Figuring out the content your website needs is the final part of the planning phase. Failure to plan is planning to fail, and it's essential for ensuring your web design project will be successful. Once you have a general idea of the sections each page on your site will have and the content needed to fill it, then you can get down to the fun part: designing.
This is a critical point for all web design projects and shouldn't be overlooked. It's very tempting to jump straight into design work especially once you've gotten the administrative work done. But trust us, that's not a recipe for success. It's a big mistake.
Take the time now to slow down and think through your plan of attack. You will avoid mistakes you would have made otherwise and have a complete product in the end. Trust us; you will be thankful that you did.
In this article, we'll discuss how we determine what sections and content to include on our client's websites at the start of the web design project. Our process is straightforward and ensures you will have all the information we need to create a great website.
Review Website Goals
Treat your website just as you would with any other digital marketing channel. That means setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
For example, a goal you might want to set for your website is to increase local website traffic by 25% within six months of redesigning your website or improving your average search position in Google by ten spots within nine months.
You get the idea. All of your business goals for your website should be developed using this framework. It ensures that your goals will further your business objectives and that you've got a way to measure your progress.
Need help determining what website goals would be good for your business? We already covered that in our last blog post in this series.
At this point in the web design project, you likely already know what your goals are for the project. We recommend reviewing them with your web designer, so both of you are clear on what they are before moving on.
Create a Brand Strategy Deck
Creating a brand strategy deck is the best way to break down the internal and external factors affecting your business. Once complete, it can serve as the web design project playbook and be the guiding outline of the project.
See the below screenshot of what our deck includes.
For larger projects, the brand strategy deck primarily serves as our design brief. However, it goes beyond web design. We also take an in-depth look at your business and industry so we can produce a website that generates tangible results for your company. That is the reason why you're investing in your website after all, right?
Think of the brand strategy deck as the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis you learned in business school, but on steroids. It's comprised of an internal and external analysis which gives both parties an overview of the state of our client's business and industry.
With that information, we can then provide a brand strategy recommendation. This comes to serve as the basis of the web design project. It's essentially the "where do we go from here" part of the deck after the internal or external analysis.
We then schedule a meeting with the client to present to them the brand strategy. If they approve of it, we move on to the design phase. If not, it's back to the drawing board for us. This workflow ensures everyone is on the same page.
It also speaks to how important a professional web design process is. Having a system that keeps projects organized creates a framework that maximizes success and minimizes risk.
It's the mark of a professional web designer that knows what they're doing. This is why it is essential to ask the right questions to get the most out of a web design consultation.
Now, let's take a look at what each section in the brand strategy deck includes.
Internal Analysis and Key Learnings
The first step in the research process of a web design project is to take an internal look at our clients business. Here we summarize what we know about their business, target market, value proposition, challenges they face, and potential opportunities.
Outlining this to our clients makes sure we both have a solid, unbiased understanding of their business. If we don't, the client can correct us, and we can move forward without any incorrect assumptions. Performing this analysis makes both parties aware of the strengths, weaknesses, target audience, and opportunities for our clients business.
This information is essential for being able to determine the marketing direction we want to take the website in. The more knowledgeable we are about our clients business, the better results we can deliver.
Local Competition Review and External Analysis
Next, we perform a thorough competitor analysis and review the external business landscape. We focus significantly on competitor websites and conduct an SEO audit to help get our clients websites found online. From this exercise, we learn what our client's website will need to have to be competitive, as well as opportunities to differentiate their brand, which will drive increased business.
However, competitor analysis doesn't stop with their websites. To determine what your website needs to be successful, you need to evaluate the competition across all digital marketing channels such as organic or paid search, social media, etc..
We spend a significant amount of time in this section looking at what keywords competitor websites rank for and what channels they receive traffic from. This influences what content will need to be included on each page. It also lets us know what our client's potential customers search for, as it often isn't what you first think.
With that information, we can optimize around those keywords to get our clients to rank on Google. Lastly, knowing what channels are driving traffic to competitor sites is invaluable to our clients. It lets them know what channels to put efforts into - since industry competitors have already proved which ones can work. This also helps us figure out what channels are being underutilized so our clients can take advantage of that opening in their industry.
Succeeding in the saturated content landscape on the web today is all about identifying what platforms are undervalued and then executing a strategy to take advantage. What those undervalued channels are will be different based on your business and industry you're in. That's why it's essential to take the time to identify them at the start of a web design project.
Brand Strategy for the Web Design Project
Finally, it is time for the most exciting part of the web design planning process.
The brand strategy portion of the deck outlines where the company should go based on the internal or external analysis. It's the final part of the planning phase for the web design project. This section outlines the big ideas for the project and the overall messaging direction. We then finally start to get into the web design section.
Specifically, we broke down the style guide such as logos, if outlined in the project scope, color scheme, and typography. We then review these design decisions with the client and explain our thought process behind our recommendations. The logo, color scheme, and typography are all critical. They need to work together to communicate our client's brand and the core messaging direction of the website.
Don't worry if you already have an established style guide that doesn't require significant changes. If we're doing a website redesign, these recommendations may just need simple tweaks to it. Alternatively, we may not recommend any changes. These recommendations are specific to each web design project we work on.
Next, we outline what the goals for each page of the website should be, and the sections or content we need to achieve them. From this, our clients get a high-level overview of how each web page fits into the broader strategy of the web design project. They can also start to get a jump on collecting any resources or information we need from them to deliver the web page.
Once the client approves the brand strategy deck, it's off to the design phase of the web design project. We’ll be covering that phase in depth on this blog as well, so make sure to check back for more content.