How to build your business website (Part 9)

January 26, 2007

Image from www.imageafter.com

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST 

 

BD: You said if you had it to do over again you probably should have outsourced the job. Some business owners worry that using off the rack platforms like blogs or free Microsoft business sites will fail to give their web presence individual distinction. Of the two solutions, if you had it to do over again, would you have a custom website designed or use a ready-made platform for the job?  

Denise: Two answers: 1) If money hadn’t been a barrier, I probably would have worked with a design company. The pros can help you with branding, give your site a polished look, and add the wow factor. 2) If my financial picture was the same, but I knew about the free, ready-made platforms, I would have gone that route instead. Just having the layout and navigation in place would have saved loads of time. Then I could have concentrated on good content and moved on to get clients.

 

Photo Credit: imageafter.com

 

CONTINUED NEXT POST

Advertisements

How to build your business website (Part 8)

January 25, 2007

edududas stock.xchng

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST 

 

BD: All together, the site seems pretty easy to navigate with not much trouble for the visitor to find what he/she is looking for. What steps did you take to make sure the site was easy to use? What was that planning process?  

Denise: That was definitely part of the planning process. I tried to be as objective as possible and think like a prospective client just coming across my site. I made it as easy to navigate as I knew how. I also sent it to other people for feedback. I think I did cram in too much information though and am still in the process of simplifying that. I consider it a work in progress, just like any bricks ‘n’ mortar store. You don’t want to confuse your regulars by changing the layout too often. At the same time you want to keep the content fresh. So when I find a new or improved way to say or display something I work that in.

 

Photo credit: edududas, stock.xchng

 

CONTINUED NEXT POST

How to build your business website (Part 7)

January 23, 2007

Morguefile.com photographer dorituz

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST 

 

BD: You have what look like stock photos used through out the site for illustration and to add interest. Where did you go for the photos? How expensive a proposition are stock photos for a business website and do you think they are worth the investment?  

Denise: The stock photos were included with the template I initially purchased, which was very reasonable. There are a lot of free stock photos out there – or free with a trial – so I don’t think it’s necessary to purchase a collection. I might in the future, but only if I need them for my clients.

 

*Photo credit: dorituz, morguefile.com

 

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST

How to build your business website (Part 6)

January 21, 2007

FreePhotos.com download 

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST

BD: Did you make any effort to visualize what you wanted before starting? Make diagrams or any other visual aide to get you where you wanted to go in creating the site? In retrospect how important is preplanning to the process?  

Denise: I’m so glad you asked – this part is a must. It’s also a lesson learned from my time at the design company. As I mentioned before, I looked at a lot of existing sites, checking the navigation and layout, noting my likes and dislikes. I tried going the template route, which didn’t work out. So I mapped out the basic layout on a tablet. Next I decided what pages to include based on the information I needed to provide a prospective client. Then it was really a matter of just diving in. Some people write their content offline and then place it. I’m very visual and like to see things taking shape. So I brainstormed, then wrote and edited the content directly into my pages – testing live as I went along. Seeing steady progress kept me motivated and on track.

CONTINUED NEXT POST

How to build your business website (Part 5)

January 21, 2007

Microsoft free business platform

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST 

BD: I think you also said when we first corresponded via e-mail on this subject that the project itself took weeks to launch because of your decision to take on the website design yourself. What was the major hold-up?  

Denise: The major hold up was getting the layout right. Making sure all the little elements stay where they’re supposed to in various browser sizes, etc. One adjustment leads to another, and so on, and so on… 

Looking back, this ate up a lot of time. But when you’re bootstrapping it, sometimes there’s no alternative. Had I known about the blog option at the time I probably would have gone that route. It took awhile to write the content, and that wouldn’t have changed. But having all the structure and navigation in place would have saved loads of time and aggravation. I’m proud of what I accomplished and do get a lot of compliments on it. But wow, what an effort! 

Bottom line: Of course I would have liked to launch sooner. But I really don’t regret brushing up on my design and html skills. Just having the basics comes in so handy when using the other tools out there, i.e. working with a blog template and the layout of my posts. I’m also planning an e-newsletter for my customers and contacts. I know some of the same skills will be needed for that. So it was actually valuable learning time and not completely wasted.

 

CONTINUED NEXT POST

How to build your business website (Part 4)

January 21, 2007

The Effective VA

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST

 

BD: I think you said in an e-mail correspondence that in retrospect you didn’t consider some of the other free options—blogs, Microsoft Live products—that were available to launch your online business. Looking back are you sorry you didn’t choose one of these options?  

Denise: I really wish I had known about them ahead of time. Even though I did a lot of research – looking at other virtual assistant and small business sites – it really wasn’t until later that I discovered a growing trend to use blogs as main business websites. 

Since the Microsoft Live options are just coming out of beta, I think the jury’s still out on them. I do have a couple of test sites to play with though. There’s just never enough time in the day. 

But I may still make the switch to a blog platform this year for Aday VA Solutions. I’m learning as I go with my own blog on the side – the effective va (http://effectiveva.blogspot.com/) – written for other VA’s and start-up entrepreneurs. I started it last September as a way to learn by doing and I really enjoy it. Right now it’s on Blogger, but I’m considering a move to Word Press. Blogger is great for a beginner – very user friendly – but some of the other platforms offer a lot more scalability. I’ve also rediscovered writing for enjoyment since starting my blog, but that’s getting off track.

CONTINUED NEXT POST

How to build your business website (Part 3)

January 21, 2007

Microsoft FrontPage 2003

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST 

BD: What made you decide to undertake the project yourself? Why not outsource the task? Was it purely a financial consideration, or were there other factors?  

Denise: The primary reason was definitely financial. And from participation in the planning phase for various clients at the company I mentioned, I thought I knew enough to get going on my own. Besides that I would have to write all the content anyway. Thinking back, at first I did try to work with a purchased template. This proved very difficult and included graphic elements that I didn’t have the software or expertise to edit. I’m not a graphic designer. So I started from scratch and recreated the same look on my own. I must say I came pretty close!

 

CONTINUED NEXT POST

How to build your business website (Part 2)

January 19, 2007

Aday VA Solutions

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST

BD: How many of the skills necessary in the design phase did you possess when you started the project? How did you go about picking up the skills you needed?  

Denise: In my previous life as office manager at a small web hosting and design firm, I had the opportunity to learn basic layout and html. At small companies you tend to wear a lot of hats, so when we were very busy I would pitch in and make simple site updates for our clients. My boss at the time was our webmaster and design guru. He taught me the concept of laying a site out with tables, placement of text and graphics, hyperlinks, and about the various shared components. I didn’t realize I had learned and retained so much of it until I started designing my own site.

CONTINUED NEXT POST

How to build your business website (Part 1)

January 19, 2007

Denise Aday owner Aday VA Solutions

(Editor’s Note: When Denise Aday,
Plano, TX, was laid off in Spring of 2006, she turned to what she knew best. Helping others. In August of last year, Denise launched Aday VA Solutions, a virtual assistant business offering outsourcing of a variety of tasks ranging from administrative and word pressing services to marketing assistance for businesses via the Internet. Drawing from previous work experience, Denise decided to design her own website for her business with what she says were mixed results. Here, in an e-mail interview with Bootstrap Design, is what she learned in the process.
)

BD: When you began to design your site how exactly did you go about it? Did you write out all the HTML code yourself or did you use design software to help out?

Denise: I used Microsoft FrontPage 2003, mostly in the design view, but tweaking the html to get things just right.

CONTINUED NEXT POST

10 steps to a do-it-yourself screen shot

January 13, 2007

Bootstrap Design

Want to post an image of the webpage you’re talking about on your latest blog post?

 

 

Before you rush out and buy a copy of Snagit, TouchIllusion or some other high end screen grabbing software, consider this little do-it-yourself bootstrap design technique from Sue Chastain at About.com.

 

 

Here are Sue’s 10 steps to a do-it-yourself screen shot:

 

1. Select the screen you want to grab and hit the “Print Screen” button (look for it in the upper right hand part of the  keyboard)

 

2. Open an image editing program. (just as Sue suggests, I like Paintshop)

 

3. Paste the screen you’ve just saved into Paintshop

 

4. Enlarge the image if asked (You may have to do some resizing later! Check my own 11th step)

 

5. Use Paintshop to crop your image (This is only optional and kind of unnecessary since as Sue also observes under “Tips” if you press down the “Alt” key while hitting “Print Screen” you can select just the active part of the screen picking only the section you want that way)

 

6. Pull down the “File” menu and  select “Save As”

 

7. Then select the right folder (a graphics or photo file if you’ve got one)

 

8. Name your new file

 

9. Select a file type (GIF is the one to go with here over JPEG and others since some platform including WordPress are very finicky about what they’ll load)

 

10. Save it!

 

*My own personal 11th step: If you plan to use the screen shot for any kind of illustration  (on a blog, for example) open your newly created file in Adobe Photoshop, choose “Image Size” under the “Image” pull down menu and select a width of about 300 pixels. Any smaller and it will be too tiny to make an impact. Larger and it could be difficult to load. (Experiment and see what works for you, of course)

 

There are also some software packages out there like ScreenHunter that offer free base functions with paid upgrades. Shop around for the best features, but realize it doesn’t have to cost much to ad screen shots to your repertoire.