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Can I Manage My Web Site Myself?

There are a few things you need to consider before deciding whether to hire a Web designer or do it yourself.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: Should I build and maintain mybusiness's Web site myself or pay someone else to do the workfor me?

A: When you say "pay someoneelse to do the work" for you, I am going to assume that youare talking about hiring a professional Web site designer to do thework and not your next-door neighbor's teenage son. If myassumption is correct, then read on. If not, go ahead and flip overto the comics section. You will get no good out of the adviceI'm about to give, so you might as well consult Dilbert foryour hot business tips.

Should you build and maintain your business Web site yourself orpay someone to do it for you? Let me answer your question with acouple of my own. Number one: Is building and maintaining Web sitesthe key focus of your business? Number two: Could your time bebetter spent doing more important things like, oh I don't know,running your business? If your answers were no and yes,respectively, then you have no business building and maintaining aWeb site.

Remember this: Every minute you spend on tasks that are notrelated to the key focus of your business is time spent to thedetriment of your business. In other words, every minute you spendfocusing on tasks that do not contribute to the growth of yourbusiness and thereby increase your bottom line is time wasted.

If you want to be a Web designer, be a Web designer. However, ifthe key focus of your business is building widgets, it doesn'ttake a rocket scientist to figure out that your time would bebetter spent building widgets, not Web sites.

Case in point: I once had a very wealthy dentist ask if I couldteach him how to maintain his Web site so he wouldn't have topay me to do it. Now my teeth had helped put this guy's kidsthrough college, but that didn't seem to matter. At that momenthe was more concerned about having to pay for changes to his Website than my personal oral hygiene. "Sure," I said,"I'll be glad to teach you how to update your Web site,just as soon as you teach me how to clean my own teeth so Idon't have to pay you to do it." He got the point. And hecharged me enough for the cleaning to keep his site updated formonths. Smart man.

Many business owners think they can't afford aprofessionally designed Web site, and that simply is not true.While the old adage "You get what you pay for" is nevermore true than when applied to Web site design, having aprofessional Web designer do the work for you is money well spent.A well-designed Web site can bring you a many-fold return on yourinvestment. You can't say that about too many othercollaterals.

While it is best to leave Web site design and maintenance to theexperts, it is up to you (or someone considered a subject matterexpert within your company) to provide the designer with thecontent (text and photographs) that best conveys your company'smessage to your customers. A Web site, no matter how well-designed,is meaningless if it lacks the content required to interestcustomers in the products you sell or the services you provide.

Here are a few questions that, once answered, will help ensurethat your Web site's message is as appealing as its design. Goover these points with the designer before the design processbegins, as the answers will help determine the direction your Website's design should take.

What is the purpose of your Web site? Most business Websites have two purposes: (1) to educate the consumer and (2) tosell them products or services. If you sell shoes, for example, thepurpose of your Web site is to educate potential customers on thequality and durability of your shoes and, as a result, to sell themshoes. If you paint houses, the purpose of your Web site is toeducate homeowners on why your services are superior to otherpainters and sell them on hiring you to paint their house. Bydefining the purpose of your Web site, you will give the designerthe information required to create a Web site that best conveysthat purpose to your target audience.

Who is my target audience? Your target audience consistsof those folks you want to attract to your Web site: potential andcurrent customers, future and current employees, possible investorsand so on. Anyone who might be interested in your company and itsproducts or services is a member of your target audience. Correctlyidentifying your target audience is vital, since your Web siteshould be designed specifically to appeal to your targetaudience.

Put yourself in their shoes (or in front of their computers).Imagine your Web site through their eyes. If you were visiting aWeb site such as yours, what would you expect to find and whatwould you be disappointed not to find? Identify your targetaudience, then have your Web site designed to fulfill their needsand surpass their expectations.

What content should my Web site feature? Your Web sitecontent should be driven by the nature of your business. Ifyou're a real estate agent, your site should featurephotographs of homes you have for sale and information on buyingand selling a home. If you own an auto body shop, your site mightfeature before and after photographs of cars that you haverepaired. Remember to determine the purpose of your site, thendevelop the content to serve that purpose.

What's my competition doing? The last question youshould ask is one of the most important: What is your competitiondoing on the Web? Do a Google search for similar businesses andclick around their Web sites. How are their Web sites designed?What message are they trying to convey? Are they doing a good jobof conveying that message and, as a result, selling products? Whatdo you like about their Web sites? What don't you like? Makenote of the things you like and the things you hate, then shareyour findings with your site designer.

Remember, you're not stealing trade secrets here. You'rejust borrowing ideas.

Tim W. Knox is the founder, president and CEO of foursuccessful technology companies: B2Secure Inc., a Web-based hiring managementsoftware company; Digital Graphiti Inc., a software development company;and Sidebar Systems, a company that creates cutting-edgeconvergence software for broadcast media outlets; and Online Profits4U, an e-business dedicated to helping online entrepreneursstart and prosper from an online, wholesale or drop-shipbusiness.


The opinions expressed in this column arethose of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers areintended to be general in nature, without regard to specificgeographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied uponafter consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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