Understanding how to develop a website for a company is what separates a high-demand web designer from a hack struggling to find clients. There are a lot of factors that go into a website for a business, and too many business people don't understand them. The web developer's job is not just to give the customer what they want, but also to first help them understand what it is that they need.
5 Factors in Deciding How to Develop a Website for a Company
The biggest danger when a business owner or executive decides they want a website for their business is that they will choose, as a model, a site that they liked - but that is completely wrong for their business. This happens time and time again, and unscrupulous web designers will simply give the business what they ask for, rather than educating them on what they probably actually need.
- What is the Purpose of the Site? - Is the site supposed to sell products? Showcase properties? List and explain services offered? A photo gallery? Or is it simply an online presence announcing a company's existence? Starting out by asking what the company hopes the site will accomplish for them is the first place to start.
- What is the Intended Audience? - The way the site graphics and text are designed will depend on which target group the site is meant to reach. The tone will be very different for a business to business site as opposed to a customer base, and even more different depending on the demographic of that audience. If you hope to reach a target audience of opera afficionadoes, for example, having a site without any sound, or a site without an elegant and sophisticated layout, would not work very well.
- What elements need to be dynamic? - A great advantage of the web is its mutability; you can easily change it with the stroke of a key. This is also a great burden, because websites that do not change are boring, and people will stop coming to them. There are many ways to create dynamic content, from twitter "badges" and blogs to rotating featured products, and special offers on the front page. However, these tools must be identified early on in the development process, and then integrated into the front-end design as well as the back-end infrastructure.
- What resources are available to maintain the site? - While it is theoretically possible to simply put up a website and leave it there, it will soon become obsolete in the rapidly changing environment of the web. Apart from setting aside resources to handle dynamic content, part of the development of a website is arranging a maintenance schedule to review design changes, or simply changing defined needs regarding the purpose of the site. A company may change the services offered, the company logo, or it may simply want the site to reflect the change in staff. Deciding who is in charge of making these updates happen is an important thing to decide early on.
- What is the expected launch date? - There is a saying among web developers: "Cheap, fast, good: pick any two." The expected launch date for a website will be a factor in realistically determining what features will be available. If there is a hard deadline - for example, a movie release date - then more resources, in the form of people and money, will have to be pulled into the process. On the other hand, if there is not a hard-and-fast due date, a company website may be developed by an employee dedicating a couple of hours a day to it at a minimal cost to the company.
Other Useful Guidelines
- Avoid Feature Creep - This is when a company keeps adding on new features to the website long after the basic outline has been agreed on. To avoid this, get a firm written outline of what will be expected from the developer, and make sure that the client is aware that additional features will take longer and cost more.
- Have One Contact - Designating one person within a company who is the conduit through which information is passed will make it much easier for the web developer, and it will avoid people being left out of the loop as decisions are made.
- Manage the Company as Well as the Website - While the website is designed for a company, a company is made up of people, and it is the web developer's job to be patient and professionally courteous as the client learns more about the process of developing a website.
These are a few of the guidelines to use when working on a company website. Notice none of them require more than communication and a paper and pen - but a little planning, in advance, will go a long way toward a good experience when the site goes live.