October 11, 2016 | Web Design
Update: We’ve created a printable PDF of our checklist for you to download, print and share. Although this post is originally from a few years ago, we reviewed and revised to keep it relevant to today.
It’s that time of year. You may be creating a budget with plans to upgrade your web site in the coming year. Or, you may be hoping to fast-pace your web site project and launch your updated site at the start of next year.
Before you jump into the process, it’s helpful to create a list of what you want to improve. Defining your goals will help you understand what features are most essential to your new web site, who is the best partner for you, how much money you might expect to spend and how long it will take.
Face it, getting a new web site finished is a big project. If you are clear with these details, the whole process is going to go a lot smoother.
This checklist should get you headed in the right direction with:
Questions to ask yourself
Research to conduct
Tasks to complete
What is prompting you to update your site?
Understanding the reason behind the web site redesign is critical. This will help you determine your most critical needs and then identify the right partner to help you achieve your goals.
Has your business changed and your site no longer reflects what you do?
Does the site look dated because of the design?
Do you want to make your site more up-to-date technologically—for example using responsive design techniques?
Are you planning to add in functionality such as e-commerce, integrating with a CRM or adding a blog?
Do you need to better organize content to make it easier to navigate?
Are you having trouble making updates?
Is your site slow to load? How does it score in speed testing tools like Pagespeed Insights?
How do you want the look of the site to change (or stay the same)?
For many organizations, their web site is central to establishing their brand. The design of the site including the colors, the way the logo is displayed, the imagery and the layout builds out their identity. The content on the site and how it’s presented develops the voice of the brand.
Because of that, you want to use caution when redesigning your site. If you toss out too much you may feel unrecognizable.
What elements of your current site are central to your brand identity? Outline your corporate identity standards.
What do you like about how your current site looks? Make a list.
Think about the user experience. You’ve probably noticed that some web sites are just plain harder to use than others. It’s usually a combination of design, how information is organized and the functionality of the site that make some web sites a pleasure to use. What are your typical users looking for: contact information, the ability to buy your products, special offers, your hours, or what? How can the design make that easier for your web site visitors?
What elements detract from your brand and need to be changed? Make a list.
Does your site look dated and what ideas do you have to improve it?
Have you spent time looking at other sites? What do you like and what do you want to avoid? Do you want to follow the latest trends?
How much of your content is changing and who will work on updating it?
Frequently, as you start examining your current web site, you start to realize that much of the content is out of date. You may be featuring services that are no longer central to your business. Or, you’ve refined your target audience but it’s not reflected in how you describe your benefits or the imagery you chose.
Nowadays, businesses shift—subtly or greatly—because of quickly changing technology, economic changes and other trends.
Who will audit your content—can you do this yourself or do you need an expert?
If you’ve done a basic audit, make a list of the content that needs updating.
Will a writer be required to create new pages or will someone internally edit and update?
Is the content arranged logically? Does the navigation make content easy to find?
What does your site need to do?
There are so many possible web-based applications that can be integrated into your web site to make it more robust.
Many clients don’t have even a rough estimate of the costs involved to tie these together, so it’s hard to determine whether there will be ROI on the development fees. However, these are the tasks that can really influence the price of a web site.
Do you want to highlight content by having a blog, a photo album, a slider or an events calendar?
Will there be a contact form?
Is there members-only content available exclusively to people who register?
Are there outside systems you’d like to integrate with, such as your e-newsletter signup, membership records, or a CRM tool like Hubspot, SalesForce or Zoho?
Do you want to accept payments online? This might include something as simple as a one-product “buy-now” button, or a complete shopping cart. In addition to traditional products, this might be for classes, e-books or restaurant reservations. Understanding the scope of your e-commerce needs is critical to getting an accurate web estimate.
What kinds of social media integration do you want? In addition to listing your channels and asking people to follow your brand, you may want to allow social sharing on some or all pages.
Are there other custom applications you want developed?
Finally, how comfortable do you feel about making updates? Do you have the software and skills to finalize graphics? Are there specific items you want to ensure are easy-to-update?
Integration with marketing
What marketing initiatives do you have planned that need to be integrated with the web site?
Your web site should be thought of as a sales and marketing tool. Make it easy on yourself by planning for these types of activities:
Landing pages. Quickly make one-off pages with specific URLs.
Gated content such as whitepapers or webinars that people must register to access.
Clear calls to action that are easy to create and optimize.
Tracking via Google Analytics or other systems.
Specialized content including: blogs, case studies, video, infographics.
How much does it cost to create a website?
Try Our Free Website Cost Estimator Tool
Budgeting and Planning
What can you afford, what’s most critical, and when does it need to be done?
Getting a price for your web project can feel a bit like a high stakes Poker match. No one wants to reveal their budget. You may be surprised that potential web design firms ask you for your budget up front. This can seem confusing because you were looking to them to provide the estimate.
The reason we ask is because there are often different ways to do the same, or at least similar functions. Maybe one solution is much less expensive to build but is not as robust as a more costly option. An example might be a completely automated solution vs. a manual sync that you perform daily. Our discovery process can help our clients prioritize their needs and allow us to build out the most effective web site they can afford.
Does your organization require budgeting in advance for these types of projects? If so, you’re probably doing planning now for an execution date after the new year.
Are you a smaller firm, or the business owner who has more flexibility in decisions?
Have you budgeted for related expenses such as photography, plugin licenses, hosting, merchant account fees, ongoing maintenance, on-going content creation and updates, etc.?
Is there a trade show or big event scheduled that you’d like your new web site completed before?
Who on your team will lead the project and who else will be involved? For most business people, “the web site project” is not in their job description. It’s an added burden for someone, and it’s essential that you carve out time for that person to keep the project moving forward. Find that person or team of people.
Start asking around for referrals from other business owners. Finding a web firm that understands your needs is more critical than finding one that’s already designed a web site that has the look you want.
Going through this list of questions, tasks and research should help you speak clearly about what your priorities are for a new web site, and allow you to evaluate the best firm to redesign your web site.