Get it Right the First Time. Plan, Plan, Plan
The following article has appeared in multiple blogs and print publications since it was first released in 2006. The latest revisions to the article were made in 2009.
Developing and designing a website is a large undertaking for any business. For large companies, there are HUGE technology and functionality issues to consider. In many cases, millions of dollars are at stake … just in direct sales through the website … let alone all the other ways the website benefits the business. For a small business, the project is no less significant. In many cases the website will represent a substantial portion of the
advertising budget for that year. In both cases, the website … BETTER PERFORM!
Which raises the first question … Performs What? What is the primary job of this website? Is it an E-Commerce site designed to sell directly to the world? Is it a data-capture, data gathering site which is designed to have offers and opportunities for people to sign-up for things, try things, get more information about things, download things, etc? In this case we look for every opportunity to inspire folks to give up just a bit of their personal information
so we can market to them in the future. Perhaps your site will be a Utility Site … meaning you direct prospects and current clients to the site so they can access tools, forms, etc. which will make your OPERATIONS run more smoothly and create a better client-retention rate because your’e “so easy to work with”. There are several other models we can use when planning and deploying a website … but what’s the plan?
I am constantly amazed how many design firms jump into the details, and color schemes, and specific technologies, and layouts, and designs, and, and, and … without understanding WHAT IS THE JOB OF THIS WEBSITE? The fundamental job! What does the client want to get out of this website? Now, to be fair, most clients don’t know. They simply know they need a website and they have a few solid ideas of a few things, but considerations of “models
of design” are totally unknown. Options and possibilities must be presented, discussed, and decided … PLANS must be made!
How are we going to SIMPLIFY the message so the primary purpose of the website is not compromised while we dilute the purpose with all the things we CAN DO.
A website is like a house. We CAN build a beautiful Victorian home. We can build a sleek ultra-modern home. We can build a lot of different things in a lot of different style with all kinds of amenities and color schemes. But decisions need to be made. If an architect were to build a home which tried to “do everything” it would be a mess! It would be a total disaster of design. In trying to do everything, it actually does
nothing except create a mess … an expensive mess. A website is absolutely no different. If you or your designer try to fit too much … at some point it breaks down and the whole thing becomes ineffective. It’s similar to your BRAND MESSAGE. Make it simple. Make it powerful. But make it CLEAR!
Planning and strategizing is the pruning tool of what we call “feature creep”. The more you talk, the more things you try to do with the site. Adherence to a plan and a strategy can help determine what should and should not make the final cut. This will save everyone a lot of time, a lot of effort, and will ensure the launch of the site will be as effective as it can be.
Don’t forget … you can always launch a second website and target a different audience, or a different purpose with the stuff you “left out”!