Micro and small enterprises (MSEs) can benefit from these 10 major steps to build a corporate Web site. We set forth a time line and action items to develop a Web strategy and build an Internet identity.
What You Need to Know
A structured plan offers a defined course of action, allowing MSEs to minimize risks and streamline their actions to develop a basic tactical Web presence.
Digital Marketing Analysis
A Web presence allows MSEs with modest marketing budgets to compete more effectively against larger competitors. Companies should consider these 10 key steps as an accelerated plan to establish a basic Web presence.
Assess the Context: Review the business goals of the enterprise. Study the Website development procedure for opportunities that enhance these goals. What are competitors doing? Establish the minimum site functionality needed to meet any competitive challenges and offer strategic value and start its. Consider the customer based look for needs that could be better fulfilled via the Website online presence. Inventory staff skills for Internet projects and identify gaps that will need to be filled or outsourced.
Draft Initial Plan: Express the mission of the Web site. This can be a "mini" business plan with trial goals and budget. Do not make this more than five pages, as it is bound to change. Articulate the thought process and disseminate it for discussion. Generate a list of suitable domain names and register them, to keep options open and to prevent competitors from using them.
Assemble the Website Development Team: Devise an organizational structure to support the plan. Recruit the Website development and maintenance company. For MSEs, the Website development team might include both strategic decision-makers and tactical implementers. An informally selected group may get the project started, but the Digital presence needs buy-in from senior management over the long term. Creating an enterprise site is a political process that requires diverse input and collaboration of development teams to go digital.
Flesh Out the Plan -- Outsource? The Web team should flesh out the plan to include draft technology, digital marketing and implementation plans. Decide whether to outsource visual design, software development, Search enigne optimization and web hosting. The technology plan should cover development methodology, platform selection and development tools. Revise the trial budget. If outsourcing, relevant RFPs should be drafted (parts of the business plan can be used for this) and candidate firms should be identified.
Send RFP: Send out the RFP and use the intervening time for consolidating the team and the project. Create drafts of necessary contracts. Evangelize within the organization. Various stakeholders will push their agendas and concerns. Listen to this feedback, as it may highlight blind spots, but avoid premature commitments that are not thought out. Political wrangling is a principal source of long project delays.
Select a Vendor: If outsourcing, receive and evaluate responses to the RFP. Perform due diligence on finalist vendors and talk to references. Negotiate terms, clarify contract language. Assess the vendor's methodology. Revise the initial budget with real-world figures. Flesh out the technology plan into detailed system architecture. Draft a content update/maintenance plan and agree on this with vendor. Revise the staffing plan and formally add staff. Make decisions such as platform selection by procuring hardware and tools.
Implement: Generate design alternatives for look and feel. Storyboard the interaction, site structure and flow. If resources permit, evaluate alternatives via usability testing and focus groups. Commit to one choice. Implement design templates for Web pages. Implement content import and conversion facilities. Begin implementing the long-lead-time parts of the marketing plan. Formalize the process for content capture, conversion, creation, approval and maintenance.
Stage: Test, modify, enhance, evangelize. Get an outside consultant to review the design for any bottlenecks that can be simply addressed. Have a security consultant to review architecture for vulnerabilities. Execute near-term aspects of digital marketing plan.
Launch: Launch, evangelize, listen, modify.
Tune: Examine usage reports to understand user behaviour on the site. Talk to users, conduct focus groups, review E-mail feedback. Gather "wish list" for changes. Monitor site responsiveness. Re-examine the content update process for bottlenecks and gaps. Document all templates and procedures. Plan for release.
Web Hosting: An Overview
In the early days of the Web hosting industry, businesses and other entities hired Web hosting companies in order to facilitate the delivery of content, in the form of Web pages and streaming media, to the general public. The Web hosters would provide Internet data centre space, network connectivity and, sometimes, management services for the servers that delivered this content.
Since then, Web hosters have increasingly hosted infrastructure used to deliver applications to users on an intranet or extranet or even on an entirely private network. These applications are delivered over HTTP, the same protocol that lies at the heart of the Worldwide Web. The client is usually a browser, but is sometimes a lightweight client-side application, often written in Java. The applications are often updated versions of traditional client-server applications and, indeed, may connect to legacy backend infrastructure.
As a result of these expanded capabilities, Web hosters often compete directly with general IT outsourcers, and many outsourcers have significant Web hosting capabilities of their own. Web hosting is divided into three segments: shared hosting, unmanaged colocation and dedicated hosting.