Other than sweet-talking a geeky, computer-genius friend into doing it for nothing, small-business owners who decide to launch Web sites can either do it themselves or pay professional Web site developers.
"You can make your own Web site (for free)," says Barbara Barasa, who runs WebSitings (www.websitings.net), a business that develops and maintains sites for local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
"I don't usually recommend those if it's for a business or an organization. If it's a personal site about your dog or trip to Costa Rica, then that's OK."
While Barasa has seen some good self-constructed sites, they can lack features that allow for easier upgrading later to attract more hits or to incorporate advance services.
Google Sites is one free service that allows individuals to create and maintain their own Web sites. Similar services are offered by most Internet service providers.
"It's not a full-blown package or anything that would support high traffic," says Don Gumbert of JEFFNET (jeffnet.org), which offers personal Web sites to account holders.
Whether a site is self-constructed or done by a pro, the first step should be to determine what you want to achieve, says Barasa.
"Once they know what they want to achieve, it's pretty straightforward to figure out what the pages should be and what should be on the pages," she says. "It can be anywhere from a few pages to many pages."
Another early step is to name a Web site. Domain registration is the formal process used to secure a name, which costs about $10 a year. A drawback to many free accounts is that they don't offer companies use of unique domain names placed in a prominent position. Instead the company name comes after the site name of the host.
The domain name and Web pages have to be set up on a host site, where fees start around $10 per month, says Barasa, who recommends going with larger host sites that will be able to support more complex Web sites.
Some customers are surprised when they learn they must provide content, says Barasa. Those with text and graphics already developed may be able to use them, though she'll recommend writers and graphic artists to customers who need content created.
Barasa estimates it takes her about four hours to construct a basic Web site of five to 10 pages. She charges $50 per hour. Costs mount up for more-involved sites with features such as audio-video or payment programs.
Sites also need be updated, and Barasa says she maintains nearly 80 sites.
"Keep the content current. It's the best use of everyone's time," she says. "Some sites never change content. They languish."
Classroom instruction offers a middle ground between self-constructed and professionally built sites. Rogue Community College's Small Business Development Center in Grants Pass has offered a series of classes taught by Web professionals for two years.
"They tend to start at the beginning level and take folks through the basics, giving them the foundation information that they need," says John Lopez, director of the development center. "On the next several levels we take them further into the skills and knowledge they need to have to develop a good Web site."
A basic class includes four three-hour sessions. Level 2 and 3 classes comprise nine hours. The center recently added a fourth level at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford that shows people how to optimize sites to get more hits from Google searches.
For more information, visit www.roguecc.edu/SBDC.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.