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Nowadays, your website is as much a part of your business as your logo, letterheads and business cards. With the correct approach, it can be one of your most effective marketing tools.

Before you even start thinking about how your site will look, consider what you are going to use it for. Is it just going to be a one page 'business card' website, or are you going to tell your customers all about your company and its products and services?

David Howell of Nexus Publishing had very clear ideas about what he wanted to achieve with his website: "My site had to do a number of things: First, it had to be a place where I could direct prospective clients who wanted to find out more about me and the services I provide. Next, the site had to show the type of work I could do for a client. And lastly, it had to be interesting enough to put over that information without being over-designed."

Do it yourself?

Having outlined what you want your website to do, you should decide what pages you need and how they will interact with each other. You may wish to get a professional copywriter to write your page copy, or do it yourself.

Once you have a clear idea of what the content of your site is going to be, you need to decide whether to build it yourself or use a professional design company. The choice may be simple. If you know you do not have the skills to do it yourself then it may be wise to give the job to another company. Alternatively, you could do some of the work yourself (e.g. writing copy) but outsource the rest.

When choosing a company to help with your website, try and get a personal recommendation and be sure to check out their previous work.

David Howell, with some experience of designing and building web sites, decided that he would build the site himself, with the aid of a site template. Website design software like Microsoft FrontPage comes with templates to get you started.

David: "I knew that using a template would be the fastest way of building the site quickly. I spent a great deal of time looking for the right template. But when I found it, the site was built quite quickly."

Quote�It's easy to be clever for the sake of it - but that won't impress anyone.�End Quote

If you look for templates then remember: some of the best sites out there are beautiful in their simplicity. It's all too easy to go overboard with the graphics and animations but it's unlikely that your visitors will be impressed. It's easy to be clever for the sake of it - but that won't impress anyone.

Going live

You'll probably want to register a domain name (like www.yourcompany.com) and choose a company to host your site. David opted for a company who provided both: "Using their administration screens I can see visitor statistics, order new domains or alter email functions."

David recommends a careful read of the hosting contract before signing up: "Look at the small print of your hosting agreement. Make sure you know precisely what you are paying for ... so you don't get any nasty shocks when you receive the bill."

What next?

Find out how to choose a domain name and find a company to host your website.

Got a basic site already? Read about how to expand your online presence.

Get information about website design package Microsoft FrontPage and order our How To... guides to see how to create a website with it.

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