What Are User Personas In UX & Why Are They So Important In App Development?
- Industry Insights
For many organisations, their website was set up many years ago. As businesses change and grow, your website needs to reflect the direction your business is going. That’s why we often get asked questions about what to consider before starting a website build project. The fact is, website redevelopment is a big job, especially if you want it done properly.
There are plenty of ways to get a cheap, basic website. However, if you want a powerful, highly functional website that works with your business as a sales tool for growth, you’ll need to put a bit more work in. Naturally, you’ll hire website development specialists to do the technical work, but for the best finished product, you have to put the time and effort into planning alongside them.
When it comes to building a great website, strategy & planning is everything! In fact, we wrote a whole article on the critical importance of website strategy here.
Obviously, the technical side of things is extremely important too, but even the best web developers can’t create an industry-leading website without your input. Website development should be a collaborative project because ultimately this gives you the best chance of having a website that truly serves your customers’ needs now and into the future.
The process of planning for a website build is often called “scoping”. This is where your website development company works directly with you to discover, strategise and plan what you need. This is the point where you don’t want to come empty-handed, because the more information you can give your web development agency, the more value they can provide.
One of the things we see so often is organisations that just want their new website built quickly. They want everything fast-tracked so they can launch as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this approach never returns the best results.
It’s important to take your time with strategy, planning and scoping. Because, in reality, time spent on thorough planning is easily made up during the design, development and testing phases of a website build.
Consider this situation. You approach a website development company with a list of things you want for your website, and you want them to get started ASAP. The developers get to work quickly and bring you back into the process for testing. The website doesn’t look or feel the way you thought it would. You’ve realised functionality could be so much better. You haven’t even considered how the website might be integrated with other business systems. So, it’s almost back to the drawing board.
During a proper website scoping process, your vision will evolve along the way. You’ll think of things you forgot in your initial request, and that’s totally fine. Because it’s a lot more efficient to have that vision evolve before design and development start. In the long run, proper planning also avoids budget blowouts. So, if finances are important to you (and they are to most businesses), the time spent on proper planning is worth it in the long run.
Now you can see the importance of website planning, let’s break it down a little further. What is actually considered during website scoping?
Well, every agency does it differently. Some do very basica scoping, and for smaller websites that’s ok. However, for larger organisations that need more from their website, the scoping process needs to be expansive.
Custom integrations are perhaps the biggest thing to consider during website scoping, which is why we’ve given it a separate section here. If you’re not considering how your website interacts with your other business systems, you’re wasting a valuable opportunity to increase efficiency.
When we talk about integrations, we often consider them in two groups. There are basic integrations, such as Stripe and PayPal payment options. Or delivery services such as Sendle or Australia Post eParcel. These are great add-ons, but they’re fairly standard.
Then there are more complex integrations, and these are more crucial to plan accordingly. Complex integrations include custom business software, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
The simple fact is that incorporating integrated functionality into your website can drastically improve your operational efficiency and customer experience.
A simple example is when a customer fills out a contact form with an enquiry. This request can automatically be sent to the CRM, which allocates it to a salesperson to make contact with the customer. Without this integration, a notification probably gets emailed to an admin staff member, who then manually refers the query to the appropriate person.
A more complex example is ensuring your website talks to your accounting software and ERP. This way, every online payment received is automatically entered into the accounting software. Every order is automatically delivered to the warehouse, and confirmations or updates are automatically sent to your customer.
Automation is a huge part of business improvement, and your website plays a big part in achieving that.
Here are some of the major areas you should explore when planning a website build.
Your Content Management System (CMS) is the platform your website is built on. WordPress and Wix are two common examples. Shopify and Magento are well known in the eCommerce field. However, many of these popular platforms don’t allow the functionality you need for a high-end website. So, you may choose to work on a custom CMS.
When talking to website developers, be a little wary of those who only build on one platform. For example, a WordPress developer maybe won’t give you the full set of options, because their expertise is solely in WordPress. Rather, look for website development companies that have specialised teams for ALL platforms. That way, you’ll know you’re being recommended the best option for your specific requirements.
The CMS may not mean a lot to CEOs and executives, but it’s still an important consideration. You need to consider who will be managing and updating content on your site. Can your development team support your needs long-term, or will you need to hire in-house people who understand the CMS your site is built on?
All good websites should be aligned with your business goals. That means it needs to drive business growth in line with your own strategic plan. However, don’t get too caught up in the here and now. Obviously, the website needs to meet your current needs, but what about 3 years down the track?
For example, if you don’t currently sell products online but intend to do so in the next 3 years, ensure the functionality is planned during the website scoping. Functions and features can be hidden or switched off until you need them, but at least you won’t be staring at another complete website overhaul in 3 years’ time.
This future planning flows into the next point – determining your website’s purpose. Think about why you need your website, and what you need it to do. Is your website mainly there to sell products online? Or is it more informative? Is it a tool for your customers to use such as an online ordering portal for dealers?
Are you hoping to generate more leads, convert more sales, or both? These are the things to consider when building because it shapes your decisions on where to spend your time with your new website. It allows you to understand the types of features you need to include, and the custom integrations you might have built-in.
The other major part of website scoping is to identify your target audience. Not only does this help to shape the aesthetics and feel of your site, but also the entire customer experience. During scoping, your agency should help you develop buyer personas. These are descriptions of who your audience is and what their online behaviours are.
With this knowledge, you can build your website with a premium customer experience in mind. Websites with a great customer experience convert more, build better brand loyalty and generate more revenue.
You should also consider who your competitors are. Your website development agency should take care of the more in-depth analysis, but it helps if you can identify your competition. This allows your agency to find out how their websites perform online, what they’re doing well, and where are the opportunities to out-perform them.
Content is one of those things that’s often overlooked in the scoping phase, but it really does help to have this planned. The reason it gets overlooked is that people think it’s easier to just build the website framework and add the content later.
This can work for written content, to an extent. But you still need to have a general idea of what pages are going to be built, and how much content you need for each. Creating great written content requires considerable keyword research to improve your search engine results rankings, so this is something you should work on during scoping.
Of course, the written content isn’t everything. Most successful websites feature a lot of visual content, such as photos and videos. As part of your content plan, consider what you need. New staff photos? Is a photoshoot required to capture new images of your business or services? Authentic content connects better with visitors than stock images, so you’ll need to make time to produce those images.
Do you need to film some new videos? Perhaps some case study videos? These take time, and you may need to bring a video production team in. The reason it’s important to plan ahead is that website development can be stalled if you haven’t got the content ready.
If you’ve already got company branding, that’s excellent. The colours, fonts and everything else included in your branding will shape the way your new website looks. This creates consistency, builds brand recognition and ensures consistent messaging to customers. Make sure you provide all of this information to your development team during scoping.
If not, it might be worth exploring this. It’s a valuable investment for all organisations, but it’s not a quick process. So, if you think you’re going to get professional branding done in the near future, it might be worth doing it before the website built.
We won’t list absolutely everything that gets considered during website scoping, however here are a few other smaller details to consider:
Interactive features: Contact forms, order forms, downloads, quizzes, surveys – these can all be used to boost website engagement.
Website security: Most new websites will have standard protections and encryption. But do you need a little extra, for example, if you’re holding customer details?
Responsive design: No website developer worth their salt builds a website that doesn’t function on mobile devices and tablets, but it’s always something you should double-check.
Customer enquiry forwarding: If you have contact forms, where do those queries go? You’ll need a designated email address, unless, of course, you have a CRM.
Once website scoping is finished, the next step is prototyping. Proper prototyping is a little different from your average graphic design of how a page looks. A prototype gives you the chance to see how your website works, particularly in a navigational sense.
While it won’t have full functionality, a prototype lets you see firstly how the website looks, and secondly, where each link is pointing. It gives you a chance to see whether you like the structure and flow of the site, or identify if there are things you’ve forgotten.
This step is often skipped by developers, but it really shouldn’t be. It gives clients a chance to make changes before development starts. While there is a minor time investment in prototyping, it can save hours of delays down the track. For example, if you identify something that needs changing during prototyping, it might take an hour to fix. However, to make those changes once development starts, could be up to 25 hours. In the long run, the benefit far outweighs the initial outlay of time.
As you can see, an investment in proper planning is crucial for high-end website design. If you want to end up with the very best solutions for your business, collaboration with your development agency is essential. In short, the more information and input you provide, the more value you’ll get from your website build.
If you are looking to build a new website and see the importance of investing in the strategy, planning and detailed scoping of your project before doing anything else then we invite you to take a look at the “Website Blueprint” service here where we help businesses just like you get it all put together so they get the very best return on their investment from their new website.