4 Questions to Answer Before Starting Your Website Project
What is the purpose of the website?
When answering this question, you will want to consider the following:
- Who will be visiting the website?
- What will those visitors be looking for?
- What is the desired action or response you want a visitor to take?
- How will you judge the success of this website project?
What are the future plans for the website?
Although you may have a well-defined set of needs now, it can save both time and money to think to the future. For example, you may not need eCommerce functionality right now, but it can save a lot of time and money down the road to have your website built with technologies now that can accommodate eCommerce in the future. Your web development team will work with you to determine the current needs of your website, and how those needs may evolve over time in order to build a website that can grow with you.
What is the budget for the website design and development project, both one-time and ongoing?
Determining your project budget ahead of time is beneficial for all parties involved. For you, it can help you stick to a spend that fits in with the rest of your business plan. For the website design and development company, it helps to balance your budget with your needs and desires.
Who will be managing the website on an ongoing basis?
Do you have someone “in-house” that will be making changes and updates to your website, or will you need to hire outside help? What is the level of technical knowledge of the existing staff? The answers to these questions will guide both you and the design/dev team in providing you with the solution that is right for you.
What is the Process for a Website Design and Development Project?
We follow a multi-phase website planning, design, development, and launch process, which requires close collaboration with you and your team throughout.
Website Project Planning Phase
We begin by completing our identity brief, which helps our team understand your brand. We combine that with any necessary research into your competitors, your company, and your industry. This helps us to determine what you need out of your new website. From there, our team of UX specialists creates a sitemap and detailed wireframes.
Website Design Phase
The website design phases includes all of the work related to the visual design of the website. Site design options are presented, and you are given a chance to review them and provide feedback. After all necessary revisions are made, a final design is agreed upon and it’s time to begin the development phase.
Website Development Phase
The website development phase includes all of the work related to the development of the chosen design, and the integration of content into the various pages. This phase also includes testing to ensure a smooth launch and a good experience for all of your visitors. After the development has reached an appropriate stage, a link to a demo of the development site will be sent to you for review and feedback.
Website Launch Phase
The website launch phase includes the migration of the development site to your live servers. After the site has been launched, any additional external tools are connected, the development team will continue to test your site “in the real world”, and training sessions are booked with your team.
This provides a general idea of a phased project plan, but in reality each project plan is customized to meet the client’s needs.
Website Platform Options
Do I Need a Content Management System (CMS)?
A content management system is a platform that allows a novice user to make updates and minor changes to a website without coding knowledge. These updates can range from adding new pages or blog posts to the website to updating contact information or business hours.
The primary questions that will help you determine if you need a content management system are: “Will my site need to be updated and do I have somebody in-house that will need to make these changes?” More often than not, this is a quick “yes.” It is also important to consider that even if you don’t think you will need a CMS, the cost to build the site will likely be comparable either way.
If you have somebody with the know-how and experience to build a website on a DIY platform, and you aren’t worried about being locked into some technical limitations, this may be the right option for you. A few of the most popular platforms for this type of DIY website are Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress.com, and Wix.
Custom WordPress Website Design and Development
A custom WordPress website will meet the needs of most businesses, provide the most popular content management experience in the market, and essentially eliminate any technical limitations. Your website can be completely customized to your needs from start to finish.
Because of the popularity of custom WordPress websites, the market is full of available designers and developers, online tutorials, and features that can be easily added in the future. The possibilities are endless and a good website strategist can help you nail down exactly what you need – and help you fit that into your budget.
Features Every Website Should Have
Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Website Design
Although a responsive website (often referred to as “mobile-friendly”) was once an optional add-on, it has become an essential feature in recent years. While industries vary in the exact numbers, many industries see that a majority of the visits to their websites are coming from mobile devices. An excellent mobile website experience is a must-have for generating sales and leads through those devices.
Easy to Navigate
When a visitor gets to your website, the last thing you want them to do is have difficulty finding what they are looking for. Ease of navigation is created through a combination of the placement of navigation elements, the design of those elements, and the creation of navigational paths that match user behavior data. A visitor who doesn’t know where to go will more-often-than-not leave your website and browse elsewhere.
Fast Loading Website
Website speed is a major factor in two important areas: user experience and search engine performance. Because site speed is such a critical piece in building a successful website, it should be an important part of the development process, as well as, all ongoing maintenance and website changes over time.
Calls-to-action refer to prompts to take a desired action that are presented to website visitors. A CTA can include soliciting a phone call, filling out a form, downloading a file, making a purchase, registering for a conference, etc. Good planning will help you determine what these calls-to-action should be, the language that should be used, and the placement on your website. These should also be set up in a way that the effectiveness of each one can be tracked and adjustments can be made over time.
Website Lead Captures
One type of call-to-action is a lead capture. Making sure you have an avenue for future communication with a prospect is an obvious key to sales. Finding creative ways to get that information from a visitor to your website is the primary way to accomplish this. Website lead capture can take the form of registrations for updates to blog content, contact form submissions, entering an email address for access to a resource, etc. Just like other calls-to-action, the language used to prompt this and that location of these prompts are important considerations both upfront and when reviewing visitor data.
High-Quality Website Content
No matter how beautiful a website is, a lack of high-quality content that is valuable to the audience will render the website completely ineffective. High-quality content, updated over time and consistently added, plays a big role in both the amount of traffic that will come directly to your website and traffic that comes from search engine results. Not only does high-quality content have an influence on user behavior, but search engines use various indicators of high-quality content to determine how prominently your website will be displayed in search results.
Website Security Measures
While there is no such thing as a 100% secure website, a good security-minded developer can help you eliminate most risk. Security considerations should be made prior to starting website development and should be revisited and evaluated on a regular basis. You will want to make sure that your developer is familiar with and prepared to implement security best practices.
How Much Does a Website Cost?
Website Design and Development Pricing Factors
Website pricing is determined by a number of factors. These factors include:
- The required functionality of the website
- The type of design required (a pre-designed template, a semi-custom design, a fully-custom design)
- The number of design options and revisions included
- The number of pages on the site that need to be custom designed
- The total number of pages on the site
- The extent of new content that needs to be created
- The included additional services such as: search engine optimization, website training, advanced security needs, photo sessions, etc.
The Benefit of a Trusted Website Consultant
A trusted website consultant can be the best way to determine what you actually need and how much you should budget to meet those needs. The decisions that need to be made about the wants and needs in a website project can be overwhelming.
If you have a predetermined budget range, a good consultant can help you choose features and prioritize them in a way that will be designed to get you the maximum return on your investment. A large portion of this value comes from the consultant understanding your business as a whole – not simply your online presence.
Additionally, many website consultants offer a free initial consultation that can help you put a basic website plan together and can give you expected price ranges based on your needs.
What are the Ongoing Costs of a Website?
Domain Name Registration Fees
Your domain name is your address on the internet and is formatted like this: www.example.com. Your domain name will typically cost between $5.00 and $30.00 each year and should always be set up to auto-renew.
Website Hosting Expenses
Website hosting refers to the server that stores and delivers your website files to visitors. Hosting quality and speed play into things like how fast your website loads and how often your website will be down for either maintenance or unexpected interrupted services. While many discount hosting packages are available for as low $5.00 per month, this is not an area you want to compromise on quality. There are a number of great hosting platforms that deliver top-notch speed and service in the $20.00 – $30.00 per month range. Of course, you will want to talk with an experienced developer to help you find a good solution for your specific situation.
Website Maintenance Costs
Website maintenance can include, at a minimum, daily/weekly/monthly website backups and software updates. On the larger side of maintenance packages, this may also include a specified number of hours for website changes, phone support, or other services. Regardless of the options, it is wise to make sure that your website database and files are being backed up on a regular basis and that all software updates are made in a timely manner.
Whether you have taken part in numerous website projects or this is your first time, the more upfront planning and preparation you can do, the better your final results will be. Lean on a trusted website consultant to guide you and ensure that your project has the greatest possible impact on your business. A well designed and built website can change and adapt over time, so don’t get stuck on the small details. Put your new site into the world, keep it well-maintained, and enjoy the benefits of a website that works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your business.
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