The Art of Website Discovery
When it comes to building a new website, getting to the core of what you really need is more than science, it’s an art. It takes a deep dive in the “technical stuff,” plus the art of seeing things that aren’t immediately apparent to get it right. Your website developer should walk you through a discovery process. However, it takes a team effort to make sure no stone is left unturned––especially when it comes to user experience.
Why should you care? Because if you miss key pieces of website functionality when starting a website development project, it could be costly in the end—both in the added cost of development hours and the invaluable cost of your time and energy. Doing a little discovery homework upfront could save some headaches in the long run.
Below are some of the key items to consider:
Think about each and every level of your website, and how it needs to function for your visitors. For example:
• How do you want users to move through your site? And how can you engage that visitor through your navigation and calls-to-action?
• Think about every action you want a user to take on your website. How will your website accomplish those actions? Do you need a payment gateway, event registration, appointment scheduling, forms, applications, etc.?
• How secure do you need each of these systems to be? Will you be collecting sensitive information?
• How would you like to collect and store any information that you gather? How will you use that information? For example, do you need to be able to export information into an Excel spreadsheet?
• How will your staff use the website? Do you need an employee portal? Does it need to be password protected from other users?
• How about media and social media? Do you want to store and play videos on your website? Do you want to easily link to your social media pages or feature them on your site?
• How would you like to share news with your end users? Do you need a blog, an alert bar, etc.?
• Who will administrate your website, and how will they want to do that? From a desktop, from their phone? Do different administrators need to have different levels of access?
Now Unturn those Stones
If a website developer is estimating the cost of your new site based on an existing one, what can he/she NOT see when reviewing your site?
• Along with the items in the section above, do you have any special landing pages, URLs, hidden forms or portals?
• Think through each and every way you currently use your website that might not be immediately apparent to someone doing a quick review. What does a month of accessing and using your current site look like? Make sure your developer knows any and all activity.
• If you’re looking to add new features and functionality to your site, work with your developer to test those features before adding them to the site. Do you like how they function? Will they ultimately create a better experience for your administrator and your end user? Or will they cause more headaches than they’re worth and ultimately end up an expensive, unused feature?
The “Pretty Stuff” Has to Function Too
We won’t cover web design or content in this blog (that would take another few thousand words), but we will cover how to consider design and content from a functionality standpoint:
• The look of your site will greatly affect how it functions. How important are big beautiful images or video to your site? How will this affect the time it takes your site to load?
• Do you want a site that scrolls into more content or has separate pages? How will this affect your users’ experience?
• Sometimes web designs can impede a user’s ability to easily find what’s needed, so be laser-focused on user experience when choosing a design. Make sure it’s as user friendly as possible.
• What level of search engine optimization do you need on your website––outside of the content you plan to write? How will your content, keywords and phrases, tags and titles get added and updated?
• Today, it almost goes without saying, but your new website must function as well, if not better, on mobile devices. So, make sure the responsive design of your site also has a great user experience.
Begin with the End in Mind
I’ve seen way too many website launches get delayed because of issues with how one website transfers to the next. Make sure your developer is on top of how the site will launch, especially if you are also moving from one developer to another.
• Be clear so your developer understands fully who currently owns/hosts your website and your URL (domain), and how and when the transfer will take place to the new site.
• How will the transfer affect anything else that might be tied to your website? For example, email addresses, customer data, registration information, etc.
• Do you have any special URLs that will need to redirect to the new website?
• How important is it that your website is up and running every second of every day? Can you afford a few minutes or hours of downtime if necessary? When would that be the least impactful to your business?
• Do you currently collect website analytics? How will you continue to do so on your new site?
• Who will be loading content and images on your website? Have you allowed for ample time in your launch schedule to do this?
• How and when will training of administrators take place?
Any new website is bound to take time and dedication to get it right, no matter how much work you did to prepare all of these details. When your new site launches, be sure to celebrate your success with all your internal and external cheerleaders. Shout about your shiny new website from the rooftops. After all, it’s likely your largest and most-used marketing tool. Your art of celebration should be as dedicated and detailed as the build itself.