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Setting Milestones

Once you've crafted a mission statement, it's time to make a list of milestones or goals for your site. Hitting milestones is a critical piece of project management and, thankfully, there are several great online tools to help you manage any project - and hit those milestones. Free project management tools include Zoho and No Kahuna, but there are dozens of others, too. And premium services like Basecamp can provide even more functionality. Milestones eventually need dates with them, but at this point, it's more important to list them.

Divide your list into the things you need to accomplish by the time you launch your site, and longer-term goals that can be completed after the site has begun to attract users.

As an example, imagine a collection of many different tasks that you want to accomplish in order to launch. But you wouldn't want to wait until all are finished, so you group them in smaller chunks and give them priorities so the most important stuff gets done first. A milestone list might look like this:

Milestone 1: Web site launch

  1. A content management system that matches your needs.
  2. 15 articles.
  3. A newsletter signup box.
  4. A photo gallery.
  5. A discussion board.
  6. A calendar of events.
  7. Traffic-tracking system.

Milestone 2: Add basic functionality

  1. A way to host advertising.
  2. Site search capability.
  3. Printer-friendly Web pages.
  4. Set up online polls.
  5. Install a feedback system.
  6. Add an RSS feed to deliver updates to interested subscribers.

Milestone 3: Add additional features

  1. Add a live chat module.
  2. Produce an online media kit.
  3. Link discussion board registration to newsletter signups.
  4. Offer online billing.
  5. Set up a Web store.
  6. Create a version of your Web site that will work on PDAs and portable devices.
  7. Automatically highlight terms linked to an online glossary.

Make sure your long-term list is accessible to everyone who works on the site and is easy to edit. Online project management tools make this a snap. If you feel particularly bold, share the list with your site's readers and let them suggest what additional features they'd like to see. Capture suggestions and keep track of the relative frequency of requests.

It's important to make sure that your milestones serve your mission. You can pour a lot of effort and time into improving a site, but if you drift away from your core mission, you'll confuse, or lose, your audience.

> READ NEXT ARTICLE: Identify Your Audience