Planning Your Website
August 8, 2009
You’ve got a web project and you consider yourself somewhat tech-savvy, but you know you need to enlist some professional designers and programming nerds to get your site off the ground. For most clients, this is new territory and it’s hard to know exactly what to ask. Here are a few things you’ll want to consider…
Know what you need, want, and would like to have. (In that order.)
The most common misconception is that the internet is a magical place where things build themselves, and everything is possible. It may be magical, and there are lots of talented people doing amazing things on the web, but every cool thing you see starts with some kind of plan and takes time to build. The clearer you can define your project’s needs, the easier time you’ll have working with some professionals to scope things out and get to work. If you haven’t already, make a list of your must-have features/goals, the ones you want but aren’t necessary, and then things that would just be nice.
A good website has a good plan behind it.
The process from start to finish roughly follows this path: define goals, determine technical requirements, establish information architecture, create and revise design/look-and-feel, build, test, and launch. Each of these phases assumes some amount of revision, and the entire process could range from a few weeks to a number of months. It’s tempting to want to see how your site will look and wait until you can use it to revise the way it works, but that’s a sure way to make a project more expensive. Defining goals that can be measured, having good information architecture that models key aspects of site functionality, and listing technical requirements up front can save lots of time and money later in the project cycle.
The sky is not the limit; it’s time and budget.
If you’re new to web projects, pretend you’re building a house. They come in all shapes and sizes, they often meet the same basic needs, and you’ve been through enough neighborhoods to know that they can be vastly different from one another. Be prepared to share your budget and expected timeline, as they will be critical in determining the scope of the site. Ask to see a few bids where the design firm explores potential options that meet the site’s needs within the budget and timeline that you have to work with.
Hopefully this will demystify some of the process. If you still have a few questions, or if you’d like to start a conversation about your project, drop me a line!