PLANNING A WEB SITE
The fastest growing segment of the Internet is clearly the World Wide Web. Corporate Web sites are appearing faster than dandelions on a spring lawn. Taking some time to plan your Web Site strategy can pay off in terms of dollars and time, as well as in managing client and management expectations. A good web site should appear a well organized as a golf course, with a look and feel of a flawless green. Here are some guidelines for things to investigate.
Web Site Planning
A. Clarify the Site Goals, Objectives and Functionality. There are many types; each can build on the other. Five examples are:
B. Develop a Site Map. Draw a picture of the information tree and action flow you want to support. Talk about the connections and basic navigation of the site.
- "Outbound" marketing/advertising only --Tell people you exist and what you do.
- Information sharing -- Make it easy for people to do business with you by giving them the information to do so.
- Lead generation --Give people pre-qualification information through searches or inventory posting to see if you're the right one for them. Also get lead pre-qualification data through gathering certain information from inquirers.
- On-line catalog --Provide information about inventory for people to do some shopping.
- Order entry and processing --Allow people to act on the information and place an order, completing the loop.
C. Decide the Site Look & Feel. Develop a graphical theme to carry through the site. This includes things like the corporate logo to the artwork for products and services. This requires the involvement of Marketing, just like for a major magazine advertisement. You need to answer who will design your site layout and images? Who will create the images? A graphics artist is the preferred answer.
D. Think Development, Maintenance and Support. This is another resource issue, deciding where to draw the line between those features to be handled internally, and those to be outsourced. A good exercise is to ask what internal resources can you devote full-time for at least the duration of site construction. Then be clear about the recurring functions and their owners.
- Will you learn and do the application set-up yourself or will you hire someone to do it for you?
- Who will maintain and update the site? How often?
- Who is responsible for the content to remain current?
- Who will respond to the feedback/inquiries/email from the site?
- What is your budget for the site, and what kind of new business would be needed to break even?
E. Selecting an ISP. Unless you plan to host the site on your own computers, you need to think about what you will need from an Internet Service Provider (ISP). (If you are hosting the site internally, you will need to provide these things yourself.) Some things to look for in a web site provider are:
- Backup: do they have "hot" spare servers to run your site if their primary server is down? Do they do nightly backups between servers so the data is "mirrored"?
- Programming Support: Do they provide technical help setting up the site, and adding functionality, like order processing?
- Bandwidth: How much traffic can their Internet connection trunks handle? Do they have only 56KB lines, or a T1 or T3?
- Pricing: Do they charge you separately and incrementally for the number of visitors per day, and the amount of disk space your site requires?
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