What is a website supposed to do?

What is a website supposed to do?
What is a website suppose to do?Social media hasn’t always been my thing. Neither has ‘pretty’; functional and to the point has always been my thing. Think a nice flannel shirt and jeans for most social scenes. So when building a website for a customer I often rely on their vision or a designers images to get the color and format just right. My job is to translate the images and thoughts into a website that works seamlessly. While I am building the website be it on a platform like WordPress, Joomla, Prestashop or my own code I am building using the best mechanics of html, css, mysql, php and SEO that I can. Simple things like alt tags on images and adding good content on the page, even if that means adding content to what is already written. More on SEO in another article, the important factor of integrating all of the best practices from the very start not adding them at a later time.
The Bitworks partition wall in Forest Lake, MNHere in the world of Information Technology (IT) the customer always assumes one person can do it all, although we can do it all it never is the best product. Think of having an architecture design, build and decorate a house on his own. He needs a team of carpenters, drywall installers, roofers, designers… to get the best product.
This all makes me sound kind of robotic, or unimaginative. Which isn’t the case it is just a reality that I face when a client says, ‘I want a website that sells my ‘widgets’ and I want to be on the first page of all search engines.’. This is when it is important for you as the IT professional to have a checklist of questions with a clear vision and direction for you and the client to agree upon. It is important to be transparent in the process! There is so much that an IT professional takes for granted. Here is the short list of questions you need to have answered or comments you need to share with them upfront:
  1. Have them tell you about their ‘widgets’.
    • All the SEO vocabulary is right here they will tell you what is important
    • Ask for a list of their professions technical terms so you can use those words if possible
  2. What is the focus of their website
    • Sell things
    • Blog
    • Informational
    • Combination of the above
  3. What is your initial budget and time frame for website to be up and running
    • Make sure that your ability to manage these two meet the clients reality or turn them away
    • It is better to turn down business then to attempt to do something that will leave you and the client on bad terms or create frustration
    • In the end after they shop around they may come back to you because you where the only one that gave them the truth of what the costs and timelines could be
  4. Explain to them the monthly/ yearly costs of maintenance and SEO support
    • This can be a costly unplanned expense for a client, let them know so they can plan for the cost
    • Including SSL license, server costs, email and bandwidth limits with fees for overage
  5. Will the client provide the images and content or do you need to allocate time to do this for them
  6. Is the client willing to contract with a third party designer, or social media expert

This list will start to generate more questions and answers that should give the client a good understanding that you are there to help support their needs. It will also build a good idea of how large the website will need to be. The next step is now to write up everything you just learned from the questions and to start to diagram the whole concept out. I like to make a simple table on a word document like this:

  1. Home page
    • basic content for company
  2. About us page
    • Company vision and mission
  3. Employee biographies
    • Subpage of About Us
  4. Contact us page
    • include map and contact form
  5. Products
    • table for all Widget pages with name and single image of each one
  6. Widget 1
    • full description and images associated with product
  7. Widget 2
    • Continue with all Widgets like this ideally easily replicated in a sql database using php
  8. Order information
  9. Checkout

Now I have a good idea of how many pages that are going to be created. This is a good time to share with the client to make sure I am not missing any pages. The easy part is being transparent the hard part is selling the client on the costs. If a client is bulking at a reasonable price ask them how much advertising they are paying a month for Yellow Book or Dex Media. Ask them to name a price for a long term 24/7 advertising in the terms of a website. Also make sure you are making their website responsive or else you are just giving them a substandard product in this day and age.
It’s a simple matter of getting a fully functioning quality product for a customer to receive inquires or to have the ability to sell their business/ philosophical ideas or merchandise to anyone anywhere in the world at anytime. That is what a website is supposed to do.