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Phases of Website Development 
By Aurora Stellar  

  
There are tree main phases in a website development that you have to consider for being successful on your online business: Planning, promotion, and maintenance.

I. Planning
Register your own domain name.
Design an appealing web site.
Have a reliable web hosting.

II. Promotion
Lead on search engines and directories.
Develop strategic email marketing.

III. Maintenance
Give excellent customer service.
Feedback and improve the before steps.
 

I. PLANNING

1. Own Domain Name
If you are serious about having your business online, the first thing to do is to register your own domain name. The domain name is the text name assigned to a website; a program translates domain names into a numeric address. It uniquely identifies an area on the Internet assigned to a particular company, which is coordinated by the ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Choose a domain name that is short, memorable, hard to misspell, and related to your site’s purpose, product, or business name. Before starting the design of your website, check if the domain name that you want is available and register it before someone else does.

2. Appealing Web Site
Having an appealing design with a worthwhile contents is very important to get steady traffic to your site and be listed on directories, such as Yahoo! Which is the favorite search resource on the net today. 
Maintain a constant look throughout your web site because consistency is very important for branding, besides present a professional image, . Place the navigational elements on the first screen of every page . An easy navigation system increases the stickiness of your site.

Make your external links open in a new window to encourage your visitor to return to your site. Avoid having external links in your home page. Make your text links stand out with different color, size, or font. Avoid fancy letters or colors. Use web safe colors. Pick the layouts, colors, and fonts that are easy to read on the screen.

Make sure your business site loads quickly. Be careful using animated gifs and multimedia resources. Do not overload your home page with slow-loading technology. Keep your sentences and paragraphs brief. Long paragraphs are a major turn off. If you have a big website with lots of pages, consider having a search function, a site map, or an index page.

3. Reliable Web Hosting
Your website host is the computer where your website files are located, which allows visitors access from the internet. To make the decision between a dedicated server and a shared account depends on your economic and manpower resources.

Most shared accounts --domain hosting or sub-hosted accounts--, frequently named virtual hosting, place many accounts on a single web server to lower the end cost. If you have a small business web site or are new on e-business, it is better to hire a web hosting company.

The bandwidth capacity and the level of support are important elements of choosing a hosting company. Most providers offer more space on their servers than you will ever need. However, you should look to get at least 20MB of web space. The  amount for web hosting depends on what sort of features you wish to have. On average, a typical website can expect to find a basic web host for about US$20-25 per month. 

Some ISP will include a limited hosting plan with your Internet access account. There are even some free hosting services which are often offered as an added feature to a dial-in account; they allow you a sub-directory from their domain. However, for business purposes, sub-hosted accounts are not nearly as professional as a domain hosting.
 

II. PROMOTION

It is absolutely important to effectively promote your e-business to bring people to your website. Otherwise, you will never sell anything; even if you have the greatest product in the market. There are many different ways to promote your website at a wide range of prices, including a lot of free resources on the net such as FFA, classifieds ad, reciprocal link, and banner exchange. 

Search engines are the primary way that people look for information and email marketing the second one (newsletter and newsgroup posting). People also find websites through link from other sites, banners, affiliate program, press release, award sites, traditional media, and the most effective of all, word-of-mouth. 

Include in your marketing plan a mix of different choices according to your resources and advertising budget. Website promotion is an incremental discipline seeking the accumulated traffic resulting from lots of little strategies.

Before starting to promote your website, it is very important to know who your target market is. Keep in mind that on the Internet you reach people all over the world. If you sell a product, find a way to make that product appeal to different groups over the world, and give them more information; target groups need more information!

1. Search Engines and Directories
Since over 85% of the people researching on the Internet are using directories and search engines to find what they need, being listed on them is one of the most important things to do for promoting your e-business, but with the explosion of sites, besides getting listed, the challenge is to have a good position.

If your website does not come up within the first matches on the leading search engines, it might as well be invisible because there are many sites competing to get listed with the same keyword. Before submitting your website to search engines, you must optimize your web pages in order to rank them in a good position. Getting and keeping a top position takes an advanced understanding of how directories and search engines work.

Each search engine uses a different algorithm to determine the relevancy with which websites match the words or phrases a visitor is searching for. Each one considers a multitude of factors in devising its own unique formula to provide the more relevant sites to a keyword search. Besides search engines change often, so you should frequently review their rules.

Search engines use the keywords location as the basis of ranking pages on the net. Many of the major search engines now factor link popularity into their relevancy algorithms. Themes and frequency are other factors to provide relevancy in a requested search, but themes are used by the major search engines because the technology is quite complex.

There are other ways you can market your site with search engines. Instead of competing to get a high listing on a particular keyword, search engines enable you to pay the listing. The most common paid listing are paid inclusion and paid placement.

2. Strategic Email Marketing
Email marketing is critical for the success of your business on the net because the  email is still the most widely used Internet tool available today. Virtually everyone who has internet access has an email account, and it opens up a huge possibility for more business. 

Email gives advertisers the ability to reach their consumers through highly targeted opt-in emails in the form of two different delivery options: Exclusive solo ad and e-zine advertising.

Exclusive Solo Ad. This is maybe the most effective marketing resource online but the most expensive. The solo ad distributes per email only an exclusive commercial message to target subscribers giving advertisers the opportunity to reach consumers' undivided attention.

E-Zine Advertising. This is a very good method of online promotion and the most common, but it can get pretty expensive. Most e-zines allow you to advertise a 35 words or above message in them at the cost of less than US$5 CPM. The cost is higher to reach the more specialized target groups. You can find some e-zines that cost US$50 CPM per ad. Do not purchase a service unless they specify that their list is 100% opt-in. Many scammers offer targeted email addresses or safe lists collected from newsgroups related to different topics, who are not asked to receive commercial messages; this is spam. An opt-in mailing list cuts out any form of spam or junk mail.
 

III. MAINTENANCE

1. Customer Service
Providing your customers with high quality service is one of the ways that you can distinguish from your competitors. No matter what you are selling, there are others selling the same product or something similar. If you want to build a successful e-business, nothing can help you more than happy customers.

E-commerce is still new for most people, who are scared of being scammed because they do not have proof  there is a serious company behind a web site. You have to overcome more fear online than in traditional sales, so  build a good reputation by associating yourself with quality products and services.

For instance, give as many options as possible to order online. The most common are: credit card, online check, phone/fax/800#, and printable order form for mail orders. Make it easy to order. Explain your customers how to order giving them precise directions.

Answer all email in a timely manner. Keep your customers satisfied and always offer a no risk, money back, guarantee. Tell your visitors that you will never sell their information to a third party. Put up your contact information. Post a FAQ section with immediate answers to your customers' questions to make your information more accessible.

Finally, make a feedback and improve each one of the steps mentioned in this article. Be positive and have good luck!

------------------------------------------------------------ 
About the Author...
Aurora Stellar has 13 years experience in marketing and 5 in business development. She is the entrepreneur of Traffic Builders Club All to set up and build steady traffic to your e-business, including proven techniques to promote it without spending a penny. This article may be reprinted freely, providing this attribution box remains intact. Copyright 2002 ASA.co

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