Tuesday, October 16, 2007

6 Steps to Start your Web Site Project

Regardless of size, building a Web site is similar to building a house. There are many decisions to make along the way, most vendors will try to sell the owners on more than they need, and if one is not careful, the project can end up costing more than anticipated. However, when executed properly, a marketer with little technical knowledge can step away with an effective and appropriate Web site for his/her industry by following a few simple guidelines.

Whether you’ve hired an external marketing firm to assist you with these steps or you’re working directly with a Web design firm, at a minimum the following guidelines should be observed when approaching a Web site project.

Identify Your Target Market

The Internet is so exciting we all want to jump on this gravy train and make things happen, but the cutting edge isn’t for every market, and some technologies may look cool but are useless to your mission. Taking some time to think about who you are targeting with your Web site, and how you would like to steer them towards doing business with you will assist you in identifying your goals and become a reference point for all subsequent decisions.

Examine your target market’s approach to the Web and your content.
The Internet provides a uniquely intimate experience in which the site visitor chooses the direction of the information in a non-linear fashion. The site visitor is not bound by pages in a book. S/he can only make decisions based upon the following:

1. What do I need?
2. What are the choices?
3. What is my past experience?

This means that regardless of how you usually consider your product or service offerings, it’s more important than ever to consider those items from the client perspective. Take time to think about how your various targets will approach your Web site – what information will they seek? Is this an existing client? A prospective client? What keywords will this person look for? What keywords are meaningful to that target group? What is their experience with the Web thus far?

Determine Goals and Strategies

After completing the above steps, then decide on some reasonable goals for your Web site. What tactics and strategies will you implement to meet those goals? For example, a goal might be to provide current departmental information on the Web site to keep prospective students up to date on the latest course offerings and department changes. A college may wish to encourage more teacher participation in updating the Web site, but other than providing them with the technology to do so, how will you inspire them and market to this group to make their involvement in the college feel interesting and not just another task? Some of these questions may get complex, and your project may slow down here because it’s not fun. However, more time in this area will enable you to save money in the long run and increase your satisfaction with the final Web site.

Get Buy-In

Bring all your decision makers together and let them know what you’re planning. Let them give you their input. If they disagree with some of your choices, you can back up your choices with something they don’t have – research. Your ideas are not based on feelings, they’re based on fact, and that’s powerful. However, the other stakeholders in the Web site might have some good ideas. Maybe they want to get increased benefit from the Web site, too, like an intranet, or automated email notification. Listen to these ideas and consider them carefully.

Evaluate Needs

Now that you know what you want your Web site to do, you can figure out what technology is out there to do it with. This will inevitably cause some revisions to the previous step, as creative vendors will inform you of applications and opportunities you may not have thought of before. That’s okay - you will not be led astray by the temptation of the super highway when all you needed was a 2 lane road. But you will be able to appreciate the input and take time to consider if this option fits your target market’s approach to your Web site.

Identify Vendors

If you’ve been diligent about the above process, it’s time to consider your vendors – which will be really easy to do now that you know what you need. Then it becomes a matter of comparing facts in a matrix – does company X provide this feature or not? At what cost? Then the choice is less about having lots of features and more about having the right ones that fit your goals.

Heather Jewell is the Manager of Planning and Administration of NuRelm. NuRelm is a Web software and services firm that focuses on helping non-technical professionals utilize on the Web to build business. For more information, please visit www.NuRelm.com.


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