So you are going to build a new website or refresh an existing website, congratulations! The first step will be to develop a website proposal.
There are so many issues and obstacles in building or facelifting a website I am not sure where to start but let me share some experiences from both perspectives: new builds and facelifts. Definitely count on having to build a website proposal to justify the time and cost that will be required for the effort as it will be substantial.
Issue One: The CEO Wants or Doesn’t Want to be Involved
In my experience, when the CEO wanted to be involved in building the site it was because he was technical and wanted to explain all the technical aspects of the offering – a little chest pounding. The goal of the website is to provide the right content at the right time to each visitor that you have prioritized. If your primary audience is IT and your sales process is a technical deep-dive then you may want to include a lot of technical detail with clean and efficient navigation. On the other hand, I have worked with CEO’s that have “delegated” the task of building the site but would provide feedback about what their peers, friends and family thought about the site–not to mention feedback via in-flight-magazine. If the company is young and the CEO is the brand (i.e., there has not be any brand identity work completed) then you have to extract the branding information from the CEO to provide direction to the website project.
Issue Two: Everyone Has a Favorite Website and Their Own Style
Marketing is unique in the sense that every deliverable is made public, in one way or another, so each deliverable is on stage and subject to criticism—much like a celebrity or public figure. And, everyone in the company will have an opinion about the website but often times it is the loud squeaky wheel that is heard and that voice may not be representative of the majority. Most importantly, the website is not a collage nor should it be an eclectic amalgamation of random thoughts from a disparate group of people. In the website proposal, there should be a section on brand vision that will guide the effort.
Issue Three: I Want the Home Page to Look Like…
There is a tendency to gravitate to design and functionality without any consideration for your brand, value proposition, offering, target market or objectives for the website. The tendency for a few people to huddle around a web developer and start building wireframes or cutting and pasting things together is an approach to website building that is going against the odds. Planning and organization is critical to almost everything and the website is no exception. Building a website proposal to build a website is a must have for any organization building a new or revamping and existing website. I find it ironic that most organizations skip this step with a simple dismissal like we do not have the time or money to build a plan or we know what we want. Ask this same group of people if they have the time and or money to undo or redo the mistakes they will make after the fact–as there will be make mistakes.
How Do I Know I Am Right
Simple, ask the people making decisions about the website three questions. One, what is the primary goal for the website? Often times you will see blank stares from those charging ahead and smirks by those who cannot control the project. Two, ask who is the primary, secondary and tertiary audiences that the website will serve? Three, ask what are the top 3-5 tasks you want visitors to be able to accomplish when on the site. These are fundamental questions that are addressed in any website proposal template.
The website will be out there 24*7*365 for the world to see. Take the amount of time you have dedicated to build or facelift the website and then add another ten or twenty percent–this is the time to build a plan–to make the project successful. The organization will spend the amount of time required to plan upfront or it will spend at least that amount of time (I would argue a multiple) undoing and or redoing mistakes that were made in the absence of a plan. So, why not do it right the first time and start with a website proposal and let that drive the building of the new website?
Set the Project up For Success
There are some basic questions that you should address in the website proposal:
These are the key objectives the website must deliver upon in order to be successful.
These elements include clear definitions of who the website is intended for, broken down by degrees of priority, and the unique audience needs the website must address.
Outlines boundaries of success by defining how the website must accomplish the business objectives.
Outlines, at a high level, the overall website design strategy, including considerations for information architecture and creative design.
Outlines the short and long-term feature and content requirements for the website.
Identifies the supporting business processes required to effectively operate the website.
Defines how success will be measured once the new or redesigned website launches.
Critical Success Factors
Lists any issues that might hinder the success of the redesign efforts.
Documents the deliverables generated from the process.
Once you have documented the responses to the above questions you will have a framework for building your website. As more information becomes available, these responses will be further refined so don’t try to “get it right” immediately. Using PowerPoint as a planning template has worked out well for me. If you have completed a branding exercise or created or updated your positioning, you will have a head start and should leverage those documents.