Create Your Own Professional Web Site: 3 Steps, 3 Hours, 30 Bucks
Douglas L. Beck, AuD
Board Certified in Audiology
Web Content Editor
American Academy of Audiology
People ask me all the time about professional Web sites. The two questions that come up most are “How do I start a professional Web site for my practice?” and “What will it cost?”
The three steps that follow address most of the “How do I….” questions. As far as monthly fees, there’s really no reason to be paying more than $20 to $25 a month for everything. In fact, if you invest three hours of time in the three steps outlined below, I’ll bet you can have a phenomenal Web site for less than $30 per month. Really. If you spend three hours working on this, you’ll be good to go. You’ll understand the basics—and that’s really all you need for most Web site and Internet applications. You don’t have to be a computer scientist to create a Web site. The domain name services, hosts, and search engines are so good, anyone can make this work. Really. It’s just not as difficult as it was two or three or four years ago. Web site creation is more like “cut-and-paste” and “fill-in-the-blank.”
Please note, on behalf of computer geeks and Internet surfers everywhere, there are some core principles to keep in mind when you get to Step Three (Place Stuff into Your Web Site). Why am I placing the core principles here, before Step One? Because most people will go crazy when they get to Step Three, they won’t look back, they will be busy creating the world’s best Web site and they’ll be having a blast. So I am placing them here, while I still have your attention.
Core Principles: Keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple…and keep it seamless, optimize your keywords, focus on local search designs, optimize your meta-tags, use medium to large plain fonts, use white backgrounds, make it easy to find the basics (address, phone number, hours of operation, mapping function & directions), and finally, consider consumer-friendly downloadable PDFs.
The “wow effect” days of moving text and flash-based Web Sites were never really here, but now they’re totally gone. People want simple and easy-to-use functionality. Like you and me, they don’t want to search all over the place to find what they seek. They want the meat. They want instant, friendly, easy, simple, and intuitive.
An ideal product (or Web Site) requires no directions or instruction—it’s intuitive.
For example, think about hats. Hats do not come with instructions, you look at a hat and you just know. Gloves? Nope, no instructions needed. If they fit, they work. Basketballs? Same thing. No instruction needed, you just know the ball is to be bounced, passed, and thrown through the hoop. Crayons? Nope. You get the idea. To review, what do hats, gloves, basketballs, and crayons have in common? They do not come with instructions; they’re intuitive, much like a good-to-great Web site.
If you have to be told “click here” or “go to the next page” to find what you seek, that’s not intuitive. Instructions tend to muck-up the visitor’s experience on your Web site. They want to find what they need in an instant, on a friendly, easy, simple and intuitive Web site. The visitor already knows how to surf, it’s your job as the Web site designer, creator, artist-in-residence (whatever!), to make the information accessible in an instant, friendly, easy, simple, and intuitive way.
Okay, then, here we go with the three steps.
Step One: Domain Name (15 minutes)
You need to buy (rent, actually) a domain name. Your domain name is the same thing as your Web site address. For example, www.audiology.org or www.google.com. Once you create a clever name (“clever” in this case is analogous to simple), you need to see if anyone else is already using it or has already secured the legal rights to it. This is very easy. I don’t endorse any particular domain services. However, if you go to Google, and enter “domain name service,” you’ll find many companies that will check to see if the name is already taken and they will be happy to take your money to register your new name. You’ll find services such as; www.register.com and www.godaddy.com and many more. Domain names are surprisingly inexpensive, usually not more than $5 to $15 for the whole year.
By the way, the domain name does not have to be the same as your practice name. In other words, if you practice is named “Dr. Beck Audiology and Hearing Aids,” and if that name is already taken, you might try “Dr. Beck San Antonio Audiology” or perhaps “Dr. Beck Audiology 78232.” I always like to have some local information (city name, zip code, street name, etc.) within the domain name to help assure your local audience will find you. Maximizing local search visibility is simple and very important. Of course, it’s gratifying to have your domain name pop-up anytime anyone searches for hearing aids or audiology, but it really doesn’t help people in Seattle or New Paltz to see your domain name if your office is in San Antonio. Nor does it help you. The key to success for your local practice is local visibility, i.e., local search success.
Okay, so let’s assume you’ve now acquired a domain name. Congratulations. You’re on your way. Two more steps and you’re a Web master!
Step Two: Find a Host/Home (30mintues)
Okay, well again, this is simple. Now that you own a domain name, it needs to physically exist somewhere. That is, it needs a home, a place to live. Yes, Web sites are virtual (more or less) but they must reside on a computer somewhere, securely fastened (so to speak) to the Internet. In other words, the host/home is what connects your domain name and Web site to the Internet. That is, when someone clicks on your domain name, the host makes sure they connect to your Web site. The host and the domain name service work with you to make sure the domain name points to (and connects to) your Web site. It’s just a matter of “connecting the dots” and the host and the domain name service do this 24/7/365, and their support people can talk you through it in less than five minutes. Really.
I found a great host company called www.valueweb.com, now called Hostway. I found them through the Costco Connection a few months ago. They host my wife’s Web site for about $15 per month. For that fee, we get easy-to-use basic templates, excellent customer service and, of course, their toll-free number for Web site assistance (just in case!). Again, if you go to Google and search under “Web hosts” or “Web hosting,” you’ll find many contenders.
Here’s a really good thing to know—There are some high quality hosts that are free. Yes, free. Really. And you get quite a nice package, too. To learn about them, visit www.weebly.com and www.synthasite.com.
Step Three: Place Stuff into Your Web Site (135 minutes)
Okay, you’re here. And once you get here—the world is yours! You’ve arrived. Think about what Michelangelo or Picasso might have done with your Web site. Think creatively, think full-speed-ahead, go crazy, brain-storm and oh, by the way, also think about the:
Core Principles: Keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple…and, keep it seamless, optimize your keywords, focus on local search designs, optimize your meta-tags, use medium to large plain fonts, use white backgrounds, make it easy to find the basics (address, phone number, hours of operation, mapping function & directions), and consider consumer friendly downloadable PDFs.
This is where I can no longer be of any assistance. I have no idea which choices you’ve made along the way as you’ve created your Web site. You’ll have lots of choices and options, all of which can be changed at a later time. This is your time to play with your Web site, learn how to add and delete stuff to and from the Web site. You can add photos, JPEGs, text galore, and more. Frankly, this is not any more difficult than using Outlook or PowerPoint or Word but it’s a whole lot more fun. Okay, I‘ve given you 135 minutes to learn to build your Web site, you’ll likely have the basics done in the next hour. Really.
Of course there’s more to do when you’re ready. You might want to phone the host company and review how to set your meta-tags and keywords. You probably want to know how to turn on the counters to see how many visitors have popped in. You’ll probably want an email account or two that connects and forwards email to your own regular email (takes 5 minutes). You may even want to get some sponsors or add some links. All of those decisions can be made next week. Right now, focus on steps one, two, and three and after you’re comfortable, then you can take it to the next level.
For More Information, References and Recommendations:
Krug, Steve. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability 2nd Edition, Published by New Riders, ISBN 0-321-34475-8.
Kent, Peter. Search Engine Optimization for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7645-6758-6.
Sweeney, Susan. 101 Ways to Promote Your Web Site 5th Edition, Maximum Press, ISBN 1-931644-21-7.
Vari, V. (2008) “How to Create a Successful Web Site for Nothing (or almost nothing),” The Wall Street Journal. Monday August 1, 2008. Page R1.