Gone are the days when you could get by with a website built by your nephew in his basement. The web has evolved considerably and people are now much more savvy regarding what looks amateur and what looks professional. There are complex technical issues and marketing forethought that goes into a well designed website strategy. Knowing where to start and what to budget can make your head spin.
The good news is that the web is not exempt from the general rules that apply to technological innovation; What may have cost $10K ten years ago can now be accomplished for a $20/month subscription. Having professional guidance to help you through the process may still cost the same or more, but the tools available are now much more widespread and affordable. Below are a few tools to consider to keep your website strategy professional and affordable without sacrificing quality:
Designers, programmers, and writers oh my!
Traditionally, good talent tended to converge where the big jobs were (Toronto, San Francisco, New York), but in the age of the internet there are now a lot of talented individuals who decide to stay closer to home and use telecommuting. The brand new mom may have been a kick-ass designer in Toronto at one time but now she works from home in Brandon, Manitoba. There are tons of talented people available to provide freelance services and below are a few sites where you can find them:
oDesk – Whether you are looking for new talent or already have a remote team, oDesk offers a complete solution for working online. It provides access to designers, programmers, writers, and virtual assistants from around the world.
99Designs – A large online marketplace for graphic design, including logo design, webdesign and other design contests.
Website Content Management Systems
It used to be very expensive to get a decent content management system (CMS) that would give you control over basic changes in a website (pictures, text, pdf’s, forms, etc.) and there are still complex/expensive systems available. However, for most small and medium sized business you are better off with a FREE open source CMS. When speaking to an interactive agency be wary of those that offer a proprietary CMS since you may find yourself locked into an inflexible and expensive system that is not portable if you end up wanting to change agencies. Many open source CMS are widely supported and are constantly being updated by a huge community of developers. Below are some of the most reputable:
WordPress – Originally a blogging platform, WordPress has grown into a fully functioning CMS. It is probably the most widely used CMS and has thousands of plug-ins that allow you to build a sophisticated website with very little programming knowledge plus a robust blog. It’s free.
Drupal & Joomla – When your website needs are a bit more sophisticated, have multiple contributors, and require advanced database integration then you should check out either Drupal or Joomla. Both are free.
Having a blog is a critical part of your website strategy. If used properly, they help position you as an expert, provide a continuous stream of new content that search engines lap up, and help build an audience you can engage with. Below are two super simple blogging platforms that allow you to set up a blog in less than 30 minutes:
Posterous – If you know how to send an email, you can use Posterous. It is an innovative and simple web-based service that provides a feature rich solution that is very simple to use. Post pictures, videos, audio, PDF’s, and whitepapers without having to know any programming.
Tumblr – Similar to Posterous, this service is also very simple and actually provides more slick designs you can choose from so that you have extra style. The user experience of using Tumblr is also quite intuitive.
Email Campaign Software
If you’re not using email software to send out mass updates to your clients/prospects then most of your messages are probably being blocked by spam filters. There’s enough spam out there so it’s in your best interest to use a tool that allows you to easily manage subscriptions, opt-in approvals, and utilizes technology to ensure your mail gets delivered while also looking professional.
MailChimp – It’s free for up to 500 contacts and 3000 emails per month. It’s feature rich, fun to use, and very powerful.
AWeber – This is the top choice for many internet marketers due to it’s advanced capabilities. It’s a bit more complicated than MailChimp but has some additional functionality.
Google Analytics – One of the best kept secrets on the web, Google Analytics is very powerful and also free. It can be easily integrated into any website and allows tracking of traffic, content popularity, visitor paths, and even allows you to set goals you can measure against.
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