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Building a web presence

April 17, 2012 By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent Save | Post a comment | MARSHALL -

Most people who aren't especially tech-savvy are intimidated by the prospect of building a website, but it doesn't have to be that way, according to University of Minnesota Extension Educator Neil Lindscheid. A diverse group of more than 20 people gathered at the Marshall MERIT training center Monday for a seminar on "Websites, from Simple to Complex."

The seminar was part of a series sponsored by the Marshall Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Extension, and the Southwest Initiative Foundation. "Websites are about decisions, and thinking about the decisions, not the technology," Lindscheid said.

Some of the participants wanted to know how to improve their existing websites, others wanted to know their options before designing a websites. Some had businesses, others hobby interests, still others represented non-profit philanthropic organizations. All were interested in establishing a presence on the Internet. Lori Skaar and her husband raise show pigs and farm near Marshall. "We're looking to sell our pigs to 4H-ers, and FFA kids," Skaar said. "We have a website and we're looking for things we can change. We have a pig sale in spring when most kids are looking for pigs to show in August, so we want to get out name out there." Skaar is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs who market exclusively over the Internet.

According to Lindscheid, anyone setting out to design a website should first consider what the purpose of the website is, and ask themselves why they are creating a website, and how they are going to use it. "Businesses use websites to communicate with customers, feature, products, promote events, educate customers, and convey information like store hours and contact information," Lindscheid said.

For those with small or part-time part-time businesses, or hobby interests there are any number of free and easy web design and hosting sites such as Google, Wordpress, Weebly, Yola, and Homestead. "Basically I'm just here for myself," said LeeAnn Buysse. "I'm looking for information on how to do things with friends. We do crafting and things like that, for a hobby or maybe a retirement business someday." Lindscheid stressed that for most applications people generally do not need the services of a professional website developer.

Katie Stromme is an amateur website designer interning at the Marshall Area Fine Arts Center. "This semester I'm building them a new website on Weeby," Stromme said. "I came here for general tips and advice." If the planned website is going to be big and complex enough to require a professional designer, Lindscheid recommended interviewing customers, looking at different websites for features one likes and dislikes, comparing services, and asking about costs for basic site setup, site maintenance, e-commerce payment for online payments and it works on mobile phones.