Get the biggest bang for your Web buck

How to create a beneficial home page

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and set up a Web site for your agency, but you don’t have the slightest idea where to begin. Don’t worry — setting up a site is much easier than you might think.

Judith Walden, RN, MHA, administrator and chief executive officer for Kokua Nurses in Honolulu, did most of the development for her agency’s Web site herself (www.kokuanurses.com).

"I did the entire Web site myself with FrontPage from Microsoft," she says. "I had a couple of people helping me initially. I spent $400 on a consultant, and the software is right off the shelf. CompUSA has a whole section on setting up a Web page and people who will help you."

Even better than the ease of implementation is the cost.

"You can spend upwards of $10,000 on a Web site, but ours cost about $500, not counting my time, which was about 40 hours," she says. "Or you can hire a student majoring in computer science or programming at a local college, and if you’re a nonprofit, you can get this help for free."

While setting up a site may not be difficult, setting up a useful Web site takes a bit of thought, says Kevin Sypniewski, president of Kailua, HI-based AssistGuide, a Web site with information and products related to long-term health care (www.assistguide.com).

For his site, Sypniewski is working with various Hawaii associations to get numerous facilities and manufacturers listed. The key is providing information not available elsewhere.

"It’s critical that you provide more information than people can get out of the phone book or some list," he says. "You need to provide more information than what is on your brochure, but on the surface it needs to read somewhat like a flyer, with bulleted lists and information, and if they want the in-depth information it needs to be there."

The next step in making the site useful is ensuring the information is applicable to your market.

"There has to be a collection of information there that is useful for the community," says Sypniewski. "You need to do some proactive exchanges with other organizations in your area. For a community-based system like home infusion, address the needs of the people you’re serving and look at the customer service end of it."

The information also should be updated regularly — every month or two — to make sure you get constant traffic to your site. Sypniewski says this is best accomplished by continually adding the number of businesses participating and continually developing quality content so people have a reason to visit and return to the site.

It’s also important to let others know about your Web site so they can access the information you’ve made available. It’s useless to have a stellar Web page that no one knows about.

"Your Web address has to be on every correspondence that leaves the office, every brochure, every flyer, and even business cards," says Sypniewski.

The second way to get traffic is to make sure you submit information to Web search engines. This way, when someone looks for certain information, your site will pop up without them having to know it exists beforehand.