A lot of business people I talk to do not understand what it takes to launch a successful website. In reality, it only takes one thing, planning. Planning is the secret sauce that makes for a successful web project. This isn’t a secret, but it is often overlooked when starting a project. So real quick, let me lay out for you what needs to happen for your launch to be successful.
Figure out what the purpose of your website is before you start building it.
Even before you contact a developer, make sure you know what the end goal is. Don’t be vague, “Sell more widgets” is not a goal that you can measure. “Increase widget sales by 20% over the next two years via online sales.” That is a goal. That is why you have a web site. It is specific and it is measurable.
Find someone you trust to build it.
If you don’t know someone, ask around. Ask other businesses in your area or industry who built their website. Once you have a list of at least three developers or companies, talk to each of them. Don’t talk about your site, talk about them. Ask them questions, get a feel for them, and understand how they build websites. Most importantly, ask for references. After you have called the references, you should be able to select the one you want, then and only then start talking to them about your project and the price.
Your website is a long-term project, investment and commitment. Do not base the decision of who gets to build it on price, ever.
Find someone to give it a voice
Finally, before anything is built, before the first line of code is written or the first graphic is designed, develop your content strategy. I’m not sure why but businesses will hire developers to write code, designers to create art but when it comes to the written word, everyone assumes they are skilled enough to write the copy for their website. If your web development company does not have a copywriter – and that is a small red flag by itself – hire one on your own. You know what pages have to be in your website, let your copywriter fill them with compelling prose that convinces people to buy your widgets.
I once had someone tell me “I don’t need someone to layout my magazine, I’ve got a copy of PageMaker, and I can do it myself.” (Yes, PageMaker, I’m that old.) An understanding of basic English skills is not what you need. Having a word processor installed on your computer doesn’t make you a copy writer any more than having a sharp pencil makes me able to draw pretty pictures. (I can’t, I mess up stick figures) In your planning, sit down with a writer, figure out what needs to be written for your site and write it. Do your developer a favor, do this while they are building the site so that when they get ready for it, it’s ready for them.
That’s it, the secret is planning. Figure out what you want, figure out who is going to build it, figure out who is going to give it a voice. If you’ve got these things figured out before you start, you stand a great chance of a successful website launch. Plan things out before hand; you can get the website you want and more importantly, you can get the ROI that you want.
Want more helpful advice?
Are you looking for more helpful advice on how to plan your website? We’ve got a book releasing soon that will help you. “Avoiding a Goat Rodeo” is written to help non-programmers understand the website development process and show them how to get involved.