Website Checklist

While creating a web page isn’t too difficult, there are a lot of moving parts involved in creating an effective website. We’ve written up this checklist as a guide for anyone who has decided that they need a website.

This list is for a basic static website. A web application will require significantly more effort. We’re working on a separate checklist for web apps.

Overview

  • Determine your goals
  • Develop a business plan
  • Register a domain name
  • Set up DNS hosting
  • Set up web hosting
  • Design and develop the site
  • Deploy and test the site
  • Market your site
  • Set up additional services
  • Maintenance

Goals

  • What do you want to achieve from having the site?
  • What “call to action” do you want visitors to take?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What will be the focus of the site?
    • Info (“brochure”) for an existing business
    • Blogging
    • Sales
    • Community
    • Web app
    • Mobile app

Business Plan

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Marketing
    • How will you get them to come to your site?
    • How will you get them to buy something?
  • Who is your competition?
    • How do you compare to them?
    • How do you differentiate from them?
    • What is your niche?
    • What makes your site better than theirs?
  • How will you make money?
    • Bringing people into brick and mortar business
    • Advertising
    • Periodic billing/subscriptions
    • Selling goods/services
    • Get bought out
  • Pricing
    • Aim high — it’s easier to lower prices than raise them
    • Tiered pricing often makes sense; most people pick the middle tier
  • What will it take to have a positive ROI?

Domain Name

You’ll probably want your own domain name.

  • Think of a name
    • Stick with a .com name if possible; don’t use .biz
    • Some other top-level domains come into fashion on occasion
      • .io is pretty popular right now
  • Check availability of the name
  • Keep checking names, until you find a good name that is available
  • Register the name with a respectable registrar
    • DNS Registrars run from $10-$35/yr
    • DO NOT allow your web host provider to own/control your name
    • You may want to grab the .net, .org, and other versions of the same name
    • Multiple-year registration is cheaper, but it’s easier to forget how to renew it
  • Your registrar will likely point your domain to an “under construction” page initially
  • DO NOT LOSE YOUR NAME!
    • Spammers and pornographers will take it over if your registration lapses
    • Make sure your contact info (especially email address) is up-to-date
  • Beware scams (usually by US mail) trying to get you to renew with a different registrar
  • Note that the email address you register with will get spammed
    • Some registrars provide some protection for a fee

DNS Hosting

You’ll need to have someone take care of the servers that tell the world what server addresses your domain name corresponds to.

  • Find a DNS hosting provider
    • We like DNSimple; they also do domain registration
  • Provide the name servers to your DNS registrar

Web Hosting

You’ll need servers to host your web site on. There are a lot of options available, from virtual hosts (a Linux server where you control everything) to application-specific services.

  • Talk to your developer or designer first!
    • Web host can significantly restrain the development environment
  • Cost
    • $10 to $500 / month is typical
  • Bandwidth
    • Number of users × how often they use it × average “page” size
    • What happens if you go over?
  • Up-time
    • What kind of down-time can the site sustain?
    • Higher guaranteed uptime costs more
    • What if the specified uptime is not met?
  • Development environment
    • What programming languages are installed?
    • What databases are installed?
    • What libraries are installed?
    • What if other libraries are required?
  • Shared/dedicated/virtual hosting
    • Shared means others are using the same machine, with security implications
    • Dedicated is expensive, but you “own” the whole machine
    • Virtual is somewhere in between
      • You have a “slice” of a machine dedicated to your site
  • How responsive is the host to problems and requests?
  • Backups
    • What do they back up?
    • How often do they back up?
    • How can files be restored?

Design and Development

Designing and developing the site can vary from picking an existing template and adding content, to developing a full web application.

  • Cost ($30 – $300 / hr)
  • Project management
    • Story/task management
  • Revision control
    • Ensures changes can be rolled back quickly
  • Functionality
    • What does the site need to do?
  • Usability
    • How easy is it to use each page?
    • Is it easy to navigate the site to find what you’re looking for?
    • Check for broken links
    • Check for ADA/508 compliance
    • Spell checking and grammar checking

Deploying and Testing

  • Can updates be deployed quickly?
    • Deploy early and often, so it’s not such a big deal, and it becomes routine
  • Consider a staging and/or beta site
    • Test everything thoroughly on staging site before deploying to production
    • Staging site should (mostly) use the same code as production
    • Staging/test site should not process credit cards, etc.
  • Automated testing
    • Prevents regressions
  • Exploratory testing
    • See how things work
    • See if you can break things
  • Security testing
    • Penetration testing
  • Performance
    • Load testing
  • Beta testers

Marketing

  • Search engine “optimization” (SEO)
    • Good design, good URLs, and well-written HTML should cover most of this
    • Submit site to search engines
    • Use robots.txt and site maps
  • Directories
  • PR sites
  • Targeted groups
  • DO NOT send out spam

Additional Services

What other services do you need, besides just the web site?

  • Email
  • Blog
  • Wiki
  • File storage
  • Forums
  • Authentication
  • Customer interaction
    • CRM
    • Feedback
    • Bug tracking
    • Customer Q&A (StackExchange)
    • Follow-up emails to customers to offer assistance

Maintenance

Over the lifetime of the site, you’ll likely pay more in maintenance costs than the upfront costs.

  • Responding to user emails
  • Requests for info
  • Feedback about the site
  • Password resets?
  • Tracking bug reports and feature requests
  • Site improvements
  • Additional content
  • Moderation of user content
    • Spam removal
  • Log analysis
    • Google Analytics
  • Assessing advertising effectiveness
  • Analysis of revenues/profitability
  • Upgrades
    • New/improved functionality
    • Bug fixes
    • Upgraded infrastructure
  • Down-time
    • Web host
    • Upgrades
    • Accidents
    • Bugs
  • Backups
    • Testing restoring from backups
  • Payments for services
    • Domain name registration – DO NOT LOSE YOUR NAME!
    • Web hosting
    • Marketing/advertising

 

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