How To Properly Prepare For Your New Website
1. Review where your business is now, and where it’s going
Step back and take a look at where your business is today:
- What challenges are you currently facing?
- What steps are you currently taking to attract new customers?
- How do you anticipate your business will grow and change in the next 5 years?
The ultimate aim here is to work out how your new website will fit in with your wider business goals. Why do you actually need a website? Are you using it to build your online reputation or will it be sales-driven, guiding the visitor to make a purchase or subscribe then and there?
It’s useful for a designer to know how your business, and therefore your website, might develop in the not-too-distant future. For example, if you’re planning on launching a series of ‘members-only’ ebooks and video content within the next 12 months, then this is the kind of thing we need to know.
2. Understand your audience
You’re probably making a quick mental scan of your customer base right now, thinking you’ve got a pretty good understanding of who they are.
But think again: are they your ideal customers? Are they the customers your business needs to take it to the next level?
Get to know who you want the website to speak to and we can make sure the design and content laser-in on that audience and directly address their needs.
I highly recommend spending some time with your marketing team (if you have one) to create buyer personas. Hubspot offers a great guide to buyer personas that includes a free template you can work through.
3. Review the market
Now we know who we’re talking to, it’s time to stop and take a look around at the competition. Not just the competitors you’ve already identified, but companies who are also targeting your ideal customer.
Don’t restrict yourself to your local area, or even your country; it often pays to see what similar companies in other countries are up to. What are they doing well? Where are they falling behind? What could you do differently?
It also pays to have a clear understanding of what sets your business apart from your competitors. The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza has a really helpful chapter on identifying your USP if you’re struggling.
4. Know what you want from the finished website
Ideally, you should begin the project with a clear idea of what you want from the finished website.
What action do you want visitors to the site to make? This could be to pick up the phone and call you, submit an enquiry form, or download an ebook or brochure.
Does it need features such as live chat, social sharing or newsletter signup forms? If you plan to run a lot of PPC campaigns, it might be useful to have landing page templates that are easy for your marketing team to edit, for example.
Don’t forget that your website is a marketing tool, if anything it’s the ultimate marketing tool. By identifying what business problems you want the website to solve, you can work with your web designer to make sure the finished product delivers bang for your buck.
5. Know what you like (and what you don’t)
As a web designer, it’s a huge help if you can come to the table with at least 3 examples of websites that you like.
As you browse the web, bookmark any websites you come across that appeal to you. Work out what you like and dislike about these examples. Is it easy to navigate around? Do the colours jump out at you? Maybe it uses images in a striking and unusual way, or maybe it’s the simplicity that stands out.
This will help your designer get a sense of your tastes and your expectations for the website.
It isn’t about cobbling together ideas from other websites in to a Frankenstein’s monster, but it is useful to know that you’ve got a huge preference for minimalism, for example, or that you’re a fan of bold colours.
6. Have a clear idea of what content you want to include
Your content is the beating heart of your website. It’s what will ultimately drive your website visitors to click on a button, to contact you, to download your ebook. It’s what will communicate to them: Hey, I’m a reputable company. I know my stuff. Here’s why you should buy from me.
It’s also pretty hard to design a website when you have no idea of what’s going to be on it.
If I’m redesigning a website for a customer, I need to know how the content will differ, if at all, from what’s on the current site.
If it’s a brand new build, I’ll typically ask for content for the main pages at the start of the Design stage, i.e before putting pen to paper. This ensures the design serves the content and not vice versa.
If the customer doesn’t have any content, the first step will be to work with them to write copy for the site and source appropriate imagery.