Where, how, who, when, what, what's next...
Every firm's lifecycle has the moment, when the owner or the current boss will issue the order: the company needs a website. Time gets rolling, and comes the panic: what do we need for the webpage? How is it made? What do we want on a webpage? Do we have a development direction? Does anybody knows about this stuff - not counting the 14 year old son of the boss? Do we have an on-line strategy?
In this short article, I summarize what were the constraints for the infrastructure of the website, what kind of possibilies were left open, and where will / can it evolve.
First steps, design
I happened to be at the birth of many webpages, so I can fairly say, I have some expertiese at the handling of the whole procedure. Most of the cases, it is easy to get lost in deciding what information will the webpage contain (this is a content related question, I discuss it later), and only then will come the question of design. This time, I turned the process upside down. The usual thins are allways needed on the main page: logo, menu, container for the main content and some structural orientation guides. I believe, it doesn't matter, wheter we build a community portal, a webshop, or blog-page, the frame should pass for each of them - of course, there are optimized templates, and things like that, but let's not quarrel on little things. As the artistic design is not a two-days job, and there are many iterations anyway, we have lot's of time to think on the actual content, and the infrastructure.
Let's start with the thesign. Company logo? Color scheme? Visual guide? Anything? I bet, there isn't. Then, it must be developed. There's allways the option to browse through the net, there are free logo-design pages, free (or close) site-template design / download pages. Here are some:
- http://www.designmeltdown.com - very good selection, crossreferenced in many ways. A good starting point.
- http://www.maxkiesler.com/index.php/designdemo/P10/ - you can get a clue on some radical approaches on user interactions
- http://www.templatemonster.com/ - great template-site ranging from the $10 mass template, to the $3000 custom made. Logo, webpage, everything your heart desires.
- http://sablon.templatecenter.hu/ - like templatemonster, but in Hungarian.
- http://www.exactseek.com/templates/index.html - like templatemonster, manybe a littlebit better organized.
- http://www.logomaid.com - on of the many logo-search / logo factories.
This was the moment, when I decided to work with a professional, and go all-out: corporate style, logo, webpage, call-card, corporate paper, etc. I choose Artistokrats, led by the son of my colleague. Their reference works were quite convincing, and the results were better, than expected.
What are the drawbacks? The price certainly. One must admint, that design doesn't come cheap - seeing a friend's 5000 Ft (approx. $30) logo, I'm glad I spent more.
Second step, domain name
You can't get away without registering a domain name. Lucky for us, it can be done at any service provider, for larget / smaller amount of money. Please note, that the domain name is perhaps more important, thant the name of the company itself, since most of the (future) customers will come through this door. It will display on the call-cards. It will be at the end of the email adresses. It should be readable for foreign customers as well. How can it be spelled on the phone, to minimize the possible misunderstandings? And the most important: please God let it not be reserved by somebody else!
We didn't have much space to move around: bell.com, and the other .org, .biz, .net adresses were reserved, as well as .hu. I could have been bellconsulting.hu, but I found it too long. Maybe bell-it.hu, but it has a dash, and that is hard to explain. Bellit.hu, but I didn§t like it. I found my inner peace with bell.co.hu. It will be fine for a long time.
Third step, infrastrucutre
If you don't want to host the site yourself - and putting a burden of dealing with problems like hacker-attacks, reliability, uptime, etc - then reserving some space at a service provider is a good idea. If we look up the palette you have to make some decisions.
We made the following decisions:
- Our service provider is Interware - bandwidth and uptime is a given (not that I would want to implement a Google solution), it has a nice package-price, can host email, which has a web interface just in case. Besides, it has some nice integration features with SMS payment methods, for the future.
- We have a static package subscribed - first, this is cheaper, than the dynamic option, secondly, I want to experiment where are the limits of this technology. There is a statement, that every service is provided on the net, and can be integrated. If this is true, making even making dynamic content on static background is feasible.
- Content generation, webpage development - I currently type these lines in EditPlus (for those, who don't know, it is a very nice text-editor). I know, it is very oldschool, and it can only be used until a certain size of the site, but this will be good for a while (don't underestimate the power of replace-all). Later, I will switch to Dreamweaver, or RapidWeaver, as soon as I've got time to create the templates.
- Email - Google Mail for Enterprise. It's got 20 free postboxes, has common contact list and calendar. It is supported by Thunderbird, Apple Mail, iPhone, and web interface as well. Perfect for SME-s.
- Statistics - Google Analytics. Though it has some limits, and some believe the numbers have to be corrected, but to achieve the main goal (having an overall view of the website usage): perfect.
- Blog / responses - blog.hu, freeblog.hu, or blogspot.com, I haven't decided yet. The one thing certain, I will make it like Origo / TotalCar Belsőség uses blogs - article on the website, blog on the blog page.
Fourth step, content
I'm typing int now. I have the main page, the "about us", legal pages ready, but these are just the obligatory stuff. I have one application ready (it lacks some fine-tuning), and one is in the pipeline. I have 8-10 articles in my sleeves, which I will present when I have the time - as my main job is not writing for this site. I plan to publish at least one article per week, or more.
Fifth step, advertising
The net-based advertising topic has some great blogs, I would recomemend them for all, but I won't go into details. The things I do:
- Both Google any Yahoo has ways to make them index your page. When I publish something, I call these features, to get them into the circulation faster.
- The outsourcing of the blog part is not a coincidence. I don't think I will ever make the top page of Index (the Holy Grail of blogging in Hungary), but I trust the power word-of-mouth-on-steroids the blogging communities have.
- AdSense and E-Target advertisements. Maybe later, when we have more interesting services.
Sixth step, daily control, measurement
The blog must be maintained, this is trivial for everybody. Trolls, "first-one-ers", vandals, vulger people, offtopic comments, etc - these will keep me occupied. I think, I will walk the road here: open commenting for everyone, then comes some idiot and trashes the communication, then comes the "registered users only" feature, then comes moderated talk. I would be very happy to have a blog service provider, who develops the community driven moderation like slashdot has.
I hope, statistics give some feedback on what kind of stuff the readers are intereted in. This is a new scope for me, so the main reason is to gain experience.
Arriving here, we can go back to step four. We'll see the future together ;-)