Category Branding, Digital, Inspiration
Starting a new web design project, even when you have someone else actually doing the design and coding for you, can be an intimidating proposition. If your company does not have an existing website you are likely wondering “Where do I start?” If you have an existing website it makes the task a bit easier – but your objective is to bring a fresh perspective, so you don’t want to rely on what you already have too much. The more you can understand about your objectives and be prepared to communicate these objectives to the web design agency building your website, the better the final product will be.
At the Loud Few, we work with many clients in St. Louis and throughout the world to meet their web design and online marketing objectives. Regardless if you are working with us, another agency, or a group within your company, here’s a checklist of areas to think about when starting a website design project:
Read on for how to prepare to discuss each of these with your interactive agency so that your new website may live up to its full potential.
For any web design project, new site or redesign, there will be a number of key objectives that have led you to embark on this journey in the first place. It may be that you have just started a new company, you’ve re-branded an existing company, or your website is just not meeting the needs of your business for a variety of reasons – be sure to understand each of these key objectives clearly.
Take this opportunity to also identify some of the secondary objectives for your website. For example, maybe your website isn’t easy enough to manage internally or does not rank well in search engines. Go into the project knowing all of the things you would like to achieve, and then work with your web design agency to prioritize based on business impact and cost.
Your website team will be ready to help you identify your objectives, but if you are interested in determining some of your objectives before starting, a great way to get ideas is to look at your competitors to see what they are doing. Talk to your staff to get a list of competitors and conduct a search on Google for direct and indirect competitors. Be sure to document your findings, because the information you collect will be helpful to your interactive team and could end up saving you money in the long run.
Finally, it’s important to understand your ideal timeline for the project – you may have an upcoming event that provides little flexibility in timeline or you may have lots of flexibility to allow the creation of advanced features. Account for what you are trying to achieve and what your company’s time investment will be in for supporting the project needs when determining an ideal timeline. For example, you may be adding eCommerce to your website, where you will sell hundreds of products online – what impact does pulling together photos and descriptions for these 500 products have on you and your staff? Once you have your ideal timeline defined, work with your agency to determine if the timeline you set is achievable based on the objectives you defined for the project.
While you might not consider content to be the most exciting aspect of designing a website, it is, in most cases, the most critical aspect of your new site because it defines what your website says about your company and what you want your website visitors to do. Your web design agency will be ready to help you define your planned content as one of the first steps in your project by creating a content outline or sitemap of the information that will be presented on your site. A typical content outline will include a list of your products and services, and then supporting content such as about us, contact us, etc. This can also be presented in the form of a sitemap– which is a visual list of planned pages in your website and how they will link together in the navigation. When working with your agency, look for opportunities to dig deeper into content areas. For example, within your products list, is there value in providing pricing charts or answers to frequently asked questions?
Once your website team has defined your content outline or sitemap, they will focus on your user goals. What are user goals? Your user goals are the actions we want your website visitors to take. Typically, a goal is a set of actions that leads to what is commonly called a “conversion”, which can be tracked. Typical website conversions include:
- user makes a purchase
- user completes a contact form
- user reads a white paper
- user watches a video
- user subscribes to an RSS feed
- user makes a comment, etc.
An Exercise to Try: Make a list of your user goals, and then take another look at your content outline or sitemap – does your content support your user goals? Your interactive team will be able to help you with this, and will probably be able to provide some creative ideas for meeting your user goals.
The last item to consider when evaluating your content is to evaluate your business’ internal ability to create new content over time. The only sustainable way to engage your audience online and improve your visibility in social media and on the search engines is to create and distribute content on a regular basis. Take a realistic look at what your company can produce (videos, white papers, articles, blog posts, etc.) and be prepared to discuss producing these assets over time with your agency.
Everything that has been defined to this point is extremely helpful in producing a quality and key-objective-focused design for your new website. To help your agency with the design of your website, you will want to provide them with all brand and creative assets that your company uses. This includes:
- photography, etc.
Sometimes, these assets are difficult to find in high-quality formats as they might not have been touched in many years. Therefore, it’s a good idea to start the process of finding these documents early on in the project.
If you are also working with your interactive agency to redesign your brand, it’s still a good idea to get them as many assets as possible so that they can understand what elements of your brand you want to retain or avoid in the new brand positioning. In the case that you are creating an entirely new brand, providing a list of preferred brand elements of both competitors and non-competitors is helpful.
In addition to your brand assets, a list of website designs by preference is very helpful to your web design team in designing your new website. In many cases, this might be a subset of the competitive research you completed – where you identify which competitor sites you like and do not like with details on why you have added them to your list. This information will help your website team make important design decisions related to the user of color, navigation style, font size and more.
Are you planning to manage your own website content once your new site is live? Take a look at the content outline or sitemap and ask yourself how often it will change, and who you planned to have change it. By working with your agency to create a list of content manageable areas and setting the expectation that you would like a user-friendly way to manage it internally, you will help your web design team better understand how to build your website.
YOU’RE WELL ON YOUR WAY…
By understanding and participating in the planning phase of your website design project, you will be taking steps to ensure that your new website can meet your business objectives and realize its full potential.
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