Good morning A to Z bloggers and everyone else! Today we are lucky enough to interview a website designer who is both affordable and well-skilled. Betty Pries of Lakeview Business Consultants (www.lakeviewconsultant.com) has joined us to discuss ways to make your own website shine. I have personally used Betty to design Romance Flash (www.romanceflash.com) and am almost loathe to give away my secret weapon to success!
1. First off, tell us how you came to start designing websites.
I designed my first web site back in 1999 for a local church. They wanted a simple web presence so I picked up Microsoft FrontPage, bought one of those big “How To Use FrontPage” books and started at it. I gave them what they asked for, “a simple web presence.” But for me, it was the beginning of hobby which has now turned into a small business. It’s fun for me, because the learning never stops. Web site development tools keep advancing to new levels almost on a daily basis.
2. What are some questions you would ask specifically, an author before working with them on a web site.
There are a lot of questions to ask up front: Why do you want a website? What are the goals of your new website? Do you have any marketing tools already in place, such as a branded name, logo, and color scheme? Who do you want to target with your web presence? You see, the final product should visually reflect the content of the site. The choices in color, font, pictures and style need to come together and complement the content of the site. Let’s compare two sites, www.romanceflash.com and www.campbasic.com. Romanceflash was designed to give the visual effect of romance and maybe even passion, so that as you read the stories on romanceflash you are visually in tune with what you are reading. Campbasic was designed to motivate people to want to get out into the woods and enjoy a week of camping with some special people. If romanceflash looked like the campbasic site, or if the campbasic site looked like the romanceflash site . . . well that would just be wrong. There are certainly more questions to ask about the mechanics of the site relating to any special features and special functions specific to your site. Those questions are important, but they seem to pop up as the site is being developed and reviewed by the customer.
3. If you compare and contrast Betty's work for me on Romance Flash and the website I created myself (www.katheejantzi.com) - what areas do you see where you can take a website someone set up for themselves and really take it to the next level. (Side note: - which I will have Betty do, the INSTANT I get my first book sale.)
The website: www.katheejantzi.com is a nice simple site. It serves its purpose and even looks better than those sites I used to make eight years ago using FrontPage. When you work with someone who has been building sites for a while, someone who is staying on top of the latest tools and trends, customers get to tap into that experience and expertise. Every month, I pick up new ideas and learn new ways to help customers achieve their goals with their web sites. For me it’s easy to look at a simple site and come up with a list of fun, eye-catching, pop-out-at-you features that someone not in this industry might not have thought about. Or maybe they thought about it but didn’t quite know how to achieve it.
4. What kinds of packages do you offer for people wanting to build or redesign their websites.
Every package comes with built in Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Friendly URLs, and regular backups, just in case a server crashes.
There are more specifics at my web site: www.lakeviewconsultant.com and I am always running specials and willing to help out not-for-profits!
5. What's the best way to drive traffic to a website and how do you help with that?
This is not an easy question to answer, because Search Engine Optimization is an ever changing field of study in and of itself. Because there are millions of websites on the internet, people use search engines to find what they are looking for. Today the top three search engines out there are Google, Yahoo, and Bing. There are many others as well. On a regular basis, these complex engines continue to change the way they produce their search results. And so a lot of work and thought has to go into the design of a website in order to make the search engines happy. And even then, for some sites in some areas of interest, it can be easy to achieve great search results. But in other fields of interest, it is an extremely competitive market, and it can be difficult to get listed toward the top of a Google search. And so I use a variety of SEO strategies, and we are always looking for more opportunities to get other websites to add a link to your site.
6. What part of designing a website the most time-consuming for you to work on?
I’m not sure what takes the most time. There is the time with the customer, learning what the customer wants and needs. Then there is the initial set up time, about 6 hours to start from scratch, register a domain name, set up the hosting account and get a basic design up and running. It can take another 6 to 10 hours to add all of the special features a customer might want on a site, and to make sure they are operating correctly. Sometimes a customer might want a feature or two I have never used on a site, so there might be a couple hours here and there to further my education. Then there is content. I sometimes spend a lot of time waiting for the customer to supply content and pictures for a site. I will even come out and take some pictures for the customer, if they so desire. After the site is about finished, I enlist a couple of trusted grammar experts to check over my work. After you add it all up, there is a lot of time involved. If I break the time into areas of work, there are usually five separate ones used for each site, and each type can take from 3 to 10 hours of work. When a section is complete, a customer might want to change something or add something (you know what I mean, right Kathee J). I try my very best to give my customer what he or she wants.
7. What kind of support do you offer after you've finished working with a client and are they able to update content on the sites themselves, or must they contact you for any changes?
All of the websites I create can be edited on any computer connected to the internet. I am happy to teach my customers how to edit and modify, add or change content, and so forth. I will support any feature that I installed on your site, period. If something stops working, just send me an e-mail of your problem, and I will try to get the issue resolved as soon as I possibly can. Sometime the fix takes only a matter of seconds. Sometimes it requires a little bit of thought or reading figuring it out. I want your site to work and I want you to be happy with your site and its features. That is very important to me. Now, let’s say you want me to make a bunch of changes to your site, in that case I will do the work for an hourly rate of $35 per hour or blocks of time may be purchased at special rates. I am easy to work with and I will support you and your site as best as I am able. I want you to be satisfied.
8. Any other special offers today for my blog readers or plugs you'd like to make?
If you contact me for a quote, (firstname.lastname@example.org) just mention that you read about me on Kathee’s Blog and I will give you 20% off my advertised rates. This Spring I am offer one year of free hosting, that’s a savings of $100. What that means for you is web site hosting for a year and a basic site for $600. My specials are always changing and are listed on my web site as well.