Planning on redesigning or building a new website? Most companies fail to plan properly which leads to delays and budget overruns. I’ve seen many companies over the years spend 6+ months in the development phase, mostly due to decision makers in the organization not having the same goals and objectives. One person from sales might be trying to get viewers to call them while another person in the marketing department may be trying to get the brand message front and center and customer service may be trying to get the users to find a help section. These conflicting strategies will often result in a website with too many call to action buttons which can make the site look busy and not perform very well for any strategy.
By contrast, some of the best performing websites I’ve been involved in have one primary goal or objective and all the others take a back seat. I try to explain this as if the website were a person and had to report to several people each with a different goal or objective. Have you ever been in this spot? No one ever seems to be happy with this situation and I’ve never seen it with a positive outcome.
The next biggest issues typically happen a few months after the site is launched because the company did not anticipate how they would make updates to the site, integrations to other internal systems or the impact to SEO. The adage of measure twice, cut once will save you a lot down the road.
Before you start your project, ask yourself these questions below to keep your website development focused, on schedule and within the original budget.
- What purpose will your new website serve?
Your website should be one part of a broader growth strategy. Is the Website a top of funnel tactic where you are attempting to build brand identity, is it part of a middle funnel where you are seeking to increase engagement or is it closer to the bottom of the funnel where you are attempting to capture leads and sales?
- Do you have clearly defined KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to measure success or failure?
Going back to item #1, if you don’t have a clearly defined strategy then attaching KPI’s to measure success becomes impossible. Be sure you have a specific business goal you are attempting to hit before you decide to build a new Website. Common KPI’s for a Website depending on your strategy are listed below:
- Top of funnel – How many users, unique users, page views or sessions.
- Mid funnel – Page views per session, downloads or other events which indicate engagement.
- Bottom funnel – Sales, conversions, registrations, app downloads or logins.
- What image or impression are you trying to make and will it resonate with your target audience?
If you haven’t developed your customer persona’s, now would be the time to do it. This will tell you who you are trying to reach, what message will likely resonate with them. There are many good articles on how to develop persona’s you can find with a quick Google search such as this one: https://www.quicksprout.com/customer-persona/. Pass this information along to your designer and copy editor to create a site specific to this audience.
- Which CMS platform will you use?
This decision will determine how much your ongoing costs will be, how well it will perform in search engine results and how easy it will be to integrate with your CRM and other systems. Technology requirements are always changing. Over the past 10 years we have seen the need to: make sites mobile friendly, increase page speed through compression. Some of the most common systems such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have large user bases and marketplaces for third party developers which increases the options for extensions and plugins to the latest technology and trends. Updating your website will become cheaper since there are so many people trained to service these platforms.
- Is your web developer or designer giving some kind of phased approach and timeline?
Depending on the complexity, timeline, # of templates/pages and price of your new website build, this will determine the amount of detail that goes into each phase of the process which could include: information architecture (navigation and customer UX), technical requirements, wireframes, design and development. If you have a highly technical website, strict branding guidelines, and several levels of management approval, you likely have a higher budget and a longer timeline to account for each step of the process. On the flip side, if you are a small or medium sized business with a smaller budget, your agency may take a theme approach which should get your website’s design & development 50-75% completed which will result in a shorter timeline. Whatever your case may be, you should expect some kind of project timeline in a phased approach to make sure you see eye-to-eye with your agency throughout your website build. The ultimate goal is to not end up with a completed website that you or your boss is not happy with! Make sure this is outlined in your project scope.
- How will your content be updated?
No matter your purpose or strategy, your website content should be updated regularly to include your latest offers, products, news, events, case studies, blog articles, call to action buttons and landing pages. Who is going to be responsible for writing the content and publishing it? Before hiring an agency, be sure to ask about pricing for ongoing maintenance and updates.
- Is your messaging effective? Does it resonate with your audience?
Going back to #2, if you don’t have clearly defined KPI’s, you may never know if your message is effective or not post launch. Once identified you can test several messaging tactics and measure the difference. As an example: If your purpose is to drive new leads, A/B test a few different landing pages to see which one has the highest conversion rate.
- How will you handle redirects?
When you create a new website, links to the old website need to be redirected to the new one. If you miss this step, users who may find a link to your site from an older social media post, business listing or Google search will end up with what is referred to as a 404 error page. This will not only negatively affect your user’s experience, but also hurt your search engine optimization. The process is pretty simple but varies depending on the platform you are using.
- What integrations will you need and who’s in charge of them?
Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are the most common integrations and all of the major CMS platforms will support these, but you may also need an integration into your CRM to capture incoming leads, additional third party pixels to track the effectiveness of your digital ads, online chat features or custom integrations into your POS (Point of Sale) system. Be sure your have a plan and someone responsible for all of the integrations and coordinate them with your design team.