Planning a Website: 4 steps to consider in your process
Building a new website often requires more planning than you might expect. Digital Project Manager Yasmin Brown has broken down the main factors you should consider before embarking on any new web project.
So you’ve made the decision to invest in upgrading your website: your business offering, brand and company voice have all evolved since you launched your last one (10 years ago) and it’s time for a refresh. But where do you start? What are the main factors you should be taking into consideration before you begin the journey to improving your online presence?
It can be a minefield, to say the least, and it’s hard to know where to even begin and that’s where we come in. Here are just four things you should take into account before launching your fancy new site.
A good-looking website is undoubtedly important, but for it to perform well it’s vital that you think about its purpose. Who are your main audiences? What is the primary message you want your site to get across among those pretty colours and well-chosen images? What journey do you want your different audiences to take in order to become converted prospects? What are your main goals?
Scoping is arguably the most important phase of a new website build, given that any outputs produced during this phase form the basis for the entire site. Without the intention that scoping identifies, your site runs the risk of becoming a confusing and directionless brochure which will have very little impact on your business’ success.
During the scoping process, the following should be identified:
KPIs (key performance indicators) – what metrics will you use to measure the success of the site following its launch?
Audiences – who are you targeting with your new site?
Messaging – what’s the main message you want your audiences to take away from your site in order to push them further towards a conversion?
User stories -– what do your defined audiences want? What do they want to achieve?
User journeys – what will help guide your defined audiences from the beginning to the end of their journey with you? What will help highlight that yours are the products or services they should be investing in?
Competitors – what are your competitors doing well and what could they be improving? Competitor research is a vital part of the scoping process as it can provide inspiration or highlight what’s best to avoid.
By defining each of the above at such an early stage, the rest of your website will be developed with intent. Every aspect will have a purpose and your website will be well on its way to making a real positive difference to your company’s performance.
With the main purpose of the site being defined during the scoping phase, you can use this information to decide what technology you’ll need to achieve that purpose. Based on the complexity of this functionality, you’ll also be able to determine which CMS (content management system) you might want to use to fulfil it.
For most sites, you might be looking at something like Bolt or Drupal, for example, but if the site’s purpose requires more complex functionality, something bespoke might be more suitable.
At this point, it’s vital that you put together a technical specification wherein you’ll define any external tools you may require in order to fulfil the site’s purpose. Do you need LiveChat, for example, or a tool that will display dynamic maps? Some CMSs will be better suited to these tools than others, so it’s important that this is considered before a final decision is made.
It’s only when the above has been defined that web design should be considered, taking into account the strategy and required functionality with every template.
We’ve already discussed the importance of looking beyond design trends when in the design phase of your website here. Your designs should reflect your audience’s wants and needs, as well as your company’s defined brand guidelines. A smart-looking site is just a vessel for everything we’ve discovered in the previous stages of a web build.
Once you’ve delved deep into a site’s intended purpose and perfected the design to complement this purpose, it’s vital that your written content also reflects your brand’s essence.
A website is a holistic marketing tool, and so every aspect needs to align with how you want to be perceived as a brand. It’s all well and good having a site that looks beautiful and leads users down a well-defined strategic user journey, however these efforts are futile if the copy content sitting on each page isn’t well considered.
So how do you write the perfect web copy – copy that works together with the design and infrastructure to lead users down that all-important user journey?
First of all, it’s essential that you remember a website is not for you as employees of a company. Your personal opinions are only relevant if you’ve put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Forget that you know the intricacies of your business like the back of your hand. Instead, when writing copy, consider whether your prospects will understand what you’re trying to say if you use sector-specific jargon throughout your site, or whether you need to adapt your tone of voice to reflect the (potentially limited) knowledge of your audiences.
What is it that you want your audience to gain? What type of people are they? Do they have a great attention to detail? Is their attention likely to waver after just a few sentences? What level of understanding do they have of your offering? All of this must be considered before putting pen to paper – so to speak.
And finally, it’s important to keep the website design in mind, too. Copy must fit into the pre-defined spaces to maintain a pleasant user experience and ensure the site is SEO-ready. Too much and your user will get bored; too little and Google will penalise you for having ‘thin content’ pages… If your site is designed with SEO and UX in mind, simply follow the templates to optimise your copy length.
To summarise what can be a complex process, your website should be rooted in strategy, and your designs and content should always complement the underlying messaging and purpose of your site. Always consider what you want it to achieve. The prettiest, most extravagant site in the world would be all but useless without intent.
If you are looking for a web design agency or digital agency, we can help. Our audience-first approach to web design, technical know-how and imaginative implementation generate transformative results for our clients. Contact us today.