You'll need the following items to start designing a web site to sell your products and services.
A computer with an Internet connection and an email address to receive orders.
A domain name. Having your own domain name is a must for a commercial web site.
Hosting. You'll need a reliable hosting company that can handle your current and future needs.
A merchant account processor, payment gateway, and shopping cart to accept payments online. Most online customers pay by credit card, debit card, electronic check, or Paypal. Very few people will mail in a check. The shopping cart on your web site collects the payment information, communicated with the payment processor and gateway, verifies that the credit card or echeck is good, and returns the authorization or denial to your site. This all happens very fast. You can set up a thank you page that will automatically appear when the payment is authorized. When selling ebooks or software, you can put your download links in your thank you page and automate the complete ordering process.
To take payments online through a shopping cart you'll typically need a merchant account. Some order processors like Paypal, Clickbank and 2checkout will process the payments for you without needing a merchant account.
Web design software. You can design your web site yourself or hire a professional web designer. Hiring a professional allows you to focus on running your company instead of the numerous technical issues involved in web design.
If you want to design your own web site, you can either learn HTML and hand-code your web pages, or you can use a web editor. A web editor is software that creates the HTML code for you. But even when using a web editor, it helps to learn the basics of HTML to solve some design problems. WYSIWYG editors allow you to design your web site using a What You See Is What You Get interface. This is similar to a word processor where you can see what your page will look like as you're typing it.
Dreamweaver is the most popular professional web editor today but has a steep learning curve. FrontPage is popular for non-professional users. However, it is incompatible with other programs and will cause problems if you need help from a professional designer.
Some hosting companies offer free online wizards and template-based software that will guide you through setting up web pages. Using those makes it easy to start creating web pages but it will be difficult to make changes. Also, you may have problems moving your pages when switching providers.
If you plan on creating a simple web site, you can use one of the many free web editors that are available on the web. Below are resources for free HTML editors, WYSIWYG editors, and trial web page editors.
Nvu - http://nvu.com/
Netscape Composer - http://browser.netscape.com/ns8/
Arachnophilia - http://www.arachnoid.com/arachnophilia/
First Page 2006 - http://www.evrsoft.com/
HTML-Kit - http://www.chami.com/html-kit/
Free trial of Dreamweaver - http://www.Macromedia.com
Images. Your web site wouldn't be complete without images. These can be photos, illustrations or clipart. The inclusion of the right images will have a positive impact on the success of your site. The two most important guidelines to keep in mind are: Always use high quality images that are appropriate for the content they are illustrating; and always try to use original, or at least not overly used images. A picture can be worth a thousand words.
Statistics. You need to know the number of visitors you receive and where they come from. Make sure you ask for this feature when selecting a hosting service.
Arming yourself with the right knowledge and the right tools will make it easier to create and maintain a successful site.
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