©Judy Vorfeld

Are you ready for your grand opening? If you've spent lots of time studying what works and what doesn't, in terms of customer expectations and search engine essentials: go for it! Before you launch, however, why not go over your check list one more time?


You bought your own domain name and have a good Web hosting service. You've made it as easy as possible for people to relate the domain name to your business. If you couldn't get the domain name you wanted, you'll brand your business so people will have some point of reference.


Your site has readable text. You avoided dark text on a black background; too small a font size; big blobs of bolded text; bulky paragraphs; underlined text that is not actually hyperlinked; and putting the text too close to the edge of a box or table cell. You don't have unusually wide lines of text, strange fonts for your body text, or too many italics. You made sure that link text can be read, easily, when it's on top of any block of color.

Most importantly, you know that your website is all about your visitors, not about you. You understand them, and describe how you can help solve their problems. You don't play on their fears, but you know they're there, and you carefully show how you can give them something solid. Something authentic. Something that will calm their fears.


You have excellent punctuation, spelling, and usage. Your words clearly define the reason for your site, and you worked hard to create powerful sentences and headings. You use "its" when it means possession, and "it's" when it means "it is" or "it has." You use "their" when it means possession; "they're" when it means "they are"; and "there" when it means "in (or at) that place." And you capitalize the proper noun, "Internet."


You offer clear contact information, including a mailing address. You've placed your business name, address, and phone and fax numbers, plus your e-mail address, at the bottom of every page.


Aware that you have just a few seconds to hook visitors into remaining on your site, you optimized all your graphics so they load quickly. You've visited enough sites to know that graphics must enhance, not overpower, both visually and in terms of loading time. You avoided animation, knowing that it detracts from the text. And you--wonderful you--didn't use the dreaded marquee feature and scrolling status bar text!


You may use Flash in your design, but very carefully. You've visited many Flash-based sites where loading time was excessive, and you left, never to return. Plus, all-Flash sites hold no interest for most search engines.


You have a terrific sense of humor, but you avoided trying to be cute or clever by using phrases like, "heh heh" or "hee hee" on your site. Best of all, you didn't use ONE smiley emoticon! :)


While you didn't give your life history, you revealed who you are and why you have your online business. You want potential customers to know that you have a legitimate business and hope to build a long-term relationship of trust and respect.


In line with building trust and respect, you offer a good privacy policy.


Visitors can move seamlessly from one page to another on your site, because you sat down and effectively organized your site's hierarchy . . . um, make that "outline" or "directory." You also put text links of your most important pages at the bottom of each page. And since some pages are necessarily long, you inserted "top" anchors and "top of page" hyperlinks for ease of navigation.


Way to go! You avoided telling visitors what browser, resolution, and plug-ins they must (or should) use. Instead, you designed for the widest possible audience, using at least three major browsers for testing; checked your pages using a good site validation program; and fixed what didn't work. During this phase, you asked several people to test your site, including some who use AOL, WebTV and a Mac. And you get a gold star for not using an "under construction" graphic on unfinished pages.


Lots of people upload unfinished business sites, and then scamper around the Web applying for every possible award. Do you wonder why? Some hope they'll get free ideas for site improvement. Others hope to impress their visitors with their lists of awards. But you decided to put the horse before the cart. You worked hard, had a good checklist, tested carefully, and are ready to open for business.

Sure, you'll make changes. Every website is constantly under construction. You plan to study those professionals offering solid advice for online businesses, or hire someone who can do that for you. Or both. You stand out, because you offered the best you had at the beginning, rather than opening with a weak, skeleton-like framework that you'll fill in when you find the time. Congratulations!

Now get out there and network. Locally and on the Internet. Let others get to know you and your business.

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