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From Conception to Launch: Tips and Tricks for a Successful Website Build


Presented at the Vacation Rental Managers Association annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona on October 22, 2012 by Alisa Holmes, Sales Consultant of Visual Data Systems. As a veteran in the field of …

Presented at the Vacation Rental Managers Association annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona on October 22, 2012 by Alisa Holmes, Sales Consultant of Visual Data Systems. As a veteran in the field of web development I have found it is often times, confusing, overwhelming and frustrating to put together an effective website especially in the Vacation Rental Management realm. In order to get started there is a lot of prep work, that if done right can help prepare you for the proposal process, build and eventual maintenance of a site.

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  • 1. FROM CONCEPTION TO LAUNCHImportant Tips For a Successful Vacation Rental Website Build
  • 2. ALISA HOLMES15 Years of Experience in Website Development  Webmaster  Support Manager  Project Manager  Sales Consultant 6+ Years in the Vacation Rental Industry
  • 3. Confused By… Verbiage Contract Scopes Terms & Conditions
  • 4. Overwhelmed By… Interviewing Developers Comparing Proposals
  • 5. Unprepared for… Providing proper deliverables The amount of engagement required by their own internal resource Unforeseen changes needed to the original scope of work
  • 6. Recipe for… Bad Partnerships Higher Development Costs A Sub-Par Final Product
  • 7. How do we avoid this?Strategic Planning  Important things to consider upfrontUnderstanding the Process  What does this look like?  Some important things to consider during itLooking Forward  What to expect & consider after the site launches
  • 8. Strategic PlanningEducate Yourself  Learn relevant terminology and how it relates to your website and the decision making processAudit Your Existing Efforts  Determine what you have vs. what you needThe Proposal Process  Outline what you are looking for so developers can provide you with feedback, a concise scopes of work, and fair estimates
  • 9. Educate Yourself
  • 10. 3 Terms You Must KnowPMS(Property Management Software)  Software application used to automate functions like guest bookings and much moreAPI(Application Programming Interface)  Feed of information generated by software components to communicate with each otherCMS(Content Management System)  A computer program that allows publishing, editing, and modifying content on a website from a central location
  • 11. ABCs of Online MarketingSEMSearch Engine MarketingSEOSearch Engine OptimizationPPCPay-Per-ClickSMMSocial Media Marketing
  • 12. Static Pages vsDynamic Pages
  • 13. Static Web Page Delivered to the user exactly as stored Displays the same information for all users
  • 14. Dynamic Web Page =1&Avail=20120908&Stay=7&NR=13&msg= Generated at the time of access by a user Change as a result of interaction with the user
  • 15. Template Sites vsCustom Sites
  • 16. Template SitesPros Shorter Build Time Less ExpensiveCons Limited Branding Options Customizations May Not Be Available Competition May Have a Similar Site May Limit SEO Options
  • 17. Custom SitesPros Unique to your branding SEO opportunities abundant Customizations can be implemented specific to your business model.Cons Higher upfront cost Longer development time Maintenance
  • 18. Mobile Website vsResponsive Website
  • 19. Mobile Websites  2 separate websites    Allows you to customize the experience based on the device a visitor is usingResponsive Websites  1 website   All content lives under “one roof”  Allows users to have the same experience no matter what device they are using by adjusting the layout or content to fit the browser window.
  • 20. Site ArchitectureThe blue print for the navigation scheme of your website
  • 21. Site Architecture Responsible for how users move through your site If structured properly makes it easy to find what users are looking for Helps emphasize shorter paths to key areas directing users to accomplish the goals of your site
  • 22. Do an Internal Audit
  • 23. Property Management Software The biggest piece of the VRM website puzzle Are you taking full advantage of it? Does it provide an API to 3rd party vendors?
  • 24. Ask Yourself…What is and is not currently working for me? Functionality  Working  Needs improvement  Missing
  • 25. Consistent complaints or compliments?  Design  Structure  FunctionalityWhat is the site traffic like?  How do they get there?  How long do they stay?  Where do they go?
  • 26.  What is your visibility throughout the search engines? How is it affecting internal resources?
  • 27. What Do I Need?Functionality  Booking Engine  Lead Capture  Other Helpful Tools & WidgetsDesign  Custom or Template
  • 28. Mobile Strategy  How do we cater to mobile users?  Goals of your site  What works best for YOUR clientele  What works best for your budgetSEM  Strategy for implementation  How do you protect your current search visibility?  Who will handle this?  Internal Resource or 3rd Party Consultant
  • 29. Room to Grow  What changes or additions do your foresee in the future?  Larger inventory  New types of units  New content  Changing industry trendsInternal Resource  The build  Updates & maintenance
  • 30. Content!!!! What content do I need? How will my site architecture support it? Who will write it? Who will optimize it? Who will update it after launch? Don’t copy from other sites!
  • 31. The Proposal ProcessWhat’s the best approach?Write an RFP!
  • 32. Request For ProposalA document that invites developers to submit a proposal on aspecific project.  Supports effective communication  Speeds up the decision process  Establishes a common understanding of the outcome  Lower the bottom line Hire a consultant or write it yourself?
  • 33. RFPCompany Information  Location  Current site  Inventory size and description  What sets you apart from your competition?Budget  Be upfront  Helps developer write a proposal
  • 34. RFPProject Details Purpose/goal of the site Design expectations Property Management Software details Booking engine expectations  Unit types (houses/condos)  Restrictions  Unique business rules Other functionality you expect to have on the site
  • 35. RFPTime Frame  Turn around of requested proposal  Internal decision  Project time frameExamples  Design  FunctionalityContact Info  Two points of contact
  • 36. Compare Proposals & Choose a DeveloperLowest costFastest time frameHighest quality
  • 37. Comparing Cost Up front cost? Payment terms? Recurring/monthly fees?  Support Fixed or an estimate? Itemized or packaged? Cost of future updates & functionality?
  • 38. 3rd Party Fees Property Management Software Secure certificates Domain registration Other ancillary services
  • 39. Considering Time Frame Estimates or guarantee How does the developer plan to stick to it? Impact to your business
  • 40. Consider Quality
  • 41. Scope of Work  Is the scope of work (SOW) completely reflective of your expectations?Requirements  Does the proposal deliver exactly what you need in terms of functional requirements?
  • 42. Experience  Does the developer have experience building websites for other VRM companies with the same requirements you have provided?Longevity  How long has the developer been in business?
  • 43. Adaptability  Is the developer up-to-date with industry standards?References  What do their current clients say about them?Relationship  Do you communicate well with them?  Do you trust them?
  • 44. Now What? Know the project team and their roles Understand the process and expectations  Helps expedites the project time frame  Cuts down on unexpected expenditures
  • 45. Project Team Your Internal Resource Developer’s Team  Sales Consultant  Project Manager  Designer  Programmer Marketing Consultant
  • 46. The Build…1. Team Meeting2. Design Concept3. Design Comps4. Design revisions5. Design Approval6. Build & Programming7. Developer Testing8. Client Preview9. Client Testing10. Revisions11. Client Preview12. Client Approval13. Launch14. Testing
  • 47. Meeting DeliverablesThe building blocks needed to complete each phase of theproject You  Images  Content  Review/Approvals Developer  Comps  Website
  • 48. Meeting DeliverablesDictates the flow of the projectRequires effective communication between your internal resource and the developer’s project manager  What are they?  When they are needed?  How they should be delivered?Be specific!
  • 49. Effective Design Why is design important?  Tells your story  Suggests internal order  Distinguishes you from your competition Important build blocks  Logo/branding  Photography Usability first! Communicate your vision effectively
  • 50. Beyond the Scope of WorkWork not included in the original estimate
  • 51. Budget Breakers You change your mind Request services that the developer had not originally proposed  Additional pages  New functionality  Customizations to proposed functionality You have not provided the proper deliverables You ask to expedite development
  • 52. Budget BreakersDon’t Pay For… Additional hours spent by developer because the original scope wasn’t met Developer delivered a product that didn’t work Tools were added to the site that weren’t requested
  • 53. Looking Forward
  • 54. Upgrades & Additions What’s available? Who do I contact? Updates from your developer
  • 55. Support Contact Process Cost
  • 56. Analytics Measure short-term and long-term successes Knowing the behavior of your visitors helps determineusability Helps to evaluate profitability of 3rd party partnerships
  • 57. Evolving Technology New 3rd party products New browsers New devices
  • 58. Redesign? Technology has surpassed your siteThe website no longer matches your existingbranding The design looks outdated compared to yourcompetitors
  • 59. Alisa 410-964-8665 ext. 234