1. Define your goals
- What is the main purpose of your web site?
- Is it to provide information about your services or products to customers?
- Is it to sell products online?
- Do you want to retain your existing customers by providing further information about your organization?
- Are you looking to streamline some of the time-consuming processes through your web site?
- How big do you want your site to be?
2. Evaluating other sites
It’s important to look at other sites, so you can identify features that you may require, or problems you’ll want to avoid on your site. Check for the following:
- Is the site easy to navigate and understand?
- Is the content informative?
- Can you find what you would be looking for if you were a customer?
- Is there unnecessary clutter, or too much animation?
- Do you need a specific browser or computer platform to view the site properly?
- Does it look as good on different sized monitors?
- Are the graphics professional looking?
- Are there any broken links, or missing graphics?
- Does the site load quickly?
3. Looking for a developer
When you are speaking to a design firm, ask whether your site will be created in-house, or subcontracted out (if part of the work is to be subcontracted, find out as much as you can about the work of that firm or individual).
Ask other organizations that have web sites that you like, who designed theirs, how much it cost, and how long it took. Make sure you check the references of the web site designer.
Make sure the designer has the skills and experience to complete the job to your satisfaction. Were their customers satisfied with the work done? What kinds of sites have they worked on?
If you are looking at work that the designer has done, and you don’t see any concepts you like, you should probably look elsewhere. In other words, are your design tastes compatible with those of the designer?
4. You get what you pay for
Your site may be the first impression people have of you or your organization, so don’t sacrifice quality for price.
Avoid hiring a developer who charges a few hundred dollars for a web site by using ‘templates or themes’ from an off the shelf program. You definitely don’t want your site looking like a hundred others (note: even a fairly basic web site these days can cost you up to a few thousand dollars).
Protect your investment. You wouldn’t pay for an ugly advertisement, or send out a brochure with typographical errors in it, so make sure your web site is suitably professional, now and in the future.
Remember to allocate funds to update your site. There is nothing more unprofessional than a site which contains out-of-date information.
5. Making a decision
Choose someone you feel is best suited to your needs, and with whom you feel comfortable working.
Expect to sign a contract and pay a deposit. The site outline, technologies to be used, deadlines and payment schedules should be included in this contract.
6. Marketing your site
A quick list of things to do to market your site:
- Do you have a marketing plan for your site? Remember to put your web address on your letterhead, on business cards and in any advertising that you do.
- Do you have the e-mail addresses of all your clients/customers? Tell them you’re online – via e-mail. Put your monthly newsletter on your web site for visitors to download (make sure it is professionally produced as well).
- Don’t send unsolicited e-mail! It’s one of the quickest ways to damage your organization’s reputation on the Internet.
* This checklist is based, in part, on information provided in WebProfession Magazine (produced by the International Webmasters Association).