Thank goodness we don’t question having a website anymore!
Until a few years ago, we did.
Today, we hop online and hand over our query to Mr. Google and get thousands of search results. If you’re like me, skimming through the list and clicking on a few links gets you the store location, or the opening hours, or the products on special and what not.
Most of us browse business websites before setting our foot in-store. Some of us already enjoy shopping from the comfort of our homes on our smart devices. From shoes to shirts to even groceries, my husband has mastered the art of online shopping.
I am still learning though.
By 2020, it is predicted that 1 in 10 items will be bought online. This means businesses need websites that deliver exceptional customer service. This is only possible if your website is well designed and does what the visitor expects it to do…i.e. deliver on its promise.
From finance to architecture to technology, I have launched a good few websites. Here’s a simple 7-step process that has made my team and the clients happy:
Step I: Seek
The key purpose of this discovery phase is to learn about the business: what it stands for, its vision and needs. Ask questions about the target audience - their preferences, age, education and so on. This will help you create the right tone of voice and useful content for them.
Do your own research on the industry and competitors. Spend quality time figuring out the unique selling proposition of the business. In other words, find out why customers love the business and keep coming back for more.
I highly recommend studying the existing website to uncover hidden gems. This also helps in creating a thorough scope of work. I call it the 'website audit'.
Step II: Shape
Pull together the different pieces by developing a proposal for the website. This will outline the why, what and how of things. This may involve talking to different suppliers that will be involved in the process. Such as the designers, developers, SEO experts and web hosting service providers. As you go along gathering information, start a strategy document as follows:
- Define the key business challenges or customer pain points that the website will aim to resolve? I call it the ‘diagnosis’.
- Select the approach to overcome the obstacles along the way. This can be the ‘guiding policy’ to shape the strategy of your website project.
- List a set of consistent and coordinated actions to achieve project milestones. You may consider this as a helicopter view of a detailed plan that will follow in the next step.
It is very important that one person in the team keeps the strategy document up-to-date at all times. So that everyone can refer to it as a single source of agreed information.
Step III: Sort
Now, develop a detailed work plan based on the findings above. Your 'build' plan must provide complete details on things like:
- Information Architecture: sitemap, wireframes, page types etc.
- Content requirements: copy (text), images, audio, video
- Content migration: Do you need to move the old website content to the new platform? If yes, who’s going to do what?
- SEO requirements: metadata, image titles, image description
Note: Watch this space for my upcoming blog (Part II of this series) for details on the above-mentioned ‘building blocks’.
If you choose to go with multiple suppliers for your website project, request each one for a work plan. Your project coordinator can then piece together different plans into a coherent whole.
Step IV: Design
Using the sitemap and page types, let your designers do the magic work of making your site look good and on brand. Wireframing can simplify communication if the user interfaces are complex.
Some designers prefer simple wireframes. Others are happy with a chat and a few samples of what you like or don't. Ask your designer for their preference. Know the number of design revisions allocated. Offer feedback early in the process to align expectations.
Step V: Develop
Approved designs with clear instructions can help reduce development time manifold.
... And save you a whole lot of money!
Test your developed web pages early on to ensure they function as you would expect them to. Then, upload some of the content and request a few of your loyal customers to have a play with your site. This is 'user testing'.
Step VI: Deploy
Now, it's time to go live with your website. To share your hard work on the world wide web (www). And to seek feedback from everyone: clients, visitors, partners, and the team.
Refine your website design and content as you go along. Never let it sink into atrophy!
Step VII: Deliver
Continue to amaze your target audience with useful content, delivered periodically. It is also important to plan and offer a variety of content formats. For example, e-books, infographics, white papers, video tutorials etc.
Develop a content plan to stay in touch with your client base.
Or let us help you do it.