Part 1 – Research and Definition
Want to know how to start your web project? Here are a few tips.
Getting started on a web project can be daunting for business owners and executives who feel overwhelmed by the technical jargon and the “Geek speak” of their IT staff or marketing firm.
Here are a few things to think about before meeting with a firm or team on developing or revising your site. Write up the results of this list so that you can provide them to your web development team. You will have a big jump on the project.
1. Set Clear Goals
Make a list of the things you want to accomplish from your website. You may want to drive phone calls to your sales staff, have potential clients contact you, sell product from the site, show visitors where they can buy your product in retail stores, market your new product to potential vendors, or create a branded experience for your hotel or location. The possibilities are the same as your general business goals. Just think about how those business goals should be accomplished using the site.
Set 3-5 major goals and prioritize them.
2. Assess your site
When assessing the effectiveness of your own site, think about the sites you go to in your daily business or personal life and what they do well or what annoys you.
Some things to think about:
- Is there a clear call to action that meets your business goals?
- Does the branding match your other materials like brochures or business cards?
- Does the site load fast? Can you see it well on your smartphone?
- Is the navigation clear and visible or do you have to “hunt and peck” to find what you need?
- List the top pages on your site by number of visitors (see your web analytics or ask your web developers to set analytics for the first few weeks of the project)
Make a document of your assessment so that you can provide this to your marketing or web development team.
3. Assess the competition
Using the same criteria as your own site, make a list of competitors and review their sites for the same things.
Be careful to keep the idea in mind that you are looking at those sites as a customer and think about being busy. Don’t get caught up in the idea of “keeping up with the Jones'” … just because your competitor has a big Flash screen on their homepage, doesn’t mean it is effective. It may mean their customers are annoyed immediately and they leave for your site.
Create the list of competitors, their website addresses, and the things you like and do not like. Be ready to defend why you like those things by saying how it meets one of the major goals you set in Step 1.
4. Define Your Audience
Before developing your new site, designers and copywriters need to understand who buys/needs your product or service.
List the top 3-5 audiences for your site with demographics.
For example, if you sell a product, you may have consumers, vendors, and investors. As a university, you would have students, teachers, alumni, and the community.
Don’t just list their job title, list demographics for them. Whether your audience is male or female affects the color choices and the ways they navigate your site. Age can effect the size of fonts that are chosen. How they access your site, laptop or smartphone, can determine which is more important to layout choices. Those demographics also drive what the copy needs to say to them.
5. Write up a description of your company
- Describe the company culture, describe the look of the office or warehouse or other physical space, state your company values, describe your typical employee
- Explain any complex processes or services in a way that a new employee or new client would understand
This will go a long way in reducing the need for long, time-consuming meetings with your marketing or web development team.
7. Create a site outline
If you have some idea of what types of information you want to provide your customers, write up a content outline.
Your outline does not have to be perfect or even in logical order. Investors want financials, purchasers what assurances that your site is safe and secure, law firm clients want to see their lawyer and see the list of credentials, retailers want to know you have capacity to manufacture what they order. You get the idea.
Capture a list of the information you feel is important to provide to potential audiences.
6. Set Your Budget
I have to say I am amazed when a company comes to the table for a website and says the budget is “as cheap as we can do it.”
The majority of your new customers research you on the web. It is probably the single most important sales tool behind word of mouth. If you have sales of $800,000 a year, why would you spend $1000 on your website? Remember the adage, you get what you pay for? Your website IS your business. Spend money on it accordingly.
Don’t waste money on things that do not directly meet your business goals. Will a Flash homepage animation win you business? Maybe if you are movie editor or a video game developer or an experience destination. Will it win you customers if you are an accounting firm? Doubtful. It won’t show on most smartphones and it will frustrate visitors. A frustrated visitor is never going to be a customer.
So set a basic budget, talk to web companies and ask them what you can get for that budget.
Now you really know what you are getting for the money.