Successful Web Development: 10 Key Elements

There are many elements that are key to successful web development. There is no arguing that elements of talent such as graphic design, writing, and technical expertise are important. In the long run, however, it is the elements that are not directly associated with web development that determine a website's success. For the beginner, it is important to have a broader view of success

** Learn

Read. Learn. Devour all that is available. Learn about HTML, CSS, Bandwidth, Navigation, Writing, Promotion, Statistics, etc. There is so much to learn it is easy to be overwhelmed. Don't worry about the volume of information. Start in an area of weakness or interest and learn more about it. Take baby steps. Most importantly, no matter how much is learned, never consider oneself an expert. Such self-nominating status tends to impede learning.

** Purpose

What is the purpose of the website? Vincent Flander's over at Web Pages That Suck states that a web designer should always tell themselves the following:

1. The only reason my web site exists is to solve my customers' problems.

2. What problems does the page I'm looking at solve?

Sound advice.

** Goals

Set reasonable goals for the web development effort. Don't try to implement all ideas all at once. Create timelines. Build the basics first, and then fill it out later. Set content writing goals (a page a week, a blog post a day, etc.). Set link building goals.

** Organization

Organization goes hand in hand with setting goals. It doesn't matter what the organization method is, as long as it is, well, organized. This means that post-it notes plastered around the edge of a monitor is NOT an organizational method. A simple notebook with simple to-do lists suffices.

** Create a "living" site

A "living" site is one that is updated on a regular basis. Some pages may be updated daily, some monthly, some quarterly, and some yearly. Users can tell old information from new information. Many sites include an "Updated on" timestamp on the bottom of a page. Even if the information is absolutely correct, if the date is over two years old users tend to click quickly to the next item. A recently updated date (even if no changes were made) helps users know the webmaster has not left the site to die.

** Maintain

This pertains not only to content, which is covered in the point above, but to the overall design and infrastructure of the site. Are the images optimized? Is the design outdated? Are there portions of the site that are not used? Are there portions of the site that could be more user friendly? Are there broken links on the site?

** Backup

Especially if the website is an income producing, livelihood supporting website, make sure it is backed up. At the very least, back it up on a weekly basis. It seems simple, but many a webmaster has let years of work go down the drain because there was not a backup.

** Track

Who visits the website? How many people visit the website? Do they stay and browse the website? Do they click on the right links? Do they buy from the website? The only way to answer these questions is to track a web site. Tracking will inform web design in ways never thought of when the site was originally developed.

** Promote

Tell others about the website. Don't wait until the search engines rank the site well. The more people told, the more people that will come and visit.

** Perseverance

Tired of writing content? Tired of figuring out that quirky Mozilla/IE CSS problem? Tired of link building? Tired of trying to build web traffic? If anything will determine success it is the level of perseverance a web designer brings to the task. Those who persevere and attempt to overcome obstacles will be the successful ones. They may not be the best designers or writers, nor the best marketers or promoters, but they will be the ones constantly learning, changing and implementing new things in order to make their websites a success.

Paul Stefanski develops a site about recommended web design tools. It serves as a web resource for web design beginners.

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