Our discussion will deal with some of the issues which need to be considered when developing a new online presence. You may have already thought of some of these, but perhaps there are probably things which you haven’t even considered.
We are going to start our search for a webmaster, aka "web designer." Unless you are an accomplished programmer, you are going to have to spend some money at this point.
For example, is the server you are thinking about Linux/Apache or Windows based? Will it support dynamic pages, or only static, and if they do support dynamic will they support both PHP as well as ASP? Or do they stick to one flavor of dynamic. If these terms mean nothing to you, you are going to need the services of a webmaster, and now is the time to bring one on board, either as a contractor, or as an employee.
Web designers tend to specialize, so don't feel like you need to get someone who is versed in every aspect of website design.
If you just want a basic HTML site then just about anyone with web design experience should be able to help, but please don't call cousin Sam who just took an intro course and the community college. You want someone who knows something about business as well as websites, for you are building a business website. If you are not going to take orders online, then a static site, primarily for image purposes, is a good way to start.
But if you need a dynamic database driven site, you will need someone who understands PHP and MySQL. One who does ASP and Microsoft SQL may not be able to help, or perhaps they can.
There are many choices you can make here, but if cost is a major factor, stick with PHP, MySQL and some form of Linux. You may not know what they are, but when I say that they are free to use, it may give you good reason to think that way. And, believe it or not, there are A LOT of folks supporting these products for the good of the world, without pay. In my opinion, MySQL rivals any database system in the world for almost any use, and it is totally free for you to use. This is one time, my friend, that you get a lot more than you pay for!
The Yellow Pages are a good place to look for a designer. The size of the ad may give you an idea of experience and cost. A shop with many programmers is going to be more expensive, but may save money in the long run. In any case, get several estimates.
A web designer should be able to build a mock ups, or rough demo, for you early on to give you an idea of what the site may look like. They can put together some basic pages, add images and some generic text to give you a feel for the site. Do not expect to see a final site before you fork over some cash.
There are generally two ways to pay for a project like this, either a flat fee or by the hour. If you know precisely what you want, then go for a flat fee. If you do that, however, do not expect to make a lot of changes or additions that you expect to be done at no cost. You do not want to make your webmaster unhappy.
For most of us, an hourly based time and materials contract is best. The designer can give you ball-park estimates and tell you what it will cost per hour for anything else. And there will be changes, trust me.
Next time, we will talk about hosting your new site.