Step-by-Step, Getting Your Website/SaaS Tool Built
Want to make your internet dream a reality? Here's what's involved:
1. Specification: work out what you want to have created
Right now, all the details are in your head. The best starting point is to sit down with a big pad of paper, and sketch out how every page or feature should work.
It doesn't really matter what you use to create your sketches - scanned-in papers would delight me! - just as long as you have something, no matter how ugly you might think it is.
It will also make life a lot easier if you rate features/pages on a scale from Nice to have to Essential. You can then have your site built in pieces as time and your budget allow.
2. Design: how it looks and feels
Design is not just about pretty colours and graphics; it's also about how friendly your site will be to use.
How many times have you visited a website and not had a clue what to do or where to click? It's a common problem, and a designer will ensure that your site is easy to use, looks good, and effectively communicates your message.
Whilst web developers can often help out with the layout, it stands to reason that a dedicated designer will be hard to beat.
If you are on a tight budget, though, you can at least get started by buying a theme from ThemeForest, which your web developer can then use to put something together for you.
3. Development: putting it all together
If you picture your designer as the person who says what lights should be put on your car dashboard and where they should be placed, your web developer is the person who wires everything together and gets them working.
It can be tricky to find competent developers - and designers for that matter. You have a few choices, ranked from best to worst:
- Independent developer as recommended by someone you know
- Web development agency (likely to be expensive!)
- Freelancers on oDesk, Freelancer.com, Elance etc.
The above very much depends on the size of your project; if you need a large team, an agency's very much the way to go.
As a rough guide - and this holds true of competent developers, no matter where in the world they live - you should budget a minimum of $30 USD/hour.
Any developer charging less than this either doesn't know their market value (and is therefore likely to run off as soon as a better-paying client gets in touch), or they're just not good enough.
Identifying a good developer is notoriously difficult, but one sign to look out for is the questions they ask you about your project. The fewer questions, the less likely I would recommend that particular developer.
4. Domain: how people will find your site
When you type www.google.com into your browser, google.com is the domain. You need one of these so that people can find you and your website. You will also be able to use email addresses that end with this domain (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
The rules are simple: it should end in .com1; and you should be able to read it over the telephone2.
I recommend using DomainTyper to find available .com domains.
1. Lots of users struggle with the very idea of domains that don't end in .com
2. It really helps word-of-mouth promotion if people don't have to ask twenty times how to spell your domain
5. Hosting: putting it all online
Your website will live on a computer connected to the internet. The computer is called a server and how it's connected is the hosting.
Your developer will be in the best position to advise you on this, but as a rough guide:
Is your site going to have extreme spikes in visitor numbers or tasks to be performed? If so, use a virtual private server (VPS), from e.g. Amazon Web Services.
Otherwise, use a dedicated server from e.g. Hetzner.
Never use shared hosting and strongly avoid offers with "Unlimited" in their titles.
6. What are you marketing plans?
This point should first in the list - but I didn't want to discourage you.
The simple, painful and annoying truth is: if you don't know who your market is, and how you're going to market to them, you are not going to be successful.
Take it from someone who's made this mistake several times; save your time, money, and sanity:
Work out your marketing from day one.