When an organization decides to revamp their website, the process usually starts with the web development team or design company meeting with the marketing team. If it is an external web company then each side needs to get to know one another.
The design team use a discovery process to get to know the organization, the business and what they want in a website. If it is thorough, much of the information obtained can be used to develop a draft design as well as determine the technical requirements. Using a known company that is well versed in the ways of the web is an essential investment, they will know what works and what doesn’t, have the creative skills and knowledge to develop a solid website.
However the output will only be as good as the input, that is the discovery process. If the organization has not put a great deal of effort into the prior planning of the website and use this first meeting as the web planning meeting then you are both going to have problems.
We know how a design company prepares for its client, (see Andy Rutledge’s Design Questions) but how should a company prepare for the design company? Needless to say the reputation, prior work and recommendations play a significant role in selecting the company – this discovery process is well established but it is not a substitute for the web plan.
The first thing to remember is that you know your business, your customers and your business environment, however until they start working on your website, your web designers don’t. Second your designer knows the web, search engines, programming languages, technologies etc. and most business people may think they do but with all due respect don’t.
The quote I like is again by Andy Rutledge: “Perhaps the first stumbling block for designers and clients in a creative discovery meeting is the fact that each speaks a different language and each lives in a different world.”
How should an organization prepare for the discovery meeting, or even preparing the proposal bid? The first step is to understand how well the current website is performing – using business measures, such as orders, click throughs to specific pages, customer experience, customer feedback, and employee feedback. If your employees ( and you) haven’t been using your public website regularly then it is time to change. First impressions are important if the site attracts new visitors, as one can’t interview the ones that don’t engage and just leave.
Websites are a critical communication and business tool so the strategic positioning of this channel has to fit into the overall corporate business plan. Which means of course it will have a prominent position in the overall business success factors. Number of hits is just not going to work. So buisness measures are required, and must be tracked
Finally an information architecture needs to be established which identifies the flow of information on the website, sources, providers and type of data to be used.
From concept to implementation, every successful website follows a similar structured flow. Skipping a step will cause delays, and even derail the project, so even though each step may seem laborious, there are ways to Fast Track some of them. I will cover these in later articles.