Websites: Administration

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Web Site Series, Essay 06: Administration

This is the sixth article in a six-part series on web sites–what to know, how to make your web presence successful, and other points to consider.

I will be discussing for the first time ever, my real-life Creative Brief I send to all potential clients. This is proprietary information, so please don’t copy anything I say without asking and/or providing credit.

1. What is the full business name, address, and phone number of your organization?

Your web developer will collect this information for many reasons. First, and most obviously, is to be able to get a hold of you. Second, you may want some or all of this information available on some or all pages of your web site. As an author, it’s doubtful that you want your home phone on every page in the same way that a boutique might want their store phone number available on every page, but it is conceivable that you would want your email address or link to a contact form on every page.

2. Who are the primary contacts for your organization that have final approval on the project(s)? Please list names, titles, email addresses and phone numbers as applicable.

Particularly in corporations, the person speaking to the web developer may or may not be the person with final say or administration permissions. Even as an author, this may be the case. If a spouse, friend, child, or intern is the first line of defense for filtering incoming emails from web contact forms, approving web visitor guestbook comments, altering page content, etc, the web developer needs to know this and plan accordingly, as well as be able to contact that person directly, should an issue arise.

3. What is your target launch date for this web site? What are the dynamics surrounding this deadline?

As a web developer, the answer I most often get to this question is, “As soon as possible.” While I appreciate the client’s eagerness, that statement is useless as a deadline-defining term. All clients want their projects completed as soon as possible. The web developer will need to prioritize based on some logical hierarchy. Sometimes this does mean first-come, first-serve. However, chances are high that your web developer will be more than happy to take extenuating circumstances into consideration, such as an upcoming workshop presentation or an impending book release, etc, which would drive more traffic to the site.

If your web developer anticipates your mack daddy new web site will require two months to develop from start to finish and your book release is in six weeks, if she knows this information, she can often plan the updates in a staged or phased approach, making sure the functionality you most want ready is completed first.

For example, perhaps you want the new design more than you want the user login section. The web developer will make sure the new design is in place before the launch date, and then move on to functionality. Or, if the design is secondary and your number one concern is having a contact form to collect addresses for your mailing list, then that will be the web developer’s first concern, as well.

4. What is the budget range and limitations? Will this project be segmented in a phased approach to help you meet your goals or will the web site be completed at one time in its entirety?

As a web developer, I see about half of the potential clients having even a rough guesstimate of budget when they come to me with their wish list of bells and whistles. This is a bad idea. You should at least have a basic idea of what portion of your disposable income you’re willing and able to spend, so that you and your web developer can work together to get the most bang for your buck and make sure the items you want most top the list.

To put this in perspective, imagine you want a new house, and you contact a builder. If the builder’s first question is, “What do you want in your dream house?” instead of “What’s your budget range?”, you might answer, “Oh, it would be awesome if it were three stories high, with vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, turrets, fiberoptic wifi, a finished basement with a wine cellar, spiral staircases and an all-glass elevator, state-of-the-art kitchen and entertainment systems, marble floors, an eight-car garage with built-in work area and loft, and a stone block medieval tower with a writing workstation.” That may very well be what you want, but if your house budget is $50,000, it’s not a very realistic goal. (Unless the builder deals in miniatures, and even then… *g)

So it goes with web sites. They can be as simple or as extensive as your imagination permits. Cost varies accordingly, because development time varies accordingly, and also because some elements may require additional purchases outside of the developer’s control, ie hosting costs, domain names, secure certificates, certain database programs, certain third-party plugins and software, etc.

5. Please list any other comments or concerns here:

The last element on the creative brief is a place for the client to provide any information not previously covered. All projects are different because every client has different needs.

The web developer will not always know what she doesn’t know and may not know the right questions to ask in every situation. Part of the responsibility is yours, to make sure you effectively communicate your needs, wishes, limitations, imperatives, timeframe, communication needs, and so on. This not only eliminates misunderstandings, but greatly aids efficiency, as the more information the web developer has up front, the less likely the need will be for time-consuming (and costly!) re-work.

NEXT: Q&A with Erica

This article first began as a September 10, 2007 writer blog post.