July 23, 2015
Building a website is a HUGE commitment for any organization. And like any large investment, it’s worth taking the time to plan things out. After all, it is your personal web property and one of the first places a prospect/ member/ corporate partner will interact with your organization. This article is the first in a series of posts that will look at what actually goes into building a user-optimized, search-optimized, mobile-optimized site; and why building one should be a top priority.
The Importance of Website Planning
Far too often people skip the planning phase in order to “save time.” Unfortunately, what they come to find out is that without taking the time to plan the project unforeseen issues pop up. These issues often result in developers and designers having to redo their work, costing time and money. By taking the time to think through your project, define your objectives and understand how your audience wants to use the site, you can usually anticipate some of these issues and ultimately save time (and money).
Setting a realistic set of goals and measurable objectives for your website will allow you to be efficient in your website build. While a web developer can make the site look good, without direction aligned to your business objectives your site will fall short once your audience starts to use the site. If your goal is to attract members, how visible are the member benefits on your site? Define what you want the site to accomplish, and then be honest when measuring its success.
It’s vital to consider your ideal visitor. Who are you building the website for? Your answer to this question will dramatically influence the website build. How do they like to consume content? Should you focus on video over long blocks of copy? Are they active on social? Would they prefer you communicate via email then mail? These are the types of audience-related questions that you need to ask before you start mapping out your new site. By understanding your audience and designing to their needs you will have a better chance that they come back to your site and share with like-minded friends.
The most successful sites have a prominent call-to-action (CTA) within their pages. What do you want them to do once they land on your site? If your goal is to drive event registration, then your CTA should be a prominent “Register Here” button on the homepage. If your goal is to grow your website traffic, then your site should emphasis the “share this page” buttons. A strong CTA will direct traffic and align it with your business goals.
Keywords/Topics/Categories (Content Strategies)
As you start to review your current website’s content, you may realize that the same information is appearing on multiple pages of the site. Content duplication is confusing to site users and means that any edits you make will have to be replicated across the site. Planning out how your content is related and what is going to be of most interest to your user will help with content creation and site organization. It is also going to improve how well the site performs on search engines and how easy it is for your users to find what they need.
This is where you begin to divide your content into sections; grouping related content together and ordering in hierarchies. As a quick rule of thumb: if you find that you have more than six main categories, you should consider approaching it from a different perspective. Too many categories will just confuse the user and make maintaining your content incredibly difficult.
Content elements like an event calendar, staff directory or blog might provide a general frame of reference, but they require clear direction. Make sure you have considered what exactly they need to accomplish, and how they will be used.