What happened to the days when all you needed was a snazzy business card, an impressive resume and a firm handshake to represent yourself in the business world? Those days are almost as passé as getting TV reception using a “rabbit ear” antenna. Just as there is digital TV revolution afoot nationwide, Crain’s New York reported in 2007 that 20 million African Americans were on the internet. Now you need those same interpersonal skills in addition to the ability to communicate online.
“In today’s information/technology age you need to be online in some shape or form if you want to be able to communicate with most people,” says LaShanda Henry, web developer, entrepreneur and graphic designer. “Whether it’s the television or magazines or newspapers, every industry is seeing that more and more people are going away from traditional media and moving to the internet.” One of Henry’s businesses Multiple Shades of You Online is a web portal that promotes and highlights African American web content.
While millions have embraced going online for shopping, networking, socializing etc, many professionals still wonder just how far they should go. Does every business or professional individual need a website? What about Twitter and blogging etc, aren’t those activities good enough? In a recent interview with TNJ.com, Henry suggested that small businesses and professionals create a website of their own.
“You definitely need to have a space,” asserts Henry. “Twitter is great, as far as social networking, but I think the secret to social networking is that eventually when people build relationships with you, you want to invite them on to your primary space so that can’t necessarily be Twitter.”
“The same thing goes for a blog,” continued Henry. “I love blogging because I build relationships with new people and with potential customers and existing customers, but that’s not the actual business.” Henry says it’s important to have a primary website to conduct your core business.
One rule of the web is to always be evolving and open enough to embrace change. Henry provides a perfect example of how your original ideas might transform into something else. Henry started Multiple Shades of You Online in 2000 as an e-zine for girls of color as a way to utilize her education in computer science and background in educational counseling. “I was interested in giving them positive resources, but then I saw that there were so many wonderful things that other people of color were doing online,” she said. Now Multiple Shades of You Online is what Henry calls an inspirational hub. “I share the different things that other people of color are doing on the internet and in our community at large.”
Once she started one website, Henry continued to learn and eventually began to design websites for others. Her current focus is on women entrepreneurs, small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Tips for Designing Your Website
When designing your website Henry says you should be mindful of your purpose for being online. Your purpose determines what elements your website should contain. Are you promoting your offline business or are you also trying to make online sales?
Some businesses have a brick and mortar establishment and don’t have an online shop, so their website would be an informational site, according to Henry. “Other people actually want to sell products and services so their website’s focus will be different. They need to set up their website so that when people come they can easily navigate it and know how to shop. It really depends on the ultimate goal of the person creating the site.”
And what should you avoid when creating a website? “There are so many don’ts,” said Henry. One of the main mistakes is when someone buys a domain name and then immediately invites visitors to their site. And instead of cool graphics and valuable information, those first visitors are greeted with an ‘under construction’ page. “The domain in and of itself is not the website,” says Henry. “I always tell people until you get the content where you want it to be, don’t invite people.”
“Websites are one of those things where it’s hit or miss on the first try,” she said. “It’s really hard to get people to come back so you want to make sure that first experience is a memorable one.”
For more information about LaShanda Henry visit the following sites:
Multiple Shades of You Online
Positive websites for people of color
To review Henry’s websites for Women of Color visit Black Women Network
To review Henry’s web design projects visit: Pretty Professional Websites http://prettyprofessionalwebsites.com/