EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 154 - November 06, 2005 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 8

Building Your Own Ecommerce Website: My Experience with Yahoo SiteBuilder

By Renee Visalli

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If you have reached the point in your business where an online presence is a necessity but you are discouraged by the expense of having a website professionally designed, Yahoo SiteBuilder could be your answer. In comparing products to use in creating my first-ever website (http://www.ellisbelle.com), I decided to try SiteBuilder, as it seemed to offer the most professional results in a user-friendly, all-in-one solution for the first-timer.

The overall result of my experience with SiteBuilder is an ecommerce website that I am pleased with visually and that performs all the tasks that my small online business requires. (Note: SiteBuilder is currently compatible with Windows operating systems only, and is not compatible with Mac.)

Yahoo SiteBuilder can be downloaded for free from the Yahoo website. I discovered that in order to publish any site created with SiteBuilder to the Internet, I would need to sign up for web hosting through Yahoo. I accepted this requirement as a fair trade-off: the Yahoo web-hosting fees were reasonable, I had the reliability of a huge name providing my service, and I could begin building my site immediately with a free download of SiteBuilder without having to purchase and learn FrontPage or Dreamweaver.

Yahoo offers two types of web-hosting plans to use in conjunction with SiteBuilder, Yahoo Web Hosting and Yahoo Merchant Solutions, with different levels of service within each plan.

I am currently using Yahoo Web Hosting Starter, a plan that allows my customers to make purchases through PayPal. Yahoo Web Hosting plans range in price from $11.95 to $39.95 per month with a $25 set up fee, although Yahoo frequently runs promotions.

If you choose a Yahoo Merchant Solutions plan, you will be able to accept credit card payments directly, not only through PayPal. Merchant Solutions plans range in price from $39.95 to $299.95 per month with a $50 set-up fee; additional transaction fees will be charged by Yahoo and the bank providing your merchant account, which can be a previously established account or a new account set up through Yahoo partner Paymentech.

The web-hosting plan you choose will affect the look of your site in SiteBuilder. Yahoo Web Hosting will allow you to easily insert PayPal "Buy Now" buttons into your pages, whereas Yahoo Merchant Solutions will draw upon product information you enter in a store catalog and create a shopping cart and check out pages for you. Your decision to use Yahoo Web Hosting or Yahoo Merchant Solutions will depend on the number of items in your store as well as your projected sales.

As I began the process of turning my initial sketches and notes into a website, I came to appreciate the flexibility that SiteBuilder offers. There are currently 382 templates to choose from, or, like me, you can choose to design your site on your own. SiteBuilder lets you use as much HTML as you like, or you can build a completely functional and beautiful site without knowing any HTML at all.

The first time you open SiteBuilder and choose "New Site" from the drop down File menu, a feature called the Site Creation Wizard appears. This Wizard walks you through the basic steps of creating your site, helping you to avoid the frustrating and discouraging feeling of not knowing what to do next. If you use a template, the Wizard automatically creates home, about us, contact us, services, and blank template pages and links these pages together with a navigation bar. You are then directed to a User Guide which takes you through the next steps of personalizing the template you have chosen, showing you how to add text, choose a background color, and add images and links.

Formatting text in SiteBuilder will be familiar to anyone who has used Microsoft Word. Choosing font style and size, text color, aligning your text, and even spell check are similar to Word. If you chose not to use a template, the Wizard skips the steps of creating set pages and a navigation bar and takes you to the point in the User Guide of personalizing your pages. The User Guide is a reassuring presence always available for reference on the left side of your screen, even after this initial set-up phase.

The Yahoo page promoting SiteBuilder accurately states that you can set up a website in minutes, although personalizing your site could take anywhere from a few hours to a full week depending on what your business requires from a website. It took me several days to publish a first version of my website, which went live in May 2005. I have reworked my site several times since then as I continue to experiment with various SiteBuilder features.

My next goal is to incorporate at least some of SiteBuilder's forms and add-ons into my website. SiteBuilder allows you to easily insert feedback and contact us forms and add-ons such as sound and video, a site search box (unfortunately this comes with a big Yahoo logo above the box), a counter, and a time and date stamp.

Between the Site Creation Wizard, User Guide, Yahoo online resources, and a little trial and error, I was able to turn one stark white page into a series of web pages that eventually came together to create my website. I am pleased with the results I achieved through SiteBuilder, which put the seemingly daunting task of designing my own website within my reach and made a potentially overwhelming experience enjoyable and rewarding.

For its combination of price and user-friendliness, I would recommend Yahoo SiteBuilder to anyone contemplating building their first ecommerce website. Please feel free to email me at info@ellisbelle.com if you have any questions regarding my experience with Yahoo web hosting plans or SiteBuilder.

Useful Links and Information:

Featured sites created with SiteBuilder, a template gallery, a SiteBuilder tour and manual, and a free download of SiteBuilder can be found at:
http://webhosting.yahoo.com/ps/sb/index.php

To compare Yahoo Web Hosting and Merchant Solutions packages, visit the sites:
http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/webhosting/compare.php
http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/merchant/compare.php

Paymentech will begin doing business in mid-2006 as Chase Paymentech Solutions. Read the press release at:
http://www.paymentech.com/newprerel2005chapaysol.do


About the author:

Renee Visalli (eBay User ID ellisbelle1) is the owner of Ellis Belle Vintage Greeting Card Creations, which features greeting cards based on vintage images of dogs and cats and can be visited at http://www.ellisbelle.com. She collects antique prints and postcards of dogs and cats, as well as postcards with holiday and patriotic themes. Renee grew up in Maine and is currently living in Turin, Italy, home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. She may be contacted at info@ellisbelle.com.


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