Be In Control of Your Online Presence
Owning your online presence allows your organization to:
- create and control your public image
- inform your client-base
- provide information in a timely manner.
Having a web site is one way to achieve these goals. You may already have a web site, or you may be thinking that it’s time for a web site makeover. Either way, these 10 Steps are essential for anyone thinking about the lifecycle of a web site.
Step 1: Define your reasons for having a web site.
Start with the big picture, then think of specific, actionable objectives. These reasons should inform the entire web development process.
Difficulty: Harder than you think.
Time Involved: Anywhere from a day to a month. If it takes longer than a month, then you either have an extremely large and complicated organization or you are having difficulty with focus and decision-making.
Step 2: Determine who is involved with the web site.
List your current and potential users. Is this web site primarily for the public or is it a web site for your internal use or both? Think about who will be involved in determining the web site’s look, feel, and content. And know who in the end makes final decisions about what goes into site. This is a part of the process where you need to decide roles and responsibilities among your web developer, designer, and yourself.
Time Involved: Do it within a week. Roles may have to be renegotiated during the project, but until you get the team set, you can’t even begin to play!
Step 3: Give your web site a name.
You will need to purchase a domain through any number of domain registrars. Sometimes this can be done through your domain hosting service. Find a name that looks and sounds right. You will also be able to get email through the domain, so select a name (or names!) that you want to commit to for the long-haul. And once you get the name, make sure you renew it.
If you would like to protect your business name, think of purchasing your “name” with various domains (i.e., .com, .net, .biz). Most hosting services allow you to redirect these sites to your primary domain. Or, you can purchase domain names without hosting them. Either way, it’s easier to purchase multiple domains than to have to deal with future client confusion over your web site’s name should another entity purchase a name similar to yours.
Difficulty: Medium to Hard
Time Involved: Do it within two weeks. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have to use too many placeholders in the development process while you settle on a domain name.
Step 4: Rent domain hosting.
You should have a strong sense of your content and users before renting domain hosting space. There are different kinds of hosting depending on the size of your site, number of visitors, and, most importantly, the scripts and codes that you will be running. You don’t want to get into a situation where you are on a shared hosting service and your site takes forever to load. On the other hand, you don’t want to lock yourself into a dedicated hosting plan where you pay for more than you need.
Time Involved: Plan a couple of weeks. Once you have the basic outline of users, content, and functionality you will need to research your options and work this cost into your budget.
Step 5: Develop your web site content.
This will include
- Site Design
- Identity Development if you don’t already have one
- Wire frames to map out the structure of your site
- Optimized images, content, and the data and interfaces that needs to be captured and output from the site
This is the step where your budget, objectives, and resources will determine a lot about your solution. For example, using a template for your site design can reduce your design time significantly. However, you need to live within the template constraints. Or, you can spend a surprising amount of time and money “renovating” a template. Also, you might want to save money on images by using either stock photography or taking your own pictures. However, if the image does not properly represent your business or if the quality of the image is too low for posting online, then you are not putting your best foot forward.
Difficulty: Hard. Very hard. And even if you hire someone to take the lead on this section, your participation is essential for successful development of content.
Time Involved: Minimum one month. Maximum two years. Don’t under estimate the time you will need to devote to this. Ideally, you will start to build after the content is finalized. In reality, few people ever do this. But the more completely you determine your content, the smoother the development phase. A smoother development phase means lower costs and less headache in the long-run.
Step 6: Build your web site.
There are many ways to build a web site. The tools you use to build and maintain it should be driven by your hosting service, how much customization your site requires in terms of look and feel and functionality, and what role it plays in your organization and who will be responsible for maintaining it.
Time Involved: If all content has been prepared in electronic version and is not excessive in volume, and everything has been primed and readied, and you are working off of a design template without significant modification, then you could do this in a few days. More likely this will take anywhere from two weeks to many months. For complicated sites, this can take a year and involve many people. The more questions that were not answered during the content development phase, the longer the building phase will take.
Step 7: Test your web site. And then test it again.
Testing should occur throughout the web building phase. So ideally nothing too interesting occurs when the site is reading for a final test run. Be certain that you are testing for different browswers, platforms, and devices. Now is also the time to have fresh eyes looking at the site. And if a component of the site doesn’t work, now is the time to determine if you can live with it or if it should go back for more redevelopment.
Time Involved: Anywhere from a few days to a week. If something breaks, then it could take longer.
Step 8: Launch and promote your web site.
Turning off one site and turning on a new site may entail taking down a current site. So plan ahead. Promoting your web site is simpler when you have your social media widgets coded into the new site. So make sure that was part of the design and build of your site.
Time Involved: Launch should take no more than a day. And you never stop promoting your site!
Step 9: Get your web site working for you.
Google Analytics is a must to understand your visitors and how they are using your site. The tracking information is coded into your pages. Now that your site is launched, view and study your reports. Once you understand how your site is being used, then you can maximize how it works for you.
Time Involved: A few hours.
Step 10: Maintain your web site.
Your web site is a living, breathing publication. It’s not a tweet: people don’t forget about it in 15 minutes. People will reference your site for information about you and your organization: So make sure that the information is current and accurate.
Also, some web site installations (like WordPress) require periodic updates. Plan on bringing in someone at least once a year to review your software installation and make needed updates.
Time Involved: You need to dedicate the time and staff to do this.