So you need a website…where do you start?

Creating a website from scratch or redesigning a current site can be a daunting task. There are so many things to think about, like the different types of technologies, browsers, mobile devices, content management systems, search engine marketing, flash or no flash, social media, etc. What are you going to use for content? Who is going to create the content? Do you have the assets needed, such as photos and videos? Whew! With all this noise, it’s easy to loose focus of the more important things, like why are we building or redesigning the website in the first place?

A good place to start when creating a website is defining the primary goal of the site. What is the single most important point of creating the site? Defining this primary goal is key to creating a successful site. It becomes your North Star and compass. It is inevitable that as you begin the design and development process you will think of new things or discover things that others are doing. As you do, you will have the urge to incorporate all these things into your site. I have seen this happen so many times, but you need to proceed with caution. Be careful to measure all these new ideas against what you have defined as your primary goal. Will these new ideas truly take you in the direction of your desired goal, or will they lead your project into the weeds? Projects can easily get out of scope and over budget if you loose focus on the primary goal of the site.

As the project advances, and you discover new items or components that contribute to your primary goal, you then need to ask yourself if it makes sense to add those items now and prolong the development process or to phase them in after the initial project is complete. Only you can make that call based on the additional time and money required to accommodate the additional features or functionality.

So start with why:
• Define your primary goal – the single most important point of the site.
• Define your secondary objectives for the site.
• Define how success will be measured.

Next you should identify your target audience. Who is this site being developed for and how will they use it? Now, it is important that you keep this in mind. Although you are the owner of the site, the site should not be designed for you. It needs to be designed for your target audience. If it isn’t, you run the risk of not catching the attention of the right people. After all, if your target audience isn’t visiting and engaging with your site, you probably won’t achieve your primary goal for the site.

So think about who:
• Who will use the site? What are their sex, age, computer skills, and computer equipment/screen size? Are they using mobile devices to access your site? Are there any accessibility concerns?
• What are you offering them? Define your product or service. What is your target audience coming to the site to get?
• What are the product features?
• How will the customer benefit?
• Do you have support for the benefit claims?

As you can see, developing a new website or redesigning a current site is not a trivial task. The key is to stay focused on your primary goal for the site. By following the items listed above, you will be well on your way to a successful development process.

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