Nearly every eTech web project begins with a beta site — a non-live, under-construction website in which you or we will build your sites pages or features. Before eTech creates your beta site, you must provide some basic content. This minimum content ensures that we’ll have something to work with as we set up the site, and you’ll have something launchable at the end of the six-week production period even if you aren’t able to produce in six weeks all of the content you’d like your site to have.
Minimum Content for New Websites and Blogs
You’ll need to have the following pieces of content ready to go before we can start any kind of work on your new site:
This is the introductory and explanatory material you might see on any website’s home page or “about” page. Its purpose is to answer the most basic questions about the site’s subject: what it is, who it’s for, where it’s located, when it’s happening, etc. (Not all of those things apply in every instance, of course.)
This is typically the name, email address, and phone number of at least one contact person, though the specifics vary depending on the site’s purpose. The purpose of this information is to give site visitors an avenue for further engagement or asking questions.
If you are creating a brand-new website, give some thought to its web address. A good URL is short, memorable, and distinct enough from other URLs to prevent confusion. We in eTech will be happy to discuss URLs with you if you would like our recommendations.
If you want a .ua.edu URL, such as program.ua.edu, you’ll need to get approval from the UA Division of Strategic Communications; complete the request form on StratComm’s website to request your desired subdomain.
Photos or Other Graphics
All websites need photos, illustrations, data visualizations, and/or other graphic elements, and the approved UA page templates require imagery of some kind. If you don’t have photos or graphics of your own, that’s OK — give some thought to visual elements that would be appropriate for your subject, and we’ll work with you to choose some that work. We can also supply campus beauty photos to fill in as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I want to include more content?
Have at it. The information listed above is just the bare minimum we need to have before we’ll open up a beta site. What you add after that is up to you (within reason).
Can’t I just put “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon” on pages? I thought the point of a beta site was to build the site from nothing.
“Under construction” pages, no matter how cleverly crafted or illustrated, make for a lousy user experience. Users find “Under Construction” and “Coming Soon” pages frustrating, even annoying. Worse, those pages often create a false sense of satisfaction for the site’s owner by making it feel like something’s been accomplished, delaying real progress even further. You’ll be better off putting up the minimum content and then working steadily to flesh out your site.
What if I don’t manage to produce more content during the six weeks, but I also don’t want to launch the site with just this minimum content?
Please keep in mind that unless you give out the URL, nobody will know your bare-bones site exists. The basic content we recommend gives anyone who does somehow stumble across your newborn site enough detail to determine whether what you’re offering is something they want, along with contact information if they want to know more. That’s better than nothing.
If you can’t continue work on the site for the foreseeable future and can’t bear the thought of launching with just the required info, we’ll shut down the beta site and you can complete our Website Project Request Form when you’re ready to start over.
What else does my site need?
While we can offer suggestions (and are happy to do so), we don’t have a checklist for every type of website. We can, however, point you toward some reliable sources of inspiration:
Browse similar websites to figure out what content might be interesting to your users. Keep a list of content and features you find interesting.
Look at our content requirements for academic departments. This website includes detailed lists of content requirements, recommendations, and anti-recommendations specific to academic department websites. You might get some ideas from those lists, particularly if the site you’re building is for an academic program.
Search for existing text. Sources might include your CV or professional website; funding proposals; your department’s website; information provided to the College, the University, and/or the Board of Trustees as part of an approval process; slide presentations; and fliers, handouts, other printed pieces, and press releases used for publicity or recruitment purposes. Copy written for any of these purposes can be edited to work for your website.
Try to think like your audience/s. While you are not your users, you might bear a more-than-passing resemblance to them in terms of interests, knowledge, and experience. Think about what information you expect to see when you go to websites like the one you’re building, and what users need to know to participate in your activities (i.e., enroll in an academic program, join your research group, attend an event, submit articles to the journal, etc.).