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Whether you have engaged a professional for the creation of your website, or decided to do it yourself, it will demand your time and attention. Before diving into the design and production of the website, it is essential to reflect on where your business is today, what your plans are, who your customers are and what is driving you to embark on this website project.
The Road Map
Starting with a business analysis will set the direction for the project and help you achieve your goals. You need to be clear on your goals in order to reach them! There are lots of way to get to your road map, but here are some pointers to get you started.
Do you want to expand your reach to a national and/or international level?
Are you going online to improve efficiencies and customer service?
Are you launching a new range of products, and looking to reach a wider audience?
Are you refining your services to focus on a specific niche market?
Who do you think your competitors are?
Take a look at their website and online communication; what do you think they do well?
How do you think you are different? What do you offer that they don’t, and vice-versa? Potential customers will be doing their research so what will make it easier for them to choose you instead of someone else in your market?
Who are your customers?
If you have been in business for some time, you would have seen changes in the market and in your customer base, and be able to form some typical user profiles. If you already have a website, take a look at your analytics and check where your traffic is coming from, what content is most popular, which calls to action are working, who is making purchases and where you seem to be losing traction. Whenever possible, make decisions based on data rather than assumptions.
User profiles and buyers personas
Understanding our audience means that you can create content that resonates with your buyers by addressing their needs, and overall help create a positive customer experience.
When you create some user profiles and buyers personas (which are fictional characters), think of them as real people, give them a name and refer to them with everything you create.
What do they do, where do they live
What do they need and want
What are their frustrations, what problems do they face
Where and how do they shop
What are their preferred channels
What is their personality type
What are your brand values
What do you stand for
How should you be perceived online
What is your key message
Addressing this will help develop your brand guidelines, from a visual point of view (i.e. colour palette, imagery, typography) as well as tone of voice.
First impressions count. What should the experience look and feel like for your audience?
Now that you are clear on your business goals, your customers and your position in the market, it will be much easier to map out your content.
Remember, your website is for your customers, it is not about you. What do your customers want? How do you address their problems? What will help them make a decision?
Yes you need to talk about your products and services but people tend to be more reactive if something speaks to them. You only have a few seconds online to grab someone’s attention so, along with the visuals, these high level messages are critical. Once you’ve captured your audience, they will start digging deeper.
You can then decide:
What do you need to show and say?
List all content that is important and relevant to your audiences.
How will you say it?
You can use different content types: image galleries, blog posts, product description, page, FAQ, map, video, pull quote, list, etc.
How will you structure it?
This is your sitemap, which will then help you work out the navigation within your site (one page will only be on a sitemap once, but there may be different pathways to this page on your website).
Out of this exercise, the functionality requirements will appear clearer. You may need to integrate functionality such as:
A membership area
At this stage of the project, you should feel much more prepared to get going with the production of your website. I would recommend that the next steps to be:
The development of wireframes
Where will you source your content?
Will you be engaging a copywriter and / or a photographer?
And the fun part: design concepts!
Emmanuelle Harrington has been a website producer for more than 20 years. For the last 6 years, her focus has been on small creative businesses, helping them find their voice and connecting with their audience by creating beautiful websites and providing personalised training. Now based in the Adelaide Hills, she has recently joined creative agency KOJO as senior digital producer. Follow her on Instagram via @studiomanusha.