If you’re not technologically inclined, website planning might seem like a complex and headache-inducing ordeal. It certainly can be, if you haven’t approached the process strategically.
Here are a few factors to consider when undergoing a website redesign.
Make a list of specific goals.
It isn’t enough to just want your website to look different or more modern—you have to know exactly what makes a website successful. Website planning involves objectives, but you shouldn’t begin with aesthetics; think about what you want your website to achieve. Here are a few concrete targets:
- Increasing viewership
- Enhancing navigability/user-friendliness
- Increasing length of website visits
- Improving conversions
- Improving search engine rankings
Learn precisely how your current website is performing.
There are numerous analytic tools that will help you determine your website’s current performance (Google Analytics is the most noteworthy). These tools will tell you how your site is doing in critically important categories, including:
- Monthly site visits
- Highest-performing web pages
- Monthly average bounce rate (users who click on and then off almost as quickly)
- Monthly sales generated
- Highest-performing keywords
- Number of inbound links
- Monthly average amount of time spent on site
Look into your website’s performance history before you begin the website planning process, and again (using the same analytics tool) once it is complete.
Take stock of your successes.
If you have pages that receive consistently high traffic compared to others, ask yourself why this could be.
- Is the page content more valuable? Why?
- Is the information useful, or is the voice engaging?
- Is the page keyword optimized?
- How can that strategy be implemented throughout the site?
Furthermore, you want to make sure that pages with high inbound links remain undisturbed. You don’t want to break your links by reconfiguring the page addresses, or your search engine rankings could suffer considerably.
Define your audience.
Once again, specificity is key. Establish which sort of user you want to target, and what that user values in a website. Develop a detailed outline of your ideal customer, including the age, education, family status, income, likely profession/industry, and preferred communication style.
This step will not only help you determine what the best type of content will be, but also give you a good idea of the ideal overall aesthetic. Does your user prefer infinite page scroll, or would he/she value pagination?
Remember: Communication is key.
When working with a website designer, don’t hesitate to make your aims, ideas, and limitations known. Establish a benchmarking schedule, so that the project stays on-track. Most importantly—ask questions if you don’t understand something.
If the project is going to be completed on time, at-budget, and with a significant return-on-investment, it is crucial to approach the process in a highly organized, tactical manner. The success of the project won’t depend upon how skilled you are with coding or whether the final result looks cool. It will depend upon how clearly you’ve defined your objectives, and how efficiently you met those objectives.