To read more about the genesis of this list, check out this post on Make-a-Referral Week from March 9, 2009.
Your website is your everything. Or, as I talk about in my speeches on using social media well and happily (i.e., to get your message across without annoying the rest of the world), it’s the mother ship you must have in place before you go venturing out to greet people on the faraway planets of Facebook, Twitter, etc., if you plan to make a go of this crazy Internet “thing.”
Therefore, you will get out of your website exactly what you put into it. Put a lot of thought, time and other carefully applied resources into it, and it will be like a lovely home: a place that supports you in your endeavors, is fun to hang out in, and attracts the right kind of attention. Throw it up and it will become quickly apparent that you cheaped out in some way: you’ll hate that it doesn’t “fit”, you’ll wrestle with every aspect of it, teenagers will drive by and throw eggs at it, and no one nice will ever come to visit. Or if they do, they’ll leave quickly.
My job, or one of them, is to get people ready to talk to the people who can help them build their web home. I consult with solopreneurs of all stripes who are ready to WORK but not so clear on which direction to point their guns in. I help them get clear on their message, which helps them know what kind of website they need, which makes it much, much easier to talk to a web designer or developer.
I don’t “do” websites: these people do. Or they show you how to DIY. They are very, very good at what they do, and they do not cost an arm and a leg. Just an arm. Okay, not really. But if you are looking for a website with any level of customization, and a provider who will carefully translate your needs into “web,” and who will show you how to use it and not just disappear on you after dumping a site on a server, you will not get the kind of service and site you need, most likely, unless you are willing to pay a minimum of, at this writing, $2500.
That’s no flashy stuff, either: it’s a basic, functioning site that works well, loads quickly, looks nice and allows you to update your own content (i.e., write new stuff for it and put it up on the site yourself, rather than have to hire your web person to do it.)
(Exception: there are service providers who will give you a non-custom site for less and still actually provide service. They are booked constantly. Trust me: you’ll want to budget a minimum of, at this writing, $2500.)
What to do if you don’t have $2500 but need a website NOW? There are lots of ways to have a mostly-free (0r even totally free) website. My suggestion is that you put in a little money and expect to put in a lot of time and DIY it. You will need to do these things IN ORDER and move slowly.
- Figure out why you need/want a website
- Research websites to find ones you like
- Buy yourself a URL (www.yourwebsitename.com)
- Read up on what makes a good website
- Sign up for a “free” website here or here; if you are a Mac owner with a .Mac account, you may want to look into this
- Pay the nominal fee to hook up your freshly-bought URL with their free site
- Write your “about” page, your “bio” page and your main landing page (for tips on how to do this well, read this first)
- Launch with these pages and add the rest as you go
Prep twice; hire once. Get clear on your goals. Hire me to help you, if need be. Then call these people. They do what I don’t do anymore in the world of web design.
- tony on the web! Tony Estrada is the guy I refer people to when they want a great looking site that they never have to deal with again: i.e., people who are NOT looking for a WordPress, Drupal, ExpressionEngine, or site they want to maintain themselves. Tony specializes in work for designers, but he’s got a portfolio of work for all kinds of artists and creative people that is thorough, to say the least. Full disclosure: Tony was actually my very first consulting client; he dragged me into it, kicking and screaming. But he was already way successful before he and I exchanged word one. (tonyontheweb!’s site)
- Reese Spykerman I “met” Reese through Chris Guillebeau, whose website she handled redesign on. Reese has a great attitude and the advantage of living in Malaysia, so she works while you sleep (and vice versa: don’t be an ass and expect her to be up 24/7!)
- Michael Grosch I met Michael at South by Southwest in 2006, and we’ve been friends ever since. He did the development on my old design portfolio site, communicatrix | designs, as well as a few other projects. Michael is primarily a developer, but he partners with designers to build clean, beautiful sites. Michael is a dream come true. Also, he lives in Germany, what is it with me and the out-of-towners?
- Bright Coconut Adam and I have partnered on several very complex websites together and he’s a DREAM to work with. He’s best for people who are excited about the prospect of a site they can easily write new content for and keep updated themselves without become big, scary, tech people.
- Anyone from the “design” recommendations who also does web design.
- See? I told you it was a short list. :-)