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.
- 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
- 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
- Web app
- Mobile app
- Who is your target audience?
- 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
- Periodic billing/subscriptions
- Selling goods/services
- Get bought out
- 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?
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
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
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
- $10 to $500 / month is typical
- Number of users × how often they use it × average “page” size
- What happens if you go over?
- 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?
- 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
- What does the site need to do?
- 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
- Load testing
- Beta testers
- 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
- PR sites
- Targeted groups
- DO NOT send out spam
What other services do you need, besides just the web site?
- File storage
- Customer interaction
- Bug tracking
- Customer Q&A (StackExchange)
- Follow-up emails to customers to offer assistance
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
- New/improved functionality
- Bug fixes
- Upgraded infrastructure
- Web host
- Testing restoring from backups
- Payments for services
- Domain name registration – DO NOT LOSE YOUR NAME!
- Web hosting