CHECKLIST for Starting a new Website
or New Internet Web Business
Web-Success Guide: How to TIPS for Designing and
Starting a New Website or New Web Business

Basic tips for starting a web site or web business in priority sequence-- highlights of basic business, internet, advertising principles.

Brought to you by BG Design and WebSuccess Div. of Buyers Group - Established 1985.

1) Plan and Budget for it: Depending on the size and complexity of a moderate small business with about 4 to 20 people, a budget of at least $3000 and about 400 person-hours should be set aside for proper design, installation and promotion for a nice 10 to 12 page website with moderate functions and a few products. (You can do a fairly quick cheaper design layout and test website ONLY if you know the basic requirements, limits and the pitfalls of do-it-yourself WYSIWYG page generators.) Testing and promotion is about 30% to 50% of the cost. Even for a quick easy site, there is mandatory preparation, research and planning for a real web business. Neither website will succeed without that. More promotion will be necessary.

For a semi-custom site with functionality-databases, custom layouts and graphics and secure payment shopping carts with catalogues on a large website, the costs can easily run from $5,000 to $40,000 over a year or two. Management should allow some time to intimately manage and understand all the issues and methods involved, based on this guide. A better-developed professional HTML, JAVA and PHP site meeting higher standards costs about 20-40% more, but has less failures, maintenance and other costs over time, and can be moved. If you really intend to grow, this is a very important matter. See Designing for Growth

2) Educate yourself: As for any project, gathering knowledge, checklists, standards and examples, then planning and setting out goals and tasks and requirements---is done first. DON'T ORDER any Graphics, images or Logos yet!

Study the basics of Designing and building a business site- Tips and Checklist. That overview is crucial.

3) The web is cluttered and competitive: Do it right or waste 3 years and a lot of money and effort. Understand that the internet is changing, becoming very cluttered and more competitive with rapidly-rising promotion costs. To the untrained eye, unreliable small companies can appear large and sophisticated, and take business away from you. So larger companies now spend even more on web sites. You must compete with all that. Success requires staying ahead of all the competition. This takes money, resources, hard work, experts, time and promotion. Unless you are very lucky with a superior business strategy and niche, you'll have to be smarter and work much harder to succeed on a couple of thousand dollars. If you do not do proper research on competitors, don't waste your time.

4) Focus, differentiation, Strategy, positioning, competitive advantage and unique selling proposition are key terms you should thoroughly study, understand and practice. Your strategy must not go head-to-head with endless "me too" competitors who drag down profitability. Competing widely across a nation without a competitive advantage is a formula for doom.

5) It's time to talk to some better web site designer developers, not only your in-house person, and narrow it down to about three who have been in business at least 5 years with examples of successful clients, and who exhibit broad professional knowledge, including of standards, content, promotion and an emphasis on designing for growth, easy maintenance and transportability of the site. Expect top designers to be busy in demand and not be the cheapest. We recommend a designer from your area or at least your country who knows your culture thoroughly. Ask your web designer who they prefer for "Hosting". for "Domain Registration" and "Graphics" designers or artists. Don't expect any to be perfect, but be sure the hosting company and graphic artist you choose are approved by your web designer.

6) Catalog, Shopping cart and Payment System: Talk to your web designer about customer payment methods, options and systems and shopping carts if that might be needed. It may be time to shop for credit processing providers. Your designer can probably suggest economical alternativeswho they have worked with.

7) Web strategy follows first a good business strategy which best balances resources, strengths and weakness against market gaps and opportunities. But an internet web strategy also requires knowledge of how prospects and visitors find you, usually by search engines, directories, banners and advertising. You must also understand how your "promotion" strategy and web site personality and trade dress will be executed---which depends on your budget, strengths and resources (time, staff, technology).

If you can not spend at least a couple of thousand dollars over 6 months to a year for promotion, testing and advertising, you likely won't succeed. Most of this should be spent on Google and Bing PPC, an opt-in list newsletter and directories. Web marketing labor is mostly for competitor research, website design, content and campaign design.

8) Web site design and quality standards should be reviewed, with emphasis on marketing strategy and basic advertising principles integrated with proper site design. See Website design Priorities. See also WebSuccess2020 standards.

9) When you are familiar with all that, the next step is to thoroughly survey the competition and web marketplace compared to the general market. This is best done with white cards on a big wall, with arrows and grouping until you totally understand all related players and flows between them, and find the gaps to improve your niche and differentiation. Read up on "Positioning", differentiation and finding niches. This study-review also helps adjust the business strategy to match the web environment and web markting strategy. If your wall is crowded, rethink

10) The above competition survey should include thorough research and tabulating of "keywords" and advertising used in categories similar to yours. Observe over months which paid ads stay, indicating they work. Note those. Begin your own list. This keyword building can be daunting, but important to shape your web landing pages.

11) Now is the time to finalize some domain names if not all reserved. This can get expensive if not kept to a reasonable 2 to 10 names, including gateway sites. Now is time to select and choose a "Domain Name Registrar" and reserve the names, and to choose a "Hosting Company" who uses standardized software and methods.

12) We would not use a hosting company who charges high prices for programming (such as over $130 per hour on Java and PHP) and avoid using their "web site generator-WYSIWYG builder" for a real business, other than possibly for start-up testing and design layout. Avoid being tied to one hosting company and avoid applying a WYSIWYG page gernerator-editor that can really mess up a well-designed and properly-coded (programmed) web site.

13) Your web designer should now ask you to fill out a questionnaire of your web experience, goals and priorities. This will also help you think about your goals, your image, and review and tweak your final web strategy.

14) Review the legal aspects and policies and terms, as well as privacy statements and disclosures. Avoid hype that could be considered misrepresentation or fraud (such as claiming to have nation-wide offices but you are really a one-person home business).

15) Finalize Keywords and phrases for your site and pages, properly sprinkling them in the rough draft home page and one or two other landing pages within standards. Your designer should be able to place these strategically also for search engine robots. Emphasize your unique strengths and brand. Create doubt about your competition and focus on credibility with facts and testimonials. You must be the expert in your niche. Tout your strengths.

16) Outline, draw and draft content of your site. Emphasize target prospect segments-motivations-needs and their pathways and sections of the site. Time to upload and initially promote a rough mostly-text draft of your home page, including all your services, products and many keywords, with notation that the site is in the proces of being updated. The home page and product page should have the best well-studied correct title and description and headings possible which define your business "appeal" to others (including a benefit, not just who and what. It is very important to begin this basic and hopefully not much changing page and domain as early as possible for internet "propagation" which takes many months to a year.

Try to get some inbound links to your new pages, but NOT on link farms, affiliate link lists or bad free- for-all-directories. This is near time to spend a little on Quality directory listings, DMOZ, Yahoo sites, and upload to Amazon and Youtube.

17) Talk to your web designer about pictures, backgrounds, logos and icons images standards, formats and placement. The shape, size and quality of images, as well as their colors is very important. DO NOT piece together a complex or "busy" background or header area (it won't adjust to changes and different monitor widths). Develop the header area only WITH your web designer.

18) Avoid any idea of more than one person or company programming-updating and managing the website, except your web designer and your main internal person under guidance. You can have editable content areas. (area manager). Anything else creates version problems and bugs when one programmer does not know something has been changed. This especially applies to "SEO" services. They should be approved by and changes only made through your web designer. A good designer will take care of most promotion and SEO issues working with you on your advertising and content text and keywords. Promotion and Search engine optimization should not be piecemeal. It is the heart of your content, site design and critical business direction.

19) Finalize the colors, logos and "trade dress", styles and "look" for the web after you and your web designer and graphics artist sketch and mockup a few possible looks for your home page, roughly. Keep in mind this may all change as advertising copy testing shows you that key buyers want a different style of provider.

20) With a final rough homepage and page or two to enable prospects inquiry, input or forms, it is time to begin testing ad copy, likely using Google or Bing. This is the time to formulate 2 to 4 main "appeals" or "hooks", and begin sub-pages, focused landing pages and/or gateways linking to the main homepage for further testing. Such ads should contain "qualifying" screening text. You want to target your customers and audience by naming them, products and benefits near the top. It is time to promote the home page with most of the product names and keywords therein. This should include a wide effort to directly use many kinds of promotion, including self-promotion to help manage website URL submission to search engines and directories.

Other than listening to their ideas, AVOID SEO companies promising "top ranking" and "SEO Services". any are scams and ripoffs and are unnecessary. Later on, your designer will suggest who and how to do this.

21) Set up a hit counter and practice traffic monitoring and tracking analysis using Google and a site statistics counter. Now is time to split test both ads and "look" of the site. When a good ad copy and headlines are found, the site might be varied a bit to test "stickiness" and interest. You should know the typical "buying cycle" and types of buyers, such as engineers are slow and analytical. Others may buy quickly on emotions.

22) After a couple of months of that, it is time for the best results to be selected, tabulated, analyzed and then critiqued by your web designer and marketing expert as well as a focus group, if possible. Schedule time of your web designer for major work to begin.

23) RE-Finalize Keywords and phrases for your site and pages, properly sprinkling them in the content within standards. Your designer should again be able to place these strategically also for search engine robots.

24) Web site design, content-writing around such keywords, and final graphics tweaks should begin in earnest with a final survey of the competition and design standards for last minute adjustments. This is a good time to seriously design any automation and integration, web forms, databases and desired functions, such as shopping carts and catalogues. Best design practices begin with "output" desired, then work backwards from that. "Scripts" selection is crucial to successs. Do NOT just go out and buy a hosted service or cart, template or scripts/software package and then tell your web designer. Any good designer would likely resign at that point, having been left out of a major step.

25) Finalize payment methods and order security certificate and payment processing service if you plan to accept credit cards online. A good web designer can suggest alternatives to a full blown merchant data system, at least as interim.

26) Consider drafting web page content, ad copy and layout sketches but then have an ad copy and "content writer" go over your entire concept, offerings, strategy and ads to improve the wording or suggest even better alternatives. Professional ad copy writing (or consultant) is well worth the money also. Your web designer can suggest a content writer/editor or tweak your web content. Give your designer some leeway to tweak content. And don't write at the wrong level for your audience, don't be too wordy and DO NOT make mistakes, which make you look dumb (sorry, it does).

27) Be very careful about colors on key logos, understanding print and web colors are not the same, and realize the whole site will reflect the logo and key trade dress. Be aware of size limitations.

28) Avoid the temptation to use a lot of Flash, animation, video or slides which usually distract and slow the site down. Maintenance of Flash is a costly nightmare for changes, as are heavy use of "tables", unusual formats, blocks and columns. As for "marquees" and blinking, just DON'T. Don't allow anything that could irritate or distract a visitor from the key message. A simple "walk on" or brief interview video or of the product in action can be effective (1 minute).

29) On completion of the main web site with "landing pages" and at least one gateway "hook" site and product landing page, increase promotion by "Pay per Click" and renewed direct promotion to maximum.

30) Now is a good time to develop "teasers", updating news, interesting stories and web or industry community information and/or blogs or forums, which may also require promotion and much time and effort to upkeep. Do blogs only as an adjunct to the main business site. (THAT is where blog software like Wordpress can be OK.

31) Traffic and promotion should then be carefully analyzed for about six months, surveying the market gaps and landscape against the original business strategy, and periodically after site improvement "campaigns" (quarterly).

32) Then the final strategy tweaks and re-design(s) should be planned and started, going back to about step 7 above, skipping unnecessary steps. Web competition is so intense that only by planned and continual improvement can a company stay ahead. The key is improving the main business strategy to reflect the web market, and executing all the congruent sub-strategies based on proper budgeting and oversight. You want the best match of your resources to the gaps in the market. That is the way you succeed. How well you do all that is also a competitive advantage, which you must have to win in business.

GOOD LUCK !!!

Note: If you would like more helpful information about starting a website or a web business, then browse our other information guides and tips on our menu above: 11 Web Business Success Tips, How to Choose a Domain Name, How to Choose a Domain Registration Company, How to Choose a Hosting Company, Tips for Designing, Website Improvement Tips and so on. Also look at new business aspects at www.biz-success.us

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