Getting your business on-line is now an expectation of your customers. Not only in terms of customers wanting to shop from home; but also as a way of locating your business or service. In the past customers would use Yellow Pages, or have a collection of menu’s in the kitchen drawer. Now they just type ‘Lumber, Healdsburg’ into a search engine and call (or email) the first or second business on the list.

To determine what type of website you want consider the following questions and answers:

1. What value do you want to deliver to your customers?

A. This will help determine what type of content you want on your site. For example is the purpose of your site to distribute information, or is it to sell actual products.

2. Have you seen any other websites that represent what you want to do?

A. Take a look at what’s out there. Pretend you are the customer, Use Google or Yahoo and do a search for your business. You’ll find your strong on-line competitors this way and be able to understand what they are offering – how will you differentiate form them?

3. Do you have an existing web site?

A. What do you want to do with your existing Web Site, continue to use it and expand the content, start from fresh with a new site? Do you understand what is working and what is not?

4. Do you want to change or update the website content - Weekly, Monthly, Never?

A. Websites that change often, get more attention from search engines, i.e. it will help your ranking in searches. The more relevant content you supply periodically, the higher up you will appear in search. Of course you don’t want to pay a web developer for every change so you’ll need a choose a web developer that supports active content.

5. Do you wish to sell products or service on your site?

A. You’ll need a site that supports a shopping cart. A shopping cart allows the customers to click products on your website and store them in a list until they are ready to Purchase.

6. Do you want to support credit card payments for purchases?

A. If so there are two clear paths. Using PayPal is by far the simplest method. It means your customers need a PayPal account, and PayPal takes a percentage of your sales. Or use a credit card processing service. These link your customers purchase to your bank. To do this your site will have to be validated by a third party and issued an electronic certificate that you are a valid business.

7. Do you wish your customers to interact with your site, i.e through discussion forums or blogs?

A. One of the great things about the web today is that you can build on-line communities. Your customers can review your products and share stories or ideas with each other. If your site delivers ever increasing value to your customers, then they will come back!

8. Do you wish to market the site yourself, of use a paid marketing service? (Remember, having a website doesn't mean customers will come - it takes work to be listed on Google and Yahoo!)

A. You must market your website. People will not stumble upon it. It is a business – it requires marketing. If you don’t want to self market then there are many businesses out there that will help you. They often go under the title SEO – Search Engine Optimization.