I own a company that, among other things, develops web sites,
and I've had my own business and personal sites since the early
1990's. While each web site project has its own challenges and
rewards, there are some common elements to all of them.
First, make sure that the ISP or web development firm registered
the domain name in your or your client's name, and not their
own. Even today, outsourcers will often register domains in
their own names, leaving you out in the cold if the site becomes
popular, unless you already had the domain name trademarked. If
you are the web developer, register the domain in your client's
name so that your ethics won't be questioned later.
Second, help your client (or yourself) by developing a master
plan from which elements can be added to the sites as time and
money allows. A lot of businesses think they have to have a web
site to stay current in today's business environment, but
haven't given much thought about what that means. Some of the
questions I ask are:
1. Is it for public consumption, or are you providing
information to clients, suppliers, or business partners? 2. Is
your intended audience local, regional, national, or global? 3.
What repetitive information are your customers, suppliers, or
partners calling you about that could be presented on a web
site? 4. Does your product or service catalog change often
enough that reflecting those changes on your web site might
garner more sales? 5. What information can you present that
prospective customers will find useful? 6. Do you use a sales
strategy (a presentation, or a decision tree) that can be
translated to a web site? 7. Can you use your site as an
Extranet as well as an Internet site? 8. What graphical elements
(logos, pictures, etc.) will you want to have on the site, and
where? 9. Will the site contain advertising and how will the
design accommodate that? 10.
Practically every web site will have a slightly different focus
depending on for whom it is developed. The answers to these and
similar questions will help define the purpose of the site, its
scope, how it will be organized, and what kind of information
will be presented on it. It also helps compile a list of things
that may have to be developed separately, thus affecting the
project schedule (e.g., a paragraph describing the company in 50
words or less, a new logo, gathering a list of product data,
I have an insurance and investments broker client who, from very
the start, was particular about how he wanted the site to
"look", but he hadn't given any thought about what the site
would accomplish. It took several months and many hours of
conversation to develop a site plan. His site allows his clients
to submit claims information, prospects to request more
information about specific products, casual browsers to learn
about his services, and his clients' employees to look up
medical providers from various HMO and PPO plans. Without some
planning, he could have ended up with a fancy "business card"
and never gotten lots of leads from people who have visited his
Third, check whether the web hosting company is providing Front
Page extensions. Microsoft's Front Page 2000 (and other high-end
web page editors), is a huge timesaver and gives you access to a
wide selection of advanced functionality for your site
(automatic form creation, marquees, java scripts, tables, etc.).
Of course, you can always be a purist and learn HTML coding in
your spare time.
Fourth, think long and hard about using affiliate advertising.
My most successful web clients waited a year or more to gain any
significant site traffic, and that was only as a result of a
concerted marketing plan that publicized the site to existing
customers. Too many people, with no background in page layout
and design, plop ads all over their sites and wait for the
referral checks to roll in. The only thing they actually achieve
is making their sites look like shoddy billboards for other
sites. Affiliate ads "can" help drive traffic, but map out a
plan and be very picky about who you sign up with. If your site
is a local or regional site, look for ads from local and
regional businesses that you (or your prospects) may already
have a relationship with in the brick and mortar world.
Finally, the best web sites are "works in progress". The web is
an evolving collection of styles and technologies, and your
presence on it can be as well. Keep tweaking.
About the author:
George M Ewing, Help Desk Services, Inc., Malvern, PA, Tel.