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If you are looking to start a website you have two options which are to either hire someone to build it or to do it yourself. unfortunately last year when I was looking to start my website, www.PremierBlunts.co.uk, I did not have the funds to hire someone to do it for me. I also did not have the enough HTML knowledge to create one from scratch, so my only option was to use a third party site site which offers templates which make building a web site easier. When looking around I found that Microsoft Office Live Small Business offered the most easiest to use tools and best looking templates. Also when I signed up for MOLSB I was given 2 years free usage which including a domain registration (normally £7.99 per year). This is a great offer as it meant a no set up costs which was exactly what I needed! You will have to check if they are still running this offer but the last time I looked they were. MOLSB offer an easy to use template which made it easy to build my site but also offer a range of other excellent features which really make signing up worthwhile! The most useful feature is the reports section which shows the number of visitors you have had as well as other useful reports such as where they are coming from such as Google, Facebook, direct link etc. These reports are a must have for any serious web entrepreneur. Another fantastic feature is the in built Search Engine Optimisation tool which allows you to enter meta tags (the words which search engines like Google, Yahoo and Ask analyse) and descriptions. This is great as search engines offer a valuable source of visitors and it is important to be high up in their rankings. As well as this they also offer Email management which includes being able to set up you own @yourdomain.com email addresses. MOLSB offer a great tools to both build your website as well as those which you will need to maintain and build visitors with which is why I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to build a site but doesn't have the necessary HTML skills.
Dear God. Whoever created Microsoft Office Live wants shooting - out of a cannon, into the Sun. I had the unpleasant experience of having to use Office Live recently and I can honestly say it's an experience I don't want to ever have to repeat. Office Live allows you to create your own "professional" website for your business for free. Now, any business should know that there are certain things you need to spend money on... and a website is definitely one of them. Office Live's website creation tools are poor, inflexible and aren't going to give your business the professional image you require. Office Live is incredibly slow. We have a great net connection here at work but Office Live's website would often grind to a halt stopping me from doing any more work in my browser. All enquiries are handled through India meaning that help is available in broken English if you're ever unsure of what to do. And God help you if you want to keep your domain name, but transfer your hosting somewhere else (which is what I had to do). For every other website, all you have to do is change 2 settings, but oh not not on Office Live. It took me 4 emails to technical support only to find out that I had to cancel my client's account and register with another website to claim it back. If you're thinking of using Office Live, do yourself a favour and look elsewhere. Hire a professional to make your website and register your domain at 123-Reg.
~~*~~*~~ Microsoft Office Live Small Business ~~*~~*~~ When I got made redundant after the ex-boss had a nervous breakdown, the natural move was to get another job. Now obviously, one tries to acquire the job of their choice in the first fortnight, but after realisation smacks them in the face, one must merely take whatever the job centre throws their way otherwise one's dog will starve. As well as sulking, I did search high and low for a good job but I had a tiny puppy to add to the equation and didn't want to leave the little blighter at home (she was a bugger for chewing wires but strangely ceased once she'd gnawed through an extender cable that luckily had a breaker on it to take most of the current - I say most, because she let out an almighty yelp, ran away and hid under a bush for over an hour). Thus, I concluded, if the job centre weren't able to magically conjure up the job of my dreams, then I would have to create it for myself. I've always worked with dogs and had done some petsitting work on the sly so I decided to combine the two and become my own boss - no more would my hours be decided by an unknown evil force (and also, this enabled Doughnut (my Labrador) to maintain the lifestyle she was accustomed to). A brilliant and cunning decision, or so I thought. It never occurred to me when the light-bulb pinged in my ever-so-tiny brain, that there would be a fair amount of work required and that no customers would come flocking to my door begging for my services unless they were aware of me. Forgive my naivety, but I am blond. Bear in mind, I was penniless and rather depressed so going onto the streets of Burnley and advertising my services was quite simply not an option. Then the good old internet served up a right result. Introducing Microsoft Office Live Small Business: ~~*~~ What is it? ~~*~~ Good question. Now, I'm a girl. Computerness is not really my thing. Anyone who's perused my Dell Inspiron laptop review will remember how the land of computers can be completely greek to someone like me. Put simply, MOLSB appears to be a free hosting and web design service designed for small businesses - Maisha Frost from the Daily Express says it's an "internet service compatible with PCs and Macs which provides a free site, hosting and software for smaller businesses" (that's what I said wasn't it?). And it's so simple that I can do it. Years ago, using the "Internet for dummies" as a guidebook, I designed my own web page - it was crap. It took about 3 solid weeks and looked as though Doughnut had been let loose at the keyboard. Professional it was not. So, initially I thought this was going to be just as painful but luckily it was not. I'll split it into exciting headings for you... ~~ MOLSB ~~ Type the above into google and ta da - first on the list will take you to their homepage. One aspect to note is in the top right-hand corner in teeny weeny letters it will say what country it's for - make sure it's the UK (unless you don't want the UK in which case make sure it's for the country you want, you idiot) as you'll go through all the signup process and more only to realise that you've done it all wrong. Anyroad, on the homepage you will see a Big Green Arrow which says "Get Started Free". Now I'm not sure if it was the greenness or the word Free that grabbed my attention but either way you can't miss it. This takes you to the sign-up page which is fairly painless - it requires an email account (doesn't have to be hotmail but it certainly helps in the future for coordinating accounts and all that malarkey) and password and that's pretty much it. There's a demo you can walk through and plenty of explanations of each of their services. It's very user friendly but then I guess it's designed for simple people like me who've no real experience in web design. The basic layout means that you'll quickly get to the area you want including FAQs and customer stories and even though they've chosen orange as the backdrop it's not too excruciating on the eyeballs. Once you've registered and chosen your domain name, MOLSB will automatically remember it for you (which is nice) so all you have to do is sign-in. ~~ Website Design ~~ Once you've signed in, click on the cunningly titled Design Site. You're basically given a template that you can mess about with. It's very simple to use once you've got the hang of it, however, there are a few aspects that irritate the pants off me, such as when you've changed something, there's no 'undo' button so you've got to remember how it was in the first place, and adding photos is simple enough but manipulating them is not. Whilst you're designing the site you can view how it looks for real which is nice - deciding on colours and headers are very important if you're wishing to convey a professional company. You don't have to decide how many pages you want at the start you can add them and switch them around to your hearts content. Also you don't have to have a page live, you can work on one but have it hidden from public view. I particularly like hyperlinks - so simple to set up, merely right click on the highlighted word or words and select hyperlink whereby a little box comes up asking which page you want to link to either within the website or outside. I can't convey how easy it is to use! I've even added a slideshow to mine and although it's a bit rubbish as the pictures came from my phone, it shows the potential nonetheless! I've spent very little time on my website in comparison with the monstrosity of yesteryear, and yet I think it looks quite good and so does my mum which is always a great measure of taste. Unfortunately, on some occasions, I cannot edit the website using Microsoft's Internet Explorer and when I asked the Microsoft guys at MOLSB they promptly replied that this does sometimes happen and I should use Firefox instead! It didn't really matter as anyone can still view the website regardless of the browser they're using. It's great to know that they actually reply to your questions for a start, but in addition there is help on every page and for most queries. If you could be arsed, which of course I cannot, you can add your own html code to make it even snazzier. I've added links that use it and that's enough for me - one day I may embark on it but for now the uncomplicated route seems to be pulling in the punters. ~~ Hosting ~~ Well, it pretty much does what it says on the tin. You just have to register it yourself with all the big boy search engines which was fairly easy too. MOLSB have charged me £11 annual subscription even though it used to be free and appears to be free now but whatever, it is worth £11 (at the mo). ~~ Business Stuff ~~ Emails: You can chose an email address that matches your business/website which adds to the illusion that I'm a true professional. You can have multiple email addresses (eg email@example.com) and then merely chose which one manages the account or accesses reports etc. It was pretty easy to link the email address to my hotmail and combine the two - it also means that the calendar on my hotmail account is linked too - how clever is that? Well, I appreciated it. Reports: These show the different visitors to your site, individual page usage, referring sources (tells you exactly where your visitors came from eg. Google, yahoo, direct link), which keywords were used in search engines to then access your site - all these reports are dull to look at but have the potential to be useful - it's great to see that although I've done no advertising, I've had over 300 new visitors this month. You can add 'events' which if I ever were to get off my lazy ass and do a promotion day or discount week or whatever, then it would show up in my reports and I'd know whether it was successful or not. Business Applications: Now I've not really used any of these because at the moment my team consists of me and my friend, nor do I have orders that need tracking, or documents that possibly need to be shared with other team members - the fact is that I'm no Alan Sugar, but in the future, should this business really take off and I need to manage my franchises around the world, it's nice to know that I'll be able to continue using this software and control my minions through it - well that's the hope anyway. These applications are Free: Time Manager, Project Manager, Document Manager, Competition Tracker, Customer Support, Estimates, Company Assets!, Employee Directory, loads of other things and lastly, Blog (which I've no intention of ever using, ever). Business Promotions: By clicking on the 'Promote Your Business' link, and then going to Admanager, you're asked to purchase keywords for your business which I'll probably never do as there's not really much competition in localised dog walking and training, but you never know. MLOSB offers you the chance to create newsletters and start email marketing campaigns but again, I've no need to use this as yet. ~~*~~ Should I Bother? ~~*~~ Well, if you're using this review site merely to gain some pennies then get your arse in gear and create a website instead - it might be that you knit underpants for hedgehogs, or that you're really great at sketching the hedgehogs in their underpants - why not utilise that skill and start your own business. Or perhaps, you're using this review site for what it should be used for; reading intelligent and opinion filled reviews on topics such as web-design and hosting sites, in which case I can definitely recommend MLOSB for the minimum effort required in producing a professional (ish, depending on your skill) website. To be honest though, there's not really any point in having MLOSB unless you want a website. And that, my learned friends, is pretty much it. If I think of owt else, or indeed if you do, drop me a message and I'll consider including it for a small fee. I've not included my website address because I don't want random figures affecting my lovely reports and getting my hopes up! Thanks for patiently wading through all the above tripe. Caroline & Doughnut. Both currently planning world domination.