What to Expect When You Are Expecting…a Website!

[This is the first of a three part series that explains the website development process in excruciating detail.  The good news, you will be a pro by the time you’ve made it through all three trimesters.  Pun intended. You can read part two in this series here.]

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to add a website to your marketing family. So now what? Where do you start? Who do you contact? Who can tell you how much this will cost? How long will it take?

Who can help you start this daunting process?

The Internet and Web Strategy team can help answer these and many other questions. We will guide you through the entire process of what to expect when you are expecting a website. Just like you, we want a robust, healthy website with everyone getting lots of sleep.

Step 1: Planning

Generate specific goals you want to accomplish with the website. What are the short- and long-term business goals; what is the message you want to project; what do you want your audience to learn, understand or do as a result of visiting your site? Think about potential features and functionality you want included on the site, as this will affect cost.

Step 2: Submit Proposal Request (one week response time)

Please visit www.hopkinsmedicine.org/webrequest and submit a request for proposal, including as many details as possible. We will review your request and most likely respond by scheduling a call with one or two people on your team who will be able to answer questions relevant to creating an accurate proposal.

Step 3: Proposal Creation (two weeks*)

The Web team will take these findings and generate a proposal for your review and signature. The complexity of the project will dictate the time frame, but it can take up to two weeks to generate a proposal. Typically during this phase, there is additional discovery by the production and/or content teams, and this step is pertinent to creating an accurate cost.

*If the project is rather complex, additional discovery time may be required, but this will be communicated.

Step 4: Project Kick-Off (generally two to four weeks after signed proposal)

The proposal is submitted to the stakeholder for review and signature. Once approved, the project manager (PM) or project lead will schedule a formal kick-off meeting. Anyone who is a stakeholder and/or will be involved in final decisions and approvals on content and design should attend. From the Web team, attendees will most likely represent the departments of:

  • Information Architecture
  • Content
  • Production
  • Project Management

The kick-off meeting is a collaborative effort with both sides asking questions and sharing information. These discussions can include the website’s goals, a Q&A session with the stakeholders by the Web team, production/technical questions, explanations of the various Web team members’ roles and what they might need from your team, an introduction to our Web-based project management system and next steps. The kick-off meeting generally lasts an hour to an hour and a half.

After the kick-off meeting, the PM will add your team to our online project management software, known as Basecamp. Basecamp, as outlined in the proposal and discussed during the kick-off, is the portal into which all project documentation is organized and all communication between the teams is tracked. This is also where files are posted for review and the production timeline can be found.

Within 24 to 48 hours of the kick-off meeting, the project manager will post the notes in Basecamp to include next steps for both sides. Additionally, the PM will provide a timeline for your review. This is the production schedule that outlines the timeframe for each phase as well as the projected launch date of your site. The timeline is followed by the Web team, and changes are communicated to you with an explanation. It is important to note that your team’s deliverables are essential to maintaining the schedule, and missed deadlines can impact the final launch date and cost.

Training: This is a good time to determine whether your department is going to assign someone to be the site editor for the new website. The site editor is tasked with making minor changes to the site such as posting event dates, revising phone numbers, small content adjustments and adding PDF documents as necessary. The alternative to assigning a site editor is to email requests to the Web center, and we will make changes at a rate of $95 per hour, charged to your SAP number.

A site editor is required to attend at least the basic SiteExecutive training course (there are intermediate and advanced classes, which are not always necessary). There is a cost to attend the classes so please include that fee in your department budget. The information about when classes are offered and the cost can be found on our Web center page at http://restricted.hopkinsmedicine.org/webcenter/training/site_executive_training.html

Step 5: Information Architecture (two to three weeks after kick-off)

Information Architecture (IA) is the document that indicates the size of your site and where pages will live within the structure. It is akin to the frame of a house showing where rooms will be, from the roof down to the ground. The IA also shows how the user navigates from one part of the site to another. The IA needs to be approved and finalized before next steps may be started. Changes to the IA after approval may result in incremental time and costs and will likely delay the project.

[Stay tuned for the scintillating second posting of “What to Expect.” It will answer many questions you have been saving for the web team!]