PlanningPlanning is the start of a successful project. What is a web site trying to accomplish and how will it pay for itself? Who will the audience be? What technical infrastructure do I need to support these goals? Wether your goal is to change the world or just make money, you need an answer to these questions.
In recent years, the media massively promoted a handful of .com companies that received huge amounts of venture capital and then went on to trade on the stock market. Many of these dreams died with the collapse of the NASDAQ bubble, yet, the vast majority of internet businesses followed an entirely different trajectory. In Under the Radar, Arnold Kling introduces the idea of netstrapping: bootstrapping an internet business, running it on a shoestring until it can demonstrate it's potential or become profitable.
An important early step is to study competing and similar sites, to ask, "What do they do right?", "What do they do wrong?" and "What can we do better?" This way, the first version of our site will be a second-, or third-generation site rather than a first-generation site. This step involves making screenshots of competing sites, hanging them on the wall, and understanding the kind of interactions that users have with those sites.
Then it's time to think about what kind of technical architecure is needed. What kind of hardware and software will we use? Although it's possible to take the site in almost any direction if you're willing to spend enough and make a heroic effort, a little bit of early thinking can make future transitions go a lot smoother.
At this stage we can make some storyboards for what the site will look like, how the interactions will work and put together a timetable for completing the project as well as a budget.