When you decide to start a small business, there are several steps to consider.  First, you’ll be looking at options for your domain name. Once this is decided upon, your business identity should be created by a professional graphic artist. The third consideration is to search the web for website developers.  Choosing a DIY or “free site” in the beginning may be ok for some who have very little revenue and just want a calling card site. However, as the business grows, the site owner will want to be taken seriously and invest in a more professional site.

Correct way to purchase a domain name:

Buy the domain name yourself using your own means of payment such as your own credit card, etc.
Clients make a huge mistake by allowing a hosting company or another source to purchase the domain name for the company.  If you do this, don’t be surprised if visitors are turned off by a domain name that is something like http://myfreesite.companyname.com.  This is very unprofessional looking.  Purchase (on your own) your own individual domain name before choosing a host for the website.

Logo (Identity and branding)

The new company just starting out must consider how to develop a unique company logo which will stand out in the industry.  Most hosting companies that offer DIY and free sites do not provide a unique company logo. You’ll need to first, hire a graphic designer to develop your identity.
It is one of the most important elements and might also include an advertising slogan or a special message (selling your brand). This decision should not be taken lightly.  Some clients who have a bit of graphic ability will try to come up with a unique concept.  Unfortunately, if they are not an actual graphic designer, they will not be able to provide formats necessary for all printed items such as business cards, brochures, etc.
The money you spend to have a professional develop your logo will go a long way. Give them an idea of what you have in mind and put them to work.  It costs only a few hundred dollars to have a professional provide you with this important element.

Unwanted banners and pop-ups with DIY and free sites:

Web visitors can spot a cheap website easily by seeing pop-up advertising and banner ads. This is great for the company you pay for the hosting and domain name.  It is not so great for you as a business owner.  You’re advertising someone else’s product using your site.  These banners and pop-ups are also distracting to those visiting your site.  These elements will have visitors question your credibility.  Saving up to get a proper site will pay off for you in a big way. Those customers finding your site will now consider you a valuable player among your competitors.

No individual company URLs or email addresses:

Unless you actually own your own domain name and your website, you will not have branded email addresses to use such as “you@yourdomain.com.”  Instead you’ll have something like “you@abccompany/yourcompany.com.”  This sends to the customer a non-professional message that you do not own your own website, nor your domain name.  It screams “FREE SITE.”

Interactive features for the future:

These low-cost companies do not offer the ability for you to add future functionality such as order forms, surveys, calendars, shopping cart functions, etc.  The bottom line is this.  If your website has an unprofessional look and feel, it is easy to understand why you may not be taken seriously.
Check around and ask for several proposals from local companies in your area and compare costs. The website now represents you just as your brick and mortar store front would do.  The first impression for any business is crucial to be competitive and to stay relevant. Starting out right is always the smartest option.  You’ll have more flexibility and your expansion capability will not be limited.  Most website developers will offer you packages that will fit your budget. Please check out our “spring special” for 2015, which is advertised on our home page.
Hurry back for more news and views from the Design Wizards at Inside Design Orlando.
Guest blogger.