Web site projects can be large and complex, making it easy for a project to get sidetracked or to fall short of expectations. The following five tips will help you deliver an awesome site that’s an asset to your organization and maybe even make you a hero in the process.
Here are five tips for web site development success.
1. Let your company’s goals and objectives drive the project
The best place to start with any web project is at 30,000 feet: your company’s goals and objectives. These goals and objectives should be your yardstick when deciding what your site should and should not do.
Everyone has an opinion on what your new site should look like or how it should function and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to keep them all happy. But you’re going to spend a lot of company resources to deliver a new web site. A project of that scope should align with company goals and objectives.
Be a zealot about building a site that helps the company accomplish its goals. If a feature, design or function can't align, it shouldn’t be done. This will help you stay focused and it will give you a sound argument when dealing with all those 'helpful' opinions.
2. Refuse to choose between functionality and design
In the early days of web development you had to choose between functionality and design. Either you got a web site that had a lot of technical functionality and allowed you to manage your own content or you got a site that was visually stunning and delivered your brand proposition beautifully. But you could not have both.
Those days are gone! Open source content management systems (CMS) make it easy to build sites that are customizable and functional. That means you can have a functional and flexible site that is custom designed to deliver your message and give your visitors a great user experience.
So, don’t buy it when a stakeholder or vendor wants to focus on just one or the other. You can have it both ways and you should. Help your stakeholders accept the need for both high functionality and great design. Insist your vendors are able to deliver on both. If they can’t or won’t, find new vendors.
3. Content may be king but are you ready to swear fealty?
Everyone agrees that web sites need new content on a regular basis. A static site doesn’t cut it anymore, especially if you want your site to be found on Google and support your marketing efforts. But, here’s the problem: who’s going to create all that new content on a regular basis? Creating content every day, every week or even every month is a big undertaking and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up.
How many sites have you visited where the last post in the news section was from six months ago? What did you think? I bet it wasn't good. You don’t want to be that company.
You can beat this trap by developing a content strategy. Before you launch your new site you should have a strategy in place for content. A good content strategy includes the following:
It should also include a one-year editorial calendar. This calendar could include articles, videos, interviews, podcasts and any other item that you want to publish over the next year. It should identify who’s responsible for what and it should include due dates!
4. Talk to imaginary friends
One way to ensure your content meets the requirements of your content strategy is to create customer personas. A customer persona is a little like an imaginary friend. A persona is an imaginary, but accurate representation of an ideal customer.
So, rather than being general and saying, we’re writing for the owners of sheep dogs in America, you would create an imaginary person to represent your market. We’re writing for Sue Jones, a 53-year-old attorney from Boston who took an early retirement to move to Vermont and raise sheep as a second career. She is married and loves animals. Since she worked in the corporate world she is technologically savvy, but loves being back to the land. Sue enjoys training her sheepdog to help with the sheep.
You can have a number of personas depending on your customer mix.
Personas make it really easy to identify great content because you can get in the mind of your audience and understand what they need and want and what you have to offer that can help.
5. Measure for success
Finally, design your site with measurement in mind. Remember the first point? Develop your site to deliver on your company’s objectives. If you’re trying to deliver on your company’s objectives, then your site should be measured as to how well it’s accomplishing that.
Measuring is important because it does two things. First, it helps you to refine the site over time, as you can interpret the data and make changes until it’s doing exactly what you want it to. Second, it allows you to promote the success of your efforts within your organization. Some of your coworkers may be skeptical or ignorant of what you do. Or, maybe your manager was not keen to spend money on a new site. With real data that shows how the site delivers on company objectives you can win them over and gain more support for what you do.
So, launch the site and celebrate—you got it done. And then, after you’ve put down your beer, start measuring!
There’s a lot of work involved in developing and launching a new web site and that means all kinds of things can go wrong. Follow the five tips I’ve just shared and you and your organization will be pleased with the results of your hard work.