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By Salim Lakhani

Anyone can develop a website.

It’s true. Anyone right out of a vocational design school can develop a website. Agencies, designers, consultants, developers, contractors and even students can all develop websites. So, who’s right for your project.

Selecting the wrong vendor, the wrong contractor or the wrong team will not only cost you thousands of dollars, but can set you back months and months in development effort – neither of which a small business can afford. A failed website development project can cause product launch delays, loss of market share, loss of credibility in the market place and ongoing maintenance and update problems. Most websites, once developed, will be open to public criticism from employees, customers, vendors, partners, and even your competitors. You simply can’t brush a failed website deployment under the carpet and start over!

Do you know what questions to ask when interviewing candidates. Do you know the criteria to use for making the selection? Do you have a checklist for evaluating vendors? Do you have your requirements documented. Have you led and successfully deployed a website development project before. Chances are that you’ve answered “No” to some or all of these questions.

In this article, you will learn how to plan for your project.

What is a Web Development Plan?

Eight out of ten failed projects fail because of lack of appropriate scoping and planning. So, the first part of any plan…is to create a plan. Here is a five-step process for creating a development plan for your small business website.

Step 1: Document your requirements.
Step 2: Rank your requirements based on difficulty of implementation and value to organization.
Step 3: Visually map your requirements based on your rankings.
Step 4: Phase it out. Don’t try to do everything at once. Go for the “low hanging fruit.”
Step 5: Setup a timeline for each requirement.

Step 1: Document your Requirements. The Site Map is a hierarchical list of all pages on your website. The top of the hierarchy is your home page. The rest of the pages and sub-pages go under that. Create an outline of your site map and your organizational and technical requirements.

Organization requirements are items such as “Our hiring manager needs to be able to manage the open positions section of the website.” Various positions or departments will have their own requirements and your outline should capture all these requirements. Technical requirements are items such as “The website needs to allow us to enter leads into our sales leads database.”

Make a complete list of your requirements first without thinking about how much time and energy it will take or if it’ll even be done in the first few phases.

Step 2: Rank your Requirements. We call this process the “Complexity/Value Assessment.” Here you’re going to re-visit your requirements list and rank the technical and organization feasibility of each item. If an item is easy to do technically and easy to implement organizationally, then you rank it a 5. If it's hard to do technically and difficult to implement organizationally, then you rank it a 1. The easiest thing to do is to generally give each item a separate organizational and technical ranking and then take an average of the two. This number tells you how hard or easy an item will be to implement.

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Salim Lakhani is the CEO of Initsoft.
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