Good Foundations

by Michael Mallon on 21st Apr 2017

Michael Mallon

So you need a new website and you aren’t sure where to start? A new website can be a valuable tool in your business arsenal. It can help you reach new customers, increase your sales or build an audience. Unfortunately and all too often this is not the case, so how can you make sure you get the most from your website?

Good Planning

As the much overused quote from Benjamin Franklin goes “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. Without a clear idea of what direction your company is heading in or what you want to achieve, you could end up with a website which does not deliver for you or your customers.

So what can you do to at this early stage to give your website the best chance to achieve its full potential? The simple answer is good planning.

Website Brief

A good website brief will help you communicate your goals and requirements to prospective agencies and serve as the foundation on which the project develops, ensuring you’re always going in the right direction and that you’re targeting the right areas.

So what should you include in your brief? This can vary from company to company depending on the sector or size but in all cases it should be as comprehensive and detailed as possible. Below we have outlined some of the main areas you should cover and why they are important.

Your Business

We know how hard it can be to talk about yourself but tell us a bit about your company, who you are, what you do and how your brand should be portrayed. This will help us better understand you and your goals as a business.

Describe the company:

What is your product or service?

If it is a large project involving multiple stakeholders who within the organization has final approval for the project? List the key stakeholders, contributors and points of contact within the business

Reasons And Business Objectives For Commissioning a New Website

Do you want more clients, to sell more products or have you updated your branding and need to reflect this on your website? How do you plan to measure the success of a new website? Have you set goals for example 2,000 new subscribers or an increase in sales/website traffic?

Explain what drove the need for a new website:

What goals have you set for your new website:

Target Audience

Who is your target audience and what will they want to do on your website? Describe the different types of visitors to your website in as much detail as possible.

Who will be using the website?

Why are they visiting your website?

Why will people choose your site over others?

By knowing who your target audience is you can make decisions based on what it is they need or want to achieve on your website. If you are unsure about what content to create or features to include, you can relate it back to your target audience and ask if it helps them and if not what would.

Your Current Website (if applicable)

If you already have a website let us know. By understanding why the old website is no longer suitable we can avoid making the same mistakes or if there are successful aspects we can incorporate and improve these.

What is good about the website?

What is bad about the website?

Traffic, Sales & Enquiries

Navigation structure

What pages or sections do you want to include on your new website? You can supply this as a bulleted list or as a sitemap, whichever is easier for you. Start by listing out the main pages on the website (Home, About, Services, Contact) then any sub sections that might be included. If you provide a range of services do you want an individual page for each one? If you plan on having projects, case studies, blogs and products, outline the number of items to be populated for launch.

Not only will this help the web design company understand the size of the project better, it will also help you plan for the functionality and content that will be needed on the website

Functionality and technical requirements

What features will you need and how will these help you achieve the goals you have set?

Content

In many cases clients are happy to use the existing content available on their old website. This can be a great starting point but if your current website is not performing then it could be because the content available is not working. Review your content and decide if it meets the needs of your target audience.

The site map you have put together can be a useful resource when planning out your content. Look at the pages or sections you want, for example if you want to showcase previous projects or create case studies, what information do you want to include? Was there a problem that you solved, how did you solve it, what results did it achieve? Should you write in depth case studies or will you create a video? How do your competitors approach this and how can you improve it? This can be applied to any section of the website from the services you provide to the products you sell.

Start thinking about content now, do not leave it until the end of the project:

In a perfect world, once your project begins you will be able to provide your agency with some draft content for the website. This will allow them to make design decisions based on real content, resulting in a much more successful end product.

The look and feel of the new website

Give the agency a feel for what you like and how you want users to feel about your website. Do you have existing marketing materials the website must compliment, or brand guidelines we must follow? If you do include some examples within your brief.

It is always a good idea to list three or four websites you like and what it is you like about them, such as colour schemes, imagery, layout, navigation or interactive elements they have included. I would encourage you to look at websites outside of your industry as they can offer a fresh perspective and often are trying to solve similar problems. Are these websites making good use of imagery/video or is the navigation easy to use? Could you incorporate some of these elements into your new website?

Competitors

Your competitors are a great resource when planning your new website. We understand that your product or service is much better than your competitors but in general you are targeting the same customers or offering a similar service/products. So why not let them give you a leg up when planning your new website, improve on what they do well and learn from mistakes they have made? List three or four of your main competitors and tell us what is working and what is not:

Budget

Letting us know your budget benefits both parties. Taking the budget and requirements into account, we can recommend the best approach to deliver your project. In some situations this might involve suggestions including the removal or changing of certain features to help keep within your budget. If the budget is available we may recommend additional services like digital marketing, photography or content writing where we believe it will benefit your project.

If you are sending out your website brief or proposal to multiple agencies providing a budget will result in better, more accurate responses. If each agency knows the budget and are being asked to quote on the same requirements, when it comes to choosing the right one for you at least you are comparing like with like :)

Timescale

Providing a prefered timeframe will help your chosen agency manage your expectations of what is realistically achievable.

Other Factors to Consider

There are other very important elements to consider when working on your brief. These can range from general maintenance to marketing. Once the project is complete and you have launched your new website, you want to make sure you get the most from your investment. How do you plan to get your customers onto your new website? There are a number of online and offline marketing activities that you should consider:

Conclusion

I know it can seem daunting when you sit down to create a brief for a new website but the benefits should result in a much more successful project, meeting both your needs and those of your target market. Obviously not all areas I have covered here will apply to every company and for some companies there will be additional requirements to consider, but I hope this helps or at least gives you a good starting point.

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