Making the decision to develop a brand new website for your business or organization is serious business. You’re going to invest some time, energy, and money to create a new online home, so of course you want to do things the right way. At New Frame Creative, a successful project means a finished product that works hard and delivers great results for your organization.
To help get your project off on the right foot, here are a few of the questions we ask to help us get started.
1) What are your goals for your new website?
Often your new website design project is happening for a reason such as “the old one was ugly” or “we’ve never really had a website before”. These aren’t bad reasons at all, but if you’re going to go into all of the effort of creating your new site, it is worth making sure your web strategy is in line with the overall goals of your business or organization. Some of these goals might be similar to these:
- We are a non profit who relies on donations. We want to increase website traffic and improve the number and size of our online donations
- Our business relies on leads and we need our website to generate leads for us around the clock. It would be nice if it could also help us convert leads into customers.
- Our goal is to raise awareness and to communicate our mission. Our goal for our website is to better communicate our story and the “why” of our organization.
- We want to increase sales in our e-commerce store and we need a website that is designed to move website visitors into action, making it easy for them to purchase.
Whatever your goals may be, answering this question will impact every step of the design process, helping us to create a highly useful and effective website.
2) Who is your target audience?
A critical piece of information that is needed prior to working on any website design project is to determine who your target audience (or audiences) is. It is important that the design of the website and the content is structured so that your visitors will take the actions that you want them to take.
One approach to this question is to create audience personas which are representations of the types of people you have identified as your target audiences. When creating an audience persona, ask yourself the following questions about each target audience:
- What are their goals and desires? What is most important to them?
- Where do they get their news? What websites do they visit and what do they read?
- What is their typical age? Gender? Education level?
- Are your visitors technologically savvy? Are they early adopters?
- What social networks do your audiences typically use? Are they more likely to use Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn?
Think about what you want each audience persona to learn or to believe about your company or organization.
3) Do you have great content?
A well respected web standards guru named Jeffrey Zeldman is known for his statement that “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design. It’s decoration.”
That’s a fancy way of saying content comes first. Design comes second. Often, our clients will come to us with a great idea of what they want their website design to look like without having any developed content. While we can work with this and can certainly attempt to achieve any style or design feel you may want, a better approach is to come to the table with what you want to say and how you want to say it, and usually the design will fall into place based on that content.
Beyond just the words on the page, are there specific photographs you want to include? Are there videos that can help to tell your story? Are there any other elements you might like to include such as PDFs, webinars, e-books? Can we incorporate content from your social networks?
In their excellent book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die“, Chip and Dan Heath list six common features that lead to fantastic content for your website:
- Simplicity — Prioritize what ideas you want to get across. By trying to prioritize everything, nothing is a priority.
- Unexpectedness — Use surprise to grab people’s attention.
- Concreteness — Avoid speaking in abstractions.
- Credibility — Is your content believable?
- Emotions — Tap into emotion rather than just intellect.
- Stories — We get people to act on our ideas by telling stories.
4) Which keywords will help your website show up in Google search engine results?
Want your website to show up #1 on Google? This won’t happen by simple good luck or on accident… it’s going to require some research, a strategy, and then a good bit of work. More on that later, but before you begin writing your web content, it is critical that we identify those keywords that your website needs to rank for in search engine results.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience (or audiences). What keywords or phrases would they actually type into Google if they were looking for a business or an organization like yours? Avoid insider language or jargon… how would your target audience say it? Brainstorm a good list of keywords and phrases that you think would bring you the best or the “right” kind of website traffic (not necessarily the most). For example, if you’re a law firm, optimizing your website for the keyword “lawyer” is basically pointless. That keyword brings back over 400 million results. The odds of you making the front page for that search are essentially zero. But something more like “family attorneys in Knoxville, TN” will give you a much greater chance for success.
Once you have a basic keyword list, we can help with the research and an analysis of your competitors to ensure that the keywords you have chosen are the best choices.
5) What is your plan for the site after it launches?
Often it can feel like as a website project wraps up and the website launches, we are crossing the finish line. I suppose in some ways that is true, but really the launch of your new website is the starting line. Once it has launched, do you have a plan for keeping the website up-to-date? There will be things to do after the site has launched. This may include:
- Creating and posting new blog articles or other new pieces of content
- Keeping an eye on analytics to track visitors
- Adding new customer testimonials
- Building inbound links from other websites
- Continued SEO work to improve Google search results