By Dom Raban, Managing Director of digital and design agency Corporation Pop
Commissioning a new website or fixing a broken one can be a costly and time-consuming process. Success is all in the brief and making sure that you ask the right questions.
Here are my top tips for making sure you get the results you want without pouring money down the digital drain.
1. Agree functionality at the start
One of the first things your agency should do is produce a Functional Specification - a document that outlines all the features and functionality of the site. Ensure it includes everything that you want as adding features later will cost you more.
2. Be open-minded about how your site content is structured
A good supplier will work with you to understand and analyse the needs of different user groups. The process will help them to develop the most effective solution for your target market. This will usually involve defining personas and user stories to help paint a picture of how your customers will want to use your site. Once you have established what your visitors are most likely to be looking for, your web team should work out the shortest route to obtaining that information.
3. Think about devices
According to the Office for National Statistics almost 70% of us accessed the internet via a mobile device last year so avoid alienating a high percentage of your visitors by ensuring your site is optimised for mobile viewing. There are two approaches to building a site for both mobile and desktop - building two versions of the same site or building a single responsive site where the design adapts to the screen size. The latter is by far the best approach, but whichever you take ensure you brief your designers on a mobile friendly design.
4. Don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut…
Your chosen agency will suggest a content management system (CMS) and it’s important that you make sure that it is the right tool for the job. We’ve seen some clients lumbered with a high-powered and complicated CMS which is managing nothing more than a small brochure site – it’s overkill. If you’re setting up a shop selling a handful of products then a WordPress site with a plug-in like WooCommerce may suffice but you’ll need the power of a platform like Magento if you’re running a full-blown ecommerce operation. Before you commit to any kind of CMS or store ask for a demonstration to make sure that you’re comfortable with it and that it’s fit-for-purpose.
5. Don’t break the rules…
… or rather don’t let your agency break the rules. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing most designers like better than challenging convention, but there are some rules that just shouldn’t be broken – there’s a very good reason for putting things like navigation, home buttons and search fields exactly where people expect to find them.
6. Budget for the long term
Remember that site launch day is just the beginning. You should budget for ongoing maintenance to cover site improvements and upgrades to your CMS. It is essential that your agency regularly updates the CMS to install security patches and bug fixes, frequency will be dependent on the system installed.
7. Study the numbers
Make sure that your agency installs Google Analytics or similar analytics software so that you can track site usage once the site goes live. Understanding how your users behave is crucial to improving site performance and will inform how you tweak content and structure over time.