Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Yiana Palacios @designleap on Twitter. She is Founder and CEO of Design Leap. She specializes in graphic design and website design. Her unique approach is to work closely with startup and small business owners one-on-one, designing marketing materials that help you grow your business. Design Leap is located in Burbank, CA, serving businesses nationally. For more information http://www.designleap.net
Smallbizlady: What are some excuses that start-up businesses make about not having a website?
Yiana Palacios: The biggest one is the money issue. I also hear people say “my business is not big enough to have a website” or not having time or knowledge about web design in general. These days, if someone asks for your website address and you don’t have one to give them, your business will not be considered seriously. A simple starter website doesn’t cost a fortune, but not having one at all will send your potential clients to your competition.
Smallbizlady: Do you recommend purchasing a .net, a .org or any other domain name extension in addition to a .com?
Yiana Palacios: Personally, I would purchase a .net or a .org in addition to .com, but not both. Because these two in my opinion are the top two remembered extensions after the .com. There are millions of sites on the Internet and it’s not likely that your competitor will choose the exact same name to win over your business, so buying too many extensions is not necessary.
Smallbizlady: What do you need to consider when hiring a web designer?
Yiana Palacios: Have an architecture for your website with how many pages the site will have. Have your budget in mind before you start talking with potential vendors. Be sure to check out the actual websites the vendor has done (and not just their online portfolio). Call at least three references. Use a contract with progression payments for work completed.
Smallbizlady: What are the alternatives to hiring a website designer?
Yiana Palacios: When your business is starting you can settle for a do-it-yourself website solution. There are many companies that offer this alternative. It will take more time and effort on your part as you would be doing everything yourself, but at this stage in your business, you just want to have some sort of a website.
Smallbizlady: How should you start in a web design process?
Yiana Palacios: You need to know who your target market is, who your competitors are and check out their websites, and know what you want your website to do for your business. At Design Leap, we want to get to know the client and their business as much as possible. It’s not just about having a good-looking site, it’s creating a site that is user friendly, easy to navigate and that delivers on what you want to accomplish.
Smallbizlady: What are the common mistakes that you see people make on their websites?
Yiana Palacios: Well, there’s actually a long list, but having lots of text in different fonts with different colors and things jumping and flashing all on one page spells disaster. It’s best to keep your website as clean and clutter free as possible and have an easy and consistent navigation throughout.
Smallbizlady: Should a website have a Splash page (also know as a Flash page)?
Yiana Palacios: Short answer is no. A Splash page can be pretty, but it takes time to load, search engines can’t rank it and it turns away visitors because they don’t have time to wait for it to load. Basically, a Splash page hurts your website more than helping it.
Smallbizlady: What do you say about using your own photos vs. stock photography on your website?
Yiana Palacios: Stock photography is a great, cheaper alternative to using custom photos on a website. If you’re handy with a digital camera and your photos look presentable, absolutely use them. However, if you’re selling products, it’s best to hire a professional to take the photos to present them in a best possible way. Images help you tell a story so only use those that are relevant to your topic. Here’s an article on “Adding Images to Your Website” that has good tips and links to where you can find free stockphotos. http://www.designleap.net/blog/2009/03/adding-images-to-your-website.html
Smallbizlady: At what point of the website design process should one start working on SEO?
Yiana Palacios: SEO is really a topic in its self, but do your keyword research, write different titles and descriptions for each individual page that will be on your site in the beginning of the website design process. Doing this at the beginning will save you and your website designer a lot of time by not having to go through all the pages again to insert this information.
Smallbizlady: How does one get on the first page of Google?
Yiana Palacios: Yeah, the one question that everybody asks and the only one that can’t really be answered. Google has a secret formula and it’s always changing, so there’s no one sure way of getting there. Start by having your website search engine optimized and most importantly start building relevant links to your website. The more links incoming to your website from other relevant and in “good standing” sites, the better ranking it will receive.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.