There comes a point when you’ve decided you want a web site that you will need to actually begin the project.
This is the same point where a developer may find it necessary to begin pulling his or her hair out – if you
haven’t both planned ahead.

It’s a very simple fact. I don’t know what you want, until you tell me. You don’t know what I can do, until I tell you. Communication — that’s the secret.

I can’t help that, unfortunately. I have a lot of experience with web site development — but until I know your project, business, or interests, I can’t really make any progress with your site. I’m glad to be consulted, and
happy to answer your questions – but the first person you need to consult before starting a web project is
yourself. Be very frank with yourself, and get right down to business. Before you contact the developer, get
a few specific things solid in your mind:

  1. What is the purpose of my site?
  2. How frequently will my site need to be updated?
  3. How large is my site?
  4. Who will be providing the content? Is it prepared?

All of these things are necessary for your own planning to begin to contact the professional web developer (or
teenager next door) who will help develop your site.

What is the purpose of your site?

Are you creating a personal web site, to share a few humorous tidbits about yourself with the world? Are you an
amateur photographer wanting to display hundreds of photographs you’ve taken? Are you a business, hoping to
raise awareness for your business through the web? Are you starting an e-business, where this web site will
need to generate revenue? These options will each have different requirements for developments, which I’ll discuss
further on.

You should realize right away, however, that there’s a vast difference between a simple brochure site, providing information about your business and contact information, and an electronic retailer, providing the ability to purchase hundreds or thousands of products in any number of combinations.

How frequently will your site need updating?

Many people don’t take this factor into consideration when they’re designing a web site. If you want to update
your web zine every two weeks, somebody will need to do this. A web design does not automatically come with years
of free maintenance – so maintenance costs money. There are several options, of course. You can spend a bit of
extra cash at the beginning, and have the designer put together a content management system or database driven
web site that you might be able to update easily, or they could create a few templates for you and teach you some
basic coding. Or maybe it would be easiest for you to simply hire the designer to do maintenance for you -
definitely the easiest answer, but it will require a regular commitment to keep this up.

How large is your site?

Give some thought to how many pages of content you might end up with – it’ll probably be more than you thought,
at first. Larger sites mean higher costs. It may seem that just adding an additional page shouldn’t be a
big expense – I mean, the design is already done, right? This is true. However, each additional page makes the
development more difficult, and makes it more difficult to check for errors and design the navigation. The
difference between 5 and 6 pages is pretty insignificant. But the difference between 5 and 25 pages is not so
tiny. In the case of extremely large sites, with hundreds or even thousands of pages of content, a database
driven site is going to be needed just to keep everything organized.

Who will be providing the content? Is it prepared?

Different web developers have different preferences for content delivery. A few important things to keep in
mind, though. First, it’s much easier to do the initial layout if you know what the major sections
of the site will be and what the content of the front page will be. Second, the content that you deliver
should be organized the same way as the site will be. If you’ve agreed with the developer that you’ll have
sections a-e, don’t deliver documents 1-9!

My preference is to receive as much of the content as possible as soon as possible. This enables me to
plan ahead. At the very least, I like to have a good sense of just how much content there will be! If you
are not preparing your content yourself, be sure to get a good commitment to a schedule for your content
providers.

Building a web site doesn’t end when the site is built. Realize before you start that your site will need to be publicized, and it’ll need to be maintained. People don’t arrive at your site immediately upon launch — they need to have an opportunity to learn about your site. Web site marketing is a critical aspect of your web site development. Marketing can include simply telling people about your site, but should also include buying advertising, pursuing links, and finding your market on the web.