Five steps to creating successful web sites

1) Planning and preparation

a) Ascertain the main purpose of the web site and your key demographic.

b) Analyse your main competitors, do they employ similar tactics? Are they making any critical mistakes? How can you improve on their web presence?

c) Carefully plan the structure and navigation of your web site, remembering that ideally, no page will be more than 3 clicks away at any point, with your key content web pages easily indexable by major search engines and spiders.

d) Think about the appearance and style of your web site. Pick 3 appropriate web sites you like, and 3 you dislike, focusing on the web site design. List exactly which aspects you would like to incorporate onto your own web site. Think about which colours suit your business, if you have branding in place, think about colours that do not contrast with this.

2) Design

Following the preparation stage, you should be in a position to give your web site designer their first brief. In this, you’ll have laid out clear instructions as to which demographic they’re designing for, how you would like your web site design to look, and which functionality it should contain (e.g. if you’re having an eCommerce system built, you may wish to have account handling and shopping cart functions).

The web site designer will usually then create a series of mock-up web site designs, in which you’ll be asked to carefully consider each one and comment. You may fall in love with the first one you see, you may dislike all of them, or you find a separate piece of each web site design you like, don’t be afraid to give an opinion!

3) Development

Once the web site design is signed off, a process usually required to be confirmed in writing or via a contract, the actual creation of the web site begins. Dynamic content, such as animation, ecommerce, a message board or general web pages controlled by a content management system will be created.

4) Test, test and test again

Upon completion of your web site, and after your designer has placed your web site on a suitable testing server, it is crucial that at the very least you and your designer test the web site thoroughly, placing particular attention to the critical functions of your web site. If you’re running an ecommerce system, does the shopping cart work? If your website is a message board, can visitors of all security levels post to it?

Asking family, friends or work colleagues to have a look is often advisable, this will allow you to see how the website is used by a vast array of personalities and competencies.

Once you’re happy with the site’s functionality, it is ready to place it live!

5) Final Analysis

Give yourself 2 to 4 weeks after the web site’s live date, to analyse it’s performance. Are there any sections over or under performing? Would your business benefit by some minor adjustments to the structure?

Remember, your web site will ideally last you a long period of time, and it’s critical that it not only does it’s job, but it performs to the best of it’s ability.

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