Once you’ve officially pressed the start button for your new online business, it’s time to build your website.
In this phase, you’re going to learn about some things every website needs and a few things you might want for your website. You’re going to document your requirements and determine if you can build it yourself or if you need to hire a professional. If you decide to outsource, you’re going to hire and manage a developer and/or designer.
You’re also going to start writing some content in this phase, do some testing and launch your new website. You have a lot to do in this phase so lets get started.
If you want all the nitty-gritty details or need more guidance, get my book. It’s full of useful information and helpful examples.
Commit to Quality
If you’re serious about starting a real online business, now is no time for shoddy workmanship. If your website looks amateurish, it’s going to tarnish your credibility and chase your customers away.
If you’ve never built a website before, you may be able to do it yourself. Checkout the “Launch Your Website In 3 Weeks” Roadmap. It will walk you through each step of the process for building your own website.
Purchase a professional looking theme from a website like ThemeForest.net, TrueThemes.net, WooThemes.com, TemplateMonster.com, or ElegantThemes.com. Don’t try to slap graphics together yourself. It’s not a good use of your time and it won’t look professional.
10 Things Every Website Needs
Here’s a list of the 10 things every website needs:
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Standard Pages (Home, Legal, About, Contact)
- Page Layout
- Customer Service
When you’re thinking through the design of your website, be sure to cover these 10 things. They’re explained in detail in my book so check that out if you need additional information.
8 Optional Things for Your Website
Here’s a list of 8 optional things your website might need, depending on what type of website you’re going to build:
- SSL Certificate
- Ecommerce (shopping cart/catalog)
- Web 2.0
- Mobile Access
- Website Addition Loop
- Site Map
If you’re going to sell things on your website, you need a way for people to buy them. That means you’ll need security and payment processing. Mobile access is becoming a necessity as more people move to mobile web browsing. Gamification and building a Website Addiction Loop are great ways to keep people coming back to your website. Again, these are explained thoroughly in my book.
Write Your Requirements Document
Even if you’re planning to build the website yourself, it’s still a good idea to write out your requirements as a log of your brilliant ideas and to use as a task list to work from. If you’re going to outsource development, a thorough requirements document is crucial to the on-time delivery of the website you want.
You can download my Requirements Document Template in my Web Startup Toolbox and use it as a starting point. I’ve even included some of the basic requirements for you.
Decide on a Dev Strategy
Drupal, Joomla!, or Ruby On Rails are other platforms you might consider using, depending on your requirements. If your site is pretty basic, or you just want to launch the basic content site yourself and pay a professional to do the heavy lifting, WordPress is the best option.
If your plan is to do what you do best and pay someone else to do the rest, consider using Elance.com, Freelancer.com or oDesk.com to find developers. You can read reviews posted by other clients on these websites and gauge ability based on related projects and their associated reviews.
If you want to use local developers, seek out referrals, conduct thorough interviews and speak to at least 3 references. I’ve included my lists of interview questions in the Web Startup Toolbox download.
Negotiate a Fixed-Price Contract
When you’re interviewing developers, insist on a fixed-price contract. Most developers won’t have a problem providing one, especially if you have a detailed requirements document.
Hourly contracts are too unpredictable and can easily lead to cost overruns and missed deadlines. It’s common sense, really. The longer it takes to develop, the more money the developer makes. It’s a disincentive to finish quickly. Not so with a fixed-price contract. The faster the project is completed, the sooner they can work on the next project.
Don’t throw your requirements document over the wall and hope for the best. Manage your team closely. Insist on regular status updates and demonstrations. I’ve managed developers since the 90’s so I’m intimately familiar with the challenges you’ll face. For some tips and tricks on getting the most out of your development team, check out my book.
Write Content for Standard Pages
Now’s the time to start creating the content for your website. That includes the home page, about, legal pages, and any other pages you’ve identified in your requirements document.
If you’re planning to write content that reviews or discusses other companies or products, you’ll also want an FTC Disclosure. You can use DisclosurePolicy.org to help create one of those or you can write it yourself.
Perform User Acceptance Testing
Once your website is nearing completion, it’s time to do your User Acceptance Testing, or UAT. In a nutshell, you want to test every single link, button and feature on your website in multiple browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari).
Just do me a huge favor, ok? Log the bugs you find with enough detail that a developer can find the problem and know what to fix. The quickest way to drive a developer to the insane asylum is to send an email in the middle of the night that says “the website is broken” when it’s only a link on the about us page that doesn’t work.
If your developer provides an issue tracking system, use it! Don’t circumvent the process by sending an email directly to the developer.
If they don’t provide an issue tracking system, I’ve included my Issues Log template in my Web Startup Toolbox. Use it!
The longer it takes for a developer to find and fix a bug, the more time and money you lose. Be a good client and don’t be responsible for driving yet another developer insane.
Launch the Website
Once your website has passed your UAT, it’s time to launch it into production (aka the web).
Sometimes, your website will be developed on your production server (webhost) so there’s not much else to do during this phase. However, if your developer built your website on their dev server and it needs to be moved to your webhost, now’s the time to do it.
Perform Production Testing
After your website is live on the web, it’s time for your final round of production testing. That means you need to test everything again, including your checkout process if you’re selling things. Buy something and then check your bank in a couple days to make sure the money was deposited.
It’s also time to round up your friends and family to play with the website and provide their feedback. Give them a copy of your issues log and ask them to document any bugs they encounter. Ask them to make a purchase, register, click links, and basically act like a real user.
That brings us to the end of the Building Your Website phase. If your website is live on the web, you’ve officially joined the ranks of entrepreneurs who can say they’ve launched a website! Congratulations!
Now, you can take a break and appreciate your progress and all your hard work, or head over to the next section on Marketing Your Website >>