The Top 10 Website planning criteria

Successful website planning is as much an art as it is a science. Talk to any web design veteran and you'll have a gay old time listening to stories about the world of web design. Talk to most website business customers and you'll hear how unhappy they are with there web designers.  We've listened to all kinds of business customers and there's one common thread.  Successful websites start with a great plan involving the customer as much or more than the design firm.  We've compiled a list of the top ten items you need to review with your web design firm:

1.  Measurable goals: tied to the bottom line is where it all starts.  Businesses design and redesign websites for one reason: to add to their profitability.  Before anyone does anything on the new exciting web design project: clear measurable goals are an absolute must.  An example might be achieving a 20% Mail chimp newsletter open rate within existing customers by the end of the fiscal year.  The other 9 items we list here should be carefully considered and added to your overall goals.

2. Online Market Analysis:  The biggest part of setting your realistic goals is about understanding your online market.  What does your ideal customer look like: age, gender, culture, geography, on-line habits, interests......What is your competition doing online?   All these typical real world marketing questions need to be understood, and constantly monitored in order to position your unique value add in your industry.  Much of this research will form the foundation of your plan.  There is an excellent blog about the tools to use at Smart Insights.

3.   Analytics: How much do you know about how well your existing website is being used by your target audience?  Google Analytics and keyword tools can tell you a great deal about what your website is dong or not doing for you.  It will also tell you where you should be improving where your keyword placement is concerned.  Your new site needs to be plugged into Google analytics, in order for you to create specific conversion goals.  Conversion goals are defined by the things you'd like your users to do on your site:  call for a quote, buy a radio.

4. Social Media:  Many organizations find that social media is where they realize there greatest value.  This is a whole sub category that must be included in your new design.  Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Youtube....all the usual suspects.  Many organizations outsource this component to specialists like hooplah.  They find it is worth there while, providing there are measurable goals attached to the campaign.  This is why you need to be involved from the beginning.

5. Reducing your current operating costs:  Most organizations think of a website redesign as another operating cost to add to the equation.  What they should be doing is thinking of how to remove costs by evaluating where the web can improve how you're doing things now.  There are oodles of ways this can be done to ultimately reduce operating costs. 

We use an Open Source tool for our ERP at Drupal Creations that will ultimately be plugged into our website when we get a moment to finish the Drupal backend run book.  This will mean all e-transactions will flow from the web to our account, while we drink our Jasmine tea, without printing a piece of paper or needing any manual intervention.  This is monumental operating cost reduction which goes straight to the bottom line. 

You really need to sit down and evaluate what you're doing today and how it might be improved through simple functionality requirements in your new website through a phased approach.  If you're in business for the long haul, it's a must.

6.  WCAG 2.0: When you're planning your new site make sure it's Accessible.  All people of all varying abilities use the web.  It would be a shame if your shiny new site was designed without all people in mind.

7.  Cost Off loading:  There are so many excellent low cost web services that offer incredible value these days that it's hard to keep track.  The more you can include these services in your plan from the outset, the less headache and cost you'll have to deal with.  Consider that Netflix uses Amazon as their host, despite all the negative press about stability.  There are many services you need to explore before you design your site.  Here's a great blog that will get you thinking in the right direction where all of this is concerned, by American Express

8.  SEO tuning:  Search Engine optimization tuning should be a part of your plan from the outset. After all, if your site isn't tuned as well as your competitor for Google, you're not going to be found as easily.  There are many technical ways to do this.  Best to go to Google for your information on how to do this.  Here's a link to the Google SEO tuning best practices guide.

9.  UX, wireframe, theme, look and feel, Information Architecture, workflow, responsiveness, roles, content, site maps....: All these items combine to create the website that the world sees on whatever device they use.  Even WCAG 2.0 above belongs here.  These all fall under the design umbrella.  Once you have established your goals, then you start thinking about these elements along with your web designer or consultant.  Not before.

Note:  It would be wise to discuss your hosting solution with your designer as well.  You need to know that it's secure, fast, and reliable.   

10.  Upkeep:  If you're going to spend this much time planning your site, you should consider how to maintain it.    Security fixes will be required.   Content will need to be updated constantly.  Training will be a key component.  Someone will need to become an expert in monitoring your site online, so you can grow with the times.  This is a very very important part of your success.  Responsibilities and routines followed by well trained individuals within your organization. 

There are many things to consider in your online project plan, but it's worth it.  Measurable goals tied to your overall business plan are how you'll move into a whole new dimension in your business.  Good luck.

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