Do you look like the possessed girl in the movie The Exorcist when you think about your new Web site project?

If that's you, never fear, after 13 years of Web site projects large and small, I'm going to break it down for you.

1. Planning – This is the part where you figure out what you want. If you don't know how to do this, read on! Check out this post on 10 Vital things to give your Web Designer and this one on Web Site Costs to get you started. Your goal should be to create a Site Map and a set of Wireframes (an outline of what will be on each page).

2. Design – Will you build it yourself, buy a template or hire a designer? Take a look at my 3-hour Web Site Plan and see the section on "build it or buy it." Then get yourself a design or a designer.

3. Copywriting – This is often an afterthought but if you can afford it it shouldn't be. Good copy can really make or break a Web site - being the difference between being convincing and being boring.

4. Construction – Your Web site will typically be built in one of three ways: plain HTML, Flash, or a Content Management Tool (see below). Which one depends on your needs. Also part of the construction process is testing and optimizing your site for search engines " SEO."

5. Marketing – How will you generate traffic to your site? What techniques will you use, who will implement them and how often?

6. Maintenance – Make sure you know how your Web site is going to be updated. Who will do it and what tools will they need? Many a small business has fallen into the trap of launching a beautiful site that they can't update, by a designer who has disappeared. Don't let that be you! Strongly consider using a Content Management Tool like Joomla! or Drupal so that you can have control over updating the text and images without relying on your designer/developer.

That covers the 6 essential elements of building and maintaining a Web site. Stay tuned for our next topic – Web Site Cost Breakdown! where I'll help you figure out what your project should cost.

In the meantime, tell me how you've fared with any of these steps. Have you used a Content Management Tool? Which one?