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Hardknock's Guide to Setting Up a Web Site

By Nach Maravilla
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004

We read it in books, see it magazines, and watch the advertisements on TV. Everyone’s talking about it. The Internet is indeed the “in” thing of the times, slowly encompassing our lives. Now, cell phones have built-in access to the Web. With some added hardware, we can now browse the Internet in our televisions. Everyday millions of people, who can afford a computer and an Internet access, log on the Internet to gather information, search for products and services, shop or surf around, play or simply connect to other people. With no barrier in race, religion, language, the Internet has become a universal community by itself.

The talk is all about the Web -- e-commerce, e-books, e-business, e-banks, etc. What then are we doing in our cramp little offices, cubicles or plain office desks? What is holding us from forming our own home-based businesses where we can stay inside our bedrooms watching our favorite TV shows, while, as all these people say, the dollars pour into the mailboxes? Making money 24 hours a day even while we sleep. Why not? It looks like everyone but us are getting rich on the Internet. If they can do it, we can do better!

With a home-based business on the Web, we can reach everyone who owns a computer and has an Internet access. If billions of people have computers, and ten percent of that has Internet access – can you begin to imagine the size of this market? A hundred million prospects and we don’t even have to get out of our homes! What could be so hard in establishing our own business online and creating websites and start the ball rolling?

Now, we are set to start our life on the Internet.

Domain Registration

First things, first. We have to register our domain name with Internic, the point that controls the directory of domain names. You can register the name yourself if you know your IP address, DNS numbers and other technical stuff. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can provide these for you. But why complicate your life at this early stage, when there are companies like and, and so many others that offer this service for FREE!

Avoid those dot.coms who offer to register your domain names for a fee, from $40 to as high as $110! All you need to pay is the $70 registration fee tto allow you to reserve the domain name of your choice for 2 years and $35.00 every year thereafter. You can also register the domain name for as long as 10 years for only $299 from Lately, other companies have started to offer domain registration, for a much lower price.There are companies offering to as low as $9.95 a year.

You actually have three options of registering your web site name – either as a, a or a dot org. The and the are more often used in business and the is used by organizations, profit or non-profit. However, it is best if you could secure yourself a address. Lately, new suffixes has been added and you have much wider choice. the the dot-tv, dot-biz, dot-us, etc.etc.etc. Check the availability of the name that you want, reserve it, and you’re on your way!

Website Creation

Fear not! You don’t have to be a cybergeek to produce a decent-looking website. If you know how to move and click the mouse and type in the keyboard, then you can be off to a good start (although I do recommend a fairly significant amount of sense of aesthetics).

If you can at least use a word processor, we recommend that you design and manage your website yourself. Doing it yourself will save you a lot of money. First, if you were thinking of having your web site designed by someone else, consider this. Depending on the quality of the web designer, the cost can become quite steep for a home-based entrepreneur. The present going-rate of an ordinary 20-page website may cost you anything from $5,000 up to $200,000, depending on the number of bells and whistles that you include in your site. Web designers can charge you anything from $50 up to $250.00 an hour – not including the maintenance costs, as you will have to pay extra every time you need to upgrade or make changes on your site. And if you use a cheaper designer you might get what you won't like.

If money is not an object, you may skip this process and make your money work for you. But, the main reason why we are going into this home-based business thing is that we don’t have enough of it (it’s never enough anyway). Besides, you should save money where you can during your start-up phase. Spend your money where it counts later on.

Another strong argument for doing the website yourself is to ensure that you have total control over it. Giving the responsibility to another person who works for you only on a consultancy basis could lead to problems and delays when you want to update and make changes on your site later on. For beginners, you may have to make frequent and significant changes on your site, because of the constant flow of new ideas. If you are paying your webpage designer by the hour, that will be money down the drain at your early stages.. You may also experience delays in getting your pages modified and new pages created if your designer has taken on ten other projects or is nowhere to be found.

Giving control of your website to another party can severely constrain your operations. I have heard of cases where web designers kept the password of the website from the owner himself. When their business relationship ended, the owner has no way of going into his own website! Another case is one designer used sophisticated program codes that only he knew about. The owner has no way of making simple revisions. Even for correcting a misspelled word will cost him a fee.

Website Designing

Patience is a virtue and you will need a lot of it when you start working on your web design. Let’s be honest. Unless you are a graphic artist or a painter who understands layout and composition, your first attempt at website creation may not be good. But don’t be discouraged!

Before starting, try to surf around the Internet and take inspiration from the websites that you really like. Your goal, of course, is to create a far superior site compared to your competition! You can go to the search engines like (, ( and some others. Search for businesses that are similar to yours. Click on as many websites as you can and see how they make the layout their pages, the colors they use; the components and sections they have; the quality of their content; how their navigational structure works; and the kinds of graphics they use. Or you can go to award sites which lists the bests of the best. My favorite is ( It presents the best sites grouped by their qualities: ultra-hip, very clean, corporate, personal, products, etc.

There are a number of software in the market today that could help you in creating your website. Microsoft’s FrontPage 2000 and now 2003 is the most popular website design program and can be used by a novice. It offers choices that give you the liberty to either do it on your own or depend on their wizards. Since we are novices, the best way to go (and learn along the way) is to use the wizard first. The “wizard” is a set of templates that you just need to fill up and customize. The drawback, however, of using FrontPage’s wizard is that your site will look like 10,000 other sites! There are also web sites like ( that offer free templates that you can use. Once you have mastered how to use it, you can then attempt to embark on a trial-and-error journey to create a website from scratch.

Before you begin, I highly recommend that you create a dummy site on a piece of paper. Call it your blueprint; it is where you will decide on the contents, the layout and navigational structure of your site. Believe me, putting your ideas and thoughts on how to do your site on a piece of paper first will definitely make the actual site creation (whatever software you use) much easier. Planning will save you a lot of time and frustrations!

Familiarize yourself with the commands, tools and buttons of your website design software. By learning how to use these features you will be more flexible in putting colors, changing fonts, putting hyperlinks, or importing files from other sources in your computer files or making boxed announcements. Your goal is not only to create a website, but also to make one that will stand out from all the rest!

Enhancing Your Website with Graphics

Using pictures and graphics in the website will enhance the visual appeal to your viewers and break the monotony of text. However, putting too much graphics (unless you are a photography website, art gallery, or even an adult website) can significantly affect your loading time. Most people surfing the web do not have the patience to wait for your site to appear. If your website downloads too slowly, the viewer could be gone before a glimmer of the first graphic appears. If you cannot avoid using pictures, make them smaller by using a compression software.

Putting Everything on the First Page

Beginners are usually tempted to put everything on the home page. Some put 1,500-2,000 words of varying font sizes (some so big they will scare you away!), that makes you scroll and scroll down. This kind of sites scream “amateur!” while constraining the download time. Many owners of web sites like these reason out that they don't want their visitor to click to another page as they might move to another site. However, many people also hates to scroll, especially if they can see that it is a very long sales letter.

There are websites doubling as sales letters, normally for an “information” or “How-To” products, wherein you really have to scroll down. For this kind of sites, page breaks are avoided lest the selling momentum is broken! Several websites use this technique and most of them have been successful at it, primarily due to good copywriting.

Instead of putting everything in one page, have strategically placed links akin to a table of contents showing your visitors what you offer them. Make sure that you have a good directional map or navigation structure to help your viewers go around and stick to your site. It is very easy to drive away a viewer who gets lost in the maze of information (or lack of) that you provide. Use arrows, the words “next” and “previous” judiciously, supported by properly functioning hyperlinks. Remember that your visitors do not have the familiarity that you have with your site! Hold their hands every step of the way, act as their tour guide, and make them come back for more!

Creating Stickiness

If you intend to put links of other websites from yours, make sure to put reminders like, “be sure to come back” or place your related links in another page where they can click after they are through inside your site. You can also add a code on your hyperlink "_new" to open a new window when the visitors click on a link. Links can drive your visitors to other websites and may never come back. It is important that you try to keep your visitors inside your site for as long as you can because we must advise you that you will spend so much time and some money to bring them over. We will talk about the importance of “Links” later.

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