Website Development Checklist
The purpose of this project checklist is to provide an overview of the processes required to implement a website.
Before design or development of your website can begin, you will need to document your goals and objectives for the site. Will, for example, your website be primarily informational, or do you intend on selling products and services? Each of the following elements on this website development checklist should be addressed before you begin your project.
- Define and document your vision for the website. Convey this information as clearly and concisely as possible. Discuss web site branding concepts, product or services offered, how often you intend on updating the site, ease of management, and any other factor which might impact the user experience.
- When would you like to go live? Do you want to capture holiday shopping traffic?
- Will you be building the web site in-house or outsourcing?
Domain Name Registration
Research possible domain names. Opinions differ on whether using hyphens or including numbers in the domain name impacts traffic and search engine listings. www.nameboy.com and www.godaddy.com are both great domain management resources.
Before approaching a web design consultant, explore your online competition. Make a list of elements you like and dislike about each site, including color schemes, layout, navigation, content, processes, etc. This will provide the consultants with a framework for designing your site.
At this stage, you should have a fairly good idea of how the different site elements will flow together. You will need to document these for the site designers. For example, if you are selling products, how will users interact with the shopping cart? How do you envision the user login and account management sections working?
Equally as important as the user experience, are the back-end processes for handling payment, shipping and product returns. You may need to meet with your bank representative to setup a merchant account for processing credit cards. You may also want to consider setting up a commercial account with a shipping agent. Doing so could save both time and money.
How do you plan on driving customers to your website? External marketing campaigns (print, radio, etc.) should be part of the initial planning phases of your site design project. Remember, that it will take time to attract visitors to your site. You may also want to consider paid advertising placement with any of the major search engines or in a leading web directory.
Search engine optimization is extremely important for driving traffic to your site. See The Project Diva’s search engine optimization project planning documents for additional information.
Content is the most important element of a website. Well written and interesting content will drive users to your website. If you are planning to email special offers or provide a newsletter to customers, you will need to define frequency and discuss management and distribution options with your designer.
If you are selling products or services, it is important to solicit legal advice regarding the site acceptable use policy and the end user agreement. These agreements will define your liability and the rights of site users.
Specific technical requirements
Companies that accept credit cards and store customer contact or other personal information are obligated to protect the security of that information. Indeed, you may be held liable for breaches in information security. Security issues need to be discussed with both your site designer and hosting company. You may want to consider a commercial insurance policy to cover liability as well. Professional Liability Insurance may also be of interest.
There are two primary contracts to be concerned with. The first is with the website development company; the second with the web hosting company. It is essential that you engage legal counsel to review all contracts prior to signing!
The following elements should be part of the website development contract. This list is not exhaustive, and covers only the most basic elements.
- Definition of responsibilities – outlines responsibilities of all parties defined within the contract;
- Site scope – defines the work that will be completed as part of the project;
- Intellectual property – defines ownership of site logos, design, content, code and domain names;
- Timetable and budget for completion;
- Payment schedule;
- Errors and Omissions or Professional Liability Insurance – defines liability associated with site errors or omissions which may inhibit or prevent you from conducting business;
- Quality standards – sets project acceptance standards and defines recourse for elements which do not meet these standards (e.g. re-work and the fees, time frame for implementing site fixes);
- Testing – defines testing timelines and acceptance criteria; and
- Training – defines what level of training will be provided to you in order to facilitate site management and updates. Training should be part of the overall project scope.
Your site design consultant should assist in setting up web hosting, since many of the hosting specifications are dependent upon the technologies used for developing your website.
The following elements should be part of the hosting contract. This list is not exhaustive, and covers only the most basic elements.
- Service availability – An up-time guarantee. What percentage of the time is the server unavailable or offline? This will adversely impact your customer’s ability to access your site. Thus, an up-time guarantee of at least 99% is crucial.
- Backups – how often are backups taken? How long does it take to restore files once a request is issued? Backups should be taken at least daily. Ideally, a restored copy of files should be available to you within 3 business hours.
- Package – the package defines the technology platform, disk space, throughput, database availability, scripting and development language support available. Your site designer should recommend the hosting package.
- Statistics – website statistics reporting is essential for evaluating your marketing plan and evaluating web site optimization strategies. Most hosting companies will offer statistics reporting for a monthly fee.
Check everything before going live! Have colleagues and friends check as well. Mistakes can be costly to reputation, or directly impact your revenue.
Once the site has been fully tested, the developers will migrate the site from testing to the production platform. Once this is complete, the developers will submit the site to the various search engines for indexing. You should also begin adding your site to various web directories. Social networking sites are another great way of getting the word out, but take care not to spam your site’s URL without contributing anything of value. If you post intelligent and well thought out comments, people will visit your website to see what else you have to offer of value.
Site maintenance is very important. Add content, new products and specials on a regular basis. Revisit search engine rankings and stick to a maintenance schedule.