There are countless different types of websites across the Internet, all with varying degrees of quality and usefulness. What distinguishes the successful sites from their unsuccessful counterparts can be expressed in a single word: planning.
The importance of taking this critical first step of website development cannot be overemphasized. Yet, it is astonishing how many people overlook it when launching projects of this magnitude. The result, invariably, is what we call a “misbegotten site”-work which may (or may not) have a certain visual appeal or possess some compelling piece of functionality, but which at the end of the day, can best be identified as fatally inept. Such a site simply does not do what the client expected or what users would want it to do. Repairing poorly planned, misbegotten sites is often more expensive than tearing the entire site down and starting from scratch. Do not let this happen to you. Whether you are considering ecommerce website development or content website development, take the time to plan before writing a single line of code or sketching even the most basic design concept.
A site that is well planned-down to the most acute detail-ultimately results in work that is attractive, user-friendly, and utilitarian to the extreme. Best of all, such sites tend to be highly flexible with a modular framework that allows for future expansion and content development without limiting the vision of the site owner or necessitating a great deal of costly reprogramming and redesign. In short, a properly planned site gives the client an outstanding product at what amounts to a bargain-basement price in the long run.
A typical website development and design plan should lay a solid foundation for the execution of the new site. The project should include the following key stages:
In this phase, the website owner should meet with the team or designer who will be implementing the site in order to hammer out precise details governing the site’s true business goals, functionality, appearance, and options for future development. Brainstorming or planning sessions are key to keeping the project on-task and heading in the right direction.
Extensive online research should be performed with a formal feature-set survey of comparable websites within the targeted industry. This phase of website development will help determine the ways in which competitors have succeeded and/or failed in certain aspects of their own online presence. With this information you will be able to avoid mistakes and see what the “best of the best” are doing to achieve their success.
Before actualizing the website development plan, a formal, written “Strategic Brief” should be compiled. This document should lay out in substantial detail the manner in which the project should and will unfold in terms of project management, deliverables, timetables of start and finish dates, functionality, design considerations, possible future needs and expansion options, etc.
A detailed, written “Site Map” document should be created giving a bird’s eye view of the site’s planned structure, navigation schema, and the inter-relation of content.
‘Content is King’ when it comes to a website’s effectiveness and its ability to convert customers while also being recognized by search engines. During this stage, content will need to be gathered, refined/reassessed and authored where necessary. If the website development and design team does not have an SEO (search engine optimization) writer on staff, it may make sense to outsource one. Most SEO copywriters are experienced in all forms of direct marketing writing, and writing for search engine visibility is an advanced skill set. An experienced search-marketing copywriter will view the product or service’s benefits from the customer’s perspective and communicate that excitement to prospective buyers-all while still gaining the search engine ranking the website requires.
Additionally, SEO copywriters will seamlessly weave crucial keyword phrases into new marketing text without sacrificing a conversion flow, and they will strategize how new pages should be structured for maximum keyword saturation. Especially for time-challenged marketing departments or individual entrepreneurs, finding SEO expertise outside of the immediate website development team can significantly help increase the site’s return on investment and search engine rankings.
As soon as the content has been authored and refined, the new site should be populated with the content and launched as soon as possible.
Beyond Website Development
Like any business model, website development and design is a cyclical process of monitoring, assessment and redevelopment if necessary. However, if substantial time and effort is invested into a website’s initial planning, the website development team’s work will be minimized greatly during the monitoring phase.
Author: Rachel Messina