Our Marketing Directors have helped hundreds of business owners rebuild their websites to help them get better performance and more enquiries. As anyone who’s built or rebuilt a website knows - these projects can be great, or they can be a bit tricky.
But if you know what you want, why you’re doing it and how to manage the process, the risks are much lower.
Here are some of the key learnings from across our team over the last ten years.
Set clear objectives and KPIs
Before you start looking for an agency, you need to define your brief. And, as we’ve discussed before, every brief needs to start with clear objectives and KPIs. If you don’t know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what you want to achieve, you’re doomed.
Remember: not all websites are the same. An eCommerce website has totally different needs and goals from a lead generation one. So before you do anything else, ask yourself:
- Who is your website for?
- How is it going to help your business?
- What do you want visitors to do once they’re on there?
- How will you measure success?
Looking for more advice? Check out our recent article: What is Your Website For?
Analyse what's working currently and what’s not
Don’t base your brief on gut feel. And please, don’t go around your company asking everyone what they like and dislike about the current site. Remember: the website isn’t for you and your colleagues, it’s for your customers!
Base your insights on data and current performance. This is the best way to get a feel for what customers like and dislike about your current website.
Here’s a list of thought starters:
- Which pages are getting traffic?
- Which are getting ignored?
- What does this tell you about people’s priorities?
- Chances are most of your traffic is to your homepage - where do people go from there?
- How many people visit your key landing pages and where do they come from?
- Which pages on your website drive the most conversions?
- Which pages generate the highest quality leads?
- What’s the submission rate on forms?
- How important is SEO for your business and is current performance good enough?
- What’s the current load time?
- How is the mobile performance of all pages?
Form a small committee (and ignore everyone else)
As we’ve already said, the worst way to start a website project is to ask everyone in your business for their opinion. Death by committee is real.
Once you’ve gathered your data, ask a select group of people for their interpretation of the data and how it should help shape the brief. It might even be worthwhile talking to some of your current customers about what they think of your current website.
Keep the committee small and focus on people who get digital marketing. Websites are one of those situations where too many cooks will almost always spoil the broth.
Think about the back-end and the front-end
The back-end of your website (CRM, CMS, analytics, etc.) is just as important as the front-end (the stuff you see in the browser). A website with a dodgy back-end is effectively useless.
A key stumbling block for website work is not mapping out the back-end requirements and systems in advance. Your back-end decisions will have a big impact on the scope of the project, including what you need to build and what you need to buy. Key things to consider are the knock-on effects of integrations (some CRMs, ERPs and accounting platforms won’t work with others) and the ability for non-technical people to update or make changes.
Make sure your agency understands your back-end needs so they can factor them into their plans.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Have you ever noticed how most websites look the same? Logo in the top left, header nav along the top and call-to-action in the top right. The content is arranged in neat rows, which are then divided into columns housing (typically) a header, a bit of body copy and a call-to-action.
This is all very intentional. Good web designers align their designs with web design norms and standards. This makes websites easier to use and navigate.
Don’t be tempted to ‘break the mould’ in the name of creativity and differentiation. It will just confuse and frustrate your users. You’re making this website for the benefit of your existing and potential customers.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t make your website look good. Of course, there’s still lots of scope to make your website look great and align it with your brand guidelines. But don’t deviate too far from what other websites are doing.
Get your core messaging sorted before you start writing
Web copy is the most important part of your website. Remove the copy and it’s just a load of shapes and pictures.
Copy is what gets people to buy or convert. That said, it’s also one of the most common reasons that websites get delayed (along with sourcing or creating the right imagery).
A lot of web agencies overlook copy, or suggest clients write it themselves. However, a copywriter doesn't have to be expensive and you’ll end up with a much better final product.
Also, make sure you define your core messaging upfront before writing anything. What’s your company’s headline and subhead? What are your key pain points, features, benefits and proof points? Nailing these down in advance will make your final web copy much more clear, consistent and impactful. Check out our guide on defining your value proposition for more info.
Don’t overlook themes
Themes are pre-built front-end templates that businesses can buy and then tweak to match their branding and style guide. They used to have a bad reputation. But modern themes are affordable, well-designed and fast to load. They can often look and run better than you’ll get with a totally custom build from a local agency. Plus, you can get a new website built in a matter of weeks rather than months.
Accept your website is never finished
As we’ve already mentioned, website projects can be a bit of an ordeal (although they don’t have to be if you follow the advice we’ve just shared). This can lead people to want to ‘set and forget’ their website once the build is complete.
This is the opposite of what you need to do.
Websites are never really finished. They take years of finetuning, adjusting and optimisation to start delivering. The odds of you getting it right first time are basically non-existent. Plus, Google is constantly updating its algorithms, your competitors will do new things and your customers' interests will change.
Your go-live date is the beginning, not the end.
Feel like you could do with a second opinion on your website? Our Marketing Directors have been there and done it many times. We can help you understand if you really need a new website and, if so, how to get it right.