By Oz Whitesell
Business Director, MKJ Creative
Since we’re in the business of designing websites, we’re constantly talking to clients who are overwhelmed at the task of needing to bring their site up-to-date. We work with doctors, lawyers, investors and business owners who understandably don’t have knowledge of the best practices for the web or the time to learn it on their own. If that’s you, lay the anxiety aside and don’t put the project off any longer – here are three steps to planning for your latest and greatest website.
1. Determine who will use the website
Pull your team together to brainstorm who will use your new site. Consider how your team will use it internally. How will new content be created, reviewed and published? Will employee roles change or expand as a result of the new site? Next, determine who will use your website externally. Who are your clients, partners and vendors that will visit it? Ask yourself how they each will use the site differently. What value can you offer these visitors? Great websites take all stakeholders into consideration.
2. Determine needed features
Thinking about all of the elements of a website and determining which are right for your company can be a challenging process, especially if you’re not aware of all the features to include. Here are some of the most common features today that you might wish to include:
Take the time to consider if you will need new photos for your site. How will you want the photos to be displayed? Will you want the photos to rotate or remain static? Will photos need to be added on an ongoing basis?
Telling your story through video can certainly be impactful if your time and budget allow. If you decide to include a video, determine where you will host the video and if it will be shared on YouTube or Vimeo. Will the video be embedded on the site or will it need to be downloadable?
Will your organization require a contact form, order form or sign-up form? How will you want the collected data to be delivered to you? Will you want the information to be automatically added to a customer relationship management system (CRM) or simply emailed to you?
· E-Commerce (aka Shopping Carts)
Does your business sell merchandise or tickets? If you wish to have the ability to sell products online, you’ll want to express this desire to your web designer in the preliminary discussions. The ability to collect money online requires a third-party payment gateway and demands additional research.
Don’t overlook the importance of embedding a map on your site’s contact page. Google maps are often recommended for the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefits.
Will your company blog? If you’ve decided to blog, make sure you have the time and expertise to publish content on a regular basis. There’s no point to blogging if you can’t do it consistently.
Likewise, there are many benefits to engaging socially, but don’t jump in without a thorough social media strategy complete with goals and the team to support the initiatives.
· Special Features
What special features are unique to your company or industry? Do you require a press kit, a way to schedule appointments, a VIP login or an RSS feed? Are you planning to advertise other products or services on your site? Take a look at your competition, do your research and make certain you give proper consideration to any special features.
3. Determine technological needs
Don’t fret if you don’t know the ins and outs of building a website. The company building your site should be able to work with you to examine the impact of the decisions above on the site’s infrastructure. One key issue is what type of content management system (CMS) to use. While most people think of WordPress because it is a popular open source option for developers, any CMS written with open source tools can work, and some options might be a better fit than others, depending on your needs. Other issues that will need to be settled are where the website and its photos, videos and dynamic content will be hosted. Will you track site analytics through Google or another means? If you aren’t already familiar with the term Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO or SEM, take a few moments to learn about its place in online marketing. Also, you will want to inform the designer of any company-specific software that will need to integrate with the site, such as a custom database or CRM. Finally, since more than half of cell phone users surf the web on their mobile devices today, it’s imperative that you ask your designer to build a mobile-friendly version of your site to address this growing trend.
Great websites don’t happen overnight, so again, give yourself and your team the proper time to research, discuss and plan. Once you’ve tackled the three areas outlined above and you’re ready to choose a web designer, look for a creative team that will partner with you and keep your best interests in mind. The right partner will walk alongside you throughout the process, helping you to make wise decisions on behalf of your organization.
Oz Whitesell, is the business director at MKJ Creative, a full-service print and digital graphic design studio based in Doylestown, Pa. MKJ Creative delivers dramatic results for clients across a wide range of industries, including life sciences, healthcare, the arts, community development, financial institutions and more. For more information, visit www.mkjcreative.com.