You have a fabulous range of jewellery and you want to get out there on the World Wide Web. You know what you want, be it a gallery site or full ecommerce capability. If this is you and you’re looking to create, or revamp your own website you have several options available.  These choices differ vastly regarding the time you will need to invest in them and how much you will need to spend.

I’ve seen poor websites with quality products on them that actually look cheaper and less desirable to the unknowing consumer than well built and designed websites with cheaper, lower quality products.  The upshot of this is that the consumer plumps for cheap and cheerful, paying more for it than they would the badly presented superior product.  This is why making sure you get your website right, regardless of how you go about it is very important if you are to create and maintain a professional and desirable image to your prospective customers.

I’ve outlined the basics of what’s involved in what I consider to be the three basic ways of going about creating a website, all with designer makers in mind, looking at what you should consider and how to get the most out of them.

Leave it to the Professionals
There are literally thousands of web design and development agencies out there, ranging from hobbyists that have taught themselves a little and are keen to build sites for other people for a small fee, to large agencies where sites have input from specialists in every area of the web design and development process and will expect a hefty payment for their services.

It’s important to do your research and find a company that will do a good job for you.  Make sure you look at the company’s portfolio and visit some of the websites they have built.  Find out exactly what is included in their quotations and what you will get for your money, including if and how  you will be able to manage and maintain the products and the content of your site.  Find out if they produce standards compliant websites and what they do to ensure good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

When approaching a web design company it is important to have a good picture of what you want from your website, so that you can get an accurate quote for solid, tangible requirements.  If you add extra things to the project as it develops this could significantly add to the original quote given.

• A professional and polished virtual window onto your business, showcasing your products and your business to maximum effect.
• Minimal time investment.
• Little or no learning curve.
• The biggest financial outlay.
• You’ll need to do your homework to find a company that will do a good job and give you exactly what you want, who are up to date with web technology and standards and won’t keep control of your    website or domain should you chose not to stay with them

Do It Yourself
A DIY website when executed well can be a brilliant thing.  It will cost you little more than the price of hosting, you will know it inside out and have complete control over it.  However, this option should be taken with caution.  If designing and building a website is new to you, you will most likely have your work cut out.  Not only will you have to select and choose the web technologies you are going to use, you will need to learn to use them, which could take more time than you spend actually building your site.

At a minimum, to be able to do a good job, you will need to learn some HTML and CSS.  The HTML will control the structure and content of your site and the CCS will dictate the design.  You don’t have to use CSS to manage your design, but doing so keeps the design and content/function of your site separate and makes it an awful lot easier to manage and maintain to keep it looking consistent.  Additionally there are website builders and WYSIWIG tools out there you can use that will generate your HTML and sometimes your CSS so you don’t have to, but you can’t ensure they will produce well-structured code.  If something goes wrong, you’ll have a lot less control over the situation if you don’t understand the underlying code.

One thing that is important to consider, and that can mean the difference between a simple to manage website, and one that takes an awful lot of effort to maintain is how you plan to manage the content of your site.  If you want a site that is easy to maintain so that you can frequently update it, you really need to consider using some kind of scripting language such as PHP.   In using such a language you can create the functionality to change the content of your site without having to touch the web pages themselves, therefore maintaining the integrity of the structure and design whilst at the same time being able to regularly update it.

Unless you have a flair for layout or graphic design, getting a professional look and doing your work and business justice can be quite a task.  Bearing this in mind, the best thing you can do with your design is to Keep it Simple.  A basic site, that is clean looking and easy to use is the safest option that is most likely to ensure your success and will allow your products to take centre stage.

• The cheapest option.
• You understand your requirements better than anyone.
• If you’re new to designing and building websites it can be a mammoth undertaking.
• You’ll need to invest plenty of time to make it happen.
• If you don’t do it well, it can present a poor image of your company.


The Best of Both Worlds?
We’ve looked at the extremes when it comes to website options.  There is however, a sort of middle ground that bridges the gap, and can be a viable option.

Content Management Systems (CMS) are essentially website frameworks that provide the functionality for your website and allow you to configure them to your requirements.  You can apply templates to change the look, and configure what you want the site to do.

The range of CMS’ available is wide and varied; there are systems designed for blogging, systems designed for ecommerce, and systems with a plethora of modules that you can install that will enable you to do pretty much anything.

There are several very good content managed systems that are simple to use and can cater for most requirements but probably as many, if not more that aren’t so great; so again it’s important to do your homework.  Carefully compare the features of the systems you are considering; can you achieve what you want with it?  Look for reviews online from end users; is it complicated or user friendly?   Do the developers provide support for their product and is it standards compliant?

One of the issues, of CMS’ is that many implementations you see online lack individuality and their own identity, due to the templates available being freely accessible for anyone to use.  There is no guarantee that you won’t see another hundred websites that look exactly like yours.   It is possible though, to purchase a template or commission one that will tie into your businesses brand and identity and will be solely for your own use, but obviously this will bump up the cost.  If you would like to have a website built for you but your budget won’t stretch that far, this could be a good way to achieve a professional looking site, without breaking the bank.

• A number of good standards compliant systems are available for free.
• Can take less time than DIY and less financial investment than going pro.
• Some shopping cart or CMS products have great functionality.
• Plenty of free or low cost templates to choose from.
• There will most likely be a significant learning curve if you are going to install, configure and manage the site yourself.
• Achieving a bespoke professional look for your site can mean significant financial or time investment.
• Could be quite a heavyweight and over the top solution if you want a simple website that doesn’t have any e-commerce capability.

Lucinda Marchant



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