Digital Deep Dive - A Mini-Bible for Clients on the Website Development Process
Said no Marketing Manager, ever. But if you wanted a quick list of what you can do to set up failure, here are some quick tips.
- Engage an agency that is not a good fit for your business.
- Focus on specific functional needs, in spite of business needs or priorities.
- Have a complicated decision-making process in your company that slows or contradicts past decisions.
- Do not properly think through the information needs of your users.
- Choose the cheapest quote, because it’s the cheapest quote.
Preparation is essential for a successful website development project. This guide will take you through what you need to do to make sure you hit a home run for your company, not an own goal.
It’s a project
First of all, if you are getting a website put together on a fixed budget, then the agency needs to work on a fixed scope. A very common frustration with agencies is their obsession with the scope. Agencies use the scope as a way to manage their costs, but almost more importantly for you – to keep the project on schedule and on track.
- Manages time
- Clearly understands what is going to be delivered
- Manages cost and resource allocation
- Clearly understands what is going to be delivered
It is critical to do the thinking up front to define a solution with fixed outcomes. Be specific about what you need, and be very specific about important things. Find good examples of how other people have done what you want to do. This saves the time of having to write in detail what you want.
- Spend time on needs detailing needs which differ to normal patterns.
- Identify and consult with key stake holders within your business. Make sure you talk to them about their needs. This includes sales, IT, marketing, etc.
Protecting yourself - avoiding change
A very serious problem occurs when a website happens when the devised project is created but just doesn’t work with the client base, or just turns out to be unsuitable. Frustration is very common when a client expects something to be done, and the agency disagrees that what the client wants needs to be done. To the agency, this can be like building a house, only to say near the completion of the project that you wish to raise the roof by 1 meter.
Talk to your agency about best practices when building your website. This can save you later with ideas that haven't come off correctly.
A bad thing to tell your agency is "we need a new website."
What you want to be telling them is how your website creates value for your business.
- Generating leads
- Building credibility in the eyes of new customers
- Providing easy to access information, providing a conveniencing or unburdening staff of simple information requests
1. More Traffic
Getting more traffic is almost always a good thing. But, after a point, the becomes what quality of candidate are you actually bringing to the site?
2. Increase Conversion
Improving the performance of the website. Looking at whether the website has the right kind of information and calls to action to push people in the direction that is needed.
3. Old Age
A large majority of clients will come to us with the problem of. However, this is ultimately a subset of conversion.
Note: It is rare these days to find an established business that does not have a website.
Know what your business needs
To answer this question you need to ask – what commercial value does the website have to your business?
An important thing to consider is that for many businesses the website is often the first and most visible part of your business. In the online world, because of the ease of access to many competitors – users have a very low tolerance for difficult to use websites as your competitors are not down the road, or on the other side of town - they are a very easy click away.
Some key questions:
- Are you a leader or follower in the digital space?
- Is there an opportunity to be (or to be seen) a leader?
- What phase of development is your company? Growth or consolidation?
What’s the business objective?
If we understand the business need, the next is to identify what we are going to do or fix. This really needs to be specific, as it will drive the direction of the final solution. It should be a consideration at every phase of the website development.
Increasing website traffic
If your business objective is simply "drive more website traffic", then it may be worth considering whether you actually need a new website. Building a new website does not automatically create website traffic. It's a platform, once that you must support with your own traditional and digital marketing initiatives.
Benchmarking what you want
Benchmarking is one of the easiest ways to communicate your expectation of the complexity and quality of the solution you are looking for. You want to fund benchmarks for both the type of website and functionality, but also the look and feel of your site (which ideally isn’t similar to a competitor).
Saying that you want a website, is similar to saying "I want to organise an event."
This could be as simple as having some mates over to watch football, through to organising a wedding, or a 30,000 participant fun run. Obviously, there are reasonable expectations, if you are an SME, it is unlikely you are going to spend a million dollars on a website.
How to benchmark:
- Where do you want to sit compared to your competitors? Are you a leader online? Middle of the pack, or a follower?
- A great place to start is to look at each of your competitors, and find out what is good, what is bad, and what is missing?
Clueless about budget?
If you are very budget driven but don’t have any idea what it costs to do what you want, this is a great way to quickly get a ballpark from an agency. If it looks like the company you have spoken to is way out of your price range, it is highly likely they will know someone. Ask for a recommendation.
Note: You may go to an agency requesting a number of modifications to an existing site. It is very common in this instance for agencies to recommend starting the website from scratch. Website's don't work like houses. The problem is that not everyone builds a house in the same way. Unlike a house, where you would almost never do this.
A good tip is to look at using a system that, so worst case, you can move to another supplier to get your basic maintenance needs met.
Really important functionality
There are many things your site could do, but there are some things that your site must have, to ensure you have a manageable solution, that provides value, and give you an insight to its performance.
- Your website should be managed through a CMS.
- You must make sure you have Google Analytics installed.
- You must make it clear what your value proposition is
- You need to have prominent calls to action
There are many flavours of Content Management Systems. The main thing is that you need to have something.
Ideally, one they have not custom-made. Unless you have very custom needs. This is not the case 99% of the time for most information based sites.
Google Analytics is the defacto means of tracking your website traffic online. There are other products in existence, but Google is the most sophisticated free product on the market.
- Always make sure you have a budget in mind. You don’t need to tell people what your budget is, but have a list of indicative websites at the benchmark you are looking for.
- Be decisive. Make sure the decision making process for your team.
- Know what is important, and what is not.
- Treat the project like a project, develop a solution up front.