Know what to expect
With web hosting and web design, you don't always get what you pay for. High price is no assurance of good service from your web host.
Nor is it an assurance of good web design focused on your objectives. One organization paid several thousand dollars to have their web site designed and hosted for a year. The web site consisted of only a few pages of text and one graphic image. There were no databases and no order forms. The only interactive feature was a function to send mail to the owners of the site. The entire job - including creating the graphic image - shouldn't have taken more than a day or two to create.
Other small business owners have paid equally high prices to have their web site designed with animation and sound, only to discover that the first thing their visitors to their site look for is the "skip the intro" button.
You could get ripped off like this too, if you don't know what you are buying. Launching a web site is a process that involves several types of activities. Depending on the nature of your site, those services will include some or all of the following:
Setting up the web site on a hosting service
Hosting the web site on an ongoing basis (storing the web site on a computer, connecting it to the internet)
Registering a domain name (giving yourself a unique "address" on the web such as yourbusiness.com)
Designing web pages (similar to typesetting and laying out a newsletter)
Designing art work (creating original art work for the web site
Writing the editorial content for the web site
Programming a database to work on the web (for mailing lists, surveys, catalogs, customer sales data, etc.)
Registering the site with Internet search engines Marketing and promoting the site (on the web and off line)
Creating and managing pay-per-click advertising
Creating, placing and running other types of advertising online and offline
Scanning your graphics and text to make them useable on the web
Maintaining the site on an ongoing basis
Few companies offer all of these services. Many, however offer "complete" packages that include setting up and hosting the site along with design and limited maintenance. Although using a single source to do all the work sounds convenient, it isn't necessarily a good idea. The person who is a whiz at computer programming may have no artistic abilities and no eye for graphic design. Someone who is capable of putting text into html may not know anything about creating the editorial content for the site or about marketing. (Don't assume they can type well or spell words correctly either!) And, the company that hosts the web site may charge a small fortune to "design" your website, when all they do is plug your material into a cookie-cutter template that they use to "design" every web site they create.
Furthermore, if you are charged a flat fee, you may wind up paying for services you don't need, or overpaying for the ones you do need.
To make sure the price you are quoted is fair, ask the provider to give you an itemized list of services they provide and to specify the fee they are charging for each service.
Get quotes from several vendors and compare them. Look at how much disk space you get, how much bandwidth you are allowed (how much data can be transferred monthly for the fee), and what extra charges you'll incur if you go over these amounts. If you plan to sell online, see if there are extra charges for a "storefront," too. Ask whether you will have access to update the files yourself if you decide to, how many email accounts you will be given, and whether there are extra charges for autoresponders, mailing lists and other services you may want.
Know the going rates
Be wary of deals that offer you a set number of "pages" unless you have no plans to add anything to your site after it is set up. A page requires very little space on a computer. If you only need to have a few "pages" on the internet, you shouldn't have to pay more than $10 or $15 a month for hosting them, plus a reasonable hourly fee for taking your material and converting it into html web pages.
Web hosting prices for people who can build their own web sites range from as little as $10 a month to $50 a month or more depending on the amount of computer (server) space needed and whether the web site requires databases, audio or video capabilities. A site costing $15 per month in hosting fees is adequate for most small businesses whose primary goal is to put sales literature on the web to get sales leads. Some hosting companies included shopping cart software (software for setting up a retail site) at no extra charge with host plans costing about $25 a month. Graphic artists and programmers typically charge $60 an hour and up. Conversion of documents to simple HTML pages costs between $15 and $25 an hour.
Find affordable web hosting
If you will be creating your own web pages or if you want to compare the prices your service provider quotes to price elsewhere, be sure to visit Budgetweb.com. This web site contains a directory of companies that offer web hosting services and a primer that explains some of the terms you may encounter in setting up your web. There is also a list of questions you should ask a web hosting company on the site.
Ask for references and check them
Before you agree to have anyone design your web site ask for references. Get the names and URLs of web sites they have designed for other companies. Look at those sites and see if you like them. Is the design of the pages attractive? Do they load quickly? Do they all look the same? Look around the sites for the email address of the owners and send them email. Ask if they were satisfied with the work that was done for them and if it was done in a timely fashion.
Copyright 2000, Janet Attard
All Rights Reserved. Excerpted from Chapter 14 of Business Know-How. May not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.