1. Affordability – Cost – Depending on who is creating your website, this could be quite an expensive venture. What you need to know though is that the cost of the website varies according to what you intend to put on the site. A five page site which is static requiring minimal alterations will cost less than a 30 page dynamic site with animations, videos and so on. You have to decide what you can afford. Modern tools are available that enable an ordinary user to create a slick website without graphics or web design experience.
2. Purpose of the site – In the absence of knowledge of why the site is being created, there is a high likelihood that the site created will leave the visitors wondering what is being communicated. Write down the clear plan of the purpose why the site is being created. Based on the purpose you have outlined, you are able to tell the steps you need to take and all the activity points for the site. At the end of the design of the site you are able to test how far the site goes in meeting the desired purpose. Every web designer would be keen to know the prime reason for the site. That way they will be able to build a site in the direction of the given purposes. It takes longer to complete a website whose purpose is unclear.
3. Online Security – You cannot talk of internet facilities and e-transactions without emphasizing the need for information security. With the high speed of internet access, a computer in London is as it is connected directly to a computer in South America. Distance is no longer an issue as huge volumes of data can be transferred in real-time at phenomenal speeds. At such high speeds, there is need to secure access to networks and web hosting servers. Hacking is a common security threat for sites. This is when an individual breaks into a network or server and either steals or alters the information available. An additional investment in security needs to be considered more so where financial transactions are involved where people buy products online.
4. Frequency of Updates – Depending on the nature of your website, you may need to update your site every hour, day, week or month. People are more keen to visit websites where there is always new content being uploaded regularly. You certainly expect visitors not to call on your site once they visit twice and find no meaningful updates. The greater work is in creating the framework of the site. Updates can be decentralized to departments involved as it could be an administrative nightmare for one individual to handle. The nature of your site will tell how often it must be updated. A news site must always have the latest information whereas where you are mentioning product listings of a company; this may not need daily updates.
5. Handling feedback from users – Your website must be able to receive and process feedback from the users who will access it. Users should be able to tell you about bugs or functionality issues they could be facing. Where necessary you may need to create a Frequently Asked Questions Page where you answer common and usual questions raised by your site’s users. It is your visitors that can enhance your development of the site as they tell you the frustrations and complexities they come across in using your interface. Consider how you will collect statistics about the visitors to your site. The demographics of your visitors will help you to know the reach of your site.
6. Site Structure – Simple is always better – While it is good to have sophisticated websites, generally, people do not enjoy websites that are complex to navigate. If it will take 10 minutes to access information then people will quit and try other competing websites. Always strive to ensure that navigation and loading of the site is quicker. Overloading your website with intense graphics and slideshows simply slows down the user in accessing the information. The site structure will enhance the ease of navigation of the site. How does one page link to the next? Which links appear on the main page (homepage)? Whichever structure you use must ensure that the user easily accesses information from one central point without opening to many windows. Classify your information accordingly. In general a website answers the questions about who we are (About Us, Vision, and Values etc), what we do and how we do it (Products and Services), How to reach us (key contact details, physical address, postal address of the main and branch offices). If the website fails to communicate this information then it has not fulfilled the reason for existence.
7. Language – multilingual is better – The internet is one global village. You can always get customers who speak in others languages hence the need to ensure that you website is also available in multiple languages if you are aiming other economies. Users generally prefer not to do their own translations but desire an option where they can select a preferred language. Do not let language be limitations to your reaching of a specific market segment.
8. The site builder and the tools – A site is usually limited to the creative capacity of the builder. The builder however should always consult with the client on whether he/she is on the main track or direction towards meetings the needs of his customers. If you decide to build your own website, you can make use of free tools available on the internet. Realize though that sometimes cheap is expensive. Investing a few hundreds of dollars may create more business for you than if you decide to put up an amateur website. It is better to have one well built, mature website which costs you $300 than a site which is poor, an “eye sore” which cost you nothing as you built it yourself. The first site is likely to bring more value than the later. Image is everything in business.
9. Time-frame – How much time has the web designer been allocated to come up with a site? Clients sometimes put web designers under extreme pressure such that they end up not exercising their full creative potential. I was once put under extreme pressure where a website was needed overnight. My colleague whom I relied on in terms of finer detail was away hence I just had to do it. I spent the night in the office but by the morning I was still not happy with the product I had worked “hard” on. I was forced to host the same content. The feedback I got from people who accessed the site was that the site was hurriedly done. Leave the creative juices in people to flow by allowing them enough time to think and create wonderful sites. If you are doing it yourself (DIY), do not put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Plan your time and ensure you put your all into it.
10. Content Management and Validity – I mentioned about frequency of updates somewhere in this document but what is more important to highlight is the fact that content must be relevant and valid. There is nothing worse than a website being blacklisted for spreading falsehoods. Ensure that all content goes through extreme scrutiny before it is made available to the public. I know of newspapers who after people branded them as “false alerts”, no one wanted to buy them and they eventually shut down. A website whose content is not managed diligently will certainly become a white elephant or a “haunted house”. Question to ask is whether your content can be trusted.
Rabison Shumba is a young African entrepreneur who has interests in Information and Communication Technology, Agriculture and Mining. He is also a motivational speaker, trainer and author. His book, The Greatness Manual and various online articles are tools for personal and professional development. Together with 100 other Career Experts, Rabison co-authored the 101 Great Ways to Enhance your Career. http://www.greatnessmanual.com or http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/rshumba