Website Development Issues
or how to put all the pieces together in the most timely and cost-effective way
Developing a website is like building a house. To bring a web project to a successful conclusion (not the best word since website building is a task without formal end) one must start by asking the right questions. A home builder or architect might ask if you plan to build a primary home? What is the size of your family? Your lifestyle? Your space requirements? Your budget? A web developer should ask:
What is the goal(s) of the site?
Obvious on the surface - but you'd be surprised how many projects are launched without goals being adequately defined. Simply put, you need to spell out your objectives. Are we going to be selling a product online (an ecommerce website)? Are we instead selling a service? Is the website going to serve in a sales support capacity – a place you can send pre-identified prospects to? Is its primary objective to improve customer service or support? In all probability, your website will have multiple objectives, which should be listed in order of priority.
How does the website fit within your overall business activities?
If your site is going to generate leads or sales, how important is it as a source of same given your other marketing/sales activities? If you have a traditional retail business, how will the website work together with your shop (inventory, shipping, advertising, etc.)? If you have a service business, how will the site augment your current efforts and what portion of leads over time do you expect to come from your online marketing efforts?
What is your overall Internet budget?
While we know how difficult this is to talk about to a vendor, much less a prospective vendor (so if you can't, at least have this conversation with yourself), it's critical nonetheless. Remember to include your longer term marketing and operating costs in your budget. To be successful today you will invariably spend more time and money promoting, changing and servicing the site than you will on building it in the first place. If budgets are limited (which they should be, even if you're loaded) promotion and operations should get more of your budget than development.
So let's say you have a service business and want gradually (define in terms of time) to make your website your primary source of business leads. Currently you do some yellow page advertising, occasional newspaper display advertising and a whole lot of business and social networking. As with most prospective clients, you're not about to tell me what your budget is until you've seen my cards (proposal). Now what?
The Website Developer Selection Process begins.