When you are thinking of developing a new website design or revamping your existing web site there are some key issues to be considered upfront.
- Understand your online target audience.
- Prepare a detailed webdesign brief on what you need.
- Choose the right web design partner.
- Structure the “site map”. Develop a content plan.
- Allocate an internal project Champion.
- Insist on an Open Source Content Management System.
Understand your Online Target Audience
This is the starting point for your web design project. Start with what your customer needs and expects from your business online. Your website may simply be an online brochure for your business. Alternatively your customers may want to buy your products & services online. This has major implications for your whole business not just your website. Where are your customers located physically and what are they searching for online.
Prepare a Brief
You need to prepare a documented outline brief for getting costed proposals from web development companies. What do you need? If you don’t get proposals based on your own brief then you can’t really compare the quotes on a like for like basis. Research your market online. Check out the competition both domestically and globally to see what they are doing. The brief should cover:
- Who you are trying to reach and where are they located
- Your design likes and dislikes
- Site Map Structure (pages required)
- Content & Imagery Required
- Online Shop details (if relevant)
- Additional functionality – events / calendars / blog / forms etc.
- Hosting and Website Domain Name arrangements
- Upfront Onsite search engine optimisation / Tagging
- Digital marketing strategy after go live.
Choosing the right Web Design Partner
You probably will not understand all the intricacies of website design. This is the job of your web development company. Choosing the right partner is probably the single most important decision in the whole process. Do your research. What websites have they designed and developed in your industry or similar industries. Ask your customers, suppliers and contacts if they can recommend a supplier. Create a short list of 3 and ask them to prepare a quote based on your brief . Don’t be lead by rewards or fancy graphics etc: be guided by what people tell you.
Site Map & Content Plan
You need to structure your site map upfront as part of the initial brief. The site map or wireframe is all the top level and subsequent level pages you require to best showcase your business online.Visit competitor websites and sites you like in related industries and click on their site map link. You will start to get a feel for what you need. Once the site map is agreed this will inform you what content you will need as each page on the site map represents a page of content you will need to develop. Develop a short plan for developing that content. Who will do it and / or where will the content come from. Internal brochures , power point presentations will all contribute. You may decide to outsource the content to your web design partner as part of the brief.
CONTENT IS KING and will probably always rule online. Don’t underestimate the resource time involved in developing your website content. Equally do resource it properly as quality, unique, easy to digest, engaging and relevant content is probably the single most important aspect in the subsequent performance of your website online. Ideally you want to open a conversation with customers online and quality content is the way to start that process.
Internal Project Champion
One of the most common mistakes we see with a website design project is the ‘committee approach’. Client companies will involve a number of internal stakeholders in meetings with the web designer / developer. They will invariably express different opinions on designs, requirements, site maps just about everything. The web designer comes away from these meetings with a range of different views on what is needed to move the project forward. At the outset assign a ‘project champion’. The project champion is responsible for delivery of the web development project. That person will co-ordinate internally and present a single, sometimes ‘consensus’ view on what is required to the web designer.
Open Source Content Management System (CMS)
We often get companies coming to us and requesting that we take on their ‘web hosting’ or ‘we want you to redesign my site’. Perhaps a lovers tiff has prompted this move. Often these company websites’ are developed using software owned by their current web company. In these cases it is often very difficult and sometimes impossible to easily migrate their site away from their existing supplier.
Unless you need a highly customized website always insist that your web company use Open Source Software online. This is particularly true of your website Content Management System (CMS). A good CMS allows you to easily manage, update and change your website without the involvement of a technical web developer. Systems like WordPress and Joomla are examples of open source CMS. We find that the majority of our client requirements can be met by implementing these for their website design project.
These systems are also well supported, well proven and functionally rich. They are constantly being enhanced by the open source community of web developers. Free plugins are available for all kinds of useful functions and features from shopping carts, galleries, event modules etc.