Choosing a platform can be daunting, even for experienced web-heads. The possibilities are endless, but it's likely that your website idea has needs that are already well-served by an existing platform. When all else fails, a custom platform might be necessary, but be hesitant to take that route - it'll cost you.
This week, I'm offering you a quick self-assessment meant to help you honestly and realistically determine the needs of your website idea, the possibilities and limitations of you/ your staff and potential challenges with regard to web development. We recommend your taking about an hour ahead of a new project to think about the questions below and write out your answers. When you’re finished, put this assessment aside for a few days. Then come back and re-read what you’ve written. This assessment can and should become the basis for any new project development proposal, business plan, technology acquisition or staff reorganization.
Please note - if your organization is currently going through a site redesign and looking for a new CMS, what I have to say will help your discussion. But you're best off speaking with lots of providers and vendors, as well as consultants, on your own.
Section One: Your Content
1. How often do you think you’ll publish content? Once a day? Once a week?
2. Do you have the ability to work with a lot of HTML and other code, or do you need a very simple interface?
3. Do you want to include multimedia content, like videos and photos?
4. Do you want your content to be accessible via a mobile phone?
5. How many people will be authoring your content?
Section Two: Your Website
1. Where, physically, will your website be located? On servers that you own? That someone else owns?
2. Who has decision-making powers with regards to your servers? For example, if you want to install something new, must you seek permission first?
3. What is the process of approval for putting new software on your servers?
4. What are the primary kinds of machines used in your office? Macintosh? PC? What models? What operating system are you using? Please be specific.
5. Who is in charge of new technology equipment (hardware, software - even mobile phones) acquisition? Realistically, what’s your budget?
Section Three: Your Workflow
1. Who will be in charge of putting content on your website? How will it get there?
2. Should your website allow you to easily use social networks? For example, do you want to post content directly to Facebook or Twitter?
3. Will you allow user generated content - comments?
4. Will you allow other kinds of user generated content, such as complete stories, photos or even video?
5. What will be the process of vetting that content?
6. Do/will you want any of the following components on your Web site: blogs, podcasts, discussion forums, mail forms, data forms, events calendars, job boards, classifieds, third-party advertising, in-house advertising, interactive maps, interactive stories (such as those created in Flash)? List all that apply and explain how you might want to use them.
Section Four: Your Personal Workflow
1. What is your current workflow system? Please tell us about your typical day. For example, you might start with reading reports or email, then talk with others in your group about programs or stories that are being worked on, etc.
2. What Web programming skills, exactly, do you/ your lead web developer have? List all of the code that you or s/he knows (PHP, XSLT, etc.) If the lead developer isn’t you and if you do not know how to ask this question, just have him/her write down all of the web programming languages s/he knows and ask him/her to rank ability. (This is important, because you need to consider your staff’s ability before choosing a content management system, for example. It may require XML, but your staff member may only have experience with PHP.)
3. What database skills do you/ your lead developer have? (See above.)
4. What programming skills do you/others on your staff have? List members and their skills.
5. What database skills do you/ others on your staff have? List members and their skills.
6. What multimedia skills do you/ members of your staff have? (Multimedia would include audio/ video recording, editing, producing, publishing as well as Flash.)
7. Does the person slated to oversee development of your new projects have excellent organizational, interpersonal and time management skills?
Section Five: Your Budget
1. Realistically, what can you budget to spend annually for the next six months, 12 months and 18 months for this project? This would include all new computers and software.
2. What have you already budgeted for your web project? After you determine your annual budget for that project, add an additional 50 percent to the first year to cover external costs such as design, hosting, implementation and unforeseen problems and issues.
3. Are you scaleable? Many people plan for disaster, but few plan for success. What will happen if your project, Web site or company becomes very popular? Can you sustain the work you’re doing?
Section Six: Your Strategy
1. How important is web metrics (page views, unique users, time spent on site)? Do you need to meet a certain traffic goal this year? In future years?
2. Do you have an overall strategy that looks at the next 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months? In the web space, standard 5-year strategy plans aren’t acceptable because both the environment and technology change very rapidly.
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Amy Webb is a digital media consultant and head of Webbmedia Group, LLC. She has also launched Knowledgewebb, a new website for multimedia training. You can also follow Amy on Twitter and delicious. Webbmedia Group is a vendor-neutral company. Any opinions expressed about products or services are formed after testing, research and interviews. Neither Amy Webb nor Webbmedia Group or its employees receives any financial or other benefits from vendors.