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I know I need a new Web site. What do I need to consider to make the process of a changeover smooth and timely?

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Consider the following steps in launching a new Web site:

1) Identify and engage all core decision-makers at the beginning. By having a small core team, you alleviate long approval processes. Likewise, determine who will be part of the investigative process. Focus groups are important to determine who you are and what messages you're trying to relay to your constituencies. Who do you want involved in those focus groups? Consider everyone from your customers, to your board of directors, to prospects.

2) Identify internal and external resources that will aid in your relaunch. Do you have someone in-house who is capable of writing and editing content? If not, explore external resources. The same goes for photography and imagery, both initial and ongoing. Do you have a library of images to use for the site? Do you need additional graphics? Consider hiring a professional photographer to shoot some photos on-site.

3) Understand your technology. Do you have a Web server already (on-site or off) and is it up to the job? You may need to consider an alternative, so meet with the appropriate people to gain a clear understanding of your technology and its capacity.

4) Determine milestones. Is the anticipated launch of your site tied to an event? You may need to consider a phased launch.

5) Do not underestimate content. Identify what you have, what you can keep and what you need. Estimate word counts and be certain they're as accurate as possible. Set clear milestones for content development to make sure it doesn't throw off your schedule.

6) What is your budget? Is it flexible? It is often worth a larger upfront investment to make sure the site will have a long shelf life and be easily maintainable. Also, address any opportunities to save by doing work in-house. You may have the means to build your site in-house while only working with an outside firm on strategy and design.

7) Does your new site need to be integrated into an existing set of materials, either print, digital or both?

8) Have all the necessary information prepared and ready to share with the communication firm you choose to engage.

Siobhan Kelleher is director of client services and digital media at Sametz Blackstone Associates (www.sametz.com), a Boston-based strategic communications consulting firm.

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