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In our previous blog post, The Importance of Website Planning, we talked about the questions a client might be asked during the discovery phase of a website build or redesign. These questions help the web development team select the right content management system, plan for necessary functionality and site expansion and guide the overall design and structure of the site.

Once the discovery phase has been completed and the design and development process has begun, there are a number of other items that the web development team will likely need, depending on the goals of the site and your answers to previous questions.

Where is your current site hosted?

Hosting companies are the entities that essentially “turn on the lights” of your website and make it available on the Internet. These companies offer various hosting solutions: Your site could reside on a shared server, a dedicated server, or a virtual dedicated server. The server could run a variety of  operating systems and software. Hosts sell packages based on server type and options such as bandwidth, disk space, domain options, and more. How a website is built, what it needs to do, and how much traffic it handles all go into the choice of the right host.

If you already have a host, your web development team will ask for your control panel login. This access allows them to assess your host’s resources; set up a development or testing area; create any necessary databases; and, manage files. Not all hosting plans include cpanel access. If you do not have a host, you’ll need to get one prior to any development, based on the needs uncovered during the discovery phase.

Where is your domain registered?

Your domain is your website address. Internet domains must be registered via a domain registrar. Your web host might also sell domain names or work with other companies to make it easy to register a domain when you purchase hosting.However, your domain does not necessarily have to be registered with the hosting company. Domains can vary in price and you can shop for the best annual price from a variety of registrars.

The web development team needs the registrar login if you are creating a new website or moving your site to another host in order to “point” the domain to the server where your web files are stored. 

Where is your email hosted?

Web hosts can provide email services such as POP/IMAP accounts and email aliases (or forwards). If you are moving your site to a new host, it is imperative to know if your email is provided by your existing web host or is hosted by a separate email provider such as Google Apps for Business or Microsoft Exchange.

If your email is part of your web hosting and you are moving to a new host,  the development team will need recreate any email mailboxes and aliases on the new host.

Who is your email marketing provider?

During the discovery phase, you may have talked about collecting email addresses for a newsletter. In order to add a sign-up form to your website, the development team will need either an “embed code” for the sign-up form or direct access to your account so the team can generate the code or configure any plugins that might generate the form in a content management system such as WordPress. If you are not currently using a provider, there are many options available for sending emails to your lists. 

What social media channels do you use?

Depending on the level of social media integration you intend to include on your site, the development team might need as little as your page/profile URLs for linking social media icons to your profiles. However, if you intend to create more complex integrations and feeds, administrative access will be required in order to generate the proper access credentials and authentication scripts for passing information between your site and the social media channel. 

Do you have logos (and other branding elements)?

The design of your website starts with your brand. Providing your logo, your colors, your fonts and any other elements that define your brand (anecdotal or formal) ensures that your website accurately conveys your brand to your website visitors.

Do you have any photos you can provide?

Pictures are worth…well, far more than a thousand words. We live in a visual age. Our phones have cameras; we visit and engage with social sites dedicated to photos and imagery; and we create and consume photos in amazing quantity. According to Jeff Bullas, articles with images get 94% more total views and 60% of consumers are more likely to consider a business when an image shows up in search results.

If you don’t have any photos, stock photos can be purchased. However, you risk using the same photos as your competitors and visitors might see the images as less than sincere. Additionally, if another company used the same or similar photo and created a negative experience for the visitor, the visitor might project that same experience on you. Care should be taken to see who else is using the photo (via a google search) and to make the photo your own via editing or context. 

Providing access and assets as early as possible helps to move your website project smoothly from the discovery phase to development by allowing your web team to identify any issues or shortfalls in your hosting environment, connectivity or visual library and address them in a timely manner.  This ensures that your project stays on track. Missing information can lead to delays in the project schedule and potential cost overruns if your web team has to do forensic work to find your registrar, get into your email marketing account, or move your hosting to get cpanel access.

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