Building a new website for your business isn’t necessarily rocket science, but there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Rather than trying to plug your brand into a template, the process should involve a series of questions surrounding your goals for your online presence and for your business in general.
The answers to these questions can help guide the layout, messaging and functionality of your site. They can also impact the cost, depending on how simple or complex the site may be.
1. Which discipline will guide my website strategy?
Many companies hire an agency to develop their website, but not all agencies are created equal. Website design agencies usually work more on the technical side, focusing almost exclusively on search engine optimization (SEO), navigation, security, etc. A branding or marketing agency that builds websites, on the other hand, will dive into your brand positioning, brand story, imagery, copywriting and perhaps multimedia. If you’re developing your website in-house, be sure to get input from both the technical and marketing teams.
2. Do I need a complete redesign?
In a previous article, I talked about the difference between a rebrand and a brand extension. In the same vein, building a new website from scratch isn’t the only option for those who already have a website. Sometimes, a fresh look with a few new wrinkles will suffice. For example, if your target market has changed notably, you might update your messaging accordingly. If your messaging is hitting the mark but the site itself is clunky or confusing, you might again make a few changes rather than embark on an entire overhaul.
A redesign is more appropriate if:
• You’ve updated your brand.
• Your bounce rate is too high and conversions too low.
• Your competitors’ sites have visibly outpaced yours.
• You’ve pivoted your core offerings.
• Technology has passed you by.
• Customer surveys reveal your site is difficult to navigate.
3. Have user habits changed dramatically?
The answer to this question is almost always yes, but it’s such an important consideration that it needs to be discussed. Besides the obvious emergence of mobile-friendly websites, user habits and preferences are changing the way websites are built and browsed.
For instance, today’s tendency is to scroll rather than point and click. Video and high-resolution imagery are both more prevalent now that bandwidth has increased tenfold. Social media integration is smoother than it used to be. Just like fashion, web design is changing all the time. Be sure your site stays in style.
4. What do I want visitors to do?
It’s not uncommon for a small or midsize business to spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on a new website. How can you feel better about your investment? By defining the optimal outcome.
Do you want people to buy right then and there on your site? Is it valuable to you to collect their email addresses? Or do you simply want them to leave the site remembering your name in a positive light? The possibilities are vast, which is why it’s important to hone your focus and pave a clear path to a desired action.
5. How can I help users help themselves?
This is where the discussion comes full circle. You began by asking yourself whether your website served the purpose of providing information or delivering an experience. It’s clear now, through the questions that followed, that no website nowadays should be built without the human element of user-friendliness.
A website is essentially a self-serve representation of your brand. That means you must step outside of your own ideas and agendas and strategize over the ways you can cater to visitors. How will you take them from one page to the next? What will you do to make their lives easier in the process? What value are you giving them?
Before turning your site live, run it by some “disaffected users” who have had no input into its design or content. Let them scroll through the site, and monitor their actions. This user experience audit is the last step in your new design. While we might refer to it as “rebuilding” your site, if you do it right, the more accurate term is “redesigning.”
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