Before We Begin
There are five basic components to most Web development projects. This area of our site guides you through the process, but we are always here to talk to you personally and relate these general principles to your specific project.
1. Getting a Domain Name
Think of domain names like vanity plates for web sites. Instead of having your web site address be something http://www.megahosting.com/~widgetworld/index.html, you could be http://www.widgetworld.com.
Why is this a good thing? Well, there are two obvious reasons: it's a heck of a lot easier to remember and fits nicely on your business card. But having your own domain also makes your site more portable. You can move your site from one hosting company to another and your site address will always be the same. It also helps people find you on the web more easily. If they can remember your company name, that's the first address they are going to try typing into their browser...well before they try to search for you in Yahoo or Google.
We can help you choose a domain name that's right for you, find out if the domain is available, and take care of registering it on your behalf.
2. Choosing a Host
A host? Have we lost you already? A host is simply a computer that is connected to the Internet all the time and has software installed to make your Web site available to all or part of the Internet community. If you have e-mail and Internet access, you probably already have some level of hosting available to you. Depending on the specifics of your site goals, you may need to upgrade your account or consider another hosting option.
We do not offer hosting services, but we can work with your existing provider or recommend a hosting service that will meet your needs. In many cases, we can even take care of the account setup for you.
3. Developing a Web Plan
Before you leap into the Web presence development process, it is helpful to consider what your goals are and how you will measure the success of the site. Here are a few questions you'll want to answer in this planning phase:
- Who is your target audience?
What kind of people are they? Do they have special needs or interests? Where are they located? What kind of Internet access are they likely to have?
- What effect do you want to have on your audience?
Do you want them to make contact with you? Do you want them to purchase a product you offer on the site? Do you want them to receive information online that you would otherwise have to send them in print or other form? Do you want to get them to take some action in the community?
- What business functions do you want your site to replace, replicate, or add? How does this fit into your business plan?
Do you want to pre-qualify sales leads? Do you want to duplicate your product ordering process? Do you want to reduce printing and postage costs? Do you want to expand your market to new parts of the world or to new demographic groups? Do you want to reduce the workload on key personnel, such as customer service representatives, or shift the types of calls they receive?
- What resources do you have to dedicate to this site?
Do you have a budget in mind? Are there people in your company or subcontractors you already work with who might contribute content to the site? Do you want to maintain the site content in-house? Will your staff need training?
- What information do you already have that should be included in the site?
Do you have a brochure? A logo? Whitepapers and newsletters? Press releases? An order form? Promotional audio or video? Are there other pieces your distribute to customers and leads that might form the basis of your Web site?
- What image do you want to project?
Do you have a corporate identity? Is there a particular style of communication you want to achieve with your Web site?
- What is your competition doing?
Do your competitors have Web sites? What do those sites look like? What do they offer visitors? What expectations have they set for Web sites in your industry?
4. Designing Your Site
When it's time to design the site, we look at the objectives and resources identified in your Web plan and put together a design we feel best uses Web technologies and your available resources to meet your goals. In some cases, it may be necessary to set out a long-term development plan that rolls out the site in stages. This is one way to overcome resource limitations without overly compromising the site's effectiveness.
As we enter the design phase, it is very helpful to know what your ideas are about the look and feel your site should have. It is a good idea to have these things ready:
- corporate identity: official logos, servicemarks, trademarks, taglines, etc.
- color and font preferences: sometimes these are dictated by corporate identity guidelines
- style preferences: are you looking for a conservative corporate look or would flashy "cyberpunk" be more appealing to your audience?
- favorite sites: are there sites you have seen on the Web, whether they are in your industry or not, that have a look and feel you think would suit your company's site? Are there sites you really don't like? What is it that you like or don't like about them?
5. Marketing Your Site
In some ways, building a Web presence is like starting a new business. The web has grown so large that you will probably have to compete with a large number of similar sites to get your message heard. We will work with you during your project to build effective Web marketing techniques into your Web site plan. To get you started, here are a few basics:
- Put your Web and e-mail addresses on everything.
No piece of paper should leave your office without your online contact information. This includes business cards, letterhead, and faxes. All your other advertising and marketing materials -- such as newspaper and magazine ads, TV and radio spots, brochures, press releases and presentations -- should also include your online addresses. Stencil it on the side of the company vans! And don't forget to mention your Web site when you are talking to people: Include it in your answering machine message; drop it into conversation.
- Consider online advertising and marketing options.
There are lots of ways to get the message about your Web site around the Web. There are online advertising opportunities such as banner exchange programs and ad purchasing. There are affiliate programs that can bundle your site in with larger, more visited sites. You can join newsgroups and mailing lists and promote your products and services where appropriate (following the rules of the lists). Your site may benefit from inclusion in a Webring (a group of related sites linked into a single navigation structure). Some companies use bulk e-mail, and there are now opt-in e-mailing lists that help you avoid being branded a "spammer" (one who sends unsolicited e-mail to large numbers of people).
Not all of these options are right for every business or organization. Pick the tools that will best reach your audience.
- Get linked!
In addition to submitting your site for inclusion in search engines and directories (such as AltaVista and Yahoo), you will want to cultivate links on other Web sites, especially those that appeal to your target audience. Since links from other sites are something most webmasters want, it is usually pretty easy to get a link. You will often be asked to offer a link in return, so it may be appropriate to design space for this into your site. It can also be helpful to have a little version of your logo ready for sites to use as a "hotbutton" to your site.
- Search engines, directories, keywords...oh my!
There are hundreds of index sites and more being added all the time. Some try to catalog everything on the Internet; some focus on particular industries or markets. Some are well-designed, fast and pull in lots of traffic; some are little more than a list of bookmarks with little or no organization. Most will link to sites for free, but an increasing number charge a fee for links or offer fee-based expanded services (such as enhanced links or better placement).
Most of the bigger indexes and directories use keywords and other page information to determine the appropriate placement of a listing in their results pages. During the design process, we will ask you:
- what keywords you think your customers will type in when they are trying to find a site like yours, and
- what basic description of your site you want people to see with your search engine listing
We code this information right in your pages to help the search engines index you more effectively. Your most important keywords should also be repeated frequently in the text of your site. We also use them when we submit your site to search engines and directories as part of our web marketing services.
A list of related links -- especially a "juried" list with descriptions and ratings -- can also score you points with some search engines. Just remember, the best indexes are in the business of getting the most reliable, most comprehensive, most useful site on a given subject to the top of the rankings. If you provide a valuable resource to the Internet community, that weighs heavily in your favor.
What you have just read gives you the highlights of the process that we go through with sites of all sizes. We find that the more planning we do with our clients before we begin the actual site design, the more effective the final result will be.
© 2003 Daedalus Design Group. Last updated August 19, 2003. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org