A website is an extension of just about every business. Some websites are great in that they are designed well and serve a purpose (or many). If done right, the very existence of a site gains visibility and provides information to potential and existing clients.
Most larger companies have an in-house marketing department that is in charge of web development projects. They understand web strategies and pretty much have their development plan already mapped out and ready to go.
Small businesses are particularly challenged when they decide to develop a website. They are focused on their services and clients and may not have the technical expertise to set up a site nor be aware of the challenges involved. So this means that they will want to find a developer that is able to guide them through the process and help them through the learning curve.
When the decision is made to bring in a web developer there are a few surprises and pitfalls new web clients may find once the web development process begins.
‘Why’ do you want a web site…?
The client must first consider what information and services your site will provide. Perhaps there’s common questions new customers have and a FAQ page can be put to use,. Will you be taking orders? Advertise upcoming events? Have a store locator? Members only section?
Know what you want your site to do for you today and understand that it will be capable of handling any unforeseen future needs. Websites are born to grow…
The client knowing what they want for their website is important and ensures your site will have a purpose and isn’t just sitting around doing nothing.
Ok so now before you do anything…
…get a domain name. This will be the address users will use to get to your website. For example www.yahoo.com. Unfortunately there has been a huge run on domain names so most common words and phrases have been taken making it challenging to find something suitable. But, there is always something that one can come up with to identify their business.
Make your domain name easy to memorize and associate with your business. The designer/developer could help but this decision should be made by a representative of the business simply because they would be the ones to best provide an identity for the business.
Now comes the fun part…
You’re gonna be asked questions…lots of them.
The scope of the project has to be defined and expectations understood from the beginning in order to avoid misunderstandings and frustration in the future.
The client will be asked questions about details of their business, hours of operation, contact info, special deals, mission statement, etc…Graphics, photographs, and written copy may also have to be provided by the client.
A developer will ask as many questions as possible then compile all that into a written service agreement that outlines the tasks to be performed, the total cost, stop-points where work is reviewed/approved or payments are made. Any added services that come up and are outside of the original agreement are usually charged separately, depending on the scope.
There may(will) be homework
Unless the client is a writer or a photographer, they may not be comfortable writing content or the pictures they have are unsuitable for their site. There are options available such as hiring a photographer/writer, using stock images, or using content from existing print media such as brochures. Outside of that it will either be up to the client to decide what the site is going to say and what images are going to be displayed or they’ll leave it up to the developer to put it all together.
Once the developer has all the information and material they need, they disappear behind a cloud of smoke and…ta-daaa!…they reappear with a working website!
No, usually they’ll be back with more questions or a status report.
They want to make sure the client is happy with what they are doing before getting too deep. Yes, the site is expandable but do-overs can erase all progress in an instant. Clients should voice concerns immediately and developers have to make sure their work is approved before proceeding to the next phase.
Ding! Site is done!
Here you go, one website. Where do you want it?
Make sure you talk to the developer about where the site will go. Usually they will be glad to help you or you may have your own hosting provider. In this case, the developer will usually need access to your account in order to upload your site to the server.
The server is basically a pumped-up computer that stores the files associated to the website. Theses files can be images, documents, or programming scripts which are responsible for the operation and display of the website.
Most websites can be hosted with a standard, low-cost package for under $20/month. If the site requires high-end capabilities such as secure transactions then the costs will increase accordingly.
So now think of the site as three parts of a whole.
1) Website – which is just basically just computer files (scripts, images, documents…whatever).
2) Domain Name – The address users will type into their browser to get to your site
3) Server – The computer that stores the website files and where the domain name points to
Imagine reading a newspaper and seeing the same articles day-in and day-out. I’m sure that eventually you would stop reading that paper. Same deal with a website. If nothing changes then you won’t retain visitors but this may not be an issue for businesses that only need a “phone book” web presence. However, if your site needs visitors/clients to return, there needs to be a reason for them to do so such as a nightclub that has a rotating entertainment schedule.
This means that you will either have to update it yourself or pay someone to do it.
There are content management systems that allow business owners/staff to update their sites fairly easily. There will sometimes be a learning curve but its not unmanageable plus, most developers will provide training.
Notice I didn’t mention cost. Why? Because, each business has their own online needs and it would be impossible to give a realistic estimation but a decent starter site can be anywhere from $500 to $5000 depending on what’s needed.
Hopefully this article will provide a new website owner some insight as to what to expect during the development process. So, in a nut shell…
- A website is necessary for most businesses today
- Know what you want your website to do
- Get a domain name (ex. www.yourname.com)
- Get a hosting account
- There will be some work on your/your staff’s part
- Be prepared to provide volumes of information about your business
- Once the site is done it will need to on a hosting server
- Costs for the domain name and hosting account are recurring
- If you plan on maintaining the website internally then training will probably have to be provided