9 tips before you start your web project

1. DIY

If you have the time and the inclination, you can do it yourself for 'free'

  • With a service like WIX. There are many templates available which are very good. They are responsive (adapt to mobile devices), they are visually appealing, and they have a certain amount of search engine optimization (SEO) built in. The free version offers a WIX domain and advertising on your site, but you can upgrade for a few dollars a month. http://www.wix.com/upgrade/website.
  • If the ownership issue bothers you, there is always self-built WordPress, Joomla and Drupal content management systems (CMS). Again there are free templates available and you can set yourself up with hosting and a domain fairly cheaply. Its not quite as hard as it seems and there are a multitude of free tutorials on Youtube explaining exactly how to setup and run your site.
  • If you don't have the time or inclination to do all this yourself, or if your needs exceed what these free options can offer you with your skill set, you may decide to go with a developer. Be sure to select a good one. http://www.axisinteractive.co.za/website-development-and-design/choosing.... Hopefully these questions lead you to Axis Interactive, however we are certainly not the only good developer in the world.

2. You get what you pay for

Be sure not to confuse low hourly rates with a cheaper end product. There are consequences to using developers whose bosses won't give them the time to put in that extra effort on your solutions. There are two things to consider with cheap hourly rates:

  1. Cheaper now can often mean expensive later, where the converse is usually true. Usually. Get references to ensure you are not in for trouble if you get a bad feeling.
  2. At an even more mathematically basic level: half the rate for double the time, is not a saving.

3. Specification

Once you have chosen your (hopefully) good developer: A clear specification is of paramount importance. Plan well and be very clear about what you are after. "Scope creep" is bound to happen, but the more time you spend considering what you need your software to do, the less that inevitable scope creep will affect your end bill. There is a lot to consider, but as long as you cover all the fundamentals in your specification, a good developer won't surprise you with a higher bill than you expected. If you are not entirely sure what you need going into a project, and only have a very high level idea of what that is, then ask your developer to always re-quote when you add a new feature. And ask them to always assume you will have no idea that you have added to the project.

4. SEO

Proper SEO is not cheap. Adverts that boast "First page guaranteed!!" are just plain lies. You can not get to the top of Google for your desired keywords for a R2000 once-off payment. Nor for a R10000 once-off payment for that matter. SEO is an ongoing process. You can get to the top of Google for "Mikes motor spares", or whatever your name is, for free, but then how useful is that? You surely gain more from a search of "Auto spares Durban" or some such phrase? To get to the top for phrases like that, you need serious effort. Depending on your product, the investment is probably worth it long term, but don't be fooled by fancy terms and promises. Google is not easily fooled, and you have a lot of competition vying for that top spot.

5. Using your site

Search engine driven (organic) traffic to your website is not the only way that a site is useful. If your site pulls in leads with very little effort because you are doing something no one else is doing (and you would have to have an extremely low competition set of keywords, e.g "pet piano lessons”) then you are lucky. But if you don't have the budget for decent SEO, and your services or products are not obscure, you can't rely on the web to bring you leads. But then printing a hundred flyers and leaving them in your cupboard is of no use either. Your website is your digital brochure. You have to make the effort to get it out there. On business cards, flyers, email and signage, your website should be everywhere. And links to it should be to relevant pages. After all that's the advantage of digital. Don't put the home page link on everything, consider the possibility that one of your other pages might be more appropriate and may get your audience to their desired answer quicker.

    6. Security

    Take security seriously. If you are running an open source CMS like WordPress or Drupal, do your updates. The writers of these systems post security flaws for the world to see. It doesn't take a very skilled hacker to break an out-of-date CMS, but it does take a skilled one to break an updated CMS. Its a pain to do, but it only feels like a waste of money until you are hacked.

    7. Hosting

    Organize your own hosting. It's not hard to do, and in fact your developer will help you do it. The bonus for you is that you don't get trapped if your developer turns out to be less than awesome at delivering on promises. The bonus for us is that you take email and server issues straight to the host. Of course your developer will help you troubleshoot problems if you need help, so don't think you are setting yourself up for stress.

    8. Team up specialized suppliers

    If you can afford to do it, then put together a team of suppliers. Get a brilliant designer, a brilliant developer, and a brilliant online marketer. Don't fixate on those all coming from one company. We work together all the time, it will add more benefit than complexity. If they are all genuinely good at what they do, they won't bring prima dona issues; they should work smoothly together. Make sure when you do this, you assign one as the project manager. My advice: give that role to a good online marketer, but anyone who knows how to manage a software project will be fine.

    9. Think bigger

    Browser-based software also means that all of this can happen on any device, at any time. You are never far from your desk.

    • Walking into a meeting and forgot the client's previous order? Use your phone.
    • Walking around the factory floor and need to check on resources? Look at your tablet
    • Websites don't have to stop at being brochure sites:
      • A traditional progression to your site might include an order form followed by an ecommerce upgrade
      • Another route might be a free download that captures a person's contact details, or a quote form that achieves the same thing
      • Taking that a step further: your lead generation site might now feed those leads directly into a customer relationship manager (CRM)
      • Your CRM might actually act as call centre software, helping your sales staff to follow leads. It may in fact police those follow up calls, ensuring they happen in an ordered way, presenting scripts for each call...
      • Once sold, your product or service may need to be built or processed. Your software can now extend to act as a business process manager (BPM), or an enterprise resource planner (ERP)

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