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2)Shop around for right design firm. There is no shortage of companies who can handle design and development of your website. Do not be afraid to shop around. Prepare a detailed RFP (Request For Proposal) that outlines things such as goals of your website, your target market, information you would like to have on your website, and advanced features such as ecommerce. Review portfolios of companies and send out your RFP to ones you feel have skills to do your job. When you've narrowed down prospects, do not be afraid to ask for personal or telephone interviews. Find out what their design process and work flow is like. Ask for recommendations about what type of web hosting your site will need. Also, make sure to review design agreement or contract with company you choose (a professional company will ALWAYS require a contract before work begins).
3)Have a basic idea of what you would like your finished site to look like. It's a good idea to do some "surfing" of web to see what your competition and similar companies are doing, but look outside your industry as well for designs that catch your eye. This will give your design team a place to start and an idea of style of design you expect for your own website.
4)Work on your "content". The content of your site includes all text you wish to display. This is a very important aspect to your site. Although you do not want to overwhelm your visitors with nothing but pages and pages of text, you do want to offer clear, concise, professionally composed and edited information. Proof read, proof read, proof read! If you are in doubt, it is best to consider hiring a professional copy writer. Remember that grammatical errors shout "unprofessional!" to viewer.
5)Once your site is up and running, don't be afraid to add or edit your content periodically. This keeps your pages "fresh" and shows repeat visitors that your business is active and "takes an interest" in staying up to date.
Sherry Holub received her degree in design from UCLA in 1995. She is now the Lead Designer and Creative Director at Southern California Studio, JV Media Design. http://www.jvmediadesign.com