Create a Successful Website
Estimated Lesson Time: 11 minutes
For over two decades now, people from all over the world have been finding great success on the Internet through the creation of their own websites. To this day, the concept of a website still amazes me: it is a way to distribute information and communicate instantly with people all over the world for very little if any, cost. Never before in history has there been such a cost-effective and widely available opportunity for so many people to find success. Although not necessarily easy, by understanding the basics and some of the “secrets” of creating a website, even as a novice, you can create a successful website.
What is a “successful” website? Simply put, it is a website that achieves its purpose. Just as you must define what success means in your life, you must define what it means for your website. Your objective may be to communicate a message, sell a product, or collect information. You may want to meet this objective on a limited budget and by spending only a limited amount of your time and energy. One must consider all these factors in determining the overall success of a website.
The creation of a successful website can be broken down into four stages: 1) the planning stage, 2) the creation stage, 3) the promotion stage, and 4) the maintenance stage. Each stage is vital to the overall success of the website. If you can create one successful website, you can create several; perhaps you can create multiple streams of income and be well on your way to financial freedom.
- Plan. The planning stage is mostly done in your head and perhaps on paper. Begin by creating your website in your mind.
- The Idea. Everything starts with an idea, and a website is no different. Do some research on the Internet to see if there is a market for your idea. Even if many people are already doing what you are thinking about doing, can you do it better? If so, go for it.
- Value. There are billions of web pages on the Internet. Is your website going to add value to the Internet? Think value.
- The Domain. Do not under or overestimate the importance of a good domain name. On the one hand, a good domain name that can be easily spoken and remembered can be of great value when promoting a website. The words used in a domain can also be of value when listing the site with search engines. On the other hand, do not be misled to believe a domain is everything. A good domain is not a miracle business generator and most people who pay more than $15 per year for their domain pay too much. Realize that in virtually all cases, it is the website that adds value to the name and not the other way around.
- Hosting. Where are you going to host your website? Two of the basic choices are with a “free” host, or one that charges monthly fees. Just remember as a general rule, you get what you pay for.
- Funding. Creating a successful website costs money. Even if you do everything yourself, you are exchanging your time, which is worth money. Is this website going to be one that you finance by your own money and labor, or will it generate some level of income to pay for itself, and perhaps make you a profit? Here are three basic ways to generate revenue from a website:
- Accept on-line donations. There are many services that make it very easy to accept on-line donations. This works well for websites that are not focused on making money. Donations are not likely to make you rich, but they can help you pay for the development and ongoing maintenance of the website.
- Sell products or services. This is the most common form of finance for business websites. These sites are also known as “e-commerce” websites. Using the latest technology, one can securely sell products or services on-line, or at least advertise the products and services on-line and make the actual sale off-line.
- Advertise. If you plan on having a high-traffic website, you may consider selling advertising space on your website. To do this, you will need to have some tracking software in place and, more important, have potential advertisers that would be willing to pay you for advertising space. Another option is to use an ad service such as Google’s AdSense.
- Create. When you are ready to create your website, there is much for you to consider. With today’s software and web creation tools, just about anyone can create a decent website, but it still takes the artist to create the magnificent website. However, a successful website does not have to be a magnificent one; just an effective one. Do not let the lack of funds get in your way of creating a website—you can always design it yourself and have it redesigned later when the funds become available.
- Colors. Some colors go together well, and some don’t; in fact most do not. Use one of the many “color schemer” tools available on the Internet to pick out colors that work well together.
- Background. Do not choose a background that makes text difficult to read. If you do choose to use a background image or color, consider placing text in tables with a white background.
- Images. Nothing says “amateur” like a poor image. Make sure the images you choose for your website are web quality (72 dpi or 150 dpi for retina displays) and not distorted. Do not let HTML tags increase the size of your image. Also, be sure your images are not too large.
- Printable. Do you want people to print out the content on your website? If so, make sure it prints out well. If not, perhaps create a special website just for printing, or if you are up for the challenge, convert your website into pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format.
- Forms. Forms are great for receiving information from users. Most forms are easy to set up providing a “script” is available on the server. These forms e-mail you the data entered by the user.
- Links. Keep the number of external links, or links linking to websites other than your own, at a minimum. Visitors very easily get lost, and you do not want users to leave your website. If you do link to external sites, consider opening the link in a new window.
- Content. Your site can look amazing but if it lacks good content then people will not stay, nor will they come back. It has been said that an advertisement is a sales pitch in writing. Consider a website a form of advertisement. Write your content as you would write a sales presentation. What action are you trying to get the visitor to take? Think, “call to action.”
- Dynamic content. A website with dynamic, or constantly changing content, is one that will keep users coming back for more. Discussion boards, chat rooms, tips of the day, anything that will make your website different tomorrow than it is today.
- Interactivity. Websites are capable of being so much more than on-line brochures. Take advantage of the tremendous power of the Internet and embrace some of the technology that will help you attract and maintain visitors.
- Navigation. Make your menus as clear and descriptive as possible. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for and most of all, make it easy for visitors to take action.
- Promote. Once your site is created and tested, it is time to get the word out. Promotion is not a one day event; it is usually a continual process that lasts as long as the website itself. Promotion is a key ingredient to the website success formula. When you launch a website, you are essentially competing with billions of other websites. How are people going to find your website? There are entire books written on this subject alone. My advice: think creatively. You may find greater success promoting your website offline than you will on-line.
One of the biggest mistakes made by website owners is wasting time and money by lowering their prices, redesigning their website, and rewriting their copy, when in fact they really need to be getting more traffic to their site. The next time you feel your problem is with your prices, design, or copy, think about the boy who set up the lemonade stand in his garage over one mile away from the street.
- Maintain. Very few websites run themselves completely. In fact, I am not aware of any that do. There is always some manual intervention needed to keep a website running effectively, which requires either your time or money.
- Automation. Begin by automating as much as possible. If it costs some money to have a script developed to automate tasks, which will save you hours per week, then it is most likely worth it. Think long-term.
- Support. If you have visitors, the chances are you will have visitors with questions. For unique questions that cannot be answered by an autoresponder or on a FAQ, or to accommodate your visitors who like to work only with real people, you will need to have a support system in place. This can be as simple as an e-mail address that you respond to, or as complex as an international support department with a sophisticated intranet back-end. Take care of your visitors, and they will take care of you.
- Security. If you have a good web host provider, security should not be a major issue. However, you should still be careful about sending passwords, credit cards, and other personal information through non-secure connections. Always change your passwords on a regular basis.
Plan, create, promote, and maintain. Each step is equally important and vital to the success of any website. A successful website is the result of a good idea from a successful thinker. To most creators, a website is a very personal thing that they take pride in maintaining and sharing with the world. Create a website and at the very least, enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with the creation.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)