This post was created for those looking to recreate an existing website but the principles apply just as easily to a new build. Whether you are looking to create a new website or recreate an existing one, this article is an excellent resource and we hope that the following list will be invaluable as you start your project.
1. Start With a Plan
A website plan is typically referred to as a requirements document; please see our blog post Modern Web Design Requirements Gathering for additional information on creating a requirements document. Start your planning with a kickoff meeting. Key stakeholders or members from different departments, like marketing and sales, are required attendees. A deeper exploration may involve customer feedback, site user interviews, or a focus group.
The purpose of this meeting and information gathering stage is to identify what the current site is doing right and wrong, identify additional functionality that would benefit visitors and set expectations for the new site.
After you have your wish list, and understand your business objectives, a plan will be created in order to implement it.
2. Determine Who is Doing the Work
Once you have an understanding of the scope and deliverables of your new website it is time to determine who will be creating it. Your choices are in-house or a competent agency.
There are three areas of expertise required for a proper website; web design and usability, programming and technology, and marketing, specifically search engine optimization.
You should only attempt to create your new website in-house if you truly have the resources to implement. Do you really want to place the online success of your business in the hands of your office manager because he or she plays around with a popular website creation software? We advise against on-the-job training by your staff, as fun and cost effective as it may appear at first, for such an important undertaking.
A digital agency is equipped to handle all three disciplines and is your best choice, if you value a successful website launch. Design, programming, content writing, and search engine optimization must work together as a team.
3. Evaluate and Define Technology Solutions
There are many technology considerations to take into account when building a website, especially with constant advances in technology. Your requirements document will help in defining what technologies best address your needs.
Common technology considerations include; programming languages, licensing, hosting, a content management system, scalability, agility, integration, and synergy. Customization and load times must also be taken into account.
When so many technology solutions appear to share the same features, functions, and benefits, it may not be readily apparent which solutions will be best suited. You also shouldn’t confuse IT expertise with programming expertise, find someone with experience in-line with your needs and evaluate and define your technology solutions up-front.
4. Emphasize User Experience
A great user experience (UX) is more than design; it is how a person feels when interfacing with your site. It encompasses usability, designing for UX, the human interaction, user interface (UI), and the emotional interaction that may not be as easily measured.
It doesn’t matter what you think is awesome, or for that matter, what your designer thinks is awesome. Every website should be built around your users.
Consistency allows you to build a positive user experience through your brand. Content or brand style guides are used to guide designers and writers with developing a design and creating content, while ensuring that the brand aligns with your goals.
A great user experience includes accommodating your user on whatever device they choose to browse with. This is referred to as making your website responsive, or mobile, and is a must for a modern website.
5. Provide Value
Your content must be concise, well written, and have an audience who would find value in it. Value based content helps you to articulate your products or services, express your value and brand, rank in search engines, and most importantly, convert website visitors into customers.
You must continually ask yourself, questions that a visitor would ask himself or herself; what does this company do? Do they offer what I am looking for? What do I need to trust this company or assist with my buying decision? Why should I buy from them versus a competitor?
Potential buyers rarely visit just one website. They compare prices, service, and features. Understanding this will help you to provide value and demonstrate why you are different and should be chosen over others.
6. Include Calls-to-Action (CTA’s)
CTA’s are extremely beneficial but often overlooked. They are the most important component to converting website visitors into leads.
What would it take you to give a website your contact information? Typically you want to provide something in exchange for this information. A strong CTA is an easy to understand and compelling statement, instructing your visitors to take an action you desire.
Don’t forget about your social sharing buttons, like Facebook and Twitter, they are an easy way for visitors to become more involved.
Well-written and designed CTA’s can increase your conversions significantly.
7. Optimize for Users First and Search Engines Second
Gone are the days of writing keyword packed content to rank well on the search engines. Great content will always win out; show visitors that you are a subject matter expert and give them a reason to come back.
Your content should be useful and engaging as well as relevant to what your visitor is searching for. Search engines will recognize your efforts and SEO will payoff.
Write content people want to share on social networks. Search engines read those social signals and it reinforces the quality of your domain.
Link building is a time consuming and difficult task, so why not make it easier by focusing your content on your site users, and let them link to you when they find it worthwhile? Always give others a reason to link back to you. Search engines will see the increase in links to your domain and your rankings will benefit.
8. Promote Your Website
If no one knows you exist, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Once you have a quality website, you must promote it. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the most cost effective and efficient method of getting your website discovered. Your digital strategy should focus on using SEO in conjunction with additional Internet marketing tactics.
Your website domain name must be included in all traditional marketing or touch points with potential customers. Don’t overlook anything; email signatures, social sites, ads, trade show booths, mailers, newsletters, brochures, press releases, business cards, etc.
Advertising may be another option depending on your industry. Traditional advertising, whether it be print, radio, or television must drive traffic to your website. Online advertising such as pay-per-click, display advertising, and mobile advertising are all potential options. Advantages of online advertising include; targeting, coverage, control, affordability, speed, a better ROI, engagement, branding, and the ability to easily track and measure conversions.
Whatever methods you implement, even if you just stick to SEO, make sure you track your results and measure conversions.
9. Track Metrics
Make sure to install your tracking software and benchmark your site before it goes live. You’ll want to track metrics like sessions, page views, and visitor acquisition, Once your website has been up for some time, typically a handful of months, you will have a better idea of where visitors are coming from and how they arrived.
For more information on data tracking, view our blog post Using Google Analytics to Track Key Performance Indicators.
10. Don’t Stop!
A launched website does not mean a completed website. The best converting sites are continually tested, reviewed and measured. Reviewing your analytics should become part of your routine, a way to keep a pulse on your online presence and performance.
Over time you will ad new content or even delete content that isn’t converting, all in an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of your website.
Multivariate, split testing, or A/B testing are excellent ways to test your websites ability to convert. A/B testing creates two different versions of a webpage and divides the traffic between them, while multivariate testing compares elements within a page and their effectiveness. For example, changing a button size or color to see if conversions increase.
There is no end to what you can test on your website. The end goal is to take a site that may be working well and make it work amazingly well. Your improvements and continual tweaking may take a serious time commitment but it will pay off in site visitors, an optimized user experience, and most importantly, an increase in conversions.