Ideas without execution are mere whims. If you want to see your notion become tangible, you’ll need a plan to bring it to fruition. This is just as true for developing a website as it is for building a house.
Of course, the advent of website builder software has made producing an attractive web presence easier than ever. However, if you don’t have a rigid set of guidelines in place to keep the project on track, it can very easily go off the rails. This is why milestones matter when building a website.
What Are Milestones?
The easiest way to think of milestones is stages of accomplishment. By “X” date, we will have completed the “Y” portion of the project, so we can then move on to the “Z” phase, and so on. When you’re building a website, these stages usually include planning, design, content creation and SEO, development, testing and launch.
This is where you take all of the aspects of the project into consideration, figure out what tasks need to be done to fulfill them and place them in a logical order. This helps you get a feel for how long it will take to complete each one as well as finish the overall project—and what it will ultimately cost.
This part is made a bit easier with the existence of templated themes. Still, because they can be customized to reflect your own unique vision you’ll still need to spend some time thinking about how you want the finished product to look. The key considerations here are the design of the home page, landing pages, information and product pages, and mobile screens. You’ll also need to consider the look of your navigation and other key pages, such as “About Us” and “Contact Us”. Checkout and payment pages will also need treatments if the site will be used for ecommerce.
Content Creation & SEO
While your design team is working up the look, your content team should be developing the site’s voice. You’ll need page titles and headings, search engine optimization (keywords placed optimally in titles, headings, content and image tags), key messaging and calls to action. Sourcing and/or producing articles and images along with audio and video clips should also be conducted at this time.
With the first three milestones complete, you can start assembling elements to actually build the site. You’ll set up the pages, plug in the content and place your images. Links to various elements from the home page and the navigation bars will also be created during this phase. When you’re done with development, the site look finished—but there are still a couple of more steps to go.
During this aspect of the production, you’ll go through and test all links, buttons and functions to ensure everything works the way it should. When you click an email address, you should get a popup for creating a message; when you click a “Buy Now” button, you should be taken to a checkout page, etc, etc., etc. Videos should play in the format prescribed. In other words, all functionalities should be reviewed to ensure they do what visitors expect.
You should be laying the groundwork for your marketing blitz to support your launch while the work above is going on in the background. Get your social presences up and running, tease the development of the site as the various milestones are met—and just generally build anticipation for the day the site goes live.
Then, take it live!
With those milestones completed, you might be tempted to rest on your laurels. However, rather than completion, this begins the management of the life of the site. As users interact with it, you’ll find opportunities for improvement. You’ll also need to add functionalities as technological developments emerge. Security is an ongoing concern as well.
Still, you can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing your idea brought to life right before your eyes. And ultimately, this is why timelines matter when you’re building a website. If you have a tool by which to measure progress, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment as each one is completed. And, it’s even easier with a good website builder like the ones offered by Yahoo Small Business. Check it out today!
Brea Salim manages social media and email marketing for Yahoo Small Business. Prior to this, she was a freelance writer with bylines in SF Chronicle, The Jakarta Post, Tasting Table, 7x7 and many more.