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How much should jewelers budget for a good web site?

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"Good" is a relative term. Some people view "good" as visually pleasing but being nice looking can only get you so far in business. As internet users become more savvy there has been a shift from what we call "eye candy" to something more "functional." The iPhone has provided a general education to almost everyone who is at least the slightest bit technologically aware. This awareness is of the iPhone "App," as in the commercials that claim "yeah, we have an App for that." Combine this with users of online social networks are increasingly more familiar with online interactive websites.

Online customers are not impressed with websites that simply display information, or have flashy graphics. Direct online interaction is what users are craving. Give your website users some way to directly interact with you and they will become loyal customers. Give them what they are looking for quickly ans easily so they donlt waste their time on your website. Ease of use perception will also generate loyal customers.

So what is a "good" website in the year 2009? It's one that has customer interaction of some type designed with human heuristics testing. It could be something simple like an online wish list, or something more advanced like email and text messaging notifications when your jewelry repair is complete. People like to brag. Imagine how much bragging one customer will say about "their jeweler" when they receive a text message notification that their wedding ring is ready to be picked up from it's routine prong servicing. Word of mouth is one of the best methods to acquire new customers.

A "Static" is one that simply displays information about your store, it's an online brochure, and those websites should not be considered because you are simply throwing money away. Flash websites are visually pleasing but the technology they are created from does not interact well with Google or other search engines.

Every jewelry store should be striving to determine how they can extend their customer service onto their website. Each store is limited only by their creativeness in developing their own online applications, i.e. "Apps".

The technology that runs your website is unimportant. The jewelry store should only be concerned with weather or not their needs are met. You should hire a web programmer with several years of experience. Don't fool around with a high school student or college student since you will spend too much of your time educating them on your business, and what your website should do for you. Also be wary of recent graduates from a college or a tech school. Spend your money wisely by interviewing your potential web programmer and review their portfolio. The extra money you initially spend using someone experienced will save a lot of aggravation later on. While you are educating an experienced programmer about your jewelry store they educate you on the correct ways to use internet technology to protect yourself and interact with customers. The process will be much smoother than working with someone less expensive only to find out they can't set up a form with CAPTCHA protection, worse yet, they don't even know what CAPTCHA is.

I felt I needed to outline this information rather than just giving you prices since they can be scary without being pre-qualified.

Although not recommended, a static site is the least expensive type of website to build. You need a website to survive, without it you might as well start your GOB sale today. If your budget is $1000 or less then find someone to design a website that shows photos or your store, they typical product styles and brands you carry, store hours and directions. If built correctly, a static website could be your initial step toward being found online and in Google.

Websites built in Adobe Flash are expensive. I've seen them start at $700 per page on a website. In comparison to a static website that might only be $120 per page. Designing a Flash website requires a a different level of skill than that of static programming. Your programmer needs to video editing concepts like animation, and flow of music, yet they also need to understand the built in programming language called ActionScript. If you hire a truly qualified Flash Designer you can expect that $700 per page minimum. That's $7000 for a 10 page website, and 10 pages add up real fast: Home, About Us, Contact & Directions, Designers We Carry... that's already 4 pages and already $2800. Most Flash designers will also have expensive service fees when you need to make changes to your website.

Finally we come to the interactive types of websites. This is the recommended type of site, and it's limited only by your creativity and of course your budget. First, make sure you use a Content Management System ("CMS") that will allow you to edit your website on your own. Make sure you find someone who will train you on how to use that CMS, otherwise you will experience months of frustration learning it from trial and error. You will need the talents of a Web Designer to help you with the look and feel of the site, and a Web Programmer to put it together for you. Ideally you should consider hiring a website company, not just a single person. The difference between a Designer and a Programmer is akin to that of an Interior Decorator vs. a Construction Worker in that one know how to use a tape measure and a square to frame out a window while the other knows the best material to use for the window treatment. It's very infrequently when you come across someone with both abilities, and that person probably has 10 or more year experience setting up websites.

Some CMS's will come with built in customer interaction features. They should also come with the ability to add unlimited pages to your website. In this scenario you are paying the designer/programmer for the initial setup of the site, and for training. After that you are usually on your own to populate your site with information and photos, and then keep it updated at least weekly, preferably daily. Typical pricing for this type of setup should start at about $12,000 for customer interaction and unlimited pages. That's not a lot of money when you consider that a similar priced Flash website would only give you 17 pages. Word of caution though, don't be surprised if the programmer demands $200 per hour for customized interactive programming, so make sure you review the built in features of your CMS before choosing one.
Confused and worried about your mobile website options? Click here to find out how to get your own website evaluation and a game plan to make it better.

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AT: 11/13/2009 08:20:30 AM   LINK TO THIS ARTICLE
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