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Steps to Creating a Web Presence

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Home > Steps to Creating a Web Presence

There are a number of essential steps that must be done in the right sequence to ensure your move on-line is successful.

You can do all of the steps below yourself, or all can be done on your behalf by a web development company. Usually the optimum approach lies somewhere between these two extremes and the break up of duties should be determined by discussion with the web developers.

When contracting a web development company to build your site it is important that it is clearly specified which of the following steps are the responsiblity of the web development company, and which are your (the client's) responsiblity.

  1. Evaluate
  2. Goals
  3. Plan
  4. Functional specification
  5. Cost estimates/quotation
  6. Register domain name
  7. Create the website
    1. graphic design
    2. content creation
    3. site build
    4. content load
    5. web developer testing
    6. client acceptance testing
  8. Hosting
  9. Domain name delegation
  10. Email setup
  11. Site maintenance
  12. Site promotion
    1. printed material/advertisements
    2. search engine listings
    3. email lists

     

  1. Evaluate
    Is a website suitable for your business?

    First you need to determine if you are likely to get a return on the work and money needed to produce an effective website.

    Who is the target audience?
    Are they using the Internet?
    Will they in the future?

    This can be determined by a direct survey of your target audience, which can be as simple as talking to your customers. Additionally, a browse through Internet Usage in Australia will supply up-to-date information and informed predictions.

    Are similar businesses benefiting?

    The case studies of the Australian Government's National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) will provide some interesting insights.

    What are your competitors doing?
    One source of information is to conduct some Internet searches using various keywords related to your business - ninemsn is particularly useful for it's Australian focus, while Google is currently the most popular international search engine.


  2. Goals
    How does a website fit with your overall marketing plans?
    What do you want to achieve with a website?
    Create more reach into the market place?
    Sell product?
    Deliver detailed information into the hands of your customers?
    Pre-sales?
    Technical support?
    Customer support?
    Product catalogue?
    Portfolio?


  3. Plan
    As in any business endeavour, a considered step-by-step approach will most likely achieve the best results.

    We have all heard the horror stories of businesses spending ten's of thousands of dollars to create websites that failed miserably. But little is said about the many small-medium enterprises that have taken a less foolhardy approach, and are quietly building effective online strategies.

    An effective first website does not have to cost a fortune. In fact, a professionally built site can cost well under $1,000 (ref: Web Starter Packages).

    The cost of custom-built graphics can vary greatly depending upon the requirements. For this reason, it is usually more sensible to build the first website based upon the existing artwork/graphics of the business. This eliminates this additional cost.

    As you gain experience, and receive feedback from your customers/visitors, you can refine and enhance your site, adding content and features that you know will be of benefit.

    It is a good idea at this stage to take a close look at the web sites of similar businesses. Make a list of these sites, and of the features you like as well as those you do not. You'll find this very useful in ensuring you have not forgotten to include some aspect, and will go a long way towards ensuring you do not repeat the mistakes others have made.

    It is not just a matter of aesthetic screen layout, but how is the site going to work?
    How are visitors going to get to the information they want?
    How are you going to lead them to the action you desire?

    Create a wishlist - list out each item you would like included in the website, the give each a priority ranging from essential, should have, like to have, through to not important. Include all your ideas no matter how difficult to implement you may feel they are.

    Now, at this point you need to be talking to someone who has a good deal of experience building commercial websites. They will know the various web technologies that can be employed and will be able to give you feedback on the feasability of your ideas. They may also possibly be able to give you additional suggestions based upon what others have found successful, and will be able to give broad estimates/indications of costs associated with each element.

    With this information, a strategy can be worked out which will work towards what you want and fit to your current budget.

    If you need help with this step, remember our offer of a free consultation.


  4. Functional specification
    Based on the outcome of the preceding steps, the next step is to specify exactly what the site will do and the particular technologies that will be employed in the construction of the website.

    For simple sites this may take the form of a site map outlining the structure of the site, with the number of pages and nominating what content will go on which pages.

    For highly complex sites, it would take the form of a document specifying each page of the site in detail, and how each page is to operate. Server requirements would be detailed, along with any special components needed, the particular scripting language(s) to be employed, and so on.

    The Functional Specification should be prepared by a web developer experienced with the production of commercial web sites.

    Agreement must be reached that the Functional Specification fully and accurately describes the proposed website before proceeding with further steps.

    This document forms the basis upon which client acceptance testing is conducted later.


  5. Cost estimates/quotation
    Only at this stage can a realistic estimation of required effort and cost be made. Attempting to do this with out the previous steps is likely to result in wrong expectations, budget over-runs.

  6. Register domain name
    Australian domain names (.com.au) have very strict eligibility requirements, whereas International domain names (.com) do not.
    However, in most cases we would recommend trying to secure registration of your Australian domain name.

    You can register your domain name yourself, or as is often the case, it can be done on your behalf by your web developer.

  7. Create the website
    a. graphic design
    At this step, the look and feel of the site is designed to capture your business branding and align with your visitors expectations.

    It is usual to get client sign-off on the graphic design before proceeding further.

    b. content creation
    This is where the actual words and images that go on the pages are put together. Usually this is your job. You know your business best. You can explain it best.

    The web developers role here is usually to offer advise on the breakup of content, amount per page, and so on. Where large amounts of similar information is to be compiled, the web developer would usually supply a template to facilitate the task.

    c. site build
    Construction of the web pages and the navigation system - usually occurs in parallel to b.

    d. content load
    Up until now the site has been populated with dummy data. At this stage, your information is placed on the pages, or loaded to the database. It is here that the final layout of each web page is finalised with any fine tuning required to produce the best presentation.

    e. web developer testing
    Functionality testing to ensure all was built according to the Functional Specification and works as it should.

    f. client acceptance testing
    You thoroughly inspect the site.
    Does the site do what you set out to do?
    Does it meet your expectations?
    If not, did the web developer fall down by failing to meet the Functional Specification, or are there further requirements that have come up?

    If there are now additional requirements, it is necessary to go back to steps 4 and 5 to create a specification of those requirements and have a quotation for the new work put together.

  8. Hosting
    Hosting for the web site needs to be organised so that it can be accessed over the Internet. Many developers offer hosting services (convenient) or you may wish to organise this yourself independantly.

    If you are organising the hosting yourself, care must be taken to ensure that the particular hosting provider supplies all the necessary software and functionality on the server for the website to operate properly.

  9. Domain name delegation
    The domain name which was registered in step 6 must now be configured to direct to your web site.

  10. Email setup
    Often new email addresses have been set up during the construction of the site. The computers belonging to the people to whom these email addresses belong need to be configured to download their email.

    This step normally would mark the completion of a web site build project. The steps below would usually be part of a seperate agreement should it planned that they be carried out by your web development company.

  11. Site maintenance
    Website content must be kept fresh and up-to-date. However, consideration of the on-going maintenance of the site is often neglected in the rush to get a site live.

    In the past, site maintenance was conducted either by the web development company (under a seperate site maintenance agreement), or by people within the organisation who have been trained in basic web publishing skills.

    More commonly now-a-days, easy to use content management systems are incorporated in the site which allow employees with no web skills to perform site maintenance. One such system is PageEditor which provides a particularly cost-effective solution.

  12. Site promotion
    Once you site is live on the Internet, people must be made aware it is there. Effective methods of site promotion include:

    a. printed material/advertisements
    An often overlooked area - ensure your web site's address is included on all your business stationary, and in all your advertising.

    b. search engine listings
    Search Engines are the place people turn to when looking for information on a specific subject. Having your site correctly listed in the right search engines can be a very good source of quality traffic to your site.

    c. email lists
    Similar to postal mailing lists, but far less expensive.

    Many hosting services provide basic list management systems as part of the service at no extra cost (ref: the email features of our hosting plans).

    Advanced systems are available for those who want to take this to the next level.

 

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