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Preparation Is Everything
How often have you been in a situation where you know that if you had better prepared for it the outcome would be better? You could say that sometimes being unprepared brings spontaneity and creativity which I agree with, but this isn’t the case for every situation. For the most part, preparation arms you with the tools and knowledge required to get the best outcome. It’s the same for websites. You would think that just having ideas, content and images is enough to create your ideal site but you’d be wrong. Your website requires a lot more preparation than you might think to prevent you from rapidly out-growing it.
Functionality and design
It’s a common belief that a beautifully designed site will attract customers on it’s own merit, however, first and foremost, customers want a site that works. Beauty must work in conjunction with functionality to give the best results. How many times have you visited a site and the links don’t work properly? Or it takes ages to download a page so you give up and look elsewhere? A broken or slow site leads to lost customers and in turn lost revenue however, this can be rectified through planning and preparation.
Where to start
The list below outlines the main areas that would help you get off to a flying start. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the information, the list serves as a guideline and you can always ask questions along the way:
Establish goals for your siteYou need to know what role your site will be playing in your business and establishing the site’s purpose will help you do that. For example, if you have an online shop, your website will make a large contribution to your business turnover so it will be playing a major role in the scheme of things. The idea is for your website to grow with your business. Think about things you might want to offer on your site if your business grows. Obviously you can’t future proof your website, but you can give it a head start.
Know your target audienceThis is important. You need to know who you’re targeting so that you can tailor the content to their needs. If you have an existing site, have a look at your Google Analytics stats if you have them activated, they are a good place to start.
Plan your contentYour content is what will keep customers coming back and spreading the word about you. Once you know your target audience you can create search engine optimised (Seo) content that they will be looking for. If your content will be used on a responsive site, it must be organised to reflect this.
Think about the user experienceWhat do you want your customers to do on your site and how easy is it to do? For example, is the navigation intuitive? Do your pages lead the user on a journey through your site so that they are able to discover content that is relevant to them? Plan your navigation and the content of your website using wireframe layouts. You could even go as far as planning customer journeys for your site if you have a large enough audience. Be aware that each page should be part of a journey and to some extent you control how that journey pans out for your customer.
MaintenanceThis may seem strange, but thinking about how your site will be maintained could be the difference between a well-designed consistent site and an inconsistent mess. For example, a site created by the developer may use good quality images but when maintained by yourself or a team member may require the use of smaller images which show on your site as low quality. Not the makings of a good impression.
DesignEstablish a strong identity to begin with and build your brand around it. Branding gives your company identity not only through logo design, but by defining rules which create consistency throughout. It can affect the types of image you want to use, their size, colour, the fonts you want to use including their availability as web fonts, the colours that represent you, and more so it’s important to get this established before you start designing your website. A strong brand will add to your brand integrity. Design also contributes to the user experience – especially where consistency is concerned. For example, if all links on your site are green, the customer will associate green with links. Remember, functionality works alongside design so don’t get carried away making it look good. Design also includes the technical aspects of the website to an extent, so if you have an existing site, it will be useful to know where it is hosted, any logins and whether it is a responsive site that works.
By following the guidelines above, you will accumulate a wealth of information that will ultimately lead you to the design and development of a website that will work with your best interests in mind. Preparation helps you to understand more about yourself and your business, but it also provides your chosen developer with a solid foundation from which to build your site. It’s the best way to get value for money and can only benefit you in the long run.