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Answer The Big Questions

There are some basic questions you need to answer any time you start a new project.

  • What is the purpose of this project?
  • What are it's goals?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What have you envisioned as the final product?
  • What key messages do you want to communicate?
  • What elements MUST be included?
  • How will you measure the success of the project?

Where to Start

Once you've answered some of the big questions you can get started on the more practical questions. Do you have a domain name for your website? Often your marketing message, keyword research and availability will determine your domain name. Do you already have a web server? It's fairly trivial to add another website to a an existing server even if it has an entirely different domain name. Do you want your main website to also function as your mobile website (responsive design) or build an entirely seperate website for mobile (AMP)? Specialized mobile websites have smaller images, less code, and download faster then a website built for the desktop, but they also require you to maintain 2 different websites. How are you going to update the you require a CMS (Content Management System) so a non-technical editor can update the website? It can be a custom CMS, or use a popular framework like Wordpress or Joomla. Do you want a want root access on a Cloud VPS, or would you rather have a managed server? Root access allows you to choose what software you want to install, but it also requires you to manage and monitor the server. If you don't have a technical guy on board, you probably want to go managed. Who is going to be your on-call Server Admin if you are not using a managed server? Things can go wrong witha server at all times of the day, so you'll want to have mechanisms in place to alert your Admin when things go wrong and respond appropriately. What are the requirements for the website? This determines what technologies you want to use....LAMP stack, LEMP stack, Microsoft stack (shudder), what size server, a single server or colocated servers, security precautions, etc. Will you have multiple related sites under the same domain? Subdomains are easy to setup if you have a wildcard SSL certificate and can be used for things like Will you require an email server? Email servers are non-trivial to setup and non-trivial to maintain thanks to spammers. You want to make sure your IP is clean (hasn't been blacklisted), and you should have a formidable firewall, virus checker, and SPAM detector setup as well...or you can choose to use an external mail service like Mailgun or MailChimp that can handle email campaigns.

Marketing 101

The answers to these questions depend a lot on the nature of your product, and the nature of your competition. Do some initial market research before you start any project. How are people going to find your website. How are they finding the competition's website(s)? One successful technique is to find out what the competition is doing and just do it better. Most likely they are finding the competition through a combination of organic search engine traffic and paid marketing. By far the most dominant player in both markets is Google. Google dominates search and adwords dominates the online paid ads. It's fairly easy to determine ROI(Return on Investment) with online ads. You set aside a certain amount for buying marketing ads....determine how many click-throughs become leads or direct sales. Say you spend $100 to generate 1000 click-throughs which results in 10 leads...10 leads result in 1 sale for an average of $50, so in this case the ads are not cost effective ($100 generates $50 in sales). You can attempt to improve the funnel in a number of ways...choose different adwords, improve the ad itself, target a more specific market that matches your customer base, etc. Adwords, and paid for marketing in general can be as simple, or as complicated as you want it to be, but that's the general idea. I encourage you to read up on it more.

In this modern day and age you should also have a social marketing plan. Different markets lend themselves more easily to different social apps, but you should always have some sort of action plan for social as part of your overall marketing plan. Remember, content is king and you should always try to present something worth sharing.

The other major way that people will find your website is through organic search. Basically this is just people typing in keywords into a search engine and clicking on one of the results. Ideally your website shows up in these search results and the potential client clicks on it and follows through by making a purchase on your website, or becomes a "lead" (sends an email, phone call, fills out a contact form, signs up for a newsletter, downloads something, etc.) that you have setup as a goal. If you have Google Analytics setup you can literally set this up as a goal in order to more easily measure your success. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the art of improving your google standings through improvements in your website (keyword optimization, fresh content, mobile/pad optimization, link building, etc.Z). Most importantly, find a reason for people to come to your site!

Another tool is of course Direct marketing through flyers, business cards, word of mouth, magazine ads, tv ads, newspaper ads, etc. Your branding and marketing strategy says a lot about you, so think through any marketing campaign and try to have measurable results.

Project Plan

Once you've thought some of these things through, I can work with you to finalize your marketing strategy and come up with a plan for the website. After evaluating the scope of the project and coming up with a project plan I will provide an estimate. Our general pay rate is $50/hr for development work, and $25/hr for design work because we are much faster coders then we are designers. Once an estimate, project plan, and target launch date is agreed upon we can sign a contract

After signing the contract the client will provide 30% down payment, either by mail, or through the website. We will then provoide a sitemap and wire-frame for the site. This is a general page plan and thing-through on clicks and layout...we can also provide screencaps of other websites to get some idea of what you might be shooting for. Once that's agreed upon we will provide 3 designs. After a limited number of feedback loops we will agree on a design and build the website. Keep in mind any feature creep after this point can add to the final cost and extend the launch date. After the website is built and gets final client approval we will expect final payment and proceed with the launch of the website upon receipt of final payment.

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