Nearly all web site projects should begin with searching questions and a lot of listening from the web agency or web designer. It shouldn't come as a surprise that client questions like 'can you make a slider thingy on the front page?' or 'could you make everything really blue and shiny?' do not feature on this list. I've highlighted a few questions I think someone should always be asking at the beginning of any web site project. Underneath each question I've added some quick tips that help towards answering those fundamental questions.
1. "What is our content strategy?"
Understanding what all those words, images, audio and video files are actually doing is fundamental.
Do a content inventory or audit - quantitative and qualitative e.g. How much stuff do we already have and how good is it?
2. "Do we have a 'design persona'?"
What are our brand traits, what's the personality of our business and how can we get that across using content on our web site? If that's not clear to you then it certainly wont be to your customers and prospects.
Make a one page document that includes brand characteristics, voice and tone (how your brand would speak if it were a person) and some notes about visual style.
3. "Does our web site really help our prospects and customers?"
Users are more important than the opinions of a few internal stakeholders, but you must align your business goals and to the needs of your users as best you can.
Do a survey; ask your customers; make user personas describing scenarios and desired outcomes.
4. "What is our mobile optimisation strategy?"
It's a fact that your web site needs to work well on more than just a desktop computer. Tablets and Smartphones aren't going away.
Do the user research; understand the habits of your customers; start thinking with a 'Mobile First' mindset.
5. "What business goal is supported by our web site?"
If it's to generate more leads then how exactly is your web site helping you do this? What is our strategy?
Be clear about business goals; consider how to align user and business goals; think about and understand how the web site will get users to do what you want them to do.
6. "How and what are we going to measure?"
Metrics means using insight and analysis to measure performance and that means you can make decisions on content and design that are focused on outcomes and not based on guesswork.
Define clear goals for your web site - what do you mean by a 'conversion'?; agree with stakeholders what 'web site success' will look like.
7. "How are we going to maintain this site?"
Are you implementing a Content Management System? Have you considered the ongoing governance of content to keep it updated and useful?
Tips: Identify all stakeholders as early as possible; use 'page tables' - documents that clearly show the purpose of content, whose responsible for content pieces and how often that content should be updated.
Ask the difficult questions now
Of course these questions should be being asked by stakeholders at organisations who are involved in the web site, but Increasingly it's important for designers to understand how their client's business really works in order to create a web site that helps drive a business towards its goals.
This is the approach we begin with, and it's an approach that means you're more likely to see your web site as something that helps to grow your business rather than something you 'just spend money on'. If you want to know more or discuss how to get the most out of your online presence then please get in touch.