If your business is growing, you might be realizing that your Web designer isn't capable of growing with you. Either way, you might want to migrate into a newer system with more features No matter what the situation, moving a website to a new firm or upgrading to a new site requires a plan. You need to ask yourself what you can do to prepare. Here are some items to help you interview new firms and begin to create a plan for a smooth, successful transition.
When you grow your website, often it means you've outgrown an existing system:
- Be sure to understand the technology that your new website is built around.
- Ask questions about what is proprietary technology and what you own.
- Be clear about the scalability of your website for adding new features over the next few months. You do not want to move into a more restrictive system than the one you just outgrew.
- Understand the maintenance and upgrades needed with your new technology. Every website needs to be updated to stay current with browser enhancements, security holes and changes in technology.
- Be clear about how your new firm works and budget for these updates. Often overlooked in this process are the backup policies. If you're moving from an off-the-shelf service provider to a custom development agency and host, be sure to ask about backup procedures and restores. How long are backups stored? What is the turnaround time? And what is the price to restore a backup if an error is made internally?
The Workflow Process
Not all Web development firms are the same, and when you're evaluating a firm's process and workflow, management can really make a difference in a working relationship.
Evaluate this from two sides: the website development process and the upkeep process. Depending on the size of the firm you work with, they may be two different teams with different workflow procedures.
Here are some questions to get you started for the initial project:
- How many revisions to the designs are included in the redesign process?
- How do they handle project scope changes?
- Do they provide you with a function document?
- During the development phase, how does their internal testing work?
- What do they expect from you through the project?
- Are there penalties for missing milestones?
Be sure you really understand the company and the people you'll be working with after as well as during the project:
- Will you be assigned a dedicated client liaison for questions?
- Is there a support contract and what does it include?
- Once the site goes live, what is their response time regarding fixing errors?
- What kinds of errors are considered to be covered, and what kinds are considered to be billable?
- If you have new ideas or just want to discuss functional changes, is this considered consulting time?
- Is training provided, and is there a package for training your staff if there is turnover?
During a new project, you usually work on a live platform environment. Once the website is ready to be made live, you do not want to test new functions or add new features on a public website. It's important to find out if your new firm is providing you with a development site. Development sites are a great place for you to train new staff and test out new functions before they are rolled into the active website. They are also a great place to work on mobile testing and browser compatibility issues when integrating new languages like HTML5.
To properly plan a project there needs to be a launch date. This holds everyone accountable during the project. Identify a date that would be the launch of your new website or transitioned website and work backwards Set realistic goals for your team and the firm you are working with and remember to take note of holidays and vacation schedules. Keep in mind that if the site is an upgrade or change to new technology, you need to be realistic about time for training, adding in new content and re-categorizing products or articles based on your new system.
To launch on a new server, you often need to point your domain name from one server to another. Every firm has a different idea for quickly propagating a DNS transfer; be sure to ask about this process and how it will affect your website's downtime and your e-mail.
Moving on can be a painful process if you're not prepared. Ask the right questions and make decisions based on the answers that connect with you and your business philosophies.
Jennifer Shaheen, the e-marketing and Technology Therapist, has more than 10 years experience working with small- to mid-sized businesses on their e-marketing and web development needs. You can learn more about her by visiting her web site, TechnologyTherapy.com