Make a planThings your company needs to decide before renovating or building a new website

You can save yourself and your company a lot of headaches if you take the time to plan and make important decisions before you approach a web developer or hand a website off to your IT department. Answers to the following questions can affect the scope of your project as well as your budget. Grab a pen or pencil and a pad of paper and put your decisions in black and white. You’ll thank me later.

1. What is your budget?
How much is your company willing to spend? Be realistic. Do you have $10,000 or $50,000 to spend or is you budget more like $600 and change? There are yearly hosting and other service fees to consider, also. How much can the company afford to commit to maintain its website. If your budget is small, don’t despair. There are many inexpensive things you can do. BE HONEST.
2. How complicated does your site need to be?
This question is a gut check. Of course you’d like to have the best website ever created, but what do you really need to get the job done? Amazon.com is a great site. Products are easy to find and order. Even the recommendation engine is pretty cool. It also costs quite a bit to develop and maintain. Does your company need a fancy online store or would you be better served by driving people to call your customer service department for individualized purchasing advice? If you really do need the online shopping cart, you may want to purchase a cart service rather than reinventing the wheel and building it yourself.
3. Renovate or Replace?
Does your existing site need a facelift and a couple of additions or does it need to be replaced from the ground up? If your existing site is attracting a decent number of customers and if it ranks among the top 5 or 6 results in a Google search, you may not want to mess too much with a good thing. Small changes can update your look and feel without harming search results or breaking your budget. On the other hand, if your existing site is a disaster, it may be easier and cheaper to start from scratch. If you’re not sure what to do, request a website assessment free of charge.
4. Who will update the site once it is built?
Updating a website on a regular basis requires man-hours and a level of expertise. Do you have a person in-house who has the time and ambition to maintain the project? Can you afford to hire a dedicated person part-time or full time? If the answer is “yes” for an existing staff member or dedicated new person, make sure to formally outline duties and expectations. If the answer is “no” you don’t have the staff or the money to hire a dedicated person, you should consider outsourcing the work for a monthly fee as you might for an accounting or cleaning service. Star Tusk Enterprises offers monthly maintenance services. Contact us for more details.
5. Build it or farm it out?
A complicated site may take a team of people 6 months to a year to build. A simple site may take a single person a week to 2 weeks to develop once key information and photos are gathered. Also keep these questions in mind as you decide:
a. Do you have enough staff to work on the project?
b. Does your staff have time to dedicate to the project?
c. Who will write the text that appears on the pages? Does this person understand your product line and services?
d. Who will proof and edit text and images once pages of the site are created? Having a fresh pair of eyes scan pages looking for silly mistakes can save your company embarrassment. Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything and it won’t notice a photo that has been placed in upside down. (Yes, I’ve actually seen this happen.)
e. Who will gather, crop and format images?
f. Who will determine keywords?
g. How soon do you need the project completed?
h. Do you have the necessary software?

If you’re a C-level executive or a person charged with overseeing your company’s Web presence, you’ll want to take some time to mull the answers to these questions carefully. Put your thoughts to paper. Set the boundaries and define the scope of the project before others try to set it for you.

In the next post, I’ll talk about assembling a team to brainstorm site navigation, content and bells and whistles. Until then, feel free to send me an email with questions or comments.

Decisions, decisions, decisions