Whether your company is large or small, the success of your website depends upon how thoroughly you do your homework before you sit down with your website builders. There are many good firms and consultants who can build and set up a website. However, their ability to deliver what you want - at a price you can afford - depends upon the quality and scope of the input you provide. Here is a handy step-by-step guide to help you get started:
- First, surf the web to see what others in your line of business are doing. Use various search engines using different key words and phrases that would apply to your new website. Check out the sites that come up in response to the different key words. This will give you important information on what key words will work best for your site. You’ll also see different layout styles on various sites as well as different contents, graphics and features. Jot down what you like and what you don’t want on your site. Note which sites are easy to navigate, and what role design and copy content play in this.
- Do you have a registered domain name? (e.g. www.bestwidgetcompany.com). If not, you will need to check the availability of your chosen name and register your choice. If you need help with this, the company involved in hosting your site can help (see below).
- Do you need a company to host your site? Good quality, affordable hosting services (including storing your files and making them available on your site) are available. Outsourced hosting is the preferred option for many smaller companies.
- What do you expect from your website? What’s the purpose of your website? What do you hope to accomplish with it? How many different audiences will you reach - customers, employees, media, suppliers and/or business partners?
- Do you intend to sell products directly to customers or clients? If so, what do you need:
|• Online catalog||• Links to related sites|
|• Online ordering||• Audio or video|
|• Site map||• Live chat capabilities|
|• Shopping cart||• Message boards|
|• Password protection||• Secure online payment options|
- What are your sales goals for the website? How many sales will it take for you to cover the cost of the website? Will you sell advertising space on your site?
- Can you provide the site developers with the key materials they’ll need from you?
- Outline of proposed pages (home page, company information, product lines, press room, etc.)
- List of links you want (to other sites, and to other web pages on your site)
- Titles for each page
- Copy (text) and artwork (including photos) for each page. Ask the developer what file format you should use for the copy and whether photos can be scanned or sent as digital images on a CD, etc.
- Logo (hard copy or digital) or company "signature"
- List of key words and phrases to use for search engine registration
- How often will you need to change the website content?
If customers are your primary audience:
- Does your product range change frequently?
- Are there seasonal or other timing details that should be considered?
If employees or associates are your audience:
- Will you use the site to provide HR information?
- Will you communicate timely news to employees?
Will you post press releases or regular news updates?
- Who will handle the various tasks associated with launching and maintaining the website? Will you hire employees or out-source the following tasks:
- Designing the website
- Updating copy and graphics
- Ongoing management (hosting) of the site including handling updates
- Advertising and promoting the site
- Maximizing search engine placement
- Building HTML advertising pages to attract search engines and arranging meta tags (a special HTML tag that provides coded information to search engines)
- Selling advertising space on the site
- Tracking results
- Set a budget for the launch of the site and for its ongoing maintenance to include:
- Web site design and development costs
- Hosting fees
- Costs to update/change content
- Internet advertising and promotion costs
- Monitoring popularity (hits) and providing timely activity reports
We can’t promise you the launch process will be hassle-free, but our website planning checklist will help you minimize problems, avoid costly gaffes, and get your e-business venture off to the best possible start.