From Idea to Website: The Startup Guide for non techy entrepreneurs

Posted on: April 6th, 2010 by admin

Imagine this conversation happened 5 years ago:

John: Mark, come here I need to share something with you. Something so crazy, it might just work.

Mark: Ok, I’m listening

John: Here it is. Lets create a website where we allow users to post on a website through what they are doing in 140 characters or less.

Mark: Ohhhh k, I’m still listening…

John: I’m done, that’s it.

Mark: That’s it?

John: That’s it.

Mark: I can’t create a website, and you can’t create a website – how can we create thisidea into a live website without breaking our wallet?

Lets just imagine for one minute that twitter was really created like this and that Mark genuinely thought the idea was a good one. The last sentence in their conversation is the most important. How can we create this idea into a live website?

**NOTE: This post assumes that the idea has been thought out, market research has been done, and they have funding to create the first release of the website. The advantage of being a web developer is their ability to take an idea and actually CREATE it themselves. This is beyond huge. Their initial funding is basically their time, their laptop & an internet connection. Everyone else in the world does not have that luxury. Without this skillset, for their idea to become a reality it takes one of two things: 1) Someone who is willing to partner with you to do the development or 2)The cash to hire someone to make it for you. In this case, Mark & John are not developers and have the funds to hire a developer and designer to create it**

The journey they are about to take to JUST create a website that fits their original idea is a wild one. I have broken down what the process SHOULD be for them and any of the non-techy entrepreneurs.

Here is the proper abbreviated “methodology” that your web app should follow.

  1. Document Requirements – Yes, requirements. This will MAKE or BREAK your site. Take it seriously. Here are some sample requirements for twitter.
    • Each post can not contain more than 140 characters
    • User A may only direct message User B only if User B is following User A
    • Connections between users are only one way. User A can follow B, however User B does not have to follow User A. ( Imagine if this requirement was that both users needed agreement to see each others “tweets”. Would twitter be the same? Not a chance. )
  2. Functional Design – Have your designer/developer create a detailed design on how the site will operate.
    • Should include a Design Mockup, Site Map and possibly wireframe
    • Should include the front end AND the administrative part of it (The Back-End)
    • Spend a LOT of time on this. This document should be signed-off before ANY development begins. The development of the site is where you will start spending real money. The beautiful part about this is that you can STOP the site, before it even begins!!!
    • Here are two samples that I created personally. One is for an unsuccessful startup I created a few years ago called I Skipped Class and another is for a mobile app that has yet to be developed called Rate My Taxi
    • (Larger development projects should also require a technical specification)
  3. Development – If the proper steps were done, the final version of the developed site should be exactly as expected. Once you have reached this stage, this is where you will find out if your hard work has paid off.
  4. Testing – Test, Test, Test. Does the site meet the original requirements? Larger developments should require a requirements traceability matrix to ensure that all requirements were met and none were missed.
  5. Launch – For release1.0 of the site this is usually a soft launch where you request beta testers.

With that said, lets make some things clear:

  1. Someone who develops the website is not the same person who designs thewebsite. Yes, believe it or not these are usually two different people. A designer makes the website look pretty, the developer makes the website work.
  2. Your developer is JUST a developer. They enable your idea to become a reality. If the founders are not the developers, the founders need to take ownership of the design of the website in the early stages. Otherwise it becomes a general idea that you allowed your developer to interpret and create on their own.
  3. First focus on how the site operates, and THEN focus on aesthetics. People tend to give more critique on aesthetics which means nothing in terms of bringing more people to your site. Look at There is NO design at all, but it works wonderfully and the concept is simple. The website has gone viral without a single graphic on the website (besides the webcam videos of course)

Overall, even a simple idea like twitter takes months and even years to design properly and develop per the requirements.

One last note, this blog post is how to create a website starting from the original idea. It guarantees that the SITE will be complete, but it does NOT guarantee the site will successful. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post!

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