If you've never had a Web site getting started can be a little overwhelming. There are many things that go into having a successful Web site. If you currently have a Web site perhaps it's not doing as well as you would like and you'd like to find someone to help make it better. A Web site shouldn't cause you stress and sleepless nights. The key is finding someone you can count on for your Web site.
Where Do You Start?
Everyone's telling you, you need a Web site, but where do you start? The first thing you need to ask yourself is; do I want to create a Web site myself or do I want someone to create my Web site for me?
My suggestion is to find someone to do it for you or at least get you started. Some of you may have your own site and doing everything on your own. That's cool, but is it worth your time? Perhaps.
Maybe you're doing it because you like learning new things or challenging yourself. Right on Â that's cool too. Chances are though you haven't created a site that is reaching its fullest potential. Let's assume you don't have a site currently and you want someone to create one for you. Where do you go to find a reliable, designer/developer?
You should first talk to someone you trust who already has a Web site. Ask them who they use and what their experience has been with this person or company. If they're happy with their site they will tell you and likewise if they are unhappy with their Web site. Another way to find a designer is to visit sites you like.
Bookmark or write down the ones you like also note why you like them. Once you've found a few you like, email or call the owner and tell them you really like their site. Ask them what it's like working with the company who designed and developed their site. It is important to talk to the owner of the site.
The site may look good, but after talking with the owner you may find out that the company designed it, collected their money and then fell off the face of the earth. This is obviously not a good situation. It happens all the time and saddens me every time I hear about it.
There are definitely legitimate people creating Web sites that will meet and exceed your expectations. Unfortunately, they seem to be few and far between lately. Doing your homework before getting started will pay off in the end and save you a great deal of time, money and frustration.
When looking for someone to design your site there are a few very important things to ask.
Questions To Ask Your Designer
What experience do you have in Web design and creation?
- This will help separate the posers and clowns claiming to a Web designer from legitimate companies and people. You should seek someone who has already done several Web sites.
You might hear, "We'll I did this one site for my brother's company and it is really cool." Or " I haven't really done a lot sites but I am really interested in doing yours." Okay, that's great, but how is that going to help you? Which leads us to our next question.
Do you have your own Web site or can you show me examples of sites you've created?
- Any legitimate designer/developer will be able to provide several links to sites they've created. Most will and should have their own Web site for you to visit. Visit the sites the person provides and spend some time going through the site.
While on the site, pay attention to:
- How the site looks.
- Is it easy to read? Some sites have bright text on a dark background; this is hard on your eyes and not easy to read more then a couple sentences.
- Do the colors of the site work and look good? A good designer will have a sense of color and know what works. Many times developers or computer nerds that enjoy the coding will claim to be a "web designer". These people tend to talk in great lengths about the technology of the site.
You really don't need to know all this Â all you should be concerned with is; does it work and can people do what I want them to do? A well designed site with a good color scheme is inviting and makes people want to come back.
- Are the photos crisp and clear? This isn't a make or break issue, but it does help if the photos are clear and crisp. Not everyone has professional photos, but if the designer is good even horrible photos can be made to look decent.
- Is it easy to navigate from section to section? It should be easy to find what you're looking for and without having to click 20 times to find it. Generally speaking a successful Web site will have clearly named sections with the appropriate pages within them.
You should be able to find what your looking for within 3-4 clicks or if it's a large site they should provide a search field for you to find what you're looking for on the site.
- Are their any broken links or missing images? Many times it might look great on the homepage and then you get into the site and you see images missing or links that give you and errors.
- How fast does the site load? Not everyone has the luxury of a fast Internet connection. Many people are still using a dial-up modem and download speeds are not always fast. If the designer is good they will respect the user's time and built the site so it loads quickly.
The only exception should be in gallery pages. Many times photos will take awhile to download, but even these pages should load fairly quickly.
(Editor's Note: Roughly 70% of Americans still use a dial up modem!)
- How the site looks.
What do you charge or what are your rates?
- You will get quotes all across the board. If you talk with 3-4 people you may find one person quotes you at $3000 and another at $350. This can be a little confusing. One thing the designer should say is "it depends on what you're looking for on your site."
If they don't ask you that and throw out a number without you providing what you want on your site, this is a HUGE red flag. Every site is different and without some knowledge of what you want on your site, they shouldn't give you a quote. Some designers and companies have basic plans and this is fine. They may offer a package that has set sections or X number of pages.
If they do, you're usually locked into this template or that number of pages. If you're looking for a basic site and all you need are those sections, then that solution may work for you.
Another solution and one I recommend is to talk with the designer on what you're looking for now and what you plan to do with the site in the future. It is easier to design and build your site for the future.
Example: Maybe down the road you want to add a video gallery but you don't have any video right now. If you discuss things like this with the designer from the beginning they can build for these enhancements.
Again, this will save you a lot of time and money to plan for the future as it is more difficult to go back and redesign the site because you want to add something that wasn't planned in the beginning.
- A basic site will range from $350 - $1200. If you have a members section or lots of pages and content along with a store it will cost you more.
- Ask the designer how they charge for updates. Once you're site is built and online you'll want to keep adding new content and keep the site fresh. Typical costs for this are done by a flat monthly charge - $75 - $150 a month, depending on your site and how much is updated.
Other means are based by the update - $35- $50 per update. It all depends on what is being updated and how often. If you have very few updates this route will benefit you. Some designers will work on an hourly basis.
This typically isn't in your best interest. You should look for someone who works on a project basis. It keeps you from being charged their hourly rate when building the site and when updates are being made.
Lastly, spend some time talking through email or on the phone with the person. Many times speaking on the phone is the best way to come to a conclusion on which you are going to work with on your site. You want to have a good feeling from the person.
There are too many weird, creepy guys living in their parent's basement claiming to be web designers. If they are legitimate they will be able to provide answers to all the questions you ask them. An honest person will tell you if they don't know something.
The main thing is to trust your gut, if you get a weird vibe after talking with someone, don't go with them just because your friend did. Your website is going to be a reflection of you and give people an impression of you.
If the site isn't well done, people will remember - on the flip side if it is well done, people will keep coming back to your site. You want people to get a positive experience when visiting your site and you want to keep them coming back for more.
About Lift Studios
Lift Studios (http://www.liftstudios.com) provides professional, effective and affordable Web design. If you're looking for someone to help with your Web site, check out some of the sites Lift Studios has done. I'd be happy to provide a list of other people who are doing good work to compare pricing and portfolios.
Words Of Wisdom From Current Web Site Owners
IFBB FITNESS PRO
A website is a marketing tool that reaches the entire world! When you decide to have your own website, you must put some thought into how you want to be represented to the world. Throwing a site together just to have your name and photos on the web, without much thought of design or content, is like reaching into your closet with your eyes closed and settling to wear whatever you pick out!
It just may not be the way you want to be seen! You are your business and your website is advertising who you are, so treat it like a business and know what kind of image you want to portray. Once you know that, research dozens and dozens of sites to see what you like and find out who designed those sites. You want a site that reflects who you are and is professional, inviting and easy to navigate. Be prepared to spend some money!
Don't think a good, professional website is cheap! If you can't afford to spend a lot of money, then keep the content simple, but don't skimp on the basic design. Once you find a web designer, be patient with the individual and be clear with him/her about what you want. Ask for an estimate and be sure to get everything in writing.
A contract should be written up, so both parties know what to expect and what the cost will be. I am very pleased with the design of my website that was created by Conor with Fitsights. He created exactly was I was looking for! The only frustration was that because he is so good, he became too busy and was unable to update my site regularly! So, I was on the hunt for a new webmaster to take over updates and create new sections.
I am very fortunate to know Isaac Hinds with Lift Studios who just happens to live in my hometown! He has been extremely helpful with updating my site, offering ideas and creating a new site for my Performance Ready Fitness Team. He is prompt, professional, creative and fun to work with!
It also helps that he is very into the health/fitness world so he can relate to my ambitions with my sites! Having a website is fun and a great way to promote yourself, but it takes a lot of time, money and energy to keep it maintained and updated. Be prepared for the extra effort involved and have fun building your home on the web!
| Lana Battegello
Owner - Lana's Eggwhites
I started my business 8 years ago and didn't know much. Lots of trial and error. A work in progress. Since I feed many bodybuilders and fitness girls that have websites I decided that perhaps everyone was right.
I needed to be seen by ALL! Create your own website they told me! Of course you hear from a friend and another friend that their web fella is the best. I just flipped a coin. The cat was ok. Then I found a GREAT girl, but she was too busy.
Then, Isaac found me. Honestly, I pushed him away. But he persisted. I pushed him away once more but he came back and politely told me that he believed in my product and said I could reach so many more people by having some changes and getting more exposure.
I thought: I know everyone in my industry all the whooz who peeps. He couldn't help me... Was I wrong. DEAD wrong.
First off, I was REALLY impressed with his persistence (in a very classy way)
Secondly, I thought, well, hell, he is ALWAYS at his computer (I swear it is attached to his magic fingers) THAT in itself, LET ME TELL YOU is the NUMBER one thing I LOVE about Isaac.
If your web guy ain't answering you in one hour, DUMP his a__! NOW! I could write Isaac RIGHT now and he will answer me within 5 minutes. THAT is the most important thing to me now that I have it. How many of you reading this are saying "
Yeah, she's right, my guy hasn't gotten back to me in three days! Or a week!" ( don't they have the best excuses? ) I've heard them ALL. NOT Isaac. He says what he means and means what he says. ( & damm, he's cute)
Umm, ok, moving on, when he told me: "Gimme a few days, I am gonna knock your socks off when u see your new site!" (I was like, yeah right) He better had saved my old site in case I kick this Bozo to the curb. Guess what? My site kicks my own ass.
I felt like a celebrity it rocks so hard! And that's exactly what Isaac's power is. He makes you a Supah Star. He takes what you have and works it like no other. Isaac is the shit that happens. He doesn't have time to mess around.
When it comes to his work, his ego is large because he is an artist. That is what I want. Someone that is a perfectionist. A man that knows he did his greatest work when he hands it to you.
Another thing happens when you use Isaac the Great. Our 'Master' as we all call him. (Webman hell, 'Webmaster Ike' To All Of Us!) :) Isaac Makes Sure To Link Each And Everyone Of Us Together, Creating A Large Family. Check Out My Links Page, Go To Thier Sites, We Are All Connected. And Now We Are All Good Friends. We Support Each Other!
Lastly, I have fallen in love with Isaac. He is my friend. He is the best friend you could ever have. EVER. Loyal, trustworthy, always there for you. Caring, compassionate, TRUE. Down to the wire. Isaac is my rock. IF you are lucky, he will be yours too.
| Shelly Fields
National Level Female Bodybuilder
My first website was done in 2002 by a company I just happen to come across in a advertising magazine. It was poorly done never got updated on time, needless to say I started looking for someone else to do my site and two of my friends how are with Lift Studios told me about Isaac.
I looked at their sites and the way it was laid out and absolutely loved the way their's was done. I sent Isaac an e-mail asking if he would be able to construct a site for me and this was August of 2003 it took him 2 months to get it up and one month after to get the member's section going.
Before I contacted Isaac I was also speaking with another webmaster to do my site, I contacted him in May and he was so busy with his own site he never got anything done not even a splash page. Henceforth, I decided to go with Lift Studios and cancelled the other web company.
It's been four months since my member's section been up and I extremely happy with the timely updates I get from Isaac not the mention to pride he takes in laying out my photos.
I really would consider myself lucky to be on board Lift Studios hearing about all the horror stories from my other friends in the industry whose sites have fallen behind in updates and in the event having lost lots of members due to this.
Lift Studios You The Bomb!
| DrÃ© Dillard
National Level Female Bodybuilder
I trained a webmaster in turn for personal training sessions. He was supposed to do my website for me. I trained him up to $5000 worth of sessions and diet.
He started my site and never finished it and skipped out on me. I was devastated. I felt so betrayed and used. I felt as if I was so behind because I wanted my website up.
My advice to anyone looking for a website:
First, do your research on the person/company. If you know someone ask them lots of questions. If you don't, email some of the company's clients. Get plenty of feedback because if you decide to utilize the company you want to make sure that they are reliable and professional.
Secondly, be patient. Sometimes we as clients want things up and running before the webmaster can actually get them up... remember, you are not their only client. If they are good, they will get back with you in a reasonable amount of time.
Last, but not least, make sure that the individual/individuals are creative. You want a site that doesn't look like a template (that comes off looking really boring).
I love working with Lift Studios. I did my research and found that Isaac Hinds is not only professional but extremely creative. He has a lot of websites that he has created and none of them look the same.
I get compliments all the time stating that my site is far better than a lot on the net. I recommend to anyone looking for a site to let Lift Studios create one for you.
| Carmen Garcia
Fitness Cover Model
When I began fitness modeling in 2000 I decided to launch my official web site www.carmengarcia.com so I can market myself online and I would later add a members area. The first thing I had to do was the necessary basic steps like register a domain, find a reasonable web host company, gather up web content etcÅ But first, I had to find the right web master to develop my official web site that highlights who I am (my work) under the best light.
In my quest for the perfect web master, my experience was a constant roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, I had gone through about six different webmasters until I was finally referred to my current web developer/designer, Isaac Hinds (Lift Studios Inc.) through mutual friend and model/competitor Jennifer Chamberlain www.jenniferchamberlain.com I'm 100% happy with his work and doing business with such a professional and trusting person.
The first guy who called himself a web master approached me online (red flag #1) and charged me an arm and a leg for something a kindergarten child could have done. I say it is a red flag because I don't know how he found me and he was from out of state. Most of webmasters I've found are out of state. This makes it really difficult to run a background check if need be. He had shown me some of his previous work, but when he finally launched his design it didn't match his past work. It was too late for me as I paid him more than half of his design fee.
This person was a control freak so I told him how unhappy I was with his services. Needless to say, he kept blaming his "employees" for not updating the site in a timely manner and making endless mistakes. He didn't want to hear how unhappy I was. One day I logged online to check my site and he just shut it down without notifying me! Luckily, I had a long talk with him and he transferred over the domain name. I strongly recommend you own your domain name by registering online or by phone yourself.
The second web master referred to me by a model was lazy and sloppy, but I had no choice. I was desperate. He did a sloppy job on the web site and was very careless about maintaining the site. I was so frustrated at this point. One random day, a few people e-mailed me regarding my member's area and how it was exposed to non-members. These are only a few examples early in my quest for the perfect web master. Promises were made by all of these people who called themselves "webmasters", but there was no deliverance at all.
There was one web master that I thought I trusted, but I ended up firing him for many reasons. I had nightmares about this guy! I caught him in constant lies about everything. He had his "employee" update the site and the employee didn't photo shop any images etcÅ Photo shopping was stated in our written agreement. My paychecks were always late and the numbers didn't add up.
I had this web master host the site and that was a huge mistake. I learned to have either my own merchant account or a third billing party. My checks were simply not adding up and web updates were late. There were also constant errors on the web site and broken links. When a link was finally fixed, other things went to hell. In essence, it was a total disaster to find the right person whom I can trust with my content, a nice design and good maintenance.
Like shopping for a new car or a home, one must shop around for webmasters too. Do your research. Don't get desperate to find a web master today. Take your time or you'll regret it. There are many online (and offline) scam-artists preying on models that are desperate to launch their site. Ask for a mockup (or more) of the design before you pay out any moneys. Get your mutual agreements down on paper. Don't be afraid to ask for references and a lot of background.
Make sure you do a little research on how to be happy with your web site. Discuss every single detail on what you expect from each other. Remember, it's better to put your site off until the right person comes along that can offer a fantastic design highlighting you well. You should ask for at least 5 referrals from the prospective web master to make sure you know who you are doing business with. It's your money. It's your time. And most importantly, it's your image connected to your Webmaster's work that reflects off you!
| Kim Seeley
National Level Fitness Competitor
After a few years of surfing fitness sites, I figured it was time to develop my own. In all honesty, I had no idea what to do or how to do it. I had seen tons of sites that were great and some that were not so hot. Lucky for me I was competing at the Carol Semple Classic a few years back and I met Isaac.
Isaac and I discussed what I wanted accomplished from my site. I had a chance to view some of his work at Lift Studios. I found that his layout was easily navigated and he was creative in his design.
This was exactly what I wanted. His turn around on finalizing the site was so quick. I could not have done it without him. I highly recommend Lift Studios for anyone in need of a site. Reasonable, efficient and creative. Thank you Isaac.
| Julie Shipley-Childs
IFBB Pro Fitness Competitor
Isaac (lift studios) helps me tackle the overwhelming process of creating my own site. He has taken a huge project for me and helped me to break it down in basic parts.
This is helping me create a site that represents me and showcases my career and personality. He has innovative ideas and is persistent in helping me to reach my site goals (reaching out to my fans, showcasing my career, generating income). I couldn't be doing it without him!
| Jennifer Chamberlin
NPC Figure Competitor
When I had my first website built all I was really concerned with was that when people saw me in the fitness mags they had a way to contact me. I had a photographer who was web saavy help me build a very basic site. In fact all my info was on one page!
You could only click in to photos. Needless to say after a year I decided it was now time to upgrade. That's when I looked into Lift Studios. Isaac and I worked together on ideas for a members section and a brand new "face lift" for my site.
Not only have I had numerous compliments on how it looks but better yet so many members and visitors. Without Lift Studios my site would not be as profitable as it is today. I highly recommend anyone that wants a truly professional site combined with your personal ideas to contact them.