When building a website from scratch, there are five steps to follow:
1. What’s the game plan? Why do you want a website? This is the most important question. Is it business-focused or information-focused? What do you want the site to accomplish? Who’s going to come to the site? Why are they going to come? What do you want them to do or see? If you can’t answer all these questions fairly thoroughly then you’re about to waste a lot of time and money.
Be able to write down — in fact, write down — specific, clear information about the site’s purpose and ideal visitor. Congratulations — you’ve just eliminated 50% of all the problems to follow.
2. How do we design it? What you’re doing here is structuring the site to accomplish the goals in #1. Design isn’t there to win awards for the designer. Look at the Google page. Design wise it’s nowhere, yet its functionality can’t be improved upon. It fulfils the site’s goal so exquisitely it’s never been redesigned, just refined.
What’s the simplest way you can design your site for visitors to accomplish what you want them to accomplish? There’s your design.
3. How should we develop it? Build and test, build and test, and when you’re done building, test everything — every page, every link.. “Keep code organized and commented, and refer constantly to the planning details as the full website takes shape,” advises Fluid Media’s Luke Reimer [http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/22/following-a-web-design-process/], who cautions developers that after doing all the fun geeky stuff, don’t screw up the boring part, loading the actual client content, “because even the simplest of pages demand tight typography and careful attention to detail.”
4. Okay it’s done. Now what? Well, if you can put it on its home server, go ahead and do that, and mercilessly test the functionality and usability — every link. Test how the site looks in the latest versions of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, IE and on mobile devices. Here’s where the developer and the business client need to sit side by side and go through the site, having the site’s goals in one hand — still have that piece of paper outlining the site’s purpose and ideal visitor? Good. Does what was delivered match that?
5. Keep it updated. Keep the prices and timely information updated, sure, but mostly keep it supplied with fresh content, interesting content, valuable content that will keep your coveted visitor coming back. Never let the site get stale — if there’s a blog don’t let it go longer than a week without a new post. If you want people to keep returning to your site you need to give them a good enough reason to do so, and giving them regularly-refreshed quality content is the best way to accomplish that.