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Monday, 13 October 2014

Plan The Dive and Dive the Plan AKA Website Planning

If there's one thing guaranteed to ensure failure when creating your company's website it's a lack of planning, but where to start? Do you start by grilling web companies? Do you start by searching for photographs? Do you start by talking to your Head of IT? Well, none of the above, although hiring a web company to help you wrestle it all down can be a good idea if you're really struggling.

Assuming you don't want to hire a company this quick guide to planning a website should make sure you're heading in the right direction.

Decide Who It's For!

It may seem obvious but deciding who your website is for (its stakeholders) is a great starting point and it could be any or all of the following:

  • Potential customers
  • Existing customers
  • Your staff
  • Suppliers
  • Investors
  • Others

The next stage is to prioritise this list of stakeholders. Why do this? Well it makes sense to make your website appeal to your "most important" stakeholders. For example, if you want the site to generate new business your most important stakeholders will be potential customers so it wouldn't make sense to make your main message and imagery all about your staff (unless your staff are the key reason someone would choose your company such as a hairdresser or fund manager). Establishing the above will help you think clearly when it comes to creating your key messages and content. Understanding your key stakeholders and prioritising them just makes sense.

Think About Content and Who's Going To Create It

The single biggest reason website projects take longer than they should is content. Creating compelling content seems to trip up most companies large or small. I've seen two month projects take 12 months because of a lack of content or more accurately an inability to create content.

Think long and hard about where your content is going to come from. Is content creation something your staff are likely to embrace (most don't!). Are you able to write it yourself, and at what opportunity cost to your business? If in doubt make sure your budget includes something to cover bringing in a content expert, either from a web or PR company. One thing's for sure, if you don't think long and hard about your content your project will fail!

Finding a Web Company

Once you've got a solid idea of what the website needs to deliver into the business (who it's for and the content they need) it's time to find a web company who will help you make it happen. One approach is to create an Invitation to Tender (ITT) document and send it out to as many web companies as you can find. This is a terminally bad idea. It's vital you find a company whose work you like and approach and attitude fits with yours. It's much better to review 4 or 5 companies, short list 2 or 3 and invite them in (not at the same time) for a chat. Of course, if you can get a recommendation from someone else this can be even better.

By taking this approach you'll form a relationship from an early stage, remember you'll be getting intimate with your web company as they'll want to take a forensic look at your business so you need a company you like and trust. You'll also get more value by engaging with a web company rather than taking the cold ITT approach.

So There You Have It

You're now at the detailed project planning stage and your chosen web company will be all over that like a rash. They'll also love you for spending some time figuring out who you think the site's for and the type of content these people will be looking for. For sure they will almost certainly add lots of value above and beyond what we've covered here and may well introduce ideas you hadn't considered.

Your website could transform your business generating new revenue stream, brining in new customers and better serving your existing ones. It's worth spending some time planning it before diving into the sexy stuff.

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