So what is a website anyway and how do things like website design, web development and web programming relate to each other? Well actually there is a lot that goes into creating a website and sometimes it can be a deceiving process because oftentimes people don’t realize just how many steps are needed to develop an effective website. It is relatively easy, for example, to throw together a quick 3 to 5 page marketing website; just to have something to show people and (if you’re lucky enough) have it appear in Google’s search results but building a website is typically just one step of many that should be performed when starting an online business. Below is a brief list of the more significant things to consider:
Website URL / Domain names
Domain names are the basic marketing components of your website. It is what people will (or won’t) remember you by and doesn’t necessarily have to be the same name as your business. It’s good if it is catchy and easily remembered but also easy to spell based on hearing it alone. It’s also important to take into consideration what will work well for search engine indexing and based on that you should not rule out using dashes within the name. That will help search engines isolate words that should not be combined in the name. So take some time to think about creative domain names that capture the essence or your web business and the market(s) you want to capture. We are here to help research and suggest creative domain names for your website as well as the best strategy toward implementing the names.
Where you host your site is not super critical but it can make a difference as to what type of plan you purchase. If you really need good / fast performance you might want to consider purchasing a dedicated server plan. A virtual private server (VPS) can be a good middle-of-the-road approach if you want good performance and control over the hosting environment but cannot afford a dedicated server. On the other hand, if you just need something quick-n-dirty and do not care about performance or control over the environment then a shared hosting plan is probably the best choice.
Most plans let you upgrade easily as well should your needs change over time. A final thought to consider with hosting is whether you want to go with a Windows account or a Linux account. Generally if you aren’t sure, a Windows hosting plan can also run many of the same things that Linux can (such as PHP and MySQL) but whatever you choose, generally hosting companies will let subscribers change plans if needed however you may need to setup all your websites again if you change plans and that can cost extra if you aren’t able to do it yourself. We are available to help you choose the right plan and can even host the site for you so that you do not need to worry about purchasing and managing a hosting plan with another company. Additionally, we offer monthly maintenance and support plans where we can take care of website updates, server support, database backups and email accounts.
This is probably the most important piece of the development process and yet oftentimes the most neglected. Determining the business requirements is the point at which you decide exactly how your website will look, perform and function on many levels. The more thought and attention to detail you put into this step, the easier the development process will be for everyone and the more accurate costs will be presented in an estimate. In fact, your costs may actually be lower if you can document effectively what the design requirements and functional features are that you want built into the website. In other words, the more vague you are, the more risk you run that things will be built incorrectly and have to be fixed in a second phase that ends up costing everyone more time, money and delays in launching your site.
The best thing to keep in mind when it comes to creating project “scope” is that there should be “no surprises” along the way. The customer should do their best to document all usability and design (UI) requirements and the development partner should do their best to document and prepare a cost estimate that describes how the technology will support those requirements along with best practices and any other suggestions and, if possible, list what is not included in the scope. It is also ideal if time and budget can be allocated toward producing any necessary UI mock-ups and for researching any grey areas or new technologies that might otherwise impact the project negatively via additional delays or costs during the development process.
Design and Usability Requirements
Do you need your website to be designed by a professional designer with usability and responsiveness in mind? Do you have a logo, graphics and content ready for implementation? Do you want Adobe Flash presentations, Youtube videos or HTML image sliders on your home page? Is branding and marketing something you have already considered, planned for and have those requirements ready for implementation? If you need help in these areas, we have professionals ready to help.
What is the purpose of your site and will users need to do? Are the registering and logging in? Are they browsing products, shopping and making purchases? Are they signing up for newsletters, submitting questions to your customer service department? Are they placing orders for a service or making payments for an invoice they received? Do they need to upload files to your website? Do you want to support all features on a regular desktop browser as well as mobile device or just some core features (know that mobile development adds more cost to the project)? Does there need to be different roles in the system such as user, registered user, administrator, vendor, etc? What screens do the different roles see and how are they different? Does there need to be any administrative screens for managing and processing orders, updating content, adding/editing products, etc? Do you have any existing systems you want to integrate with such as Paypal, ConstantContact or Quickbooks?
What language will the website be written in? Will it use a database? What kind and why? Are your decisions based on personal knowledge or your technical resource’s suggestions? Are there 3rd party components or integrations that need to be developed? Will the hosting company support these requirements? If these kinds of questions make your head start to spin or if you simply do not care about the technology side of the project, that is Ok! Let us at nCube Development do the worrying and decision-making for you in this area. We will gladly provide you with all the options and information you need to decide what is the best technology and programming language(s) to use but we will gladly offer our suggestions so that you don’t have to spend a lot time learning this stuff.
Web Marketing and SEO
If you care about having your site indexed and listed with many of today’s popular search engines, then you will definitely need to put some thought into search engine optimization (SEO). There are a few components that go into this. For example, organic SEO is simply building your site to be search-engine friendly so that it gets indexed properly based on the industry it competes in and keyword searches it is best suited for. So you want to make sure there is an appropriate balance of keyword content that applies to your website and online business. With organic SEO, the goal isn’t necessary to “one-up” your online competitors because the search engine rules for indexing website and establishing the rules for what is considered “search engine spamming” are constantly changing. With organic SEO you make your website as strong and SEO-friendly as it can be on its own. After that then you begin a competitive-analysis and determine what if anything you should do differently. With a properly designed SEO-framework, you should be able to tweak your SEO pages with relative ease as needed and not need to redesign your website. Once you are satisfied with your competitive-tweaking then you can decide if you want to accentuate your SEO marketing approach with a paid advertising campaign. Depending on how much budget you can afford in this area, you may decide to invest in something like Google Adwords and Adsense along with other marketing venues such as banner advertising and email marketing. At nCube Development, we are passionate about helping you in this area but there is no magic formula only best practices, hard-work and some creative ideas. All-in-all our goal is to help your online business achieve success as much as you will allow us!
Website Maintenance and Support
Once your site goes live, there will be a short period of time where bugs and other necessary changes are discovered and need to be fixed. Then, overtime, your site will start to require less changes to get it to the point where things look and work properly. From that point, your site can go into maintenance mode which simply means that you may need minor content changes added or possibly even a new page. For example, maybe you have a staff page that needs changes periodically or a products or services page that needs new things added. Additionally, it is possible that your site may have a database, email accounts or require other server tasks in order to keep the site running smoothly and backed-up should a need arise to rebuild the site. We gladly offer a variety of maintenance and support plans that can help your business stay up and running and give you the peace of mind that your web data and assets are safe and sound. Just give us a call or send us an email and let us know how we can help you!