Did you develop your own website and now it needs an updated and more professional look? Do you need website optimization but the cost terrifies you? Spur of the Moment Ranch in Wisconsin shares its experiences with other small and independent properties.
FIND A WEB DESIGNER
The Ranch has had a website for 10 years, and it was developed internally. It needed serious updating and a fresh, new look. To attract a larger group of outdoor enthusiasts, the logo needed to be changed and the website’s functionality and organization needed to be enhanced. This was a tall order for a small property.
Those who are planning to undertake a similar venture should attend conferences, seminars, trade shows, and local business events to meet and listen to ideas from professional Web designers. If you find someone who you can relate to, call him when you are ready to talk in depth about your project. Assess his interest, and be sure to cover your wish list, time frame, expectations, budget, and ongoing support.
You can keep the cost of design reasonable if you are willing to take on some of the work. The more Web designers can train you to do yourself, the more reasonable the cost will be.
The Ranch’s new logo needed to reflect diversity of activities, express the essence of the property, and have the ability to be reproduced on promotional items.
Since logo creation can be costly, the Web designer we chose suggested trying an online solution (in our case, 99designs.com). For a nominal fee, the Ranch launched a one-week design campaign online at the base price and had designers from all over the world work on the logo. After one week, there were 72 designs to choose from. The logo we chose, created by a designer from Canada, captured the past, present, and future of the Ranch.
During the process, if you do not find something on the first go around, you can extend the period. Add more money to get additional or higher level designers.
CHOOSE A TEMPLATE
Being a small and independent property with monetary constraints, the Ranch was advised to use a template, which reduces programming costs. There are many to choose from, and they are customizable to make your website look unique. The goal ultimately was for the Ranch to be able to update the website independently. Our designer favored the WordPress templates because of their comprehensiveness and ease of use.
Not all Web designers want you to be able to update your site, and this is an area that needs to be discussed as you search for the right fit.
CONTENT IS KING
This is one of the first and foremost items that our Web designer impressed upon us. After the template was chosen, the Ranch put the content and pictures together, and thought about how the website should be organized. This took a fair amount of time, and will be an ongoing process. This is critical to the outcome of the website, and something that the Web designer cannot do.
Our Web designer is a fair distance from the Ranch. We communicate online, on the phone, via e-mail, and through gotomeetings.com. This process has gone quite smoothly. There has been frustration and stress on both sides at times, but that seems to be a necessary part of the process when you are creating something that is going to represent your property to the world.
HIRE WHAT YOU NEED
It was our desire to be able to update and change our website as needed: with the season, with new ideas, new packages, new products, etc. This is the most cost-effective method of managing your website. You can pay to have another company make all your changes, but it is costly.
The Ranch was able to keep Availability Online, and expand how that service is used on the new website. We felt that some continuity to the old website was important.
You do not need to do everything at once. Eventually, the Ranch would like to add promotional items for sale through the Internet, as well as other features. Our website is still a work in progress, but you can see what has been achieved by visiting www.spurofthemomentranch.org.
Ann Maletzke is owner of Spur of the Moment Ranch in Wisconsin.