Setting a Website for Your Business: Key Points 19 Comments

This post was written byIrina Shamaeva, Partner, Brain Gain Recruiting for The Talent Buzz blog post contest.

In these hard times, some of the more adventurous people try to launch their own businesses. Those who are cautious but curious might be investigating this option along with searching for a job if they are in the market. The advantage of starting a recruiting business is that the initial expenses can be minimal.

Are you a corporate recruiter who was laid off and is looking into going on your own? Or maybe you are an “old school” recruiter who feels that it’s time to increase your online presence? Then read on.

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One absolute must-have for a business these days is a website. This applies to your business even if you do not really do your business through a website. (The first thing any potential client will do is try to look your site up!) Setting up your website doesn’t need to be a big expense or a long project. I am going to describe the required and the optional steps for a website creation. Though this article is geared towards recruiters, most of the content is applicable to any business site set-up.

To start with, you need to select a hosting service. Your site will be “hosted” by a company (i.e. will be displayed online). The hosting company will also supply you with business email addresses. (It’s the right thing to have a business email address, not just a gmail or a yahoo address, when you are introducing your business to others.) We use one of the most popular companies, www.1and1.com and have been happy with their service. www.Godaddy.com is another major hosting company. The cost for hosting a simple site and a number of email addresses is very small, just a few dollars per month.

The next step is inventing a domain name for your company, or buying a name. So many names have been taken; however, with some creativity and luck you will find an attractive name that is available. The site www.1and1.com (as well as many other sites) has a search box on their front page, where you can enter potential domain names and find out whether these names are taken or not. (As an example, when I was playing with it recently, I ran into a name www.bestitrecruiter.com that was available. If you are reading the article and are interested in this name, I will give it to you free – just let me know.) When you find a name, you need to register it (the typical cost is under $10); it’s straightforward and your hosting company will do it for you.

After you’ve gotten a domain name and selected your hosting company, it’s time to design your site. Back around the year 1999 I used to hand-code my own HTML, but the times and the coding standards have changed a lot. (A few days ago, I was at a playground with my son and saw another Mom reading a very, very thick book on coding websites. She didn’t look happy.) I feel there’s a need to either use website-creating software or hire a professional web designer. Either way it is challenging, however – and here’s why.

If your budget is minimal and you have some technical skills and courage, you may want to try and do it yourself. Most hosting companies will allow you to build a simple site for free. However, these tools have not been “polished” if you know what I’m saying. Those free tools have somewhat limited functionality and a limited choice of templates. There are lots of other almost-free site-building tools that would charge you a small sum if you want to use your own domain name, or remove their logo, and so on. I’ve tried a bunch and I didn’t see a clear winner.

The blog environment www.Wordpress.com is free and it has some site-building features, so it’s an option for building your own site as well. Create an account and try it for yourself. As an example, my blog has “tabs” with content as general, non-blog sites do. A small fee applies if you want a WordPress-built site to reside on your own URL. This is not a perfect solution but it may suite some.

Now, if you would like to hire a web designer to build the site for you (I did!), where do you start? Easy, you say, it makes sense to post a request online. There are many great web designers out there who will do it for you, perhaps for a reasonable fee. I agree with you. The big, big challenge is, however, how to select a designer. If you post a request on a site like www.craigslist.org (or a site targeted towards hiring experts, like guru.com) you will get a flow of proposals from designers who would be offering their services, along with sending you their online portfolios. When I posted my request about a year ago – and I offered the fee of just $250 for a simple site – I got a couple of hundred responses in the first few days. The portfolios I sampled ranged from clean, beautiful and easy-to-use to unappealing and overloaded with too much graphics and Flash. It was pretty overwhelming and at first I was not sure how to sort this out.

Here’s the set of criteria I ended up having; I recommend it to you too. Look for:

1) A professional response with complete contact information.
2) Clean and usable designs in the portfolio; not too heavy on graphics and nothing “flashing” or popping up from the pages.

3) Attention to your request in addition to portfolio submission.

4) An idea about how your interaction will go during the design process and after. (Only work with a designer who expects to collaborate with you on your site design as opposed to handing you what he/she thinks you need.)

If you start working with a designer that you trust, it may still be helpful to keep some things in mind. Just like a resume, a site needs to follow some conventions. At a minimum, it needs to have “Home,” “About,” and “Contact” pages, and, in case of a recruiting site, contain (or point to) a list of job posts. In our case, we were able to straighten out the design in a couple of iterations and have been reasonably happy with the result.

As for the job postings, we simply use a free service from www.Jobvertise.com and point our candidates there; we’ve used this for years now. This serves as the “Master list” for our jobs. We make sure we also post them on sites that create visibility for the right candidates. If you want to include the job postings within your site, that will require additional work from your designer. Make sure that you will have an easy way to update the list of jobs and a reasonably easy way to update the site’s content if you need to.

Should you also be looking for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? Many people would say you must (especially if you ask an SEO expert!). At the cost of making some of the readers want to argue with me, I would say that it depends on your business. For many recruiters, the website’s only purpose is to show that we are a serious business owner and to find out some details about our business. It’s like an online brochure. If this is your case, you really have no need to appear high in search results on search engines like Google or Yahoo (which is what SEO is about). If you are a recruiter, it would probably matter a lot that your job posts catch attention of those who search on the web; but your website is a different matter. With the amount of competition in the recruiting space, you may be looking at big expenses for SEO. In spite of what many will tell you, you may not need that, especially if you are just starting out.

I was hoping to cover the very basics of creating a business website. This is a broad topic; the web is flooded with information on this. I’ve tried to write a short, introductory, hopefully not-too-technical overview that may serve as a starting point on the subject. The views expressed are strictly my own. I am happy to receive feedback and suggestions.

About Jason Buss

Talent HQ’s creator and editor is Recruiting & Diversity Leader, Jason Buss. Talent HQ is a premier online news and information channel for the Recruiting and Human Resources community.

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  • Posted on: Sunday, March 1st, 2009