planning

Ok so you’re re-designing your existing website or planning a new one? You’re ready to ask for quotes right? Wrong! Take a step back, have a deep breath and think about the following ten points, writing down your thoughts for each point into a brief.

Investing some time in planning now will save you more time in the long run, and the finished product will look 100 times better for it. Not to mention the money you will undoubtedly save!

Before you contact us (or any other designer, although I seriously recommend contacting us) our project management team have put together our top 10 things to think about when you’re ready for a new site.

1) Define your Audience

Know your customers. Are they young? Are they male? Are they professionals? The more you know about your customers the better. You can refer back to this information every time you need to make a decision about your website, whether it is a content, design or functionality decision, you can ask the simple question “is this right for my audience?”

Remember, although you are paying for the website, you are not making it for yourself, so as difficult as it is; you need to put your likes, dislikes to one side and think about the people you are trying to engage. If your favourite colour is pink, then paint your house pink, but don’t make your brand new website aimed at middle age, male professionals pink, because they won’t thank you for it!

2) Know your Audience

What does your audience want? We defined who the audience was in the previous step, now we need to understand what that audience needs from your website. Companies often think about what they want from a site and how the site looks to them rather than thinking about the end user.

You also need to think about Trust. What do you want your site say about you? You customer is instantly thinking: Can I trust them? Are they good at what they do? They will make this decision within seconds and if the first impressions aren’t good, one back click and the search continues.

Simple as it sounds, the best way to find this information out is to ask your customers. What is the common information that is always being requested from your company? What are the questions that are asked of you every week? Your website should be answering these questions and delivering this information. Every page is going to cost you money so make sure the pages you choose are pages people want to see.

3) Define your Website’s Internal Purpose

Whilst thinking of your visitor first is important, don’t forget to consider your internal needs. Every website needs a purpose. Is it to sell products? Is it to provide information to consumers? Or is it to entertain? It could even be for a combination of purposes.

Your website should make your life easier. Are you forever sending a certain documents to clients? If so, why not make those documents available as a download online. Is your phone constantly ringing with the same questions? If so why not add an FAQ to your website and answer these questions publicly.

Another big internal question is: who will be in charge? Who will keep the site up to date or in the case of e-commerce, manage the store.

Ideally you will consider:

• Who will be working on the project, their skills, their availability and other priorities?
• What training needs could a new website result in?
• Who could affect progression? It’s very important to get buy in early and get all the content approvers onboard before the site even starts.

4) Content, Content, Content!

Getting a new site up and running is great but it’s almost useless if the content isn’t up to scratch. Start preparing your content early and manage it page by page. When you have all this in easy to understand documents, make sure it is proof read and refer back to the audience demographic you detailed earlier, will they like it? Nobody visits a website to look at a beautiful design; they visit to find something out. If after visiting they have failed to discover what they wanted, your website has failed them.

If you’re struggling with your content, many agencies include copywriting or editing as a service. This may seem like an extravagance but could save you many internal hours and improve your SEO at the same time!

Content has many forms. Deciding which format to deliver content on your website is a big question. Again, refer back to your audience decisions, if your audience are internet savvy professionals, then by all means include Videos, Podcasts and Tag Clouds. If your audience are still using Internet Explorer 5 and asked you in the past how to open a Word Document, then maybe you should stick to good old fashioned written text.

5) To Manage or Not to Manage, that is the question?

Do not confuse Content Management Systems (CMS) with website builders! A CMS should be setup to allow you to manage ‘updateable content areas’ within the website. They should not be setup to allow you to change every last image, piece of text, form and navigation element.

Trying to have total management of your website is a sure fire way of ending up with a mess. If you are not a web designer then why do you want the ability to redesign your website? Think about which areas you are realistically going to publish to within your website and which areas will change frequently, manage these areas yourself and leave everything else as it is.

This way there is less chance of anything going wrong and once the website is live it will help you focus on what is important, marketing it. Rather than becoming a full time website tinkerer for no better reason than “because I can.”

6) Be Realistic

Every project has constraints. Often this is a financial or time constraint. So be realistic. If financing a project is a problem, then try to do a little bit very well, rather than a lot on a shoe string. It is much better to start with the core functionality and content in place and add to it later.

If you look at any really successful websites they started with basic functionality and added to it (look at YouTube, Ebay and Amazon). This allows you to launch your project quicker and cheaper, whilst you work on the updated version in the background.

Also be realistic in developing your ideas. If you can’t describe the idea or you have never seen it before online then there is a fair chance it is a bad idea, or possibly even impossible. Try and find example sites that do what you are trying to achieve, you can then learn from their mistakes and hopefully develop something similar but better.

7) Set Goals

As obvious as it sounds, your new website needs a goal. How will the success of your website be judged? Are you looking to increase traffic and online enquiries? Are you looking to sell more products? Or are you looking to reduce the amount of phone calls made to your office?

By setting goals at the start of the project you give yourself a frame work in which to judge its success. You can even set targets within your goals to be more specific, so instead of just wanting to increase traffic to your website, you may stipulate that you want it to increase by 50%.

Goals may change over time and once you achieve one goal you may want to make a new goal in order to refocus your efforts.

8) Communicate It

By this stage you should have a really good idea of what you are trying to achieve and who the website is going to be aimed at. You now need to communicate this to a company that can build it, which is often harder than it sounds. This is a very important step. You don’t want to waste all your hard work by communicating all your ideas terribly and receiving a product that has missed the point because the point was never clear.

Put your brief onto paper under clear headings. Break down your brief to address purpose, audience and content so the company you engage can clearly see what you intend to put online and who you are putting it online for.

With your ideas down on paper, you save the web team time and they can get your ideas translated into a sitemap, wireframe and technical specification.

9) Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing

Consider putting a budget aside for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Marketing. This should be a longer term strategy based around, amongst other things, content generation, Pay Per Click (PPC),Social Media and link building.

You should have a good idea of how you are going to get people onto the website before you start to build it. If you are going to use PPC then do you need landing pages built into the website? If you are predominantly going to be using social Media marketing, then do you need Twitter and Facebook tightly integrated?

A “build it and they’ll come” philosophy is a quick road to disappointment.

10) Analyse

Remember to set up a Google Analytics account (other web stat options are available…. but this is free!) on the finished website. Try and marry this up with the goals you set in step 7. If you wanted to see an increase in enquiries then make sure you set an analytics ‘goal’ on your contact form so you can see what your conversion rate is of visitors making enquiries through your website.

Analytics (along with audience) should guide your decisions with regard to future decisions on your website so it is important that this is setup appropriately so you have the data you need to make informed decisions.

The key to online success is to plan the build and let your developer build the plan.

NuBlue are an award-winning design agency. Please get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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