For most of us, internet usages is part of our daily life. Maybe not quite everyone, 90 percent according to Internet World Stats.

But though it is familiar, the responsibility of commissioning a web design and spearheading the creation of an online presence can be intimidating. A web site is like a car, just because you use it everyday doesn’t mean you know how it works or even the components that comprise it.

So if you have a business, where do you start? How do you determine the type of web site you should have, or a ballpark price range to invest? What should it look like and what should be on it?

Or maybe you don’t own a business, but you have been given the responsibility of researching online options for your employer or organization.

The first question to answer is:

Does My Business Need a Web Site?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes.

If you are providing a product or service that people pay you for and you live in an area where there is internet access . . . yes you need a web site.

Consumers Let the Mouse Do the Walking

everyone listed in yesterday’s Yellow Pages needs to also be available on the internet today–it’s where your customers expect to find you. Roy Williams, Entreprenuer.com, 9/19/2005.

There is a misconception among many small businesses that if they don’t have a product or service that can be sold online, that they don’t really need a web site. This is not the case.

Many consumers do their research online. They find product information and service provider reviews on the web. You may have been in a location for 20 years; however, if you don’t have a web site you are, at best, invisible on the web. At worst, you are leaving the helm of your online presence to your customers and competitors.

And you know the types of customers who are the most vocal . . . the ones that are ticked off.

In an age of search engines, social networking, RSS feeds, tweets, Diggs, and Sphinns, your business will be at a serious disadvantage without an online strategy. If you don’t have a web site, you aren’t even in the game.

Where to Start

So back to the original question, “Where to do you start to get a web site?”

The very first step is to recognize that your web site is part of your overall marketing, just one piece of your marketing mix. It is a vital piece, but still it has to work together with the rest of your business efforts.

Having a clear vision of your company purpose, unique selling proposition, and ideal client makes it much easier to design an effective web site.

If you already have developed corporate marketing kit, this will be easy. If not, I have put together a two page worksheet to outline the main aspects of your business. Download step one in our Web Site Planning Worksheet: Gathering Your Business Information.

This post is first in a series on web site basics for small business. Check back each Tuesday for a new tip or subscribe to our feed for updates.

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