This article has been excerpted from Design and Launch an Online Web Design Business in a Week by Jason R. Rich, available from Entrepreneur Press.

Unless you're a website designer specifically trying to sell your own website designs skills, your ability to create and launch your online presence will be faster, easier, and less expensive if you take advantage of a complete website turnkey solution. Instead of having to hire a team of programmers to design and launch a website from scratch, which could take weeks or months to create and cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in development costs, a turnkey solution provides you with a selection of professional-looking website templates that you can customize with your own content (text, graphics, photos, animations, multimedia content).

Each template includes all of the components needed to create a highly functional website, including in many cases the ability to handle secure ecommerce transactions. Website hosting services and the ability to accept major credit cards and other online payment options is available for an additional fee, so you may not even need to acquire a separate merchant account. Many of the companies that offer turnkey solutions have even created an entire suite of easy-to-use, online tools to assist you in setting up and managing your online business.

While the many different website templates available to you may not offer flashy features you might like to incorporate into your site, they do offer the core functionality necessary to launch your online business and test its viability. Once your business is successful, you should definitely plan on expanding and fine-tuning your website on an ongoing basis. The biggest benefits of using a turnkey solution to design, launch, and manage your website are:

  • Low startup cost
  • A single company provides the development tools for the website itself and secure website hosting services. For an additional fee, the same company will facilitate the ability to accept multiple forms of online payments, including major credit cards, electronic checks, Google Checkout, and/or PayPal's Express Checkout.
  • Absolutely no programming required.
  • You can typically design and launch a basic site in less than a week.
  • The ability to choose from dozens or even hundreds of professional looking website templates, and then customize your favorite to give your site a unique look.
  • Using the same suite of online tools, you can design, publish, maintain and promote your site, and track traffic to the site and synchronize sales data to financial software applications such as Intuit Software's QuickBooks to better handle your record keeping and accounting. Many of the turnkey solutions also offer modules for maintaining a customer database, managing inventory, and keeping detailed order shipment records, with the ability to print shipping labels and track packages shipped via the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, or UPS.
  • Website templates are available for very specific business purposes. Thus, if you're a professional wedding photographer, there are templates that will allow you to promote yourself, showcase your work, and better service your customers by allowing them to order prints or wedding albums online. Specialized templates are available to handle a wide range of needs for graphic designers and photographers.

Before you start creating your website, whether it's from scratch or by customizing a template, spend time surfing the web looking for other sites that you consider to be top-quality and well-designed, and that you'd like to emulate. Determine in advance what features and functionality you want as well as what design elements you'd like to incorporate into your site. Knowing your immediate needs and what your needs might be in the future helps you choose a turnkey solution that's best suited to your business venture.

Every online business has different needs based on what's being sold, to whom the products/services are being sold, and what features and functionality need to be incorporated into the site. Once you pinpoint what you want and need, finding a complete turnkey solution that meets your requirements at a price you can afford is relatively straightforward.

As you look at what each turnkey solution offers, don't just look at a list of features and make your decision. Visit several websites that currently use the services of the company you're thinking about working with, and invest time exploring those websites. Your own site will be customized, of course, but do the sites you're looking at offer the professional look, functionality, and user interface that could work well for your business model and image?

Will you be able to easily customize the templates to create a site you're proud of and meets your needs?

Ultimately, choosing the best turnkey solution could mean the difference between success and failure. In addition to comparing the startup costs and ongoing monthly fees associated with each of these services, some of the things you'll also want to evaluate before choosing a specific solution include:

  • The tools and resources offered by the service provider.
  • The quality and selection of the site templates being offered.
  • The ease of use of the design tools and other resources offered to help operate your business.
  • The technical support services provided by the solution provider.
  • The functions that can be easily incorporated into your website using the development tools provided.
  • The ability to accept and process online payments from customers/clients.
  • The online security measures your site can incorporate.
  • Resources offered to help youmarket and promote your online presence.
  • The ability to easily integrate your site's order and customer data with your accounting, spreadsheet, and/or order management software.
  • The ease of use, functionality, and professional appearance of the shopping cart module that will be incorporated into your site, if applicable, using the turnkey solution you select.
  • The extra fees or charges you'll be responsible for in order to get your website designed, launched, and operational.
  • The expandability of your site in the future, using compatible third party tools and resources.

Here are some turnkey ecommerce solutions to consider:

eBay ProStores
Service provider: eBay.com
Phone number: (866) 747-3229
Website: prostores.com
Turnkey solution pricing: $6.95 to $249.95 per month plus additional fees

GoDaddy.com's WebSite Tonight and Quick Shopping Cart
Service provider: GoDaddy
Website: godaddy.com
Turnkey solution pricing: $9.99 to $49.99 per month plus additional fees

OSCommerce
Service provider:
OSCommerce
Website: oscommerce.com
Turnkey solution pricing: Free (site hosting not included)

Yahoo! Stores
(Yahoo! Small Business Solutions)
Service provider: Yahoo!
Phone number: (866) 781-9246
Website: smallbusiness.yahoo.com/ecommerce/
Turnkey solution pricing: $39.95 to $299.95 per month (plus additional fees)

Jason R. Rich, author of Design and Launch an Online Web Design Business in a Week and Design and Launch an E-Commerce Business in a Week, is the bestselling author of more than 37 books covering a wide range of topics, including computers, e-commerce, personal finance, career-related topics, and travel and entertainment. He also contributes regularly to major daily newspapers, including the New York Daily News, as well as national magazines and popular websites.