If you've selected the right website provider this process should be painless, however you might like to know in advance what to expect when you set out to create your website. Knowing this process prior to moving forward is probably the safest way to go: it allows you to be organized and curb the likelihood of launch delays.
Google is your friend; research every competing website out there, locally and abroad. Consider your goals, wants, needs and expectations. Make a list of aspects you find important and break them down into a list organized by priority. Once you've discovered what you like, make a list of things you see commonly that you don't like.
Compile all your own materials and weed out ideas and principles that might distract your message. Retain your creative suggestions for the Worksheet your website provider will deliver to you later.
After you've looked around you'll begin to see a trend in which pages you will need on your site. Typically, these are somewhere along the lines of: Home, Products/Services, Company Portfolio/Testimonials, About Us, and a Contact Us page. Beyond that there are numerous prevalent additions: News, Blog, Catologue, various e-commerce solutions, and of course --social media integration with Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and the like. I will elaborate more on Social Media in my next post as there are various ways to use these services, and you'll need to select the most appropriate execution of them for your project.
Once you've selected the pages that will house your site content, make a point form list. This list will make it clear which content you will put on your site and ease the writing process.
All successful website developers have their own in-house worksheet. Within this document you will typically find plain english questions about your wants, needs, colour schemes, goals, market information, competitors, and what you consider an online success. This information is integral to the creative process that comes down the line and it's the right place to stick all your research in a way the website provider can understand.
I cannot stress this enough; take your time filling it out. Leaving anything out now could result in problems at a later stage of the project, and in turn, additional costs. You want to be as thorough as possible at this stage because sending countless e-mails with changes, updates to the worksheet and new ideas, could add new complexities to your project.. and even worse, important details could get left out of the final product.
If you're looking for a little more than a website, it is good to know off hand that most website developers charge hourly for a logo, business card, letterhead, and other marketing materials. Logos can cost more than a website sometimes, so remember that you get what you pay for and be sure to mention this need in your worksheet as well. If you'd like to see many different mock-ups and take your time with the logo creation process I suggest eLance or using your local marketing firm.
Once you've selected the pages you would like incorporated into your site you will need to discuss the physical site layout with your website provider. Typically, they will walk you through the process and make appropriate suggestions. There are a lot of factors to consider in regard to useability, and logical placement of items. An extra click here, or some scrolling there could deter prospective clients, will affect how many leads you generate or convert and how much content the site visitor is exposed to. The level of expertise in this area relies heavily on the speciality of the people making your website and you cannot assume every company out there will provide the same quality of user experience; this is an area where LinxSmart shines, and our portfolio demonstrates that.
Once the positioning of site components has been approved, your website provider will likely begin the creative layer. In my experience, getting caught up in creative design prior to the completion of a site map only serves to delay your project. You've obviously selected a company where you're of the belief they are competent in their design skills, so allow yourself to wait until the proper point in the process before dwelling on this milestone.
The creative layer is probably the most time consuming part of the web design process so be patient. Often the first design you see will need tweaking, and sometimes still, a complete redo. Providing sufficient information at the previous Worksheet phase will definitely make this part of the process more manageable and enjoyable.
Typically this happens behind the scenes during the creative process. All organisation, relationships between your content and their display is worked out during this phase in development, based on your information you've provided.
Soft Launch and debugging
This is a very rewarding part of the process; you get to interact with your site and give it a test drive for the first time. All your efforts and the hard work of your web development team come to fruition at this stage. Look for errors, spelling mistakes, rendering issues and bring them to the attention of your website provider --they'll be doing the same, and together you should be able to catch all inconsistencies on your site should there be any.
If you're using multiple service providers to make your website a reality please understand the debugging process may not entirely be the responsibility of your website provider. Issues with e-commerce might be at the merchant level, video site projects like YouTube may rely on a third-party media-streaming provider. It's good to know what's all involved in your project when considering who is liable for which aspect of debugging any given project.
Congratulations! Crack open the champagne at this point and get ready for fresh leads, new business, and a further enriched relationships with your clients. The confidence they have in your company is now at it's all time high and if you haven't already, you should be considering how you're going to get your site out to the world. SEO, online ad/marketing campaigns such as pay-per-click, and offline advertising methods should be explored, and so it goes. If you're on a limited budget I strongly suggest online campaigns and SEO.
If you found this post useful please feel free to contact us. If you have any questions, comments or concerns relating to a project you may be working on or considering, you can reach me via our contact page and/or follow us on Twitter: @LinxSmartInc .