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Developing a website

How to plan, develop and launch a website that will have the most benefit for
your organisation.

Produced by Islington Voluntary Action Council, 3 Aztec Row, Berners Road, London, N1 0PW
Developing a website

When developing a website there is a lot more to consider than merely “how it looks”. This guidance
information will get you to think about why and how to get a website that meets your organisations


1. Why Should your organisation use the web?

2. Some reasons to use the web
3. Planning your website
i. Conceptualisation
ii. Identify Strategy for the site
iii. Identify audience
iv. Mindmapping
4. The Design Process
i. Do-It-Yourself or get a web developer?
ii. What web design packages to use?
5. Doing It Yourself
6. Using a Developer
i. Write a specification for your site
ii. Approach several developers
iii. Assess quotations
iv. Make a clear agreement
7. Testing and publishing your site
i. Testing your site
ii. Publishing your site (hosting)
iii. Marketing Your Site
a. Online Marketing
b. Offline Marketing
iv. Maintaining Your Site

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1. Why Should your organisation use the web?

To answer this question you’ll need to think about the following areas:

Who do we communicate with at the moment?

What types of information do we communicate?
How might the web might us communicate more efficiently?
Are there new ways it might help us communicate?
Which are the areas it may not help us

Be aware that

Creating a Web site is easy, but creating a good one is not!

For organisations that are about communication a bad Web site is worse than no Web site at all!

This is why the planning process is crucial. Creating a web site without knowing how it fits into your
organisations communication and marketing processes should be avoided.

Creating a web site with no planning can be easy, just open up your web design package and start.
However, you probably won’t be pleased with the results.

2. Some reasons to use the web

To publicise your service

Many organisations start off with a simple site like an on-line brochure. The site can explain
what your organisation does and how people can contact you, and should include the
information that people most often want from you.

Your site is open 24 hours a day; 7 days a week

People can often find it difficult to get to an agency during opening hours. They may be
working or have to care for children, public transport may be poor, or they may have mobility
problems. A website is available at any time, to anyone who can get to a computer.

You can update information immediately

It can take weeks to design and print a leaflet and leaflets can still turn up years after they
are outdated. Your web site can always hold accurate and timely information.

You may be able to reach people who don’t use your service now
The Samaritans have provided a well-known phone service for many years. They now also
provide a service by email, publicised on their website. The organisation has found that 9 out
of 10 people who seek help by e-mail wouldn’t use their phone service so they have extended
the service they provide.

You may be able to link people who would benefit from working together
Using the web people can exchange information and expertise quickly and easily.

You may be able to develop your service

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Developing a website

You can use a website to sell publications or other products, or to take bookings. You can use
it to get the latest news to individuals and groups instantly.

You may be able to build a campaign

The internet is playing an increasingly high-profile role in campaigning. Email and the web
were used, for example, the current anti Iraq war campaign. There are other, more local
examples. North Yorkshire Forum for Voluntary Organisations have campaigned successfully
against local cuts using an online email campaign which circulated briefings and reports
directly to groups and members of the public.

You may raise your profile

Tony Blair has pledged that all government services will be deliverable in electronic form by
2005, and this reflects the fact that the government is keen to encourage use of the internet.
In general, for an agency to have a website implies to funders and other bodies that the
organisation is forward-thinking and dynamic. It.s not a reason in itself to get a website, but it
is an added bonus of having one.

3. Planning your website

Spending time planning your site before you even start the design process is essential.

Working through the planning process will allow:

Informed decisions about the type of content that will go on to your web site
Content that meets the needs of your specified audience
A web site that fits with and meets the aims of your organisation


In an ideal world organisations should work through two distinct areas of planning:

Strategic Planning
Structure Planning

Strategic Planning – this is the area covered in this section. Essentially this is concerned with
developing the reasoning behind why you want a site.

Structure Planning – the second of the main areas within the overall planning process looks at the
methods of planning how your web site is structured and “will work”.

Strategic Planning

Within the Strategic Planning Process can be separated in to four distinct but linked areas:

i. Conceptualisation
ii. Identify Strategy for the site
iii. Identify audience
iv. Mindmapping

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i. Conceptualisation

Developing the vision

What is the aim of the site – the top level rationale behind the site, do not just say “we
need a web site” determine why your organisation needs a website

How does this fit in with organisational aims – think about the aims of your
organisation (should be identified in your organisations Mission Statement or Aims and
Objectives). You should be able to answer the question of how your web sites fits within these
aims and helps your organisation to achieve them.

Mission Statement – the best way of representing this Vision for your site is to develop a Mission
Statement. This should be kept as short as possible and give a clear statement as to why your
organisation is developing a web site.

This is especially useful later in the design process when you are looking at structure and what
“flashy” bits you could have on your site – if you are unsure of whether to include certain things
within the site you can refer back to the Mission Statement and ask if what you are debating fits
within this.

Should cover:

Purpose – what is your organisation trying to achieve by developing a web site?

Clarity – Business case behind why you are developing a site

Goal – what is the overall aims of the site

ii. Identify Strategy for the site

Developing the strategy:

How are you going to get users to visit your site – this is key to the success of your
web site, although at this stage you are not looking at specific content there is a need to think
about the methods of attracting people to the web site

Ensure the web site fits in with organisational aims – part of the strategy should be to
clarify how the web site fits with the organisation aims and ways in which the organisation
works. This can be a difficult question and might lead to some internal discussion about the
aims and processes of the organisation. It is essential that the aims of the organisation are
supported by the development and not led by the desire to develop a web site.

Determine responsibility for strategy – important to remember at this stage we are talking
about responsibility for developing the strategy of the web site and not designing the web site itself.

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When identifying who has responsibility for developing the strategy the following things should be

One person - should be responsible for pulling the strategy together, this person should be
supported by other. As at this stage you are looking at the strategy this person does not need
to be technically minded. It will be of more benefit if the person has some experience of the
internet but more importantly understands the work of the organisation well.

Provided with technical assistance – although it is not essential that this person is a
technical expert it is beneficial that they have technical support to call upon. This support can
then be used to help make some decisions about parts of the strategy that may involve
expensive technical solutions.

Should not work in isolation – be supported by other staff members, volunteers and Board
members. A web site is more that just about “getting on the internet”, it covers issues such as
the way your organisation presents and communicates information. It is therefore essential
that the person given the responsibility for the strategy should be supported and have “buy-
in” from the rest of the organisation.

iii. Identify audience

One of the keys to getting the most out of your web site is to spend time identifying your audience,
who you are trying to communicate with.

The key to this is – think expansively!

It is possible to have more than one audience for the site, in fact this is almost certain to be the case.
Think about the type of information and the priority you give to different sections of your audience.
Could include:

Board members
Service Users
Potential Service Users
Colleagues in the sector
The media

Other questions to think about are:

Are they online?
Are they already regular web users?
Are they potentially people who have not heard about your oganisation?

iv. Mindmapping

This is a process that allows you to structure ideas on paper in the order that you come up with

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You start by placing the core (Home Page) in the middle of the page and then drawing branches of
this to other possible sections of the site.

Although this initially looks like the plan for web site this does not have to be the case.

Initial ideas should be noted as a separate branch – follow on ideas then come from each of those
branches. The use of separate colours helps distinguish ideas.

The key to mindmapping is that evaluation of ideas does not take place at this stage, all ideas are
given equal value. Once all ideas have been recorded the next phase is to begin evaluation.

Why plan a strategy for your site?

This will allow:

Coherent development – will be a clearly defined process in why you have made decisions
about your web site development

Consider funding implications – not only allow you to consider cost implications can be
used as supporting information for any funding bids. Bids are more likely to be successful if
you can demonstrate the planning and business case behind your website ideas.

Make informed decisions – by planning a strategy all decisions about your web site will be
informed and not based on hunches and feelings.

Get the most out of the design process – planning at an early stage will allow your
organisation process as the design process will be made simpler as it will be able to
concentrate on the look and feel of your site.

<<insert MindMap page here!>>

4. The Design Process

i. Do It Yourself or Get a Website Developer?

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ii. What web design packages to choose?

The most basic websites consist of a few pages of text giving basic information about an
organisation. The largest sites such as Microsoft or the BBC . have highly polished designs and use
complicated software behind the scenes. You might be able to develop a simple site yourself, perhaps
with software you have already bought.

However, our experience is that people.s first attempts at do-it-yourself sites aren.t generally much
good. If you want a very high-quality site, or a very complex one, you will probably need to pay a
professional to design it for you.

To pick up the skills to design a complex and attractive web site will take a lot of effort and months if
not years of study and practice. To decide which road to take, consider the following issues. It may
be worth going through a detailed "project planning" process, assessing what resources will be
needed for each stage of the site’s development.

What is your budget?

It costs less to build your own site, of course, than paying someone else to do it. But it isn’t
free. You may have to buy new software to create the site, and you may have to pay for staff
to be trained in its use. Certainly developing the site will take up staff time. On the other
hand, a developer will not charge much less than a thousand pounds to develop a small site.

A moderately complex site, like Islington Link (www.islingtonlink.org.uk), could cost over ten
thousand pounds. Many organisations and commercial companies are keen to develop web
sites, so developers can get work easily and are have little reason to charge less. You could
try asking them to reduce their charges because you are a charity, local organisation etc.
Remember when thinking about budgets that you will need to keep the site up to date, and
may well want to expand it after its initial launch
Once a site is launched it is often the case that areas of potential development will become
possible so budget for a possible Phase 2 development of your site.

What skills do you have access to in the organisation?

To design an effective site you need both design skills and a technical understanding of the
web and HTML. However, these skills are increasingly common. Many people have designed
simple web pages, and someone in your organisation may have done so, or they may know
someone else who has. Web page design skills are now highly marketable, and a member of
staff may be willing to learn them. But this is only an effective solution if a staff member is
enthusiastic to do the work, has some skills or experience, and wants to spend the time and
effort to acquire more. And staff move on. Most people prefer to hand the process over to a
specialist if they can afford to.

How complex is the proposed site?

If you plan to include discussion forums, a database, a bookings system. Pretty much
anything beyond text and basic images. There will be technical issues to address. You should
normally approach a developer.

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However it is possible to obtain free of charge, remotely hosted site searches, chat rooms,
discussion forums and web email programmes.

The disadvantage of such freebies is the look and feel of the programmes probably won’t
match the look of your site, or that you’ll have to promote some sort of advertising alongside
your free programme. Although a free facility is offered by www.atomz.com. This is a slimmed
down version of their full site search that can be integrated into the look of your website.

How stylish an appearance do you want the site to have?

Of course your site should be designed well, so as to look professional and make your
information easy to access. However, some commercial sites make it their first priority to have
slick design, even when the content of the site is weak. For voluntary sector websites,
appearance is less of a priority than it is for these commercial ones. Users will come to your
site to get information, rather than to admire graphic design. However, you may want a sight
with a distinctive or highly attractive "look." Unless you have graphic design skills within your
organisation, you will need a website developer to achieve this.

Do you produce any printed publications already?

The choice between creating your own site and paying a professional is similar to that
between designing your own publications and paying a graphic designer. If you design paper
publications in-house, you are more likely to have the graphical skills required to develop a
website, and this may fit in with your working procedures. If you contract out design and
layout for publications, you may want to do the same for your website.

DIY . Choosing Design Software

Web sites are written using a computer language called Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), for
more information see Section 5. HTML is far simpler than many other computer languages . you can
even write simple web pages yourself, using the Notepad application that comes with Windows. And
a basic knowledge of HTML is always useful, whatever web design software you are using.

However, for many people without experience of computer programming, HTML may still look pretty
complex. For this reason, many companies have developed software which creates the HTML for you.
This makes it easier to create complex pages using different backgrounds, typefaces, colours,
graphics and so forth. Some of the most common web design packages are:

Word - http://www.microsoft.com/office/word/default.asp
This is one of the simplest ways of producing web pages, because many people already know
how Word works. You can only produce very basic pages, and the results may not be exactly
what you expect, because Word formatting and HTML work quite differently. But ease of use,
and no extra to spend on software or training, make this an attractive option for beginners.
However it won’t give you a polished look. It is possible to save any Word document as a web

FrontPage - http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage
Microsoft’s package is easy to use for beginners, since it works like the rest of Microsoft
Office, especially Microsoft Word. Your ISP will need to install Microsoft software for some of
the more advanced features to work, a classic Microsoft foot-in-the-door.

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NetObjects Fusion - http://www.netobjects.com/products/html/nf7.html

NetObjects Fusion is aimed at beginners. A range of templates and site wizards make it
relatively easy to create and maintain a professional looking website.

Dreamweaver - http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver
This package is aimed at web professionals. It has powerful layout and hand coding abilities.
Dreamweaver also integrates with other software to publish database driven web sites and
include advanced graphics in your site. This is a powerful package . if you want something
this sophisticated, you will need to hire a developer unless you have the skills in house.

Contribute - http://www.macromedia.com/software/contribute
This is a slimmed down version of Dreamwaever aimed at updating rather than designing your
site. This allows you to update pages over the internet. Some knowledge of developing HTML
is useful but not essential to use this package.

Graphics packages

Most web graphics packages do a broadly similar job, generally the more
money you pay the more facilities and power is available to you. Complex
packages however need an experienced person to get the best out of them.

Paintshop Pro - http://www.jasc.com/products/psp

Paintshop Pro is a cheap but very capable graphics creation programme, it takes a while to
learn but results are good

Macromedia Fireworks - http://www.macromedia.com/software/fireworks

Fireworks is Macromedia’s web graphics package. It has an enormous number of options in
the creation of graphics and photos for the web. It integrates brilliantly with Dreamweaver.
Basic operations aren’t too difficult to learn if you have an eye for design, more complex
operations can be quite a learning curve.

Adobe Photoshop - http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/main.html

Photoshop is Adobe’s premier photo and graphics package creating output for both print and
the web. Photoshop is an immensely powerful package with an equally immense price and
learning curve.

Adobe Photoshop Elements - http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel/main.html

Photoshop Elements is a cut down and simplified version of Photoshop optimised for web and
digital imaging. It is much cheaper and easier to use.

Xara Webstyle - http://www.xara.com/products/webstyle

A great and cheap package which automatically creates good looking web graphics using
customisable templates. You can produce good looking graphics without knowing anything
about graphic design.

Avoid using clipart as this can look poor on many websites.


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Macromedia Flash - http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/

Macromedia Flash is a package increasingly used to create animated and interactive content
for the web. It can do things that plain HTML and images are not capable of doing. It has an
extremely high learning curve, not something to consider if you don.t know HTML or are
technically minded. Again if you need this sort of content for your site, you’d better call a
developer. Within Flash there are also issues about accessibility, although newer versions do
now contain additional accessibility features.

Online Resources
Cut and Paste Scripts - http://www.cutandpastescripts.com/
A great free resource if you’re wanting advanced functionality in your web site but don’t have
the technical knowledge to do it for your self. Just sign up, choose the option you want and
follow the online instructions.

Atomz - http://www.atomz.com
A fantastic free search tool for your web site, free if your site is under 10,000 pages. Used by
the many sites it is fully customisable and gives detailed information about what people are
searching your site for.

Remotely Hosted Resources - http://www.hotscripts.com/Remotely_Hosted

A directory of hundreds of remotely hosted applications, some free that can be easily
integrated with your web site.

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5. Doing It Yourself

This section will look at HTML and give a simple example of using HTML.

A bit of HTML !!

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. HTML is a simple set of commands
or tags that tell a web browser how to display a webpage.

About HTML
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is a simple set of commands
or tags that tell a web browser how to display a webpage.

HTML was invented by Scientists in the early nineties as a way of exchanging text
based information in a logical way.

The HMTL specification is now overseen by a organisation known as the W3C

(World Wide Web consortium) http://www.w3c.org

An example of some simple HTML code. To test this open Notepad (Start Menu >Programs
>Accessories >Notepad). Type:

<title>Learning HTML</title>
I'm learning HTML!

Each tag (<>) indicates a particular function within a web page.

The <html> tag tells the web browser that the document contains HTML formatting code.
The <head> area of the document contains information about the document, including the
title which is displayed at the top of the browser window.
The text and code between the <body> and </body> tags is what will be displayed on the
screen in a web browser.
Most HTML tags must be both 'opened' and 'closed'. You close a tag by adding a forward
slash at the beginning of the command word, i.e. </html>.

Make a Document
You already have a program on your computer system that can create simple text files. On
Windows systems it is called Notepad.
click Start
click Programs
click Accessories
click Notepad

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You can also use any desktop publishing program that allows you to save files as plain text
(no formatting).
Open Notepad on your screen, and type the following commands:

<title>Learning HTML</title>
I'm learning HTML!

Save the file with the file extension html (myfile.htm) and make a note of its

Browse to the location of your file using Windows Explorer, and double click on
it. It should open in your default browser.

Now, back In Notepad, make some changes to your document.

Change the <body> tag to read <body bgcolor=#ffffcc.>

Substitute the following for the text between the body bgcolor=#ffffcc.>and
</body> tags:

<h1>Voluntary organisations in Islington<h1>

<p>There are many voluntary organisations that can offer support. Use the Islington Link web site
<a href="http://www.islingtonlink.org.uk"> </a> search facility to find one.s that can support

Save and view the document again

What have you done?

You've changed the background colour of the page by specifying the colour number, added a link to
the Islington Link web site. You've learned the commands for adding links.

By changing or adding to text, adding more links to sites and images, you can already build a basic
webpage. HTML is by far the easiest computer language to learn if you’re motivated to do so.

If you are really serious about creating a very high quality web site then you’ll need to know some
HTML. Web site editors like Front Page will create the HTML for you, but you.ll need to understand
what’s going on behind the scenes if you want to tweak what Front Page has created.

Learning More

If you want to learn and experiment with other HTML tags. It's time to take a
step-by-step HTML tutorial.
One of the best one’s on the web is HTML Goodies

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Using Frontpage

If you decide to use Frontpage as your web site design package it will cost £84.99 from
Amazon.co.uk, unless you have it as part of a Microsoft Office package that you already own.
Xara Webstyle costs £29.99 from Amazon.co.uk

Learning More
To create good looking sites using Frontpage, you’ll need to learn the package well. There are
lots of Frontpage training books available. A particularly good one is: How to do Everything
with Frontpage 2002: David Plotkin, £12.99 at Amazon

Web site design tutorials and tips

The best place to find web design tips and tutorials is of course the web, try these sites for
starters Web Monkey: http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/design/site_building

Web Site Tips http://www.websitetips.com

If you’d rather read a book try: Web Site Design Goodies: Joe Burns, £17.25 at Amazon

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6. Using a Developer

Why use a Developer?

There are a number of reason why an organisation might want to make use of a professional web
developer, these could typically be:

Database Driven sites

Web sites that use a database to store information are a lot more complex to design and
require additional programming skills. Few voluntary organisations will have these skills in-
house and may need to use a developer for this.

Content Management System (CMS)

This is increasingly being talked about as the web site solution. A CMS allows you to manage
information on your site very easily. Initially this was used for very large websites, but is
increasingly being used for smaller sites. The advantage of this type of system is that it allows
specified editors to update and change information on the site very easily. This can be done
by a form that can publish information to particular areas within a website.

Some organisation might want interactivity as key part of their website. This could be a Chat
Room or Discussion Room for members. The ability to have a Members Only area for sensitive
or specific information.

User Recognition
This is something used by a lot of commercial sites to make the experience of visiting a site
more personal. This may not be appropriate for a lot of voluntary organisations but it may be
appropriate for organisation looking to offer a large amount of online support.

These kind of features will vary depending on the needs of specific organisations but will require
skilled programming which will almost certainly mean using professional developers.

To ensure that organisation get value for money from their Developer this is the process you should

i. Write a specification for your site

ii. Approach several developers
iii. Assess quotations
iv. Make a clear agreement

i. Write a specification for your site

Not technical - Plain English

Do not think because you are talking to someone who designs website you have to put your
specification into their language. Specification should be in plain language so members of your

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organisation (Board, paid and unpaid staff) agree it. This will also encourage the developer to use the
same sort of language when discussing their proposal with you.

Base this on Planning Process covered in earlier Sessions

The strategy and planning process will provide really useful supporting information for your site
specification. The real use of this may come if one of the developers questions why you want a
certain service within your web site.

Bear in mind essentials and nice add-ons

Some Developers may suggest extra features for your web site. Whether or not there is a cost always
consider how these features fit in with the strategy behind your web site. Do not be sold just on
funky features!

ii. Approach several developers

Do not just approach one developer, even if they have been recommended to you. So when
contacting Developers you should consider the following ways of getting as much information about
their work as possible.

Ask other agencies

Contact other voluntary and community groups both locally and similar organisations in other areas
to find out who they use to develop their site and what their experiences were. The best type of
information you can get on a design company is from organisations that have used the Developers

Ask about how they would design the site, time and cost
Ask for detailed information on how they are going to design the site, what packages they will use,
are there any hidden costs (such as annual subscription for Content Management System)

Take up references
Ask for and be sure to take up references on the Developer. When taking up references look for
information on the sustainability of the developer. One of the worst situations an organisation can
find itself is to go with a Developer who disappears once the site is completed, giving no chance for

At least three quotes

It is important that you get at least 3 different quotes so that a comprehensive comparison can be
done between them. As you would do with any other external work that your organisation contracts.
Look for phased development
A phased development will allow you to view the work of the Developer at certain stages within the
design process. At these specified points you will be able to evaluate and ask for amendments to the
work done. The major advantage of this is that it prevents you being in a situation where you have
contracted with a Developer who has gone away and designed you a web site which when you look
at the finished article is not what you were looking for and does not meet your needs.

As there are a number of different approaches to designing web sites the quotes you receive may
vary greatly in both cost and what they will actually give you so look out for the following items:

Set price

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Ensure that a static price is set in to any agreement; this will prevent the price creeping up during the
development phase.

Put a specific timescale on site development, this will help you keep a better check on the progress of
the developer. It will also allow you to schedule a launch and publicity material for the site.

Who will be developing the site

Does the developing organisation have its own staff or do they outsource some of the design work.
Some organisations outsource some of the simpler design work to students and freelance workers,
this is not a problem as long as you know and have a guarantee about the quality of the work they
will do.

Ensure information on the site should always belong to your organisation and not the developer or

Technical Control
The above may be the case but what might be of more concern is technical control so that you can
access and amend this information. Keep a back-up copy of the site (as you should for any electronic
data). There is also the hidden part of the site that enables it to work. It is not always clear who
owns this so it is important that you seek clarification in the contracting stage.

Many developers will offer hosting as part of the design package. Although this is useful in terms of
keeping the process self-contained it is important you ask for specific costing for hosting as there are
a lot of very competitive hosting deals to be had.

iii. Assess quotations

All quotes should be assessed not only for meeting your web site needs but also against each other.
Consider the following when carrying out this process.

Involve different people in the organization

Ask people at all levels of the organisation and take proposals to Board members for approval and

Not just managers

It is important to include members from all levels of the organisation and not just managers. It may
be that these people will be the ones keeping the site updated so should have an input in to this
decision making process.

Strengths and weaknesses of each quote

This may be difficult as developers may take completely different approaches. Bear in mind your
original aims for the site and the positives and negatives of each quote in meeting those.

Do they .talk your language

Do you think the Developer has an understanding of the voluntary sector and are able to talk your
language and not merely blind you with science.

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Do they offer .phased development

This is a key feature as it will allow for flexibility within the design process to fine tune the site.

Use friendly experts

If the organisation has access to trusted individuals who can give informed advice USE THEM!

iv. Make a clear agreement

Once a Developer has been decided upon it is important that you have a clear agreement with them
regarding the work they are going to undertake for you.

Special consideration should be given to:

Specify development time

Phased development
Clarify copyright issues
Access to updating information
What after-design service do you require

For more information and a sample agreement with a web developer visit:

7 Testing and publishing your site

i. Testing your web site

Test the site with several different users. If you have widely different groups of users, test the site
with several users from each group. If you can, test your site on different computers with different
monitors and/or different browsers (browsers include Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and
Morzilla). Make sure that every single link and feature works.

Watch how the testers navigate the site, what do they find easy to do, where do they get stuck?
Often web site creators forget to think through how easy it is for others to use the site they’ve
created. It’s easy for them, so they assume it is easy for others. Ideally if you can, prepare a series of
tasks for your testers to carry out. If a lot of your testers get stuck with parts of the site then you’ll
probably need to think about redesigning that section. Once you’ve redesigned the problematic
sections then test those sections again.

ii. Publishing your web site

Once you've developed a website, you'll need someone to "host" it - that is, to let you store it on a
computer that is permanently connected to the Internet so that other people can see it. Your Internet
Service Provider (ISP) can host your site, as well as providing Internet access and email, and this
may be the best solution for beginners with a simple site. But there are many alternatives - and so
many companies offer web hosting that it can be difficult to decide which package suits your
organisation's needs.
*A checklist of information for publishing your site is currently being developed by IVAC

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Developing a website

Main Points to Consider

When choosing a hosting company, you need to consider the following issues:

Cost - this can range from free upwards, but can generally be divided into 3 broad categories
- free, budget, and professional. For more on these categories, see below.

The amount of web space you get - this can be anything from 5Mb to over 500Mb. 5Mb is
usually enough for a small, simple site with not too many graphics - however, even if your site
is quite small now, you'll need to make allowances for the site to expand.

Domain Names - A domain name means you have your own online name (just as you have
a name for your organisation) - www.youragency.org.uk, with email addresses like
name@youragency.org.uk. Hosting companies may offer free or cheap domain names as part
of the package. If so, check the terms and conditions to make sure that you own the domain
name. You may also be charged a fee if you decide to move your domain name to a different
web host in future. This is often the "catch" at the free or budget end of the web hosting

Technical support - Free or budget hosting packages might only provide technical support
via email. If you are happy with this minimal level of support, fine - if you would rather speak
to a person, make sure the package you opt for includes telephone support. Even if you're
happy with a minimal level of support, you will want to be sure that you'll get a response to
your emails within a time you consider reasonable. It's worth emailing technical support
before you sign up to see if they give you a satisfactory response within the timescale you

Email and web forwarding - If you've already built your site and are using the free web
space provided by your ISP you can have your emails and domain name redirected to your
free web space. Make sure the company you registered the domain name with offers this.
There may be a minimal charge for setting this up.

POP 3 email - Most hosting companies will also offer a number of "POP 3 email accounts"
with your web space. Each POP3 email box allows a separate user name and password for an
individual mailbox at your domain e.g. info@youragency.org.uk or
staffmembersname@youragency.org.uk etc. Email can then be distributed to each staff
member's computer using software on your agency's server, or staff can use their individual
user name and password to collect their mail. The greater the number of POP 3 accounts on
offer, the more individual mailboxes you can have.

"Bandwidth" - Each time someone visits your site they are downloading files such as web
pages and graphics. The more visits or "traffic" your site gets, and the bigger the files are, the
more bandwidth will be used. Professional hosting companies generally offer 1-3Gb of
monthly bandwidth as standard. A small site with just a few simple pages and 50 visitors per
day could use around 150Mb of bandwidth a month. On the other hand a large site with lots
of graphics, multimedia files and a popular discussion board could use 10Gb or more a month.
Many hosting companies will "switch off" access to your site without notice and/or impose
hefty charges if you exceed your monthly bandwidth allowance - make sure your package

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Developing a website

includes enough bandwidth to suit your needs and that you can easily upgrade to a more
suitable package if you need to.

Support for facilities such as databases, scripts and Microsoft FrontPage

extensions - If your site uses a database or customised scripts (e.g. for discussion boards),
or Microsoft FrontPage extensions, you will need to make sure your chosen host supports
these features. This information can be obtained from your host if you are unsure which of
these features you will need.

Online management - This allows you to access your domain names, web and email
forwarding options, so you can change passwords and email configurations, alter forwarding
settings and other features easily.

Security - If you are intending to conduct any sort of commercial activity from your site you
may need a "secure server" to protect the personal information of visitors to your site. If you
need to collect money online make sure your hosting company offers secure server access.
You can also pay for third party services such as those offered by Poptel (www.poptel.net/),
Just Giving (www.justgiving.com/charities/online_fundraiser.htm), NetBanx
(www.netbanx.com) or Worldpay (www.worldpay.com/uk/).

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) - These agreements set out things like speed of service,
technical support response times, backup arrangements, server availability (which will affect
how often or not your website is available to the big wide world), and compensation
arrangements if the hosting company does not live up to its promises. If you need the peace
of mind that SLAs can offer make sure you get a written agreement that suits your needs. It's
worth noting that not all web hosts will keep a back up of your website (particularly not those
at the free or budget end of the market). Even if a web host says that they will do regular
backups, we would recommend that you also regularly back up your site. A service level
agreement won't be much use if your web host goes out of business for example - can you
afford to lose all the data on your site?


Free Hosting
There are lots of free hosting companies that just offer free web space (i.e. without providing
an Internet connection). Either way there are likely to be restrictive terms and conditions.
Free hosts might put banner advertisements all over your site, you're likely to get a really long
web address such as ww.youragency.yourisporfreewebhostname.members.com and you're
unlikely to get support for features such as databases and scripts (although there are some
specialist free hosts that do support these features) or a service level agreement.

Your free host probably won't back up your site and you can't be sure that your site won't just
disappear overnight. You may also find that the company's servers are slow or that they are
often down, making your site slow or frequently unavailable. Apart from the free space
offered by your ISP, many free web hosts are based abroad and this can make resolving any
problems more difficult or costly.

Having said this, free hosting can be worth considering provided you bear in mind their
limitations. You could always register a domain name and arrange email and web forwarding

IVAC - 20 - November 2003

Developing a website

to your free space. If you are a very small agency who just wants a web presence, perhaps to
advertise your existence and opening times etc. a free host could be all you need . for now .
But if you are dependent on your website to communicate information or deliver services,
then you probably won't want to trust it to a free web host!

Budget hosting
If you're on a tight budget but want a bit more than the free hosting companies can offer,
then there are many budget hosts that provide services that may suit your needs. Budget web
hosting for a basic site starts at around £10 per year up to around £60 per year. You should
be able to find a host in this category that supports facilities such as databases, scripts and
FrontPage extensions - some may even provide service level agreements though provision for
any of these features is less likely at the lower end of the price range. Make sure you're clear
about what you will be getting for your money.

Professional hosting
Professional hosting packages generally come in two flavours - shared server and dedicated
server. With a shared hosting solution, your website shares a server with several others.
Shared hosting is a relatively economical option for organisations which need more
functionality than can be provided by a budget host, but don't need to have their site hosted
on its own server. Prices start at around £100 - £200 per year upwards and the hosting
company will take charge of most of the technical issues. There will be restrictions on the
maximum amount of bandwidth you can have and what sort of commercial activity you can
carry out.

If your website is critical to your service delivery or business, or you need your site to be
available 100% of the time, or your site gets very busy (monthly bandwidth of more than
about 10Gb), then you'll need to consider a dedicated hosting solution. Dedicated hosting
packages start from around £1000 a year upwards and for this you can expect to get your
own server tailored to meet your needs, managed by skilled staff in a purpose built data
centre, your own bandwidth connection and a service level agreement. With a dedicated
hosting package you have full control so you'll need to have access to someone with
appropriate skills.

What's the best package for you?

This will obviously depend on what you want to use your website for. However before signing up to a
Be clear about your requirements and make sure your chosen host can fulfil them (e.g.
amount of web space, bandwidth, number of email boxes, databases, backup arrangements
Check websites that are similar to yours and get recommendations if you can
Last but not least - make sure you read the hosting company's terms and conditions.

Treat with caution:

Offers that seem too good to be true (e.g. unlimited bandwidth or web space at rock bottom
Excessive fees for exceeding your bandwidth
Companies that don't publish their contact details (including street address, phone number)
on their website
Companies that respond slowly to technical support queries or sales enquiries

IVAC - 21 - November 2003

Developing a website

Transferring your files

Once you have a web host and a domain name you.ll need to transfer your web files to your hosting
company. Your web host will give you details of how to transfer files to your hosting space. Both
Front Page and Dreamweaver help to automate the process.

With other packages you.ll need what.s called FTP software. FTP stands for file transfer protocol, it
basically allows you to transfer computer files across the Internet, again your web host will provide
you details on how to set this up. Once your hosting account has been set up and the files
transferred then your web site should be up and running.

Useful Websites

http://uk.tophosts.com/ - Compare and contrast Hosting Deals

http://www.helpisathand.gov.uk/technology/info-sheets/web-hosting - Helpful info and support on

web hosting
Marketing and Maintaining your site

iii. Marketing Your Site

Once your site has been published it is vital that potential users know your site exists. It is important
that this is done using both online and offline marketing methods. The reason behind this is that your
organisation will be looking to attract users who may currently access information using the internet
and also potential users that may not be currently using the internet. The focus of your marketing
plan will depend upon who your organisation has identified as your .key audience..

a. Online Marketing . will use the Internet to advertise the existence of your site:

Reciprocal links . in the same way you might place leaflets with other organisations about
what you do the same process can be used with links. At the most basic level this may be a
link from the other sites link page to your site. Contact organisations who work in a similar
field to your organisation or who have a similar audience and try to develop links between the
two sites. Example is the volunteering page on the Birmingham City Council website. An
example of this can be seen in the links section of the IVAC website -
http://www.ivac.org.uk/Links.htm , many of the websites linked in this section will provide
links back to the IVAC website.

It is important to use this facility not just to take visitors to your site to other website but also
as a tool for bringing users to your site. Important to remember that if you allow other site to
link to specific pages within your site (.deep-linking.) it essential that you do not change the
name of pages. Otherwise this will result in a Page Not Found error.

Consider if it is better to allow links to a specific section within your site or links to the Home
Page and then visitors use your Navigation to find the information they require.

Search Engine Placement

Search engines consist of large databases containing information about web pages. These

IVAC - 22 - November 2003

Developing a website

www.google.co.uk www.yahoo.com www.excite.com

www.ask.co.uk www.lycos.co.uk www.altavista.com

There are two methods of getting the most out of Search Engines for your site:
o Registering with a Search Engine
o Recognition through page design

Registering with a Search Engine - most Search Engines will require you to complete an
online form with the URL of your website. Search Engines will then use Spider Programs to
search for keywords on your website.

Recognition through page design - there are things you can do in your page design to
help your placement within Search Engines. Tips:

Title - each web page has a title (this appears in the top bar of your Browser), this should
reflect both your website and the information on the actual page.
Meta Tag - keywords can be placed within the META TAG to help search engine placement,
but it is considered bad practice to have more that a few words in this section. DO NOT
include lots of text in this tag, a brief description is best.

b. Offline Marketing - do not rely solely on online marketing to promote your website.

This is especially true if this is the first launch of your website, you cannot rely on all visitors
stumbling. across your site while they are searching the internet.

More traditional forms of marketing are very useful in promoting your website. It is useful to think
about how you promote other services that you offer. There is a unique relationship between those
services and the website. In the longer term you may want the website to promote the services you
offer but before this can happen you need to spend some time promoting the website.

Advertise your web address using every piece of communication that comes from your
organisation in the same way you do with your telephone and fax numbers.
This could include business cards, letterheads, newsletters, brochures, press releases, fax
cover sheets.
Email messages - list your web address at the bottom of all email messages sent by people
within your organisation. Email messages are often forwarded widely so this will help
knowledge of your web address to travel also.
Tell the media - consider sending a formal press release about your site to the local media
(newspapers, television and radio stations). This will not only advertise the site but it will also
mean the local media is aware of the site when they are looking for information in the future.
Tell your membership. If you have a database of members or others who are interested in
your work tell them about your website (in your newsletter, in correspondence, at events etc).
Position your site with members as another way that they can keep up to date with issues and
interact with your organisation.
Know your website - make sure everyone associated with your organisation (paid and unpaid
staff, board members etc) are aware of the content of your site. They will often get asked
questions about the site and if they can answer these well this is a great way to spread the
word about the site.

IVAC - 23 - November 2003

Developing a website

vi. Maintaining Your Site

There are two main aspects to maintaining your website:

Updating content
Altering the structure of your site

Updating content is something you may wish a number of people within your organisation to be able
to do. Altering the structure of your site may be something that you only want the person who
designed the site to do.

Having a website is more like publishing a magazine that a book.

That is to say that information will need to be updated to keep users coming back to your website.
This will probably need to be done sooner than you expect. Also by adding new content will mean
that people are more likely to use the site.

Whatever the purpose of your site there is a need to perform some maintenance on the
Review the site regularly to ensure that it is up to date. If people see outdated information
they will lose trust in your site
Check all the links work
Respond to feedback you get from users
Think carefully about putting a date on pages in your web site
Highlighted updated or new content to attract users to it
Having a site that is updated regularly does have implications in terms of staff time,
software, training and possibly developers fees.
If you have used Developers be sure that part of the contract includes updating of
information. The other option is a Content Management System (CMS) that will allow you to
update and add information easily without training or additional software costs, thought this
will have an implication on development costs of the site.
A CMS will allow you to update inform on the site directly and live, the main advantage of this
is that it allows you to do this anywhere you have an Internet connection.

If your web site is not dynamic and is based around HTML there are other methods for
updating your site:
Using the original design package
Using specific updating software

Using the original design package

It is possible to use the same design package that was used for the design of your site to maintain
the information on the site.

To do this you require File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to be set up this allows you to update or create
new pages on your site. This can be done through most web site design packages, although there
are limitations with Microsoft Front Page.

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Developing a website

Using Microsoft FrontPage you are able to upload the entire site or updated pages. As your site grows
uploading the entire site will become time consuming and not something you will want to do

Where the original design package will need to be used is if you want to alter the design or structure
of the site. This may involve adding images and links to existing pages.

Using specific updating software

There is specific updating software packages that allow you to update information live on the web
site. An example of this is Macromedia Contribute

This allows you to create a log in to your website and alter pages directly, removing the need for
altering content and then uploading the page to your web server. The main advantage of this is that
it allows for quick and easy updating of your web site, there are issues to consider when using this
kind of product:

Need to make a manual back-up of your site as this will not be done automatically
As alterations are made online a dedicated connection rather than dial-up would work best
As soon as alterations are made they can be published so you need to be sure that you have
made them correctly Updating and maintaining your web site is key to its success, this will not
only make the site useful to users but also encourage them to use the web site again and

IVAC - 25 - November 2003