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The Top 10 Things To Consider When (re)Designing Your Website
Winter 2006

Over the past year, more and more of our clients have been asking us about their websites.  Due to increasing demand for content management, emphasis on the importance of blogging and e-mail marketing, as well as image makeovers, more and more companies are either giving their site a facelift or starting from scratch. 

 

Companies need to educate themselves before undertaking a web project.  We’ve developed a list of 10 items to help you on your path to web greatness. 

 

  1. Who is my audience and what do they want to know about?  When beginning your website project, start with what’s most important -  your clients and prospects.  Many times copmanies become tangled in what they want or feeling the need to “puke” on their site about how great they are.  While some of this may be important to convey, everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me”.  If you gear everything from the visitor’s perspective, your site will succeed. 
  2. What is the purpose of the site?  If it is to generate sales, your site will be different than if the goal is to position your company as experts in your field.  If you plan to use e-mail marketing in tandem with your site, knowing this in the planning phase will make everything proceed as it should. The more information you can give your web designer, the better your site will be in the first revision.    
  3. What image do you want the site to convey?  A close relative of #2, websites are all about image.  And that image must be consistent.  Pick a theme and pictures that reflect your firm honestly and stick with it.  If you don’t love the way your site looks today, you’re not going to love it more tomorrow.  Your collateral material should also reflect the same image.  As long as it’s a good image, your clients and prospects won’t mind having it burned into their brains. 
  4. What do you like or hate about your competitors’  or clients’ websites?  Spend some time looking around at what else is out there. It will become crystal clear what constitutes good or bad design.  Try navigating 4 or 5 sites as if you were a prospective client considering using that company.  If the website leaves you cold or you continually see the same, overused mission statements or terminology, chances are you won’t make the same mistakes on your firm’s site. 
  5. Copywriting.  One thing most often overlooked in launching a new website is the copy.  Before you set foot into the design piece, you should determine who will be writing the copy – as well as what kind of tone it will have.  Copy is so very important but that being said, less is more with the web.  We have reigned in a large amount of business owners who want to tell the entire world everything they know.  The web is not the place for that.  A dissertation is.  Use discretion with your words and pretend that each word costs money to use. 
  6. Who will manage and maintain the site, and how?  A few years ago, everyone had a web geek on retainer to anxiously await site updates from your firm.  Now, more and more companies are taking back control of their site.  If your designer isn’t building your site with content management in mind, it may be time to find a new designer.  Content management is very user-friendly now and a variety of low-cost options exist.  If you are familiar with editing and writing in programs such as Microsoft Word, you will have no trouble adapting to content management for your site.  True liberation = control over your site.   
  7. Scalability.  This is especially important for sites on a budget.  Make sure your site is built with growth in mind.  The design should allow for additional pages as needed. 
  8. Data collection.  If a purpose of your site is to collect information, it may be important to have a database-driven website.  In laymen’s terms, a “static” website is one that has no database.  If you plan to publish a lot of articles, allow clients to register for seminars, or post a lot of dynamic content on your site, a database may be necessary.  By outlining your desires for your site upfront, you will avoid any last minute pricing scares. 
  9. Planning.  Perhaps the most overlooked and undervalued piece of a website.  By scheduling content and maintenance, you will ensure your website is always up-to-date, fresh, and interesting.  This is especially crucial for launching an e-mail marketing campaign.  Without a calendar and accountability, the site updates will fall to the bottom of your very long to-do list. 
  10. Search Engine Optimization.  At the risk of angering SEO vendors, a great place to start with SEO is to simply keep your site updated.  The more updates you do, and the more valuable the information your site has on it, the higher your site will rise in search rankings.  Additionally, encouraging your clients or community partners to link to your site will help increase your rank.  As your site and company grows, SEO will become more affordable. 

 

Obviously, any guideline must be general by its very nature.  However, spending some time and thought on these 10 steps will put you ahead of the game and will set your website apart from your competitors.  For additional reading on this fascinating topic, we highly recommend:

 

Top 10 Web Design Mistakes of 2005 by Jakob Neilsen 

Attack of the Zombie Copy by Erin Kissane 

How to Guide for E-mail Marketing by Right Angle Consulting

 

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