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A step by step planning guide for developing websites

  • Here are a series of step by step guides to help you gather the right resources and information to building a successful website. No man is an island, so it is best to surround yourself with as many resources and stakeholders as possible. Hosting IT technicians, online marketeers, web developers and so on.

    What are your specific goals for your website?
    Do you intend for it to be a brochure site? Focused on company or branding awareness? Do you plan  to sell products and/or services? Content and information? Social network communities? It's important that you focus on this aspect, as it will set the tone for your overall online strategy. Find a business mentor or emulate websites in the industry that you wish to participate in. There is nothing wrong with “copying” if you take the best elements and personalize it.

    Measure of Success
    A simple, but often overlook point. Businesses are successful because their owners imposed goals upon them. By having a well defined “finish line”, be it eventual sale of the web business or generating online income, then psychologically you have won half the battle.

    Take the time to develop a list of goals. This can be a simple list of items from most critical to nice-to-have. Be aware of how this list might change as your website progresses, depending on the growth and direction of your organization and chosen industry as a whole. A mission and vision statement for your website will also help you focus on the big picture.

    Your Visitors
    A well design and developed website is nothing without visitors. It is akin to having a ritzy 10000 sq ft retail store with all the latest gadgets for sale, but stuck out in the middle of the desert. You won't be successful if no one can find your website! Simply understanding your target audience goes a long way in helping you develop a proper marketing and design strategy. For example, you don't develop a corporate looking website if your target audience is Fortune 500 companies. Research your industry and competitors thoroughly!

    Marketing
    If you have an existing or upcoming promotional marketing strategy, consider how your website will fit and integrate with the overall strategies and materials. Research the keywords that generate buzz and traffic for you. For example, a Seattle based firm selling web design services, should focus on keywords such as “Seattle web design”, “Website design Seattle” and other variations.

    Resources
    Identify and put together your team as soon as possible. As project manager, it is your job to decide and assign responsibilities. Typically the following components make up a website.

    • Design
    • Development and Programming
    • Content
    • Web Hosting/IT Support
    • Online Marketing

    Some of your team members may be skilled in two or more tasks (like a web designer/developer). So be sure to consider any issues with regards to budgets, software, deadlines and training to bring the best out of your team.

    The Competition

    Identifying your competitors and studying their websites will provide direction for you. Some of the more typical elements to research are look and feel, breath of content and website functionality.
    You should develop a competitive analysis that includes important elements of key competitors, of which your focus is to match or exceed them.

    Content is King
    Always spend the time and resources (hiring a good writer) to craft the content for your web pages. Do not simple cut and paste your competitor's content. This is unprofessional and no one will take you seriously. Consider how your content flows, and how your architecture is designed. Is it easy for users to find the page they need? Thinking in terms of a tree-style hierarchy with the home page at the apex, helps you visualize the entire web sitemap.

    Functionality
    Which functionality should your website offer? An ecommerce/shopping cart? Forums? Blog? Memberships? Advance functionality requires a competent programmer, software and hardware. It is important for you to consider how this impacts your overall budget and technical resources.

    To recap, the more time and effort you devote to planning and information gathering, the better your chances of building an effective, customer-driven and profitable website.

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