Building blocks get you there
It can be intimidating to think about redoing your website. But chances are you’ll be smarter the second time around, and we can structure the process around several steps:
Have you looked in your website’s attic lately? You may have all kinds of stuff that never saw the light of day. Some probably just needs to go, but there may be gems in there, and you won’t know until you take stock. While you’re at it, assess the condition of your stuff: Does your text need a rewrite? Could your images be sharpened or replaced with more recent ones? How’s your structure–could you make things clearer for your users by shifting information?
Once you know the substance and condition of your website, it’s time to take a hard, long look at it and see where it succeeds in supporting your business, and where it’s just not getting the job done. Part of this process will be to create user personas and determine how your users make their way through your site (you might be surprised). But the most important task is to figure out:
- What is your company all about?
- What are your business goals?
- What is your message?
- What do you need from a website?
- How could you use your website to engage with your audience?
- If you have a site, what do you like about it? What works? What doesn’t? What do you want from a redesign?
You’re going to invest time and money in your website. What so you want to get out of it? Most people say, “More business.” But it helps if you can make that goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. For instance, “We’d like to increase our traffic by 50 percent over the next six months,” or, “We want to sell three firms in the XYZ industry on our services by this time next year.”
Strategies and tactics
Do you know the purpose of every page on your site? Does it lead your users where you want them to go–and where they need to go? How quickly can you get people to the information they have come seeking? Is your content direct and straightforward so you’re not wasting people’s time? The user’s always right.
Most people think this is about words. But words don’t matter if you don’t have a message. And a message doesn’t matter if it’s not helping your business prosper. Everything you’ve done up to this step now gets fully activated as you begin to plan what content and what kinds of content are mandated by what you now understand as your purpose, goals, and strategy.
Bells and whistles can be a lot of fun, or they can just get in the way. Using what you now know about where you’re headed and what you want–but more importantly, what your users want–you can now make informed decisions about the interactive elements of your site. What are appropriate ways for your to engage your users? What will make their lives easier? What will make yours easier?
Finally, we get to talk about colors and fonts! This is often where people start in thinking about their website–the images they want, the palette of colors, and issues like layout and logo. But if you get there too fast, it can work against your achieving your real goals. With the basic issues settled, you can move confidently into the design phase and not be afraid that someone’s personal taste is going to rule the day.
Start early, do often. The only way to truly know if you’ve met your users’ needs is to ask them. And this is easy to do, whether you call on a few clients or just do a man on the street, you’re going to pull in important information about what works on your new site and what doesn’t. Also, this can be accomplished without having your new site up.
Rubber hits the road at this stage. You’ve done your work and now it’s up to your Web developer. Sit back and relax until your site is ready for the reveal. Then you’ll have a chance to tweak to your heart’s content (more or less) before your new baby goes out into the world.
You’re done! For the moment. The thing is, a website is a living entity. The more you tweak it and add to it and find ways to link to it, the greater chance that search engines will turn to you. So it’s important that we train you in how to operate your website yourself. (Anybody with basic computer literacy can do it.)
You also need to think about how you can connect with others.
- What are the best ways for you to spread the word about you and your products or services?
- Do you have a Facebook page?
- What about professional organizations—are there any that will list you and link to your site?
- How about sending out email newsletters? Or blogging?
- Are your people on LinkedIn with links back to your site?
It also doesn’t hurt to continue user testing—once a month if your site is active (e.g., e-commerce). You’ll always learn things about your site (what you’re doing right, what else you need to do) from asking new users to take it for a spin.