In many cases companies or individuals decide “I have to have a website NOW!” and run off and create something, or more likely, have someone else create something, with no idea of what they want or how they’ll keep it going, or even a defined business purpose. One of the worst things you can do in creating a website is improper planning for it’s continued development and maintenance. How often will it be updated? Will it be checked for continued validity of content? What if it gets very popular, what then? What if I’m not getting viewers, what do I do? All of these questions need to be considered in advance.
If you don’t go into a project knowing the “dangers” then you will have to react very quickly when things happen, or lose all of your hard work. One example of this is the rocket to stardom problem. Say you have a funny Flash Movie, and somehow this gets picked up upon by a major portal site like SlashDot, Digg, Reddit, etc. It is very possible to go way over your bandwidth in less than a day. What do you do? Do you have a plan for this? Do you just take the site down and lose any chance of gaining from this exposure? Do you have a plan worked out to buy extra bandwidth if this occurs? (and more especially, do you have the $$$ to cover this) Losing your site at a time when it could benefit the most is terrible. People who could become fans will see a blank or 404 error page, and assume your site is unprofessional. Knowing your hosting companies costs and knowing how to contact them quickly is necessary. In addition, a backup site design, that requires very low bandwidth, is also a good idea to have in these cases.
Something else to consider is consistency of updating. Keep in mind that viewers go to your site for information or entertainment. If they go a few times, and nothing has changed, then they might decide to not come back. Letting the viewer know when new content will arrive, and sticking to the schedule is important. (Or at least stating why you didn’t keep to the schedule) It is said that if a viewer doesn’t get the info they want in 7 seconds or less, they will move on. Keep that in mind, make the information front and center. You want to provide reasons for people to return to your site on a frequent basis.
In addition, don’t leave old stuff up on your site. If you have something stating how people need to check their system to make sure it’s Y2K compliant, remove it please. Always check your site to make sure it’s up to date in regard to any dates or notifications. People will think you are crappy if you leave old stuff up. Professional is the name of the game. At least once a month re-read your site to see if it’s still valid.
It is frustrating to have a “brilliant” site, but no visitors. Did you make sure to submit your site to Google, Yahoo, etc? You can go to those services and submit your site with a description. It usually takes a while for them to catalog your site, so a small advance submission should be on target for them to reach you when you are up. setting up advertising at other similar sites in advance, so that it corresponds with your launch date will be helpful. Just DON’T SPAM. It will kill your buzz. No one likes spammers. It’s okay to place statements on forums where they encourage placement of links…but only if it’s appropriate for your websites content. Imagine a pestering salesman, that will be you if you’re not careful.
Lastly, Make sure you have time in your schedule for backing your site up. At first this will be easy for a small site. As time goes on though, it can get to be a huge task. No one wants to find out that their host had a crash that wiped out their hard drives….and you never backed your site up. Poof, all gone. You can be up and running again in a short time with timely backups. At least once a week is necessary for a forum or very updated site. better to do it twice a week. People can get cranky if their forum posts get wiped, especially if it’s a very important issue they are trying to resolve. Plus our friendly hackers exist. So leave time in your mental schedule to backup your site. The one time you say “ah, I’ll wait till later” it’ll kick your ass.
Doing a successful website is a time consuming and repetitive task. You need to be able to do things in a timely fashion and a regular basis. Nothing turns people off more than an irregular mess. Going in with a strong mindset will help you make things work right the first time through.