7 Critical Questions to Answer Before Starting Your Website Project

Time for a New Website

You’re ready. You’ve decided. It’s time for a new website.

We think that’s fabulous.

But before you run out and engage a team of website professionals to make over your site, take a few minutes to answer these seven critical questions.

1. Why do you want a new website (or a website redesign)?

There are lots of reasons to launch a new website or to redesign your existing site. Maybe your business has outgrown your existing site, or you’ve launched additional lines of service. Maybe you are ready to launch on-line selling. Perhaps your site just looks dated (most things in the digital world become dated fairly quickly).

The more clearly you can explain why you want a new site and why now is the right time for a new site, the more likely your website designer and developer are to deliver what you really want.

2. What are your goals for the new site?

We’ve heard it more than once: “I’m ready for a new site.” Great, what are the goals for the new site? “Well, to have a new site. Y’know?” Ummm…

Yes, we can make a make a site look pretty (honestly, that’s the easy part). But your site should work hard—it is a business tool after all. Are you hoping to raise awareness, educate visitors, increase leads, drive sales…the list goes on. Being able to articulate real (and measurable) goals will help ensure your site is designed to deliver real results.

3. What works (and what doesn’t work) on your current site?

Please don’t make us guess what you do and don’t like about your current site. Every business is different and solutions that are great ideas for one company may restrict your business in ways we can’t predict if we don’t understand your business.

Articulating—in advance—the features and functionality that works well on your site can help your website professionals include them in your new design. Sharing what doesn’t work (or what works badly) allows your designer and developer to find a solution that solves the problem.

4. Who are your customers? What do you want them to do on your site?

It sounds basic. But 20-somethings behave differently than 50-somethings. Consumers shopping for themselves behave differently than someone shopping for a business entity. Your site should be designed both to attract your audience and to have functionality that will be effective when they visit.

We also need to understand what you want your visitor to do on the site. Just visiting generally isn’t useful—you probably want them to take some kind of action. The site architecture for an educational/informational site is completely different than that for a site that features ecommerce. If the site needs to have a private area (a portal) for employees or a segment of users, your developer needs to know that in advance.

5. What sets you apart from your competitors?

You’ve worked hard to create your brand and the aspects of your business that differentiate you from your competitors. Your website should reflect that difference. For example, if you set yourself apart with superior service, you might want a robust FAQ section or to make it extremely easy for your customers to contact you. On the other hand, if pricing or specials are big drivers in your business, you’ll want to feature sales and pricing.

6. What is your budget and timeframe?

“How much does a website cost?” is a question we hear all the time. The problem is that the cost of a website is driven by design and functionality. Like buying a car, cost for a website can be at almost any level. Knowing your budget and telling your web team means you won’t fall in love with a site that is 6 times your available resources. (Ferrari or Kia?)

Similarly, everyone needs to know about any time constraints for the project. It may be that you have all the time in the world. Or that you desperately need the site launched before an important trade show next month. Either way, understanding your timeframe means open communication about the possibility of meeting your deadlines or discussing potential alternatives to a full roll-out.

7. What are your long-term website/internet marketing plans?

Let’s say you don’t plan to offer commerce on your site right now. No problem. Let’s say you hope to launch commerce in the next year. Again, no problem. Now let’s say you don’t tell anyone of that plan. Big problem.

Your website design and development team needs to think about future plans. Just like building a house, a good developer will “plumb in” the lines for future functionality. This can save significant time, money, and confusion when you’re ready to implement the next phase.

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