Build a Better Web Site

By Lauren Simonds | Posted July 20, 2005

If you've been thinking a Web site might be just the ticket to help get your small business noticed, but haven't a clue where to begin, then Register.com wants to talk with you. The company offers a Web site service called Build-It-For-Me that's designed to, well you know, build it for you.

Register.com aims the service squarely at SMB owners who lack the knowledge, time or the inclination to learn how to use do-it-yourself Web tools. According to Ian Fish, vice-president of product management and marketing strategy at Register.com, Build-It-For-Me (BIFM) offers many SMBs something they thought they could never afford. "The $249 entry price makes it possible for any SMB to own a professionally designed Web site," said Fish. "Typically, Web design services alone start around the $800 dollar mark."

Here's what you get for the price of admission:
  • A 30-minute consultation with a Web designer to discuss the site's specific needs
  • A one-year domain name registration
  • A five-page Web site (built by one of Register.com's Web designers)
  • Site hosting
  • One branded e-mail address

Fish said that for an additional $29.95 a month, you could purchase the Monthly Web Fitness Program. That gives you up to 30 minutes on the phone with a Web consultant every month. This service, said Fish, lets you edit and add content to your site, learn how to optimize your site for search engines and receive competitive analysis to make sure you're making the most of your online presence.

"This lets SMB owners update their content to reflect new services, seasonal events or other types of content that keeps the site fresh and continues to meet the customer's marketing goals as the business grows," he said.

What you don't get is e-commerce capability, so if you're interested in setting up a shopping cart and selling product from your Web site, you'll have to shop elsewhere.

The Process
If you decide to bite, you'll start by talking with a designer to figure out exactly what you need to have on your site — content, images, logos and contact information — that sort of thing. BIFM is template-based, meaning you'll have a choice of pre-designed templates from which to choose. The designer will work with your content to present it on the page in an attractive manner.

Lora Lee Photography
Lora Lee Brown, a professional photographer and stay-at-home mom, signed up with BIFM last February. Brown runs her studio out of her home in the Seattle area, and was looking for a way to get the word out. "Since I don't have a storefront that draws people in," she said, "I needed a Web site to showcase my photography and to gain exposure."

She found BIFM while at the Register.com site looking for a company to host her domain name. "I liked that I could look at sample templates, that they offered different, customizable packages and, most of all, that they'd build the site for me," she said.

Brown said she also liked the straightforward process. "Registering my domain name, e-mail, password and picking the package took about 45 minutes to an hour. Then I chose the templates that I wanted and e-mailed the Web designer who got back to me within a day or two."

Brown spent about 20 minutes talking with the designer about what the individual pages should contain and how they should look. She then e-mailed the content for the site to the designer. In this case the content included photos, pricing, her bio and tips to help her customers prepare for their photography sessions.


LoraLeePhotography.com
Home on the Web — Lora Brown wanted a Web site for her photography business and chose Build-It-For-Me to build it for her.

After two or three back-and-forth e-mails with the designer for minor tweaks and revisions, Brown had her site. "All told, what with the editing and uploading files, it took exactly one week to have my site up and running," said Brown.

Even without the Monthly Web Fitness Program (she plans to invest in the service soon), Brown said she's able to make text changes and upload images as needed, but she can't change the site's layout.

Benefits
Brown said her clients have been impressed with the site. "It's a great way for me to produce a portfolio, and it lets potential customers see my work and decide whether my particular style is the right fit for them. Providing tips on how to dress for a session saves me a lot of phone time, too."

Brown's convinced that she wouldn't be getting so much business if people couldn't see her work. "Frankly, I'm not sure my business would have gotten off the ground without the site," she said. "It's more an essential part of my business rather than a building tool."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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