One in an occasional series of articles that looks at the business of web site publishing from square one.
Creating a web presence is a lot like cooking a savory meal. But, what if you’re a lousy cook? The good news is you don’t have to be a connoisseur if you know the recipe.
Are you looking to create a web presence for yourself or your company? Follow me to the kitchen and let’s take a look at the six phases of a successful web site project.
Phase One: Deciding On The Recipe Drawing the blueprints, brainstorming, setting objectives, planning, developing the concept, and listing individual components.
Phase One begins with a blank notepad and ends with an assortment of ideas, notes, lists, goals, and an outline of your site’s structure. From this should evolve an overall site concept, your site’s objectives, and a detailed plan for the site from start to completion.
First impressions are critical on the web. Describe your site’s main areas, content, and any freebies or special offers you’ll provide your web visitors. Special offers might include savings from ordering online, giveaways to guest book registrants, or special offers such as my recent favorite — a Free ISP (Internet Service Provider) account.
I’ve seen too many people wait to prepare a marketing plan after their site is up. This is the “What Now Syndrome” that cripples many web projects. Determine now not to fall into it.
During Phase One, formulate the initial and ongoing marketing plans for your site to both your warm market (your customers or the people you know) and your cold market (for example, search engine strategy, reciprocal links, and so on). Otherwise, be prepared to be the best-kept secret on the Internet.
Also during Phase One, you’ll want to secure a domain name of your choice, set up a hosting account where your web site will be published and accessed by visitors, and set up email addresses with your new domain name (firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.).
Phase Two: Gathering The Ingredients
Material gathering and site framework design.
During Phase Two, work with your web design company to gather all the existing information (text, images, brochures, prices, logos, booklets, and so on) required for the site. Many images and text can be attached to emails and sent to your designer. Other material will need to be sent in hard copy or faxed.
Often during this phase, any required new material is written or edited for publishing to the site, and new images are sought out or created. The blueprints of the site will begin to take shape as the framework of the pages are constructed.
At this point, your web design company should publish your site to your new hosting account. You’ll see the basic framework of the site minus all the details and be able to provide feedback prior to the heavy detail work in Phase Three.
Phase Three: Mixing The Ingredients
Site detail design.
Phase Three includes all the coding and page construction details as well as the initial testing of the site. This is often the longest phase ..text is edited, fonts are chosen, graphics are sized and “tweaked,” colors are tested for web viewing, special code is written .
Once all the details have been added to your web pages, your site should be uploaded to your domain for your viewing and feedback.
Phase Four: Putting It In The Oven
Testing and fine-tuning.
This phase is very important, since it allows time for checking the entire site for bugs, bad links, and any other possible problems prior to officially launching the site. This includes testing of your site on a variety of web browsers for proper viewing, navigation, layout, and correct links.
At this time, you should take a final, discerning look at your web pages, and make the final series of corrections to your pages. This phase should not be complete until everything meets your specifications.
Phase Five: Serving It Up
Site launch. Coding and registering your site with the search engines.
Now that your site has been fine-tuned, you’re ready to officially ring the dinner bell and launch the site. Any promotion and public relations strategy you have developed for your site’s launch will begin at this time.
Once launched, the best way to ring the dinner bell is to immediately have your site registered with the Internet search engines. Listing your web site the right way with the most popular search engines is extremely important to its success. After all, over 80 percent of the 50+ million people currently on the Internet use search engines to find what they’re looking for.
Work with your web designer to develop the very best site title, description, keywords, and key phrases that will give you the best possible position in the search engines. It is also wise to prepare a specific strategy for a high ranking on each of the top seven engines that the majority of people use. Within a few days to several weeks, the web search engines will have listed you, and you begin to get “cold market” visitors.
Phase Six and Beyond: Extra Helpings
Traffic building, site maintenance, updating, and ongoing marketing.
Okay, let’s review. You’ve selected your recipe, gathered your ingredients, mixed them up, tossed it in the oven, and served it up. Are you finished? Actually, you’ve only just begun! Now, like a marketing savvy restaurant, it’s time to get people coming back for more.
This phase could also be called “The Head Scratching Phase.” Here are two important considerations for your site at this stage.
- Now that you’ve launched and registered your site, how will you get people to visit you again and again? Remember the ongoing marketing plan you prepared in Phase One? This is where your marketing plan begins.
- Spend some time answering these important questions. How often will you need to update your content? What about the need to add additional pages as your business expands? Who will be responsible for answering emails about the site and handling the general maintenance of your web pages and links? What about staying current with new Internet applications as they arise? Who will manage your ongoing search engine strategy? All of these can be solved with an ongoing updating, maintenance, and marketing program that can be customized by your web design company.
If your site is to be a long-term success with a steady stream of new visitors and repeat visitors, I guarantee it will demand aggressive marketing and monitoring as well as consistent care. Sites with missing images, dead links, and “stale” content, simply aren’t visited again.
Your web design company should provide a basic updating and maintenance plan that puts them in charge of caring for your web site. A more extensive plan can provide all the above plus input on what to consider to keep your site fresh and keep people coming back regularly. They may even help you develop and deliver a monthly newsletter or e-zine to subscribers to keep them informed of new site material and other happenings on your site.