Websites have become a part of our everyday life, they are a source of information, a place to buy things and most businesses are expected to have one. So, how do you go about getting a professional looking internet presence whilst staying within your budget. Here we give you our top tips for getting your business online as cheaply as possible. 1. First of all you will need a host. Hosting is like renting a parking space for your website. It is space on a physical computer that is permanently connected to the internet and is of a high enough specification to ensure a certain level of service. Hosting can be anything from free for shared hosting but can be over £1,000 per year for dedicated hosting (once site per server). Consider how much space you will actually need, it could be less than you think and you should only pay for what you need. 2. You will need a domain name. This is what you type in to your browser window, i.e. www.fpb.org. The domain name should reflect the company or service and locations served. The text in a domain does have an impact on how easily you can be found in search engines, so if you sell chrome spanners, www.chrome-spanners.com would be a good choice. Also, if you only sell in the UK a .co.uk is a better choice than a .com. 3. When you are planning a website you should spend some time considering what you want the site to do. Do you want to sell online to raise revenue, or do you just want an online brochure to save on print costs? These are important questions that need to be considered before you start building your website as this determines how the project should be approached, plus how much it will cost. If you are clear about what you want from the start, you won’t have to go back and re-work it, which will save you both time and money. 4. You should consider who is going to see the site, who your customers are and what your competition’s websites look like. If your site is of a lower standard than your competition’s then consumers will assume that the same is true of your products. The site must be appropriate for the intended audience and design and spelling mistakes should be avoided. 5. One of the most important considerations is who you will get to build your website. If you plan to make it in-house, which is obviously the cheaper option, competence with web design software such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver is highly useful. Simple DIY web design software is available for as little as £50 that will allow you to put together a basic website, but the results can be variable. If you do choose this route, make sure that you read reviews that tell you how easy the product is to use and the quality of websites they produce. If you want a very professional looking website and you lack the relevant skills in-house, you may need to call in a web design company. Ask around other small businesses for recommendations based on quality of work and value for money. Always ask to look at a company’s portfolio of work and get quotes from a few companies to ensure you get the best deal. However, you should remember that you will get what you pay for, so the cheapest is not always the best. 6. So, once you have a website, how are people going to find out about it? Contrary to popular belief, you will not be flooded with orders the moment your site goes live. If you intend for site visitors to come mainly from search engines this must be planned for. Search engines only see text so, whatever you are selling, you must use that phrase throughout the site to be found by people using Google, Yahoo, etc. to search for that phrase. The number of links to your site also help your ranking in search engines massively, so swapping links with other site owners really helps. About the author Martin Saunders runs MS Internet Ltd., a professional website design and development company. MS Internet offers design, development, e-commerce, internet marketing, web hosting and domain name registration services.