Your website needs to do more than make your company look good. It has to support your overall business operations – customer service, sales and marketing and collaboration. The following checklist will facilitate the analysis process for designing and building the website that allows your business to turn the corner.

1. Why do you want to have a new website?

This question focuses on your motivation as the client for building a website.

2. What will happen if you don’t have a new website, or have your current site redesigned?

Your current site may not be functional in current browsers. Or it could be that you’ve decided to offer more services online i.e. online stores, event ticketing etc. and the current site doesn’t enable this.

3. Please describe your business in a few sentences.

Since this answer will be something like a mission statement, it could be incorporated into the home page copy.

4. What is there about you and your business that sets you apart for a special (niche) group of potential customers?

If nothing else, this is a question that should get you thinking. It might be that you’ve been in business twice as long as any of your competitors. Again this could be incorporated into your website copy.

5. What problems does your potential client base have that your business solves?

The word “solutions” has been overused of late. But this is an opportunity for you to brag. Again this could be incorporated into your website copy.

6. How can your particular background help potential clients, compared to others in your industry?

What’s special about your work experience? Again this could be incorporated into your website copy.

7. Why do you believe site visitors should do business with you rather than with a competitor?

Face it, on the Internet, the competition is but one click away. Which means that your site will probably be compared to a lot of other sites. So, it’s up to you to make the site memorable.

8. Do you have a slogan or tagline that clearly describes what you offer in terms of benefits or features?

This is not essential, but if so, can be highlighted and repeated throughout the website.

9. Please describe your potential customers. Pay special attention to their income, interests, gender, age, even type of computer they use, e.g. old with a slower connection or newer with a faster connection. If your website is a business-to-business site, what sort of companies are you hoping to attract?

This is the demographic question, go into as much detail as possible. This will help with the basic building blocks of your website design and build along with the marketing strategy for your website.

10. What is your budget for this project?

This may include: ongoing hosting and domain name registration costs, design and build costs and administration costs.

11. Who are the decision makers on this project? What is the turnaround time for making a decision?

Ideally there is one person in charge, rather than someone who works for someone who reports to the assistant to the person who actually makes the decisions. The latter scenario tends to lead to weeks-long waits while decisions are being made.

12. What staff members will be involved? What are their roles? Is there a website committee?

There’s nothing wrong with having more than one voice involved in the website process, but it helps if a contact person is appointed to deal with the developer. This will avoid the “conflicting inputs from multiple people” problem.

13. What is your deadline for completing the site?

How long is a piece of string? It is good to have deadlines, so there is a focus and a sense of urgency.

14. Please list the names of five other sites that you like.

Why are they attractive to you? It also helps to offer a detailed explanation of why you like each one. This will obviously help with the design process.

15. Have you researched your online competition so you have an idea of what you do and don’t want on your site?

Some competitors can be overly communicative. Especially on their websites. Others have sites that say little and explain even less. It’s important for you to decide on the right balance between transparency and secrecy – and it’s a tough decision.

16. What do you NOT want on your site in terms of text, content, etc?

There are some things that just don’t belong on a website and every business has a different answer to this question. For example, some splash employee pictures all over their sites and others are like the CIA, which shows no employee photos.

17. Where is the website content coming from? Who’s responsible for updating it? Is it ready for use on your website?

Content is one of those things that takes time to put together. If you have copywriting skills – or can team up with someone who does – you can turbocharge the content production process, and finish the project faster.

18. Do you have a logo?

This will need to be available in high resolution vector format for best results.

19. Are you planning to do online sales or event ticketing? If so, what is the product, and how many items do you want to sell online?

A few years ago, the word “e-commerce” took the world by storm. And all manner of companies fell under its spell. Many of them found out that e-commerce has a lot of moving parts – online order-taking that makes people feel comfortable sharing their credit card information, order-filling, shipment tracking, customer service, and the list goes on.

20. If you’re planning to sell online, are you set up to accept credit cards?

Accepting credit cards is mandatory in the online business world. Getting set up to accept credit cards can take time.

21. How much time will you be able to spend online, responding to inquiries that come in via your website? Once a day? Several hours a day?

Have you ever gone to a big company’s site to ask a question? You dutifully filled out the contact form, then waited, waited, and waited for an answer that never came. This is how you don’t want to act. Timely responses to visitor inquiries work better – and cost a lot less – than elaborate PR programs.

22. If you were using a search engine, what words or phrases would you use to find your site? Which of these words or phrases is most important?

List in order of importance. Between three to five terms should be sufficient.

23. Other than what search engines will produce, what methods do you have in mind to spread the word about your website?

There was a time when a website was such a novelty that you could get newspaper stories written about the fact that you had one. (Newspapers – remember them?) These days, you’ll need to do a bit more planning i.e. an event launching your website, links to your website from other websites, social networking, blogging etc.

24. Once your website is completed, how long do you think it will be before you begin bringing in significant business from the website?

This question is the younger sibling of the previous question. Once your new website is up, it will take time for the promotional plan to show results. The answer to this question will reveal whether you are patient and realistic – or someone who expects everything to happen yesterday.

25. How do you plan to encourage repeat visitors and referrals?

How is a website like a piece of granite? When it sits there and never changes. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to keep web content fresh – blogs come to mind. Making a website refer-able is a much greater challenge. The best advice I can offer is to make the site into a valuable resource.