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Do-It-Yourself Web Design for Home-Based Businesses

Home-based businesses need a strong web presence to combat the inflated advertising and marketing budgets of their larger competitors, but establishing that presence through a professionally designed and developed web site may not be an affordable option. In many cases, the only cost-effective way to get the web site you want for your business is to do it yourself.

Even if you are not experienced in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), you can find helpful programs which will assist you in your design efforts. Trust me, it is not as difficult as it may seem to be.

Here are a few tips for finding software to meet your small or home-based business's needs.

1) Know Your Options

When it comes to web site creation software, there are three types to choose from: text editors, HTML editors, and WYSIWYG editors.

Text editors, which are basically any word processing program such as Word or Notepad, require extensive HTML knowledge.

NoteTab Light (Freeware)
http://www.notetab.com/download.htm

HTML editors are much like text editors except they include additional features to aid inexperienced users, such as color-coded tags and pre-prepared CGI and Java scripts. If you have little or no experience with HTML, WYSIWYG editor is a better choice.

HTML Kit (Freeware)
http://www.chami.com/html-kit/download/

Web-O-Rama (Donationware)
http://www.kevingunn.com/weborama.htm

WYSIWYG, which stands for What You See is What You Get, programs like FrontPage or DreamWeaver allow you to design the pages' appearance without writing code. You pick what you want and the program automatically generates the code.

Macromedia Dreamweaver ($399) (Recommended)
http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/download/

NetObjects Fusion ($149.95)
http://www.netobjects.com/products/html/download.html

2) Look for the Features You Need

When you start browsing for web site software, you'll want to look for a few key features, such as ready-made templates, wizards (they make many tasks easier and quicker), auto-backup, and pre-built code.

Remember to also keep in mind your own level of HTML experience. If you are inexperienced, then you will want plenty of templates and wizards to help you along. Likewise, if you feel comfortable working with code, then you may want to choose programs without all of the bells, whistles, and help since they will cost you less.

3) Do Some Research

Never buy a program, especially not one for business, without trying it out first. Most of these programs have demos or free trials available on their manufacturers' web sites. You can also check with sites such as CNET.com or Epinions to get an idea of which programs are being recommended by users. Check with popular computer magazines for their experts' input as well.

All of this research will give you a good idea of which programs to explore and which to avoid when you are making your final buying decision.

4) Keep in Mind Your Budget

Depending on which type of web design program you choose, your costs will vary dramatically. Text editors, for example, are often already on your computer. Notepad, a feature of Windows, makes a very usable text editor and will cost you nothing extra.

HTML editors, on the other hand, can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 while WYSIWYGs are priced between $70 to $500 and up.

Well-known brands, such as Adobe and MacroMedia, will cost more but the quality of their programs and the stability of their company make them a better choice than the inexpensive software from unknown vendors.

Also, be sure to look for programs that offer free or reduced price upgrades so you continue to get the most from your software without paying full price again every two or three years.

With these tips, you should have no trouble finding an HTML program that fits your needs and your experience level so you can create your own professional-looking web site without draining your business's budget.

-----SIDE BAR-----
No matter which software you use, a good knowledge of HTML will always be helpful. Here are some links that have helped me tremendously in building my HTML and web designing skills:
http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/teachingtool/html.html
http://www.davesite.com/webstation/html/
http://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp
-----SIDE BAR-----

Vishal P. Rao is the owner of: http://www.work-at-home-forum.com/ An online community of people who work at home.

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