Building a profitable Web site can seem like a truly daunting task. How do you even start thinking about your Web site project?

In part 1 we discussed domain names, logos and the buy vs. build question.

In part 2 we discussed your design, structure and content.

Now, in the 3rd and final part, we'll discuss construction, hosting and email, and the often forgotten elements of marketing and maintenance.

We're breaking down the 10 essential elements of a Web site plan, and pinpointing the fundamental decisions you'll need to make based on your goals and your resources. The direction you choose to take for each of these 10 essentials will form the foundation for your Web site and enable you to move on to getting your Web site done with the confidence that you have the right plan in place.

Let us know in the comments which way you chose and other fundamental decisions you've faced in your Web site projects.


7. Construction – This is directly linked to the build or buy question but goes beyond it as well.

The decision: You have essentially three options:

' Learn how to program – this means getting familiar with tools like PhotoShop, Dreamweaver and FTP software and possibly taking a couple of classes. Don't attempt this if you don't like computers. Fifty to a few hundred hours can be the expected time investment.

' Use a site building tool – most hosting companies offer one for free or you can use services like GoDaddy.com or Yahoo.com. Note that you are limited in the designs you can use with these tools. Expect to spend 30-40 hours learning the tool and building your site. (A little less if you've used these posts to create your plan first!)

' Hire someone – beware that the lone, jack-of-all-trades Web site designer/builder is becoming less and less likely to give you a quality Web site these days. The individual Web site elements (like design, HTML coding, programming, SEO etc.) are becoming far more specialized. You'll typically want at least a true HTML/JavaScript coder who's up to date with the best coding techniques, and a programmer (HTML is not programming) to do things like create working forms for you. Make sure you have the right people on your team.

8. Hosting & Email – Every Web site needs a host. Your hosting company maintains the computer (server) where your Web site files and company email accounts sit. Make sure you set up email addresses using your domain name. It will give your business added credibility and work to promote your brand. Free email accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo are great for personal use, but actually damage the credibility for your business. If you have any trouble setting up your email accounts, contact your Hosting company for support.

The decision – Finding a reliable hosting company is usually a matter of speaking to satisfied customers. Ask your colleagues not only if they're satisfied but why. If they've never called customer service but good customer service is vital to you, you want to know this before using their satisfaction as a barometer of your own.

9. Site Marketing – How will people find your site? Networking and word of mouth are usually not enough without a plan (no matter how simple) behind them. It's helpful to know how you'll market your business so you can decide if there are any pages or text you'll need on your site to support your marketing activities.

The decision – Identify which pages on your site are turning points for site visitors. These are pages where the visitor take some kind of action toward become a customer. A Contact Us page for example is a classic turning point page – this is where potential customers contact you to discuss your services to see if you might be a good fit.

10. Site Maintenance – Although this is last item on our list it is one of the most essential essentials. I meet so many businesses who tell me the person who built their Web site has disappeared or moved away or is charging them more than they expected to make updates. Make sure you have a plan for how your site will be updated. Know what technologies, pages and frequencies are needed to maintain your site before you agree to a specific construction plan. For example, if you have a Flash Web site, you will typically need to own and know how to use the Flash software to update it! And find out what the ongoing maintenance costs will be.

The decision: Outsource - hire your Web developer to handle task of keeping the Web site up to date? Or have a Web savvy member of your staff update the Web site? Or invest from the beginning to save later by building the site using a Content Management Tool which will let you or your staff easily update the site without needing to know any HTML or programming.

That covers the 10 essential elements of building a Web site. Stay tuned for our next topic – 5 Ways to Free! where I'll uncover 5 tools you can use to build a free (good) Web site.

In the mean time – review part 1 and part 2 of the essentials, get working on your 3-hour plan and tell us what kinds of challenges you've faced making decisions about the initial planning of your Web site.