Mar 02, 2009
Path forward: How Josh Can Help Plans and Approaches Building a New Web Site from Scratch
I was contacted recently be someone who was curious what it was like to work with me. My first reaction was “it’s great to work with me” but I quickly realized that she was looking for something a bit more substantial. When I create a website, I have a plan but it might be good to share this with everyone who is curious about what goes into building a web site from scratch.
- What should the website accomplish?
First, we need to start with the goal of the website. It could be as simple as “generate leads” or more in-depth like “improve specific community interaction.” It’s fine to have a primary goal and a sub-goal or two but, just like anything, as the purpose gets broader, the efficacy for each goal will decrease. A specific, attainable goal is key.
Who builds a website without a goal? Why go through the time and effort, why spend the money, and why go through the hassle if there’s no reason to do it? And yet, time and time again, websites are built, time is wasted, money is spent, and hassles are created without a solid outcome at the forefront of this flurry of action. As a thought experiment, think of a popular website. In fact, think of ten of them. Now, think about why they are popular. This should go a long way towards convincing you that a good website needs a goal. I’ll let a few and take an educated guess as to the goal they had.
- What are the design, content, or technological constraints for the site?
There is no right answer to this; many people start out with no content and no identity which is fine. Other people already have a logo, slogan, content, and color scheme that can’t change. Before building a site, I have to understand what already exists and what my limits are. Here are some of the questions I’m going to ask you and it’s OK if the answer is “I don’t know:”
- Do you have a web host and/or domain name (the domain name is the main name of your site and costs about $10-15 per year depending on where you go. My domain name is “joshcanhelp.com”)?
- Do you have any content that has already been created? This includes product images, marketing copy, articles, company logo, anything.
- Does your company already have a logo? Color scheme? Marketing collateral that needs to be mimicked?
- Do you want to learn how to update content on your site by yourself or will you need assistance? This will depend on the site, your staff, and the amount of involvement you want to have.
- Do you envision anything for your site?
Are there features, designs, or layout aspects that you’re interested in? This step is optional because you may not have a vision for the site but it’s important to ask. To answer this question, I usually ask people to send me 3 or 4 sites that they like and tell me what they like about them (interaction, usability, aesthetics, layout, etc). It’s good for me to understand your vision of the site so I can create something that you like and something that you’ll be proud to show people. I have worked with many people that come to me with a site that they did not have a lot of creative control over. If I see sites that you like then I can get into your head a little more.
During this step, I also want to explore what you see for the site in the future. Will there be more information later? Additional products? A blog? A gallery? The more information I have at the start, the easier I can make changes later. Having a short-term goal for the site with a vision for it’s future is great and will save you expense and time later.
- Plan, budget, time frame, and paying Josh
With this information, I come up with a plan of attack for the site. This plan includes:
- A vague idea of the design and layout
- A list of suggested features based on what you want and your goals
- A cost estimate
- A suggested timeline
Once we agree on a budget range, I ask for half up front with the expectation that the rest is paid upon completion. Other payment options can be explored but I don’t release any files until the final amount due is paid.
At this point, it’s time to get busy. First, I’ll come up with a content structure and navigation suggestions. Before we move on, I explain this plan in detail and make sure that everything is up to client expectations. Next, using this structure, we’ll come up with a Photoshop design for the pages themselves. Usually one or two photoshop files can suffice for the site unless each page is different. Tweaks are made, images are shared, and the project moves forward.
If we’re also handling keyword analysis, we’ll walk through the selection process and settle on the words to be used throughout the site. It’s important to nail these down early so they can be build into the site instead of being added at the end (saves time).
At this point, I also ask for all content, images, and logos that will be used. It’s ok for this information to come little-by-little but I need to be aware of everything that needs to created so the project does not go over-budget or far past the deadline.
Throughout the process, I keep in very close contact with my client. I host the site on my URL and email as steps are completed. Tweaks are made, content is added, and everything comes together.
- In the home stretch
Once the site is build according to specs and I’ve had a chance to scrutinize everything, I’ll ask you to make a very thorough walk-through to make sure the content is what you wanted and that no mistakes slipped through the cracks (we’re all human). You’ll want to look for the following:
- Correct images and content in the right places
- All information provided is incorporated
- Navigation works well
- Aesthetics are what you were expecting
I ask that all changes and modifications be submitted within a couple weeks of finishing the site. Mistakes on my side are corrected no charge (of course) but deviations from the originally supplied content and design will be charged at the regular maintenance rate.
- That wasn’t so bad now was it?
When the site is completed and approved, I burn all files (PSD, HTML, JPG, everything) to a CD and, once the final payment is made, I upload all the files, send the CD, and test the site one last time. Your sales go through the roof, praise comes from far and wide, and the book/movie deals come rolling in (results may vary).
Sounds good, doesn’t it? If you need a website, blog, or other kind of on-line presence, download my pre-website homework form and let’s get it started!
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