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Five Questions to Answer When Launching a Web Site

Save time and money on your next website by first answering the who, what, when, where and why of your project.

Before you hire a web programmer, graphic designer or agency to build your website, assume the persona of an investigative journalist and gather information critical to the success of your project. The best reporters know that the most important building block of any factual news story is the use of the five Ws. Taking time to uncover the who, what, when, where and why of your web project saves you and your company time, money and, perhaps, even unnecessary heartache.

Start by identifying who is involved in the website's development and to what extent each person's participation is required. Typical website projects rarely involve just one or two people. From writing copy, snapping photos, configuring servers, securing domain names and communicating the site's launch plan, plenty of people in your organization play a role in the project's success. Identify everyone beforehand, clearly communicate expectations and get the support you need early and often.

Determine what is being done. A clearly written request for proposal that outlines all areas of the site, how they work and to what end they serve provides focus and gets everyone involved on the same page before even one line of code is written.

Of course, nothing associated with your website project is likely to happen unless you first identify milestones for when everything must be completed. Creating and communicating a detailed schedule keeps everyone on track and accountable and ensures a timely launch. Beware, though: As with home improvement projects, delays will occur. Expect the initial schedule to slip by as much as 20 percent because of competing resources and unexpected interruptions and setbacks.

Where your site is built can have major ramifications on schedule and workflow. For example, if you choose to offshore the project, responses to requests for modifications or updates may be delayed. And the added cost of inconsistent communication may mean you'd be better off working with someone closer to home. Why is perhaps most important. A clear and compelling business case must drive the project. A website directly related to the company's mission and bottom line always stands a better chance of success than sites built simply because someone determines it's a modern-day business necessity.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.

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This article was originally published in the December 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Inside Scoop.

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