I meet incredibly intelligent people at networking events who come up with unique and passionate business ideas. One of the first things these business adventurists reach for when deciding to kick-off their idea is a web developer. This is smart because every business needs a good web presence, but there is a reason to hold off before jumping in with both feet.
I spent a lot of money on my first website…which never even saw the light of day. I had built up this huge list of requirements (in my head) for the developer, thinking that I would build a site which included everything and the kitchen sink. Unfortunately, since I didn’t write any of these requirements down, I had absolutely no leg to stand on when my developer delivered the product. $10k later, I had a complex website that didn’t fulfill most of my requirements, and there was no way I could argue.
Hard.Lesson.Learned. Here’s how I advise excited visionaries now:
- Determine your budget for your preliminary, first phase release
- Hire a consultant who works with developers (within your budget) to help you narrow down the basic, lowest denominator needs of the website
- Write down all requirements and hire a technical writer, if needed
- Develop a basic prototype with a simple template, if possible
- Do not pay more than $500 for the first initial logo – branding and other collateral will follow later
- Test out the prototype with potential users to see if they see the value and understand the basic workflow
- Based on your market feedback, build your final set of requirements for the next Phase 2 release (Beta testing)
Keep in mind that a requirements list will contain all features and functions, and this list will constantly be revised. There are hundreds of tools out online to help you keep track of these requirements but even a simple Excel list will suffice. Think of it in this perspective, your developer needs to know from a user standpoint, how the site should respond once the mouse is clicked. Once those use cases are solidified, hire a Business Analyst to run through the final list and get ready to rock Phase 1!