Launching a successful website is no easy task. There are many practical and technical details to assemble and implement and many business and marketing objectives to consider. Generally speaking, there is no one person, such as a web designer, who can pull this job off. Worse yet, the business owner turned do-it-yourself web site creator, even armed with a simple site creation tool, almost always lacks the split personality traits required to view the project properly.
A successful website launch, regardless of size or budget, must involve these five personalities to some degree or another. You can think of these as phases in the creation of your site or actual tasks done by specific providers, either way you must address them all.
This is the strategy before tactics applied to your website. Most folks want to go to design first, but a design that’s not informed by your business strategy is, at best, a nice bit of eye candy. Do yourself, and anyone involved in designing your site, a favor and try to get a handle on all of the things you want your web site to do for you. Do you have major segments or markets to consider, do you have divisions of products and services, do you have a content strategy, are you trying to sell, educate or create leads? In an effort to make your site as effective as possible it’s essential that you focus on one overriding strategy and filter your content and design decisions based on that. A website that’s confusing or even ambiguous will generally lead to no action.
I’ll introduce the other personalities needed for this lesson below, but it’s safe to say that while there is an order to this almost all parties will collaborate and circle back into the process from time to time. The marketer, for example, should be fully present for strategy decisions to offer some thoughts on what keywords and phrases should make up the primary content focus.
A great design is one that allows your strategy, brand and content to be presented in a way that makes it pleasing, supports the elements and image of the brand, and moves the visitor effortlessly to the information and results thought through in your strategy sessions.
Many people look at this like decorating a space, but the best interior designers will tell you that usability is key to good design. People may not even notice the drapes or colors, although they will notice them subconsciously for good or bad, but they will notice if something seems out of place or if they can’t find the bathroom.
Another key to a successful web site is functionality. There are many ways to integrate widgets, plug-ins, communities, ratings, subscription, comments, customer portals, and membership only sections to increase engagement and usability. Successful web sites employ the right mix of these added features to enhance the overall experience without making a site look like a Christmas tree decorated by a six year old.
The developer personality should also be in charge of the under the hood code. Standards compliant (See WC3) code, search engine friendly code, and a fast loading site are all very important, but too often get little consideration from the marketer or the designer. I guess this is a good place to make my common pitch for WordPress software. It comes out of the box with beautiful code and a host of add-ons to extend the functionality.
No matter how brilliant your strategy, design and code appear to be, it’s the web site visitor that determines success of failure. It is very easy to fall slowly in love with what you have developed, but the visitor may only take a second or two to determine if your site has what they are looking for. Get your site in front of actual and target customers through low cost usability tools like UserTesting.com or by creating A/B tests in Google Website Optimizer so you can test and tweak your site and how people actually use and interact with it.
While your site is still in beta you should also consider this phase the place to bug fix, proofread and link check. Spellr.us will check spelling for up to 100 pages for free. Using Google’s Webmaster Tools or LinkSleuth on a PC/ Integrity on a Mac you can track down broken links throughout your website.
Ah, last but not least, how are you going to get people to this site? As stated above the marketer is involved in all phases to some degree, but is ultimately unleashed for good when the site is live.
The marketer must keep the content and SEO plans moving forward, network for links, analyze the traffic and user patterns (the programmer added Google Analytics for the marketer to lean on) capture lead data, drive more traffic, manage PPC, and create and test campaign specific landing pages.
The marketer is also ideally suited to orchestrate the integration of the organization’s social media strategy and the impact is has on website objectives as well as all of the elements of offline activity that further leads to the successful use of the website as a business building tool.
In my opinion, these considerations must be planned and managed by the owner of the site. Even if some or all of the actual work is delegated, you, the business owner and marketer, must drive the collaboration of these five personalities in order to create a tool that will mesh with your overall business strategies. Don’t expect to hire someone and let them create your website. You can’t abdicate this important tool. If manage the multiple disciplines you are more likely to get a result that will serve your needs.
Image credit: Alcino