Posted on Jan 24, 2018

Website Development Checklist

Building a website has never been more straightforward or approachable. Even someone who is not experienced in web development can put together a simple website over the course of a few hours. But, if you want to maximize the results of your website, there are some important aspects to consider while it is being developed.

In a previous article, we outlined some factors to consider before you even begin the development process. In this article, we are going to hone in on important factors to consider during the development process.

By taking a conscious approach to developing your website, you can maximize the outcomes. What will those outcomes be? That depends on your ambitions. Before you even begin developing a website, you should have goals already in mind. Do you want to raise brand awareness, inform potential customers, sell goods online or all of the above?

Often, a small business, such as a mom & pop restaurant, is looking to inform customers of the menu, hours, location, and other basic information. On the other hand, someone selling craft goods online might want to sell goods directly through their website or through other platforms, such as Etsy. This crafts expert may also be looking to build their brand through social media and other channels.

Some websites focus on very specific goals, such as informing a customer about a single product. Other websites support multiple aims. We’re going to assume that you have already outlined your aims and have begun the development process. As you develop your website, you should keep these goals in mind. However, your goals are not the only aspects you need to pay attention to. Let’s look at other aspects you should consider as you design and develop your website.

1. Consider Your CMS and What YOU Are Comfortable With

As you begin the web development process, you need to consider what content management system (CMS) your website will be built upon. A CMS makes it easy to post new content on your website and to manage and update existing content.

For example, let’s say you’re running a health and beauty sales website. You’ll need to have sales pages for your product. It would make sense for you to create a blog that offers health and beauty tips. If your website was designed without a CMS, you’d have to build each blog post and sales page out of HTML. However, with a CMS, you’ll be provided with a graphical user interface (GUI) through which you can add content quickly and easily, no coding required.

You need to select a CMS at the beginning of your web development process. Certain CMSs are good for certain applications. WordPress is the most popular CMS, found on 59.8% of websites. WordPress is great for people who are new to building and managing websites. If you do not properly update your WordPress website, however, security risks could emerge. Keep that in mind, and keep your website up to date.

Other popular CMSs include Joomla, which is found on 6.6% of websites, and Drupal, which is found on about 4.7% of sites. And many hosting companies like iPage offer Website Builders that permit you to utilize pre-designed templates and input your own images and copy.

Each CMS will have its own advantages and strengths. WordPress, for example, started largely with a blog focus. While wordpress is great for stores and other applications, it is still arguably the best blogging platform. Drupal is preferred by those with extra security concerns, such as government organizations. Further, Drupal is considered by many web developers to be more flexible than WordPress, but features a longer learning curve. Joomla, on the other hand, is less flexible than Drupal, but has a gentler learning curve.

2. Pay Attention to Social Media Integration

Social media is now essential for businesses small and large. Social media offers excellent opportunities to market your goods, to build a strong brand, and to strengthen customer relationships. Marketing on social media, therefore, can be a very effective tool for raising awareness and increasing sales.

You need to make it very easy for customers to share your products and posts on their social media profiles. A common way to do so is to simply add “buttons” at the top or bottom of your posts. A user can simply click on a button to automatically share on their social media profiles.

social media share iconSocial media should be directly integrated into your website. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods, including placing HTML code directly into your website, or through plug-ins. A plugin is essentially a small piece of code or software that will add specific functionalities to your website.

Plugins allow non-web design experts to add advanced functions to websites. However, when selecting and using plugins there are important considerations. First, it’s best to use plugins provided by reputable, established companies, even if you have to pay a bit extra for them. Second, the plug-in should be well-maintained by the developer. Third, you need to make sure that you keep your plugin updated.

3. Make Security a Priority from the Get-Go

Speaking of security, it is something you need to take seriously from the get-go. First, you should get a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for your website. This will allow your website to encrypt data sent from users, such as credit card information and email addresses. This way, would-be hackers will struggle to access the information being sent to your website. Without HTTPS, hackers will be able to intercept data with relative ease.

blue padlockOther simple steps, like using strong passwords and working with a reliable server provider that takes security seriously will also help protect both your website and your visitors. Also, make sure that data sent to your website through forms and other methods is properly “sanitized.”

Further, make sure your CMS, plugins, and other software are up to date. If you fail to do so, your website will be exposed to security risks. In fact, the massive Equifax hack in 2017 was actually caused because the company did not update their software. By not doing so, they left a hole in their security, allowing hackers to exploit it.

4. Collect Visitor Information

You should try to engage every visitor who visits your website. This should be considered early on in the development of your website so that you can fully integrate your engagement strategies. The immediate goal is to get some type of contact information so that you can engage visitors and build a long-term relationship.

First, you should try to collect their email address. You can do this by setting up a simple form that takes down their name and email address. Of course, many people will not simply hand over their email address. Instead, you have to compel them to do so, which generally means offering them something compelling.

Perhaps you can offer gated content, which refers to substantial, long-form content that is put behind a wall. In order to access this content, visitors are often required to ‘register’ by providing an email address. Once they have done so, they will be able to download the report or access a webpage.

Let’s go back to that health and beauty sales website. You might offer a “Health and Beauty Properly Applied” ebook that teaches people how to properly use your products, care for their skin, and other factors. Once the user provides their email address, you can email them the ebook.

Another option for compelling them is to offer them a discount. “Sign up for our Health & Beauty Newsletter and receive 15% off Your First Order!” This is an effective method because the offer can spur sales, and by collecting information, you can stay in touch with customers in the future.

As you develop your website, you need to plan ahead and consider how you will collect information. These days, knowledge truly is power, and contact information can be very valuable. Don’t just tack on a form after you develop your website, consider strategies early on.

5. Make Sure You Have All The Vitals

When people visit your website, they’ll often be in search of very specific, vital information. Let’s say you own a fine dining restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. Wisely, you set up a small business website for your restaurant. Now, consider what people will be looking for when they visit your website.

First, some visitors are going to be looking for your restaurant’s hours. What time do you open? What time do you close? Any brick-and-mortar establishment needs to put business hours on its website. Next, many customers will want to know how to contact your business. Include a phone number and email, at the very least. And be sure to monitor them!

A lot of customers will want to know details and specifications about the products and/or services your business sells. For a restaurant, this means having menus available on the website. If you ran a health and beauty spa, customers would want to know about the products and services you’re selling.

6. Make Search Engine Optimization a Priority From the Start

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is vital for every website. You need to make it easy for Google and other search engines to find and understand your website. SEO is an entire field in and of itself.

Some key SEO points to consider:

– Providing geo-location information (i.e. Phil’s Fine Dining in Knoxville, Tennessee)

– Using alt-image tags- these help search engines understand what your pictures are about

– Using keyword rich titles and headers

– Developing a high-quality, fast website

– Limit or eliminate flash

The above list is far from exhaustive. SEO requires a considerable amount of attention to detail as well as strategy and planning. You should do this as you develop your website. Check out our SEO 101 guide here for more information.

7. Consider Your Digital Strategy at Every Step of the Way

If there’s one unifying theme for this website development checklist, it’s the importance of considering your overall digital strategy as you develop your website. Don’t develop a website simply for the sake of having a website. Closely consider how you want to use this website and what you want it to accomplish.

These considerations should be examined closely as you design and build your website. By doing so, you’ll be able maximize the desired outcomes. Your final site should be a reflection of your ambitions. If you want a website that simply allows visitors to find your store and the hours it is open, then you know what you need to focus on. If you want to develop a sales website that converts visitors into customers, then you need to work towards those goals from the start.

In order to build a high-performing website it’s best to either work with a tried and true digital marketing expert, or to closely study the specific types of website you want to build. A sales website will look very different from an informational website, which will look very different from a portfolio website, so on and so forth. So make sure you either do some research to see what successful website developers have already discovered, or reach out to an expert who has done this research.


Feature image by Christopher Gower on Unsplash