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Web Site Creation -- Preparation Basics

Here are some basic questions that a nonprofit will benefit from reviewing before getting deeply involved with the technology team to implement them. Consider including answers with any Request For a web development Proposal [RFP].

  1. Overall Purpose & Audience
    • Who are your audiences? How will they explore your website? What should they come away with?

      For example, a site about fighting racism expects [a] academic researchers who come with a specific purpose in mind and quickly begin a search using the site as a research library, [b] activists, lawyers and others who also come with a purpose in mind, but are interested in tools [resources] more than research of history, and [c] undergraduates looking to write a paper "about racism", press and random browsers who don't know what they are looking for and will treat the site more as a magazine to wander and explore before beginning any focused search. Keep each audience in mind as you review the next sections.

    • List websites of competitors/peers and compare to your needs as far as functionality, especially from a purpose perspective. Ideally include both examples that work and that don't work.
  2. Design
    • Are there specific elements that need to be part of your design? Is your logo complete? Do you have images to incorporate: this is often the key to good design, there is no substitute for photos showing your mission and your organization in action. Colors and lines are important in design, but not nearly as important as the right images.

      SpaceShare chose to use our logo -- especially the angles -- as a primary design element. We're short on photos, and are going out of our way to get some during the design process.

    • Do you have a preference in leaning towards: professional, fun, interactive, informational, a colorful blast, or sparse and clean?
    • List websites that you love or hate as far as design, and why.
  3. Content, Preparation, Roles
    • How much content is prepared?
    • Are you looking for content development help? Design beyond the basics of the web design: graphics, photos, logos?
    • Preparing some sample content and including it with the RFP can be incredibly helpful.
  4. Type of Website: Duration, Staff Use, Maintainability
    • To what degree do you want a Content Management System? Is your website just a web brochure, a web 2.0 center for social interactions and feedback, and/or an intranet where you do planning work? Do you want to send everything to a web expert before it goes on your website (the old way with Dreamweaver), have a few people at your organization become experts, or make it available to everyone through a workflow and approval process?
    • Do you want a database-driven website that follows modern standards separating content from design? That can be updated in the future? Where the theme can easily be changed? Where a new designer can take over and modify the old site? [Adding complexity over the older style Dreamweaver sites -- in almost all situations I'd recommend database-driven sites. Some very low budget efforts might want to stick to older "have a friend do it" styles.]
  5. Documentation and Training. Will the developer slowly teach one person from the organization, who will then be responsible? Run a training programs after the site is complete? Train your staff while they add the original content, so they'll be able to add more in the future? Write detailed instructions? Do you want an intranet with how-to screencasts integrated into your website (easy to do with a good CMS, and highly recommended).
  6. Schedule & Budget. Describe the balance of your budget, schedule and needs. It might even be helpful to do this on paper in a box:
    Absolute Requirements Possibly easy goals desired if affordable. These are things that you want if the designer says there is a module that does it easily, but wouldn't want if it takes much effort.
    Important components that you would like more or all of, and are willing to push to your maximum budget to achieve these. Wishlist of goals that are less important -- only to be completed if they fit within your non-stretched budget. Or, goals for the future that won't be included in this version, but the designer should be conscious that they will be added later.

  7. Friends
    • Do you have a preferred provider or friends responding to your RFP? If so, please let us know before we write a proposal.
    • PS -- Feel free to use this last question as a reason to ask us any tough questions that you should ask but feel shy about.