By rick | Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:00
Are you ready to start planning your website? Know now that there is a lot of upfront work needed to make sure your project is both successful and on time and budget. Probably, the biggest question you will be asked to answer is, what is the purpose behind your website? For instance, is it there to give your company brand recognition? Sell products? Gain followers?
Knowing your needs
We like to encourage our clients to break down their needs into "user stories". By creating a story it is much easier to let people know what you are trying to achieve, without any preconceived notions as to how you should solve those needs. Another helpful side effect of user stories is that it helps you start to really define your user avatars, or your ideal client.
Once you have your user stories, then you need to start planning your technical needs. Don't worry, no one expects you to know all the technical jargon, but if you have an idea of your requirements from a high level, then your development team will be able to come up with a solution. One of the biggest mistakes I see at this stage is a non-technical person using technical terms without understanding them, this will just confuse your development team.. always best to keep it simple.
I would however, recommend that you know what system you would like to build your website around. Nowadays it is extremely uncommon to build a website without a Content Management System (CMS), but there are a lot of different choices, all of them with different capabilities. A general understanding will go a long way, when it comes to choosing a vendor.
Now that you have your requirements, it is time to do some research to make sure your expectations are realistic. For instance, maybe you are looking for a feature that is not going to add any value to your site, but is going to add a lot of overhead in terms of budget. By understanding what actually makes a website good, you will be better prepared to do some pruning of your feature requests.
Another area you are going to want to be familiar with is web site cost. It goes without saying, the more custom your requests the more it is going to cost. Make sure you have a realistic budget in place before you start building.
Have you considered how long a site will take to develop? Does the site need to be launched by a certain date? Knowing how long to plan for the website build is key in planning any of your other marketing.
Sometimes, during planning it is easy to not see the forest for the trees. Some common mistakes I see people forgetting to plan for are:
- Hosting - where is your site going to live once it is ready to launch? Does your provider have the right tools to help support your technology
- Marketing - have you thought about what happens once your site goes live?
- Design collateral - do you need a logo. Are there existing style guides?
Writing an RFP
Depending on your organization there may be a number of legal requirements that you need to take care of before looking for a vendor. This is the purpose of the Request for Proposal.
Finding the right Web Development company
So,now you have done all the work. How do you find a provider to get the work done for you?
Generally, you will want to go an authority site and find out who does work in that field. For instance, if you were looking for a Drupal development agency a good place to start is on Drupal.org. They have an entire section dedicated to Supporting Partners and to Service providers.
Another consideration is location. Are you willing to work with a remote provider? Or would you prefer face to face meetings? Remember a lot can be done with VOIP these days.
Don't forget to research previous work and testimonials. Is this provider able to complete your project? Do they have a good reputation?
Once you have selected between 3-5 companies, it is now time to reach out to them to see if they are interested in your project. It is very important that you have at least 3 proposals to choose from, but be careful that you do not try to get too many it will only add to your workload and probably scare away some of the more reputable firms from bidding.