Please note that this post is a document in progress and will continue to be updated on an ongoing basis.  Please check back regularly for updates.

Based on our experience, there are at least four things that you need to establish before you can build your website:

1 Audience and goals

  • list each audience (for example: the public, customers, employees, partners, investors)
  • for each audience, identify your sales and marketing goals, be concise, be clear
  • start with an open brainstorming session with as many people as possible, ask people from your audiences what they want to see, prioritize, summarize
  • for each goal, try to establish how you will measure your success

2 Content

  • this is the actual images and copy that will go on each page in your site
  • try to establish guidelines for images and copy to keep things consistent
  • identify each page in the site and who will provide what content
  • identify how often the content will likely be updated and by whom
  • there are people who you can hire to write content, but Claero Systems recommends that you write the content yourself, and then hire someone to clean up the style, grammar, etc. if needed
  • establish if you need translations: who, how, and when they will be completed
  • get all the content, set deadlines, give out prizes, do what it takes, this is often the most difficult step
  • a great source of inexpensive site media (photos, videos, drawings) is

3 Architecture

  • decide on how the site will be navigated (global menu, main menu, secondary menu, private menu, etc.)
  • write out the options for each menu
  • create an outline or mind map that shows all of the pages in your site, and how they are organized under the menus
  • identify special features of each page (e.g. forms, multimedia, rss feeds, dynamic features, etc.)

4 Graphics design and branding

  • if you already have branding done for business cards or brochures, this can be a good start
  • hire a graphics designer or communications firm to help with this aspect of the project
  • as a general rule: web site developers are not well suited to graphics design, and graphics designers are not well-suited to building web sites
  • you can spend thousands on this, or just pick a pre-built template and add your logo and colours
  • this is the least important aspect of your site (nobody likes to hear this, but it is true)

Try to keep the following points in mind:

  • the most important aspect of the site for you is that: you accomplish your business goals
  • the most important aspect of the site for your audience is that: they can quickly and easily do what they need to do (find information, buy something, share something, etc.)
  • if there is no compelling reason (value) for people to come to your site, they won’t come
  • if you want something from your visitors, you have to provide them with value (intellectual value, entertainment value, service, etc.)
  • put obvious information on the first page (store hours, address & phone number, etc.)
  • getting yourself found on Google and other search engines is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization, to do it right you need to hire an expert who specializes in this work, it is very expensive and the cost has to be justified by revenues generated by your website

Here are some of the things that a good web developer does:

  • (cross browser compatibility) build the site so that it looks and behaves the same on different browsers and different operating systems
  • (mobile) if applicable, can build the site to work on mobile devices (either with a separate template or by using a responsive template)
  • (templating, CSS) build the site in such a way that the look and feel and styles can be changed quickly and easily across the entire site without having to modify every single page
  • (usability) make sure that the site is easy to use
  • (standards) understand and use the latest web standards
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