On Your Marks: 5 Questions to Start Your Web Design Right
By Kimberly McCormick, Bayshore Solutions Director of Corporate Marketing
You have decided to build – or redesign – a new website. Great choice! Now, what are the best steps to get started?
There are a LOT of key decisions to make from the get-go that will materially affect the direction of your web design project and will ultimately affect the performance of your finished website. It is essential that you have these items defined, clarified and understood by all the constituents of your project– well before a designer picks up a stylus, or a programmer touches a keyboard.
Here is a quick Checklist of the items and answers you need in hand to guide you through a successful website design project.
1. What is the Purpose of Your Website?
Seems like a really simple question, right? But you may find that the different people involved with your company’s website project have different answers. Your CEO may say, “To increase sales.” Your HR team: “To position our firm as the company of choice.” Your Designer: “To show how innovative and awesome we are.” And as a marketer, you may be of the opinion that it should “Generate leads, earn great search visibility, and act as a primary content marketing vehicle.”
While some mix of “All of the above” may be reality, it is important to clearly define and communicate your website’s “Need-to-be” primary purpose. It is a good idea to also establish relative priority for the “Nice-to-be” purposes, but crystal-clarity on the website’s prime purpose is extremely useful as a beacon for decision-making, resource allocation, and even conflict resolution at any subsequent stage in the web design project.
2 Who is Involved?
It is important to clarify who the constituents in your organization’s website project are. Too many and you likely end up with a “Franken-site” created by committee, six months over deadline, and way over budget. Too few and you risk missing critical functionality and integration that short-changes your business results.
Here are key roles you need to identify in the strategy and implementation of the Project:
- The Website Project Owner: Direction decisions and approvals happen here and knowledge of all aspects of the project’s process reside in this role. (Huge tip – This should rarely, if ever, be the CEO. However, the project owner will undoubtedly consult with the C-suite and incorporate executive vision into the strategic plan). For typical business websites this tends to be a person from the marketing department. If you’re reading this for tips on how to start your web design project, chances are this role is you.
- Executive Influencers: CEO, CFO, VP of Sales VP of HR, etc. There may be key decision makers in this group for broader website concerns, i.e.: financial approval from the CEO/CFO on the chosen integrated e-commerce platform.
- Technical Consult Roles: IT & Hosting experts, Digital Marketing & SEO Experts, Social Media and Content experts, Technology Integration experts, etc.
- Your Production Team: Designer, Developers, Content Creators, SEO & Digital Marketers, etc.
- Your Finished Website Internal (Staff) Users: website administrators, content managers & publishers, etc.
As you identify and understand the degree of engagement each role has in your web design process, you can best organize tailored communication throughout the project to achieve the trust, buy-in, and support you need – without undue involvement, interruption, or micro-management. Here is an example of such a communication hierarchy:
You may notice that one group not mentioned here is your end website user. They are extremely important, and as such, item #5 below is devoted entirely to them.
3. What are Your Website Goals?
You will want to establish and agree with key constituents on both the business goals and operational goals for your website – and what metrics you will use to measure them.
Business goals can include:
- Increased customer engagement and conversion, measured by
- time on site, pages per session increased conversion rate, decreased bounce rate, and actual website leads generated
- Streamlined customer purchase process with new e-commerce platform, measured by
- cart abandonment rate, transaction quantity and amounts, etc.
Operational goals might include:
- Ease of updating content, measured by
- how often or quickly content is updated or added on the site
- content workflows and security measures that minimize mistakes from being publicly viewed
- Seamless integration with back-end systems or other technology, measured by
- data-throughput time and touches required (or lack of)
4. What are Your Website’s Functional Requirements?
This includes items like:
- Technical integrations – connection to your organization’s CRM, Marketing Automation, financial transactions processing, product and inventory systems, specific industry back-end systems, shipping, data feed needs, etc.
- Security – Secure Server License (SSL), Password Protected areas, etc.
- Specific industry compliance requirements.
- SEO-Prepared for search engine visibility – as well as considerations like tracking and analytics that facilitate ongoing website digital marketing.
- Customization and interactivity – chat functionality, build-your-own-product, virtual try-it-on, gaming, reviews, etc.
- Video – 360-degree tours, instruction and demonstration, etc.
- And of great importance, the hosting infrastructure to support your website and the traffic you hope to attract through it.
5 . Who is Your Website For?
A clear understanding of your customer personas are a pivotal factor in answering this question, as well as in piloting numerous design, production, and content direction throughout the project – and even well after the new website is launched.
Your customer personas will greatly help with essential choices on
- Your website “voice” and feel
- Needed sections and initial sitemap of content your website needs to present
- Possibly some design, color choices and layout aspects
Your customer personas will also guide the design and creation of the user experience (UX) throughout your website (which is increasingly the most “weighty” consideration for success with search engines like Google and Bing – and ultimately the real humans in your target audience who interact with your site and convert into customers).
UX encompasses all aspects of:
- What is presented to the website visitor
- How it is presented
- How they find the information they are seeking on your site
- How they move around in it
- How easy it is for them to complete what they came there for (which ideally is a completion of becoming a lead or purchasing something through the website).
With the answers to these questions in hand, you are ready to assess the expertise you need to properly create the website that will be your brand’s face to the world, and your competitive presence online. When selecting an in-house team or professional digital partner and throughout your web design project, this information will serve as a steady guide.
To help you get started, we’ve prepared a convenient Sample Website Design RFP and Guide that you can download here.