So you want a website?…

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry with admiration of the bad web project warning signs list that Andy has put together. So much wisdom, so much truth. Sigh.

So, rather than just add my bad project experiences to the end, I thought I’d offer some advice to people who want a website. This applies to people who already have a site but want it upgrading/changing and to those with no site at all.

Firstly, and this is of paramount importance; put someone in your company in charge of the project. Any designer you hire won’t thank you for having to wander round countless corridors, or e-mail dozens of people, just to get the right slogan text for the site. They need a contact who will take responsibility for the website, and so do people in your organisation. YOU need to make sure that YOU manage YOUR project well, especially if you have a large organisation or very complex website requirements. Remember, you are paying your designer/developer to manage their part of the project properly, so you should do the same.

Secondly, and this is just as important; decide what you want. Even if you don’t create a detailed requirements document, at least have a think about what you want the site to do. Do you want to show products on there? If so, how often do they need to be updated, and who will update them? Do you need to be able to change any other parts of the site, if so, when and who will do it? Do you have any other marketing material you want to use? If so make sure you have copies available. Do you want to provide interactive elements – downloadable documents, feedback mechanisms etc? If so you need to decide what you want it to do, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to some ideas and “maybe later” to others.

Thirdly, be realistic about how much this is going to cost and how long it’s going to take. A very small website with just a few pages of text can probably be done quickly and cheaply, and with no potential errors. But a large complex site will take longer, cost more, and have more potential bugs. Remember – you can only have two of these three: cheap cost, quick development and quality of product. Choose the two you want wisely.

Fourthly, look around. Seeing as you want a website it makes sense to look at the web to see not just what your competitors are doing (but don’t be tempted to just copy their sites) and what designers/developers can do for you. There are website creation firms of every shape and size in nearly every town, but only a fraction of those will be able to do what you want really well. Do your research.

Fifthly, if you don’t understand the web even a bit, then you’re going to get into trouble. After all, no-one would go to buy a car and say to the car salesperson “I don’t understand cars, and I can hardly drive”. That salesperson would only expect to see the car in several pieces in a scrapyard somewhere very soon.

There’s probably a lot more that can be said, but if you read, learn and inwardly digest the advice above then you’ll get on much better with your website. Remember – your website is your friend.