What you Need to Know Before you Begin your Website

by Louellen Coker on May 28, 2008

When you’re ready to build and launch a new website, there are many questions you should ask yourself before you contact your web developer (or begin to build it yourself). The answers to these questions will allow your designer (or you if you decide to do it yourself) create the site that does what you want it to. Go ahead answer these questions. Your designer will be asking them of you anyway.

I don’t like to bash anybody, but if your designer wants to discuss all the cool things he or she is going to put into your site, beware (and use this as part of your interview process). A site that is designed for all the cool things you can add to it, while interesting likely won’t do what you want it to in the end. There are however a few things your designer should be discussing with you.

What do you want to hear from your designer?

Your designer should discuss the following things with you

  • Your audience/users needs
  • Your specific goals
  • Search Engine Optimization (both organic and targeted)
  • Usability of the site (how easily your user can do what you want them to do)
  • Accessibility (how your site is navigated by those using adaptive technologies)

What does your designer want to learn from you?

To follow are a few of the questions your designer should ask you as you begin your discussion. These questions are a starting point, your designer will ask you additional questions based on your particular needs.

  • Do you have a URL (i.e. www.yourcompany.com)? Don’t worry if you don’t. Many designers can help you secure a good one.
  • Do you have a hosting provider for the URL? Again, if you don’t have one, no worries. Design companies usually have hosting providers they regularly work with and can recommend one that will meet your needs.
  • What are three-five websites with your same goals that you like? Be ready to tell your designer the specific aspects that you like.
  • What are three-five websites with your same goals that you don’t like? Be ready to tell your designer specifically what you don’t like about them.
  • Do you have exisiting marketing materials and copy you could use for your Web site? Bring a copy with you to your initial meeting.
  • Do you have a site structure developed? The easiest way to achieve this is to create an outline of the structure you would like for your site. Design companies can help you determine the best structure for your information. Your site structure is much like the frame of your house. It needs to be solid to allow for future growth.
  • Do you have all the content for your site? (Or at least will it be ready when it comes time to fill your site with information?)
  • Do you have your company information written out (About Us, Contact Info, Team, PR, etc.)? With some companies, bullet points will suffice and they write the content for you. Other companies will require you give them the text. The text is important, so you will want to find where your design company stands.
  • Do you need a database or e-Commerce developed for your Web site?
  • Do you want/need photographic elements on your Web site?
  • What are your marketing goals for this site? Search Engine Marketing, Online Marketing, Off-line Marketing.
  • Who is your target audience? Have you done market research to determine your specific audience? If your design company does not ask you this question, take your project elsewhere. A main focus of your website should be your target audience.
  • Are you planning on optimizing your site for search engines?
  • When do you want to launch the Web site?
  • What is your budget for the Web site launch?
  • How often do you anticipate making updates to your Web site?
  • What are your business goals?
  • What are your marketing goals?
  • How do you imagine your customers will find you? (web, tradeshows, print, radio, television, etc.)

Additional things you need to know if you want to develop an e-commerce site

Once the basics are out of the way, here are a few questions your designer will likely ask

  • Is your current Web site running on UNIX server, Windows server, or Other Type?
  • Do you currently have a merchant account?
  • How many products do you anticipate selling? How many do you plan on adding over the next 12 months?
  • Do you have/need images for your products?…if yes what format are they? Do they need to be scanned?…or are they in web ready format?
  • Do you need to track orders?
  • Do you need to be able to update certain parts of your website on your own?
  • What states and/or countries would you be selling products and services in?
  • Do you want to create a client name and email database?
  • What are your marketing goals?

Once you have answers to these questions, it’s time to start building your website.

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