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How to Build a Quality Website

Nowshade Kabir

The other day I received an email from a guy asking whether we could build his eCommerce website. Since Rusbiz is a company which has a full service web solutions development department, I sent him our executive brochure by email and asked if I should send him our website building checklist. The answer I received was "Can I work directly with your web programmer and tell me what your hourly rate is?" I wrote him back that there is no problem in working with the programmer, but we use a team of experts to build a website and he will be much better off if he goes by a flat price for his project instead of going by hourly rate. Apparently he did not like the idea! Too bad!

Web development services fundamentally differ from say an attorney's services. If you are working with a professional company, depending on the size of your web project a team of people will work on it. Namely: your account manager, lead programmer, web programmer, designer, Content editor, database programmer, web promotional specialist, and web administrator.

The tricky thing about building a website is between starting from making your site by yourself on Geocity or similar free site builders to hiring top-notch web development companies that charge thousands of dollars -- the range is way too broad. Often, people select a company to do their web development job according on their subjective perception not based on knowledgeable decisions. Although, price should be a key issue, you should not go for a company just because it quoted you a cheap hourly rate! Many fall for nicely designed previous works of the vendor.

The design is only a part of the whole project, albeit a very important one but don't make the mistake of overemphasizing on it! A beautifully designed website with nice graphics and pictures is not necessarily a good eCommerce website. It could be even just the opposite! Website development is increasingly becoming a sophisticated task with narrow specialties.

Before handing over your job, make sure that the company does have all the right people in its team. The team may also consist of other specialists apart from the ones listed below:

Team Members and Description of their Services

Project or account Manager: This is the person who manages expectations through a project's life cycle. Determines project needs, outlines specific deliverables and oversees the process and team from start to finish. He or she also maintains ongoing client communication and education throughout project.
* Handles budget and scope issues, including weekly status updates and additional changes.

Art Director/Designer: This person oversees visual design process. Helps transforming client expectations into the right visual look and feel. Applies technical and user needs into final UI (User Interface) design.
* Works with project manager and the client to establish a clearer vision of the site.

Information Architect/Designer: Defines overall site organization and layout from an informational, navigational and functional perspective. Works with client and project manager to determine overall content strategy and site structure, page layout and interaction through out a site.
* Participates in usability testing and works with developers to bridge gap between design and technology.

Developer/Programmer: This person works on writing and coding programming parts of the web site. Oversees design and ensures effective translation to HTML. Also works with other developers of the production team to maintain standards for coding. Depending on the size of the site, there could be several programmers involved in a project.

Content Manager: This individual provides a consistent style and tone of the site. He or she works closely with client to gather all information and materials for the Web site. Understands fundamentals of content development, and has a clear understanding of the overall goals and communication objectives of the site. He or she works with the designer to implement content in an efficient manner. He or she also works with Web Promotional Specialist in order to bring the content inline with search engines' requirements.

Technical Lead: Provides management and direction of the programming team for back-end projects such as database development or system integration specialists. He or she acts as a liaison between front-end and back-end teams.

Database Programmer: Depending on the needs of the website, a database specialist may be necessary to handle the development of various catalogs and various database issues.

Usability Specialist: An individual with a background in human factors engineering and/or cognitive psychology who has a broad understanding of usability issues on the Web. This individual should have knowledge in information design, navigation and Web development processes.

Web Promotional Specialist: Helps optimizing web pages for search engines. Understand the fundamentals of search engine optimizations and aware of the latest changes in the algorithms of mail search engines. Make recommendations to the client and help him popularize the website. This individual works closely with content manager, designer and developer.

Now, for your website you may or may not need a team with all the members stated above, and in some cases one person may have knowledge of two fields but it is better to understand that in the ever changing world of the Internet if you are serious about your web business, you better build your site with the help of real experts of each core area. Statistics show that almost 70 percent of web projects do not finish on expected time frame with allocated budget. To reduce your risk, while ordering your new website or revamping your existing one, take the following steps:

1. Check out the vendor's site thoroughly. Do they follow what they preach? How the site looks like? Are you going to buy a product from the look and feel of the site? Check out the example sites. Are they good enough?

2. Find out if the team consists of professionals. Ask them detail questions. Check out cross reference. Talk to the team members directly.

3. Write a clear well-defined technical scope. Develop a thorough technical scope before to start building your eCommerce site. This will eliminate confusions before they occur. You will have a coherent picture of the required time and budget. You will also understand your own needs better.

A scope is like your business plan and works as your road map. Spend enough time to make your scope as meticulous as possible. Once you finalized your scope, no matter what, don't try to change it at later stage if you want to finish your project on time.

Work closely with the team. Ask questions whenever they arise to the individual of the team, whom they concern most. An astounding number of site owners are not happy with their web sites. A little preparation and follow-up will help you avoid becoming one of them.

Nowshade Kabir

title = How to Build a Quality Website
author = Nowshade Kabir
url = ezine.rusbiz.com
dept = Business: accounting, billing, tracking, etc.
audience = General: cross platform anyone

Nowshade Kabir is the CEO of Rusbiz.com, a global B2B Portal, which helps companies build web store, buy and sell products and services using eMarketplace, eCatalog and other features. Rusbiz also offers website development packages: www.rusbiz.com/design_package.html

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