Real planning is often the first casualty in developing a website. This often happens because of the excitement and sense of urgency surrounding website development. But with out real planning far too many things are being left to chance, including organisational reputation.
Website planning is often just seen in terms of how a website will look, how many columns a page will have, what colours will be used and the font type and size. This is an extremely narrow view of what website planning is all about.
What is website planning all about?
I'm often approached by small businesses wanting a quote for a website. Sometimes they'll have a bit of an idea about what they want, and may even have a bit of a schema about the number of pages and their content. Larger organisation will present a Request for Proposal (RFP), supposedly sufficient to develop a proposal and a cost. It is quite frequent that they will fall short on information to deliver a accurate proposal. Often, all you can do is give an estimate.
What should the big plan look like?
The website plan us, however, not just for the web developer, it's got to look at the big picture and the fundamental business objectives you are trying to achieve. here are some of the major things you'll need to address in a website plan:
- Who is your audience/market. Has this been clearly defined?
- Who are your competitors and what are they offering
- What is my competitive advantage?
- How can I differentiate myself in this market?
- What are the top things your customers want from you?
- What content (it's not just the text, but images, video, downloadable documents) is required on the website?
- Will customers need to login an provide information? You'll need a Secure Certificates.
- What's the marketing plan? Online and off-line marketing.
- Will you need custom programming and development?
- How will you know if you are achieving your online objectives?
- Who will be responsible for managing the website?
This isn't a comprehensive list af all that's required in planning a website. For some websites you'll be able to get by with less, and for others you'll need more indepth planning.
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
How far do you go with planning?
The planning list I've developed probably looks pretty daunting and it may make you think that perhaps just walking away might be the easier option. But don't give up just yet! The web is a wonderful medium - whatever can be done can equally be undone! There are a lot of things on the Internet that you don't know until you've done it. So, my advice is to try it and monitor it. If it doesn't work, modify it.