We all want a great website, visually we usually know what we want as well as knowing what we want to say. Getting from conception to production, however, is the most underestimated part of the process.
Don’t be fooled, most people completely underestimate the amount of work required to plan and create their new website.
There are a lot of things that we don’t consider before we approach a developer and this can mean not only hold ups with the development of your website but can also lead to more points at which it will be held up by things that could have been finalised prior to production.
A useful way of avoiding most of the issues that arise is to create a planning checklist for everything that is required.
Defining your Goals
Funnily enough, this step is missed or looked at incorrectly by most people planning a new website, and this can make your vision not make sense to prospective clients.
You want a visitor to know who you are, what you do and how they can interact with minimal easy once they land on your website.
Let’s take a look what some goals might be:
- I want to sell products to consumers
- I want to sell products to resellers
- I want to sell professional services, subscriptions or Software as a Service (SaaS)
- I want to provide educational or information resources to my clients
- I want to be a blogger / authority on a topic / field
- I want to be actively supporting clients post sales via the website and social media
- I want to build a community around my brand
These are only some of the basic goals and by far not all, your goals may be one of the above or four.
Once you define your goals, it becomes clear how you need to focus your website, and what the key elements are that must be included.
This helps when working with your web developer, marketers and PR agencies. Allowing everyone involved too be working on the same paper.
Defining your target audience
To see why this is important let's have a look at what aspects it will affect.
- The Design and Stylization – the look and feel.
- The Content – how it is written and presented
- The User Interface (UI) - how the user navigates the site
- The User Experience (UX) – the way in which the user experiences your site
So it affects pretty much everything that makes up the design, functionality and usability of your content. In a marketing context, knowing your audience or target market will determine how to best meet your potential customer's needs. Allowing them to move from a visitor through to a client. It will also give us the ability to meet our client's needs, develop relatable content, and give us a better idea of how we are going to communicate with them and on what platforms would best be suited for this (social media).
Here is a few question to help you define your audience;
- When you decided to sell your product, who did you plan to sell it to?
- When you made your idea, who did you think it would help?
- What problems does your service or product solve for the client?
- How does your product or service help your target audience?
- What drives your target audience to make buying decisions?
- What are the best ways to reach your target audience?
- Where is your target audience “hanging out” online?
- Why am I uniquely placed to solve the problem?
- What advantage do you offer your customers?
- How is your business different from your competitors, why should they choose you?
These question will build up a better picture of your target audience, you can go further than this and I would recommend you do. Building a Buyer Persona, these are amazing a capturing your ideal customer so you can focus all your efforts in the right direction. I have written several blogs on this subject with helpful hints and useful templates to download. Check out How to Create a Buyers Persona & Buyers Persona – what they are and why we need them.
Define & Research your competition
Part of the pre-work in building your website should be spent researching what's already out there.
Look at which ones are working well and which ones are falling short of the mark. Understanding who your competitors are and how they convey their brand is very important, not only online but offline as well.
You may be surprised that your competition has elements to their marketing that you didn’t think of, you may find that they don’t convey the products well. You can learn a lot about what to do, and what not to do. Compare what they might be offering to what you're offering, are you competitive? A lot can be learnt from just a bit of simple research on the net.
I’m not suggesting stealing design elements or content off of your competitors! This is not a good idea on many levels.
For one your brand should have its own look and feel, and your content should be unique or you will get hammered on SEO for duplicate content.
Define the functionality your website will need
You may not be aware but there are a lot of additional needs you may need to run your website in the way your envisioning. Most non-web developers can think that a website is a package that comes with all this built in functionality. This is not the reality lets take a look at all the possibilities that you may need to consider.
Functionality you might need on or for your website:
- Blog Roll
- Image galleries
- Email marketing
- Landing Pages
- Marketing Automation Software
- Custom API (integration with software you use)
- Additional Email addresses & Hosting
- Domain Hosting
- Website Hosting
- CMS – Content Management System
- CRM – Customer Relationship Manager
- Ecommerce shopping cart
- Payment gateway
- This list continues….
If you're not sure what you need, then it might be worth sitting down with your web developer and asking them what you need to achieve your goals. They will give you options on what technologies, software or customer application are available to build what you need.
Defining your design & style
Firstly, if you're looking to sell a product or service you should look into UX (user experience) design and inbound methodology before coming up with a design. Web design can be a very subjective, as can graphic design.
But what you need in your design and style is not just a pretty face, you need something that will also guide the user seamlessly through your sight from point A to point C without them getting confused.
Things that need to be considered;
- Demographics of your target market?
- Make sure your company design or brand design is compatible with your web design
- Build a responsive website, make it accessible to desktop, tablets and mobiles.
- Create a brief that includes your websites defined goals and your target market, or even better a Buyers Persona. These help designs focus on the right design and feel.
- Photography – yes you can get the designers to buy stock art. But you may need to hire a photographer to do product shoots, location shoots or specific content related shoots.
The best thing to do is to find a web developer that has a strong skill set in inbound methodology and UX design concepts. You can always hire a graphic designer to work with a UX designer to make sure you are getting the best of both worlds.
Define your budget
This is something people don’t think about enough. They think they can get a WordPress site for free or at a small cost, then a bit of money customising it with some plugins and hosting and you’re on your way.
The above is possible, but it's not a business grade website. It will be un-secure, buggy, won't work anywhere near where you envisioned. It won't make you more appealing over your competitors.
Speak to your web developer, they will guide you in how much each element will be, depending on the functionality.
Also consider in your budget, social media management, internet marketing and SEO.
These are all ongoing cost and need to be addressed if you want your site to be competitive in today's marketplace.
Define Workload & Responsibilities
This is something people don’t always consider. Who is responsible for the workload?
- A digital agency that can work autonomously on all aspects of your project?
- How involved will you be in the day to day builds?
- Do you have to get approval from stakeholders, project managers?
- Will you be using multiple different resources to build your site, here are a few examples of the types of developers you will need to work with.
- Web Designer
- Graphic Designer
- UI/UX Designers
- Web Developer / Programs
- Content Writers / Copy Writers /Editors
- Marketers /PR agency
You may be very hands on and only need the help of one or a few of the above but you need to be realistic in who’s responsibility it is, to pass on the UX designers feedback to the graphic designer and then get the web developer.
Define your ongoing workload
So your website is up and looking beautiful and lovely, everyone’s happy. So we are done, right?
Let’s have a look at a few things to consider before you walk away.
Who’s updating the content from this point? To remain viable with the search engines your site must be google friendly yes, but it also needs regular updated unique content.
- New Images
- New Blog posts
- Social media posting
- Ongoing development of marketing (landing pages / Adwords campaigns)
- SEO is an ongoing service you need to maintain.
Are you going to be doing this yourself? How often will your site require it?
All these thigs need to be considered. You may continue using your digital agency to manage a lot of this, you may outsource it to writers and designers. But you should consider what will be needed to run your website, not just build it.