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Preparing a Website Development Plan

Preparing a Website Development Plan – You just had that great-new-idea for a new website. So what’s next? Write a plan! It is critical that you prepare a summary with detailed requirements for your new website. This will help you find the best web development company that meets all your needs and your budget.  One of the most important aspects of your Website Development Plan is that it will help you determine the development cost. Without a well-defined plan, and knowing key questions to ask, you fall into the trap of having your web vendor over-promise and under deliver. Here are some steps you can take to create a solid Website Development Plan and ensure your web designer has a clear picture of what to do.

Summarize Your Website Concept
Describe what purpose your website serves.
• Is it an ecommerce site, social networking  site, web directory, music website, Blog or other type of website?
• Summarize your idea/ For example: ‘This will be a new ecommerce website design that will provide designer umbrellas. My demographic will be women 20 to 40 years of age.

Before you get too carried away, create a MUST HAVE LIST of website items and a WISH LIST. Your ‘must have list’ should contain the basic requirements for your new website. Your ‘wish list’ will be all the bells and whistles you would like to have as your budget allows, or down the road as your website scales.

Describe How Your Website Works
Describe how your website works. Outline the functions of your website from a user’s perspective. Describe the flow as if someone is visiting your website for the first time. See some sample descriptions below.

Ecommerce Web Site Development
• Shoppers will browse our website’s single main category for umbrellas. Initially there will be 10 different designer patterns. We will provide photos for each. For the detailed product page, users may select different sizes and designs. A typical details page will contain the following:
(Main photo and gallery photos)
Product Name:
Description:
Size and Designer Pattern:
Cost:
Comment Area

Coupon Web site Design
Explain how the website will work in detail.
• Is it a digital coupon website?
• Can the coupons be printed?
• Who creates the coupon art?
• Can you or the client change the coupon value?
• When does the coupon expire?
• Who uploads the coupon?
• How is your website categorized for the coupons?
• What cities, regions or states will you serve?

Video Sharing site design
Explain how the website will work in detail.
• Who can upload a video?
• What is your maximum file size allowed?
• Do you have a video streaming web hosting server?
• Can people comment on videos?
• Can members upload videos or embed videos from 3rd party websites such as You Tube?

Real Estate Web site Design
Explain how the website will work in detail. List out all the things you want to incorporate.
• Do you want to have an advanced search function for properties?
• Will you want to show Google maps or other maps?
• Will you want an application for Black Berry, I-Phone or Android that sends listing alerts to subscribe users?
• Do you want to integrate your local MLS feed?
• Do you have the developer information for your MLS data feed?

Association Web site Design
Explain how the website will work in detail. List out all the things you want to incorporate.
• Do you want to have an advanced planning calendar?
• Do you want to have sharing, posting and notification features for your calendar?
• Will you want to have event sign-ups?
• Will you take payments for events?
• What will the event form look like?
• Do you want to post surveys or posts online tests for certifications?
• Can a user stop in the middle of the testing application then log back in and resume where they left off?
• Will you want to track testing results?
• Will you offer any printable certificate if they complete the testing?

NOTE: It would be helpful for you to create a box diagram or Power Point for each of your website pages, or at least outline this in detail. This helps to define the functions you expect your website to have when you go live.

Navigation
Think about the other pages you want in your website and provide a rough outline for these.
For example: Our Company, Customer Inquiries, Shipping & Returns, and Terms of Use. Take a look at other websites for ideas for pages or navigation that you might want to include in your new website. If you have sub-pages or sub-navigation that is part of your global or main navigation then create a bulleted list as follows:
Our Company
* Meet the Executive Team
* Our Core Values
* Professional Certifications
* Our Associates

Ecommerce, Advertising and other Monetary Concerns
If you have an ecommerce website you will make your profit from products sold. But you should also ask yourself these questions:
• Will you offer advertising, or display other ads such as Google Ad Words?
• If you have advertising will you manage the advertising sign-ups manually or will you want to automate this process?
• If you automate advertising sign-up, how in-depth a sign-up and management process will you want to offer?

NOTE: For any website where you are processing credit card information or collecting any type of sensitive personal information such as in a loan application website, make sure your web hosting offers an SSL (Secure Socket Layer or https).

Processing Credit Cards
The secure online systems that process credit cards, e-checks and the like are called merchant gateways. Two popular merchant gateways are Authorize.net and Pay Pal Merchant. There are many others as well. The average cost for a merchant gateway is about $30.00 per month and whatever the current percentage cost agreement is with the major credit card companies. Pay Pal also offers a no-monthly cut-and-paste ecommerce solution for simple ecommerce websites for product online purchases.

Email Replies and Communication
Think through the complete process of any sign-up or purchase feature in your planning. Does a customer or member get any confirmation emails? This is often called the user-flow and interfacing of your website. Think how your emails will be worded. If you have an advertising module will you want to send emails to advertisers 30 days, 15 days or 5 days before their ads expire? Will you offer auto-renewal billed to their credit card?

Super Administrative Control
The administration part of your website is where you manage the different parts of your website. If you are allowing comments, not everyone plays nicely with others. You will want to reserve the right to remove inappropriate language? Think about these types of functionalities you require as the top level administrator of your website.

Search Engine Optimization
You will want to create a list of search phrases for how you want your website to be found on major search engines. If you had a website selling extra-large cowboy boots for men you might create a search phrase or ‘key word list’ as follows:
– Extra-large cowboy boots for men
– X Large cowboy boots for men
– Big size cowboy boots for men
– Cowboy boots for big men and so on.

If you were selling cakes locally, then you might create a keyword to include your state and city/county as follows:
– Wedding cakes, bridal cakes Reno, NV
– Wedding shower cakes, Las Vegas, NV and so on…

Logo, Domain Name and Over-all Design Concept
• Do you have a logo?
• Have you decided on a website domain name?
• Have you decided on the look and feel of your new website?
• It helps to browse the web and send any websites you like to your designer so they have a creative ‘jumping-off-point’.

Web Copy, Photography and Video
Do you have website copy, photos or video? The most important of these is your website copy. Yes, people actually read copy on websites. And if your copy reads like an 8th grade summer report, it will reflect poorly on your business. Even if you have mastered comma punctuation with conjunctive adverbs in simple sentences you may not be able to capture the breath and scope of your business as much as a professional copy writer can do. A good copy writer who understands websites can write copy that’s informative and gets you found in search engines. Photos and video are just as important. Nothing looks worse than a biography photo that was shot in the office and looks a more like a mug shot. Same goes for video. Most do-it-yourself videos have that ‘bank-security-look’.

Buyer Beware
Your contractor should educate you on any existing applications that can be customized to fit your needs. A few of these include: Dot Net Nuke, Joomla, Drupal, Word Press, Magento and many others. In some cases it makes perfect sense to use these 3rd party software applications in your website development versus custom programming written from scratch. 3rd party applications help to keep costs down depending on your programming needs.

Doing your homework

NOTE: Ask your web designer if they have experience to program in multiple applications. If they sell you on one particular software, then ask if they have the programming experience to modify or customize the software to fit your particular needs. Case in point. Joomla software has one super admin login. Let’s assume you are a business owner selling computers on your website and you want to give one of your employee’s login accesses to website customer inquiries, but not the entire website. This requires special modifications and programming experience. Keep in mind this is only one sample of hundreds of modifications I have had clients ask for during the process of developing their website. If your web vendor says: ‘We can’t do that, or the software does not allow this or that’, then terminate your contract and run the other way.

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More
At the end of the day, even the best technical plan is going to miss some points. This is where an experienced web developer will help to ask the questions of your requirements to help you to tightly fine-tune your planning. Once all this is done you can move forward with the confidence you have performed your own digital due diligence!

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