You want a website. Maybe it is your first website. Maybe you know all, but starting afresh full of enthusiasm. In your dreams, your website looks like a royal cruise liner – huge, and with everything possible. But, your budget stretches to a motor-driven dinghy boat. So how can you rationalise your aspirations within financial constraints? You do not have to be a finance guru, but you do need to prioritise, and think a little cleverly about how you can approach the website.
Taking the boat analogy a little further, both the cruise ship and the dinghy boat can arguably meet your needs. Both will keep you out of the water. Both will get you from A to B. Both have the potential for memorable holidays. Sure, the cruise ship has a roof, but you could elect not to go boating in the rain, so the question is: do you need a roof?
Making your website fit your budget is all about prioritisation, and the realisation that not every available feature is actually necessary, or often even a good idea. Time, cost and quality. These three things go into your website. You do not want to compromise on quality, because that will cause you problems in the future. You do not want to rush it too much because that will lead to mistakes. Your budget is limited, so the only thing that can be a variable is scope of the website.
An On-going Web Development Relationship: This is where things get interesting. A website is not just for launch day: it is for the duration of its life. And over that lifetime, we would expect it to see new content, new features, new sections, upgrades, design changes, maintenance… Users expect to see change when they return to your site, and this empowers you, the site-owner, to embrace the process of change over a longer time. Rather than trying to build a huge monolithic website on day one, why not stagger your build over a longer time, and use it to bring new features to your users as they are ready?
Take, for example, a house. When you buy a house, it is generally considered a poor idea to immediately demolish part of it and build extensions. It takes time to digest, time to experiment, time to learn what elements you like and which are basic needs. Equally, you need to learn how your needs have changed in your new house and how they are different to your imagined needs before moving in. You will also want to think about how your house works within its environment – where does the sun come in? are there any problematic times of year?
So too with websites. Just as you will figure out your needs over time, it pays to keep an eye on what is happening and changing in your industry and the internet at large since you decided to invest in a site.
Start Small, Extend and Prioritize: So, with websites. As you start to use your site you will have ideas and wants and needs. If you have started small, with a view to extending your site, these ideas can be embraced and your site will grow with you as your experience and that of your users illustrates what the needs really are. Change can now be embraced, nurtured and turned into features that both you and your users really love.
The irony is, that in most traditional websites, everyone is asked to do most of the planning, thinking and budgeting at the very outset – which is the point where everyone concerned has the least knowledge about the project, its constraints (both known and hidden) and its goals. This is essentially gambling and is fraught with the danger of failure.
To illustrate a staged approach to web development, we have simple timeline approach to each web project.
Day One – Upload a simple html page with logo and few address lines. There can also be a contact form on the site. We set up a solid, responsive loot, but will intentionally keep the design very simple so that we can embellish it later.
Pre-launch – We upload the site on a tuned, less-crowded, non-hyper, managed Linux hosting platform and are ready to go.
Launch Day – We go live with a great looking, dependable, flexible, and fast, responsive site. The site is saving us time and money, increasing our visibility and working for us – from the start.
After 1 month: We decide that we want a blog, in order to entice visitors and to establish ourselves as thought leaders in our industry. Additional design and styling to make the blog articles look pretty.
After 2 months: The blog is going well and getting readership. Time to get further traction and extend our reach into social media. We build in share and follow buttons and Twitter cards to drive traffic.
After 4 months: We decide to integrate mailer software to let people sign up to our new newsletter, in order to increase our reach and better communicate with prospective customers. We get a newsletter signup form section on all pages.
After 6 months: We decide to open up interactions with visitors, adding comments, with spam protection.
After 8 months: We launch a range of beautiful products sold through a fully featured, integrated e-commerce solution from our site.
After 12 months: We develop mobile apps for Andriod, Apple, Windows, Blackberry etc… and integrate with the wesite
Who knows where will we go next? Technologies are changing fast… but everyone do not need adapt everything!
This is an illustration, but it could be your website. By starting small and extending over time, website owners and developers have full knowledge of the web site at all times and importantly, full knowledge of what they like and do not like. Each item of functionality is discrete and self-contained, allowing proper testing and proper scheduling of deployments.
When you’re ready, developers are ready.
Do a search on local developers / designers in your area and carefully select one that can help you. You may want to discuss with our sponsors Solution Point helping you build or rebuild a worthy website and can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use online helpdesk.
Notes on Choosing a Hosting Server to park your website: Do not drown host your site with big advertised Internet brands, look for smaller and less crowdy providers for success, focus, integrity and security. If you can, better setup your own internal server instead of hype-trusting a country or entity where even your own govt have no control over!