more). When people compare companies they want information, the kind of information they won't be able to get from a small ad or leaflet. This is where a website comes into its own.
A website is a unique opportunity to showcase your company - to tell people precisely what services you offer. You can also give examples of the projects you're most proud of and include testimonials from satisfied customers. A website is all about information and reassurance so that people will lift the phone to call for the all important quote.
Designing your own website
Above all you want your website to look professional. It doesn't have to be ultra fashionable or expensive looking (depending on your target audience these could be drawbacks) but it does want to look as if whoever created it knew what they were doing. Otherwise your whole company may look amateurish.
So if you're thinking of creating the website yourself, you need to be sure of your capabilities. One alternative is to use a template. Many of the companies that offer website hosting like Easily.co.uk and 1and1.co.uk will also provide website creators or templates which are pre-designed so that you just fill in your own details and even import your own photos or logo. If you are starting out and want to get a website up quickly and cheaply these can be a good alternative.
Make it easy with Mr Site
Dulux have teamed up with one of the very best Make-Your-Own website companies to bring you a fast, flexible, simple way to get your own website up and running in no time. At 'Mr Site' you'll find the UK's leading website creation tool which provides everything you need to achieve a highly professional web presence.
You'll have your own individual dot com website address and the choice of hundreds of different website designs. Just choose the one that fits your business best, then drop in your own text, logo, pictures (and even music and videos if you like). To load up your site to the internet simply click Publish. That's all there is to it. To find out more, visit www.mrsite.com
Getting somebody else to design it
These days you can find scores of website designers just by looking in Yellow Pages or typing 'web design' into a search engine. You'll be spoilt for choice, but the way to select the one for you is to first check out their prices, then the quality of websites they have already done, and finally have a phone chat with someone at the company. Are they on your wavelength, ready to offer sensible advice and pick up quickly on what you need?
By using the right professional outfit you'll know that your website will look good. Another advantage is that they can take care of things like hosting the website and making sure your domain name registration is renewed. But of course all this costs more than doing it yourself, so be sure you know exactly what the extra costs are.
Hosting your website
If you have created your own website from scratch or a template, then you'll need to find the right people to host it for you once you've created it. The best bet is to choose a well established hosting company with their servers based in the UK. Don't be tempted purely on price as the service may not be reliable and you could find your website is down at regular intervals.
It's often easiest to use the same company for hosting as you use to register your website name (see below). You'll also need an FTP client to transfer your website from your computer to the hosting computer. As long as you feel fairly confident with basic computing skills this is a relatively easy process, and a good web hosting company will often have support and FAQs to help you on their website.
Creating the content
Whether you create a website yourself, use a template or a professional designer, there's one thing that you'll have to find time for - and that is deciding what needs go into it. However good a website looks, it won't count for much unless your visitors can find the information they are looking for.
Writing website content doesn't have to be difficult. The last thing you want on a website is a lot of waffle or 'fine' writing. People scan web pages quickly so short sentences and bullet points work best.
Start by planning what pages you want on your website. Here is a suggestion that would cover most needs:
A description of your company and what it offers. Remember to use words like decorator, painting, exterior and the area you cover - these can then be found by search engines when they index the site. Phrases like 'high quality', 'attention to detail', 'skilled workers' will help to attract customers. Whatever you write, think about the person who is going to read it and how much (or how little) they need to know.
A full list of everything you can do.
Short quotations from satisfied customers - can be a big selling tool if you know clients who will take the trouble to do it and are happy to give their permission.
It is worth making a separate page with a reassurance that you are competitive and a big phone number.
Include your company name, address, telephone number and email address. Invite people to ask questions or get a free quote.
Of course there could be other pages if you wanted like FAQs or pictures of work you have done, but don't overload things - the key is to keep things simple and easy to navigate.
If you really don't feel up to tackling the content yourself or are unhappy with your English when you've finished you could employ a freelance copywriter to write it from scratch or edit your own text. Make sure you get a quote first.
Choosing a name
The address of your website is called a 'domain name' and all websites need one. You'll find most of the really desirable names like decorator.com or paintyourhome.co.uk are already taken or incredibly expensive. But you may be able to choose a domain name that is the same as your company name or is memorable and relevant in some way. You can easily find out if a domain is available by entering it in a domain checker available at most web hosting sites such as Infotex or EasySpace.
The most common web addresses in this country end in .com or .co.uk, but there are more and more options becoming available such as .biz or .eu which tend to have more names still available. The disadvantage is that your customers are not so accustomed to these addresses and not all search engines rate them so highly.
If you find that the name you want is available it's worth considering registering it straight away because you can keep a name 'parked' for as long as you want. It can cost from as little as £8.00 for 2 years registration to around £25.00 depending on the domain you choose and where you buy it. Remember that if you fail to renew your domain name at the end of the term your registration will be cancelled by the controllers www.nominet.com and the name put up for re-sale.
The average website doesn't get hoards of visitors every day and there is no reason to worry if yours doesn't. What matters is that it is there whenever people want to know more about your services, day and night.
If you run a classified ad in the local press or an entry in Yellow Pages for example, make sure your website address is included. You may not be able to do yourself justice in the ad, but the website can.
Put your web address on the side of vans, on your business card or on-site boards - wherever possible, even a sticker in the back of your private car if you like.
On the internet, make sure your website is listed in as many relevant directories as you can find, especially local ones, and think about using 'Pay per click' advertising on the search engines. Paying for your website to be featured on search engine pages when certain search terms are entered can be a good way of attracting extra visitors at times of the year when business is hard to come by.
The above information is correct at the time of writing (July 2009) but please check the details are up-to-date with the various organisations listed.
The contents of this guidance are for information only and no guarantee, representation or warranty of any kind is given (whether express or implied) in relation to any of the information, advice or opinions expressed in it. Whilst ICI Paints AkzoNobel have made all reasonable efforts to ensure that statements appearing in this guidance are accurate, ICI Paints AkzoNobel disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information, advice and opinions contained in this guidance. ICI Paints AkzoNobel reserves the right to make any amendments or alterations to this guidance at any time, without notice.