You’ve decided you’ve got to “do something” about your website. Now what? Designing or developing a new website should not be started without some serious examination. We recommend spending some time assessing your own online efforts, talking with your best as well as your newest customers, and investigating the online efforts of your competition.
Knowing what works for you, establishing goals, and mapping a course to success will deliver a far greater return on this critical investment. It’s a good idea to get a notebook or create a file to keep a record of your answers.
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
It’s always a good idea to know more about where you’re starting. Some easy questions can be asked to help determine the status of your existing website.
- Who is your target audience or website user?
- How do customers find you on the web? Search engines? Links from other websites (organizations, industry groups, etc.)? Web-based advertising?
- Which pages receive the most traffic or views?
- How frequently do you update your website?
- What is your website’s call to action (phone call, email, purchase)?
- Do you believe your website tells “your story” well?
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?
Wayne Gretsky always said, “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” The same should be said for your website redesign goals. Start with the end in mind—don’t develop the website you need today. Develop the site you’ll need for the future.
- How will you define success for your website? An increase in traffic, an increase in online sales, a search position or ranking, or an increase in new leads?
- How do you intend to use the website? Utilize a blog? Feature upcoming events? Talk about business news?
- Who will be updating or maintaining the website?
WHAT ARE YOUR RAW MATERIALS?
Building a website is no different than any other construction project. You need lumber, nails, drywall, and countless other raw materials to build. Websites have similar material requirements—text, images, and video are just a few of them.
- Have you assessed your existing website content? Is it out of date or stale?
- Have you updated photos or videos recently? Are they still accurate or do they need to be “refreshed?”
- Are you currently using social media? Who is administering the accounts? Is news, information, or updates coordinated between the website and the social media accounts?
WHAT TOOLS WILL YOU NEED?
Do you remember how we just talked about the raw materials of a building project? The right tools are also a big help! From utilizing a content management system (CMS) to social sharing, think of how your customers or clients use your website.
- How frequently will you update the website? Building with a content management system (CMS) makes website management a world easier. Have you looked at some of the options? Protip: don’t be fooled by “free.” Even free CMSs take billable time to setup and build the site.
- Do you have an existing Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, or other website reporting platform?
- If you’re using social media, would social sharing buttons such as “Share This” be useful?
- Are you utilizing an email marketing platform such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or iContact? Do you need an email signup area?
WHO’S THE COMPETITION?
Few businesses exist without competition and knowing as much about your competitors as possible will work to your advantage. Look at who your local competitors are as well as pick out a similar environment at a distance. For example, if you run a restaurant in Baltimore, check into how thing are done in Portland, Oregon.
- Have you listed the competition and their websites? Their online strengths and weaknesses?
- Do you subscribe to competitor’s email newsletters, connect with their social media accounts, or frequently review their websites?
WHAT MAKES YOU STAND OUT?
Differentiate. No one operates in a market vacuum and knowing what separates you from the others creates an opportunity to shine. If there are 30 other drywall contractors, perhaps focus on your 15 unique wall finishes or exquisite ability to match previous work. Highlight your differences.
- Why do customers choose your business? Why do they come back?
- What are the key differences between your business or organization and the competition?
WHAT DO YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT?
When was the last time you spoke with an existing customer? Do you ask why they chose your online store or visited your website? Communicating with your customers and clients about what you’re doing right and what you should be doing gives you critical insight.
- Have you asked your best customers or clients what is most important on your existing website?
- Do you ask potential customers or clients how they found you?
- What missing content or features would be the most helpful? News or blog? Event calendar? Online catalog?
SIMPLY PUTTING A DIFFERENT DESIGN ONLINE IS A BAD IDEA
Just as painting over a weak spot in the wall won’t solve any structural problems, simply putting a different design online won’t really improve performance. Before starting out, take some extra time to map your route and choose your destination.
Assessing your business or organization is a key component to a designing a new website. A bit of research and insight will speed development, chart tangible goals, and deliver a fantastic return on this critical investment.
Signalfire can also assist in developing this needs analysis for your business or organization. Set up an appointment now to get the process started—contact us to discover how Signalfire has successfully helped other businesses or organizations like yours develop a successful website.