A number of friends have asked me recently to offer some best practice guidance when it comes to starting out on a web development project. I thought I’d share my advice on the do’s & don’ts that every new build should consider in my view.
1.Put together a tender document outlining development platform requirements. Be specific about the functionality and flexibility expected of the website. Here’s some must-haves:
- Self-managed content management system (CMS) with ability to administrate all pages, not just blog/news content. CMS functionality must allow you to categorise page content, apply tags, embed meta data (meta Titles, meta Descriptions, meta Keywords), save drafts, embed rich-media (video, imagery)
- SEO friendly site structure & URL composition (must not have dynamic URLs, instead request static permalink structure)
- Forum (ensure SPAM guards)
- E-commerce back-end – request additional payment process to PayPal (Debit/Credit). Consider using RealEx merchant a/c (Irish payment gateway).
- Avoid excessive use of FLASH. Build site in raw HTML with java/ajax technologies.
- Host in Ireland (suggest Blacknight Server)
2. In the tender document request that all proposals be accompanied by a work schedule (timeline for development) and that upon contract, the developer supply detailed website sitemap. This will communicate the structure of the website build. You should also request that upon contract agreement, the designer deliver web-page wireframes (which show you how the page will be populated, where modules on the page will be and how you get from one place to the next) & agree to 3 rounds of web-page design mock-ups prior to development sign-off. This will insure agreement about design look before the designer goes off and invests lots of time on development.
3. Once tender document is drafted, send it to some agencies and freelance developers to quote. Consider these development/designer options:
Their quote should include a functional spec. document which will affirm that all requirement listed in the tender document will be delivered according to their quoted fee. Ideally their proposal will also include an archive/portfolio of reference works.
Bottom line, try to think of all eventualities before getting started, be up-front about what is needed and the service expected. Then take the plunge!