So You Want A New Website?

via seal web marketing

When companies embark on a website design project, there are particular considerations to keep in mind to keep costs in check and to get the desired results. It can be useful to have a go-between to determine what a company needs and how to accurately translate that to a designer or agency.

I observed the aftermath of poor communication between an NGO and the design firm they hired to move their site from php to Drupal. It was initially a $40k project (which I already found cost prohibitive) and had ballooned to nearly $100k. The NGO was furious. The design firm was frustrated because the asks kept shifting and was supposed to include training non-technical staffers.

By the time I recommended the executives literally whiteboard what they wanted a finished page to look like everyone was at the end of their tether and 7.5 months had passed with no completed site. None of wireframes made sense. I have no idea how the project had been presented and why the communication had failed (the org had a IT Staff, Marketing Team and three freelance agencies for various work), but thought it was the result of staff changes and too many cooks in the kitchen.

After suggesting the most simplistic solution, the org produced a workable skeleton and the first dozen pages of how they wanted their site to look. I wish I had able to assist them from the beginning to save them the time and additional $60k. Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Site structure and navigation.

This is where staff needs to be very careful in understanding how to communicate what they want and not simply rely on appearance AND also avoid falling into the rabbit hole of endless choices. What links will you use? Where do they go? What’s the layout? Font size? Font type? Is the theme too complicated? WordPress. Joomla. Drupal. It can be very confusing. Unless you’re a giant multinational company, the ‘Keep It Simple’ rule best applies.

  1. Website content and load speed.

According to a KISSmetrics infographic, 40 percent of people will abandon a webpage if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Design and graphics are almost always the cause of a slow website. Use an experienced web developer.

  1. Ensuring staff can use the site (esp. on the backend) and how visitors will navigate 

You want to the site to look good. It also needs to function well. The look/feel of the website you have might be wonderful but does it accomplish your business goals. ¬†Do you want users to donate, fill out a form, purchase something, be informed or take action? Every goal requires different design principles. Make sure you are offering them what they are looking for. Unless you’re going to outsource all of your website activity, designated staff should know how to update a blog post, load a photo or swap out a comma for a period. Otherwise you’re going to pay through the teeth.

  1. Prioritizing users and Google

Analytics are the lifeblood of a company with an active web presence. It’s easy to forget your users in the number crunching game. Make it easy to navigate, efficient pages, offer great content, keep your site up to date and optimization will be a lot easier in the long run. You can have an engaged audience and your SEO managed well to keep a steady flow of traffic.

  1. Don’t be a slave to “Responsive” design

Yes, you want to make sure your website is optimized for mobile and tablets. But you have to weigh the costs for that level of detail and maintenance. If you know you’re going to have a number of visitors that justify it, by all means go for it and the additional costs and upkeep. Don’t do it because someone told you it’s the ‘must’ thing to do. Less interactive sites do translate across devices.


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