When you are building a site, there are several questions you should ask yourself to guide development. In this article, we’ll review the questions we ask our clients and the issues to consider when building a new website or improving an existing one.
Why are you going online?
The answer to this is more complicated than simply “because everyone is online” or even “to reach more customers”. Why do you need to be online? Are you trying to bring in more business via online sales, drive people to your physical locations, or both? If you are trying to reach more customers, which ones; more of the ones you have now, or a different customer group you don’t currently have? If increasing business is your goal, how much business would you need to get for the site to be considered successful? If you are just trying to raise your brand awareness, what does that look like?
What’s your context?
Are you B2B or B2C? Who are your competitors, and how do you differentiate yourself from them? What is your core value offering? What is your brand identity? What does your sales cycle look like? These are just some of the fundamental business questions that can and should be asked heading into building your site. The more you know your business, the better prepared you are to build a site that complements what already exists by building on an existing plan or expanding it in a new direction.
Technology Decisions Require Guidelines
Once you know what your larger objectives online are and your business context, that puts you in a better position to start making technology choices. Any developer will tell you, anything is possible if you have the time and the budget. But no one has unlimited time or unlimited resources. Decisions have to be made to prioritize features and design choices. What you prioritize will determine what tech stack will best meet your goals on a timeline that works for you. Options for hosting, platform, and the database will partially determine what you can do with your site and how best to do it.
General Site Attributes to Consider
Not every site loads the same. True, there is a baseline speed at which your site needs to load for people to stick around, but there are ways to control how your site loads and what it loads to meet this benchmark without sacrificing functionality. It takes good architecture to achieve that. For example, if you have a site that has a deep feature set along with lots of high-res product images, it is possible to design a site that still loads everything well enough to engage viewers without destroying your load times. Implementing a good CDN, LazyLoading, the right image format, and using an S3 server are some of the best ways to do that. However, if you are a more streamlined site that is just focusing on channeling users to the right product page from the google search results and making the transaction process as quick as possible, then optimizing for a feature-rich website would be overkill.
Almost every website struggles with finding just the right feature set to meet its user’s needs without sacrificing speed or creating overwhelming complexity. This is challenging because it’s tempting to jam in as many functions as possible without going over the budget or timeline. If you do the groundwork of determining your purpose and tech stack, making those choices gets much easier. Your tech stack’s capabilities will guide what features you can realistically execute. Your goals in going online will guide which aspects of the online experience are most important for the core customer you are targeting.
Being able to secure your customer’s data has become of paramount importance. Users are increasingly aware of where they are exposing their personal data, and the number and sophistication of online attacks are increasing every day. To survive in this environment, your site needs to be transparent and secure. That means being clear about what data you are gathering, and how you are keeping that data safe. Depending on the site, you may be gathering little to no personal information, or you may be storing emails, home addresses, phone numbers, and even card information, however temporarily. You’ll need to balance gathering the information you need to make your online business successful with the comfort level of your users and what you can realistically protect.
This is a broad topic that spans multiple levels and touches upon each of the other factors. Overall, how easy/engaging/useful is your website? Is it clear where to go for certain things? If I have a question, do I know where I can find the answer? If I want to take action on your site, is it clear what action I can take and how to do it? Am I able to view your site easily no matter where I am or which device I’m on? You need to ask yourself questions like this when you are planning your site. You don’t need great answers to all of them, but you do need to know which questions are most important for you to get right.
Ready to Build
Once you know why you are going online, what technology you are going to use to get there, and which aspects of your site you are going to prioritize, you’re ready to start building your site. At Pristine Tech, once the initial build is complete, then we take you and your site into our Launch/Test/Improve loop that regularly pushes your site forward. This also ensures you maintain the initial quality and security of your site
Launching a website is like launching a small business
As you can see, launching your website is a lot more complicated than just putting up a sign or creating an email campaign. For many people, your website is going to be the first experience they have with your company. You need to know how your business works, and what role the site is going to play in that larger scheme, in order to build it well and connect it to the larger enterprise. You don’t want to miss opportunities to add value for your customers, nor do you want to overengineer the site.
At Pristine Tech, we have deep experience in building custom sites that connect to your larger business. You may need nothing more than a WordPress site with some adjusted extensions, or you may need a fully custom platform with broad functionality. We can help you find the right path.
Everyone is on line, and it’s only getting more competitive. Whether you are looking to build an entirely new site, or refurbish your existing site, well-executed reflection and planning will put you in the best position to build something valuable.