How to harness the power of the web

Web Development

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How to harness the power of the web

A web presence is one of the most valuable things that a modern business can have. These days, the first thing people do when they run across a question, business, etc. that they want to know more about, they search for it online.  We could simply design visually stunning websites for our clients, and call it job done. But design on its own is not enough and the days of brochure & business card websites are well behind us. The online space is a powerful one and it can yield amazing results for businesses on many different fronts. But if your venture into online is not well thought through, planned and executed, and is based on luck and guesswork. Than its more likely that it will fail miserably than be a resounding success.

We've included 6 things that you MUST do if your about to undertake a web development project.

1. Research
Before you do anything, you need to do your research. If you're replacing or relaunching an existing web presence, get to the bottom of why you are doing it? Has your business outgrown its current format, content and functionality? Has your business changed direction? What knowledge have you gained from your existing site about how visitors interact with it? Could this be improved or enhanced? What feedback have you received over the lifespan of the existing site and how can this benefit your plan for the new one? On the other hand if this is your first venture into the online space, do you know how your site will be used, what are your customers looking for, what are your competitors doing and how can you highlight your point of difference? What do you need the website to do? What parts of your business and systems could you automate and improve by utilising the web space. The more research and knowledge you can gather and assess, the better the process and outcome will be.

2. Planning
Next up, take that research and learning and put it to good use. Think about your going to achieve the results the web site is intended for, what will it take to effectively deliver your message and evoke action in your site visitors (what ever that action might be). Work out who your target market is and how best to reach out to them. Create a list of the content that needs to be delivered/developed and think about what else needs to accompany that, ie images, photos, product information. Plan your approach, how much time do you have? are you working to a timeline? What budget have you allocated for the project? are you considering copywriting, photography, design & development costs? Understand your immediate objectives and your identify long terms ones then roll all of that into a well organised plan. The benefit of this prep work means not only do you have a good idea about what you need, but you will be able to explain that easily to your developer. The result is likely to mean lower costs. more efficiency and better results. A little bit of planning can make all the difference between success and failure. 

3. Content Development
Now I'm sure you have heard this before, but content really is king. After all, your entire website is made of content. It's probably one of the single most important things on your site, but far too often we hear "Just design the site for me and I will add my content later.."  I cringe every time I hear this because it shows that you have likely missed the first two steps as mentioned below. We don't believe a successful website can be built without any content. The design is only the "wrapping" to deliver you information, it is not your website.  Content is not just your copy, content is everything that makes us your site beyond the 'design" elements including photos, images, banners, downloads, etc. Content helps provides information and helps to engage your visitors and lead them along a path. Content also visually represents your brand and sets a tone. Good Content is also vital for attracting visitors to your site in the first place. Search engines index content, its how they can serve up results so quickly and they love keyword loaded content that clearly tells them what your site is all about. There is nothing more vital than developing rich, relavant content not only for your visitors, but for search engines as well. 

4. Structure & Organisation
Ensuring your website and its content is well organised is an essential part of the process and should be considered thoroughly. Visitors to your site need to be able to undertand what you are offering and find information quickly. Before you even think about design, you should develop a site map (a list of pages organised in hierarchical fashion), as well as some wireframes (a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of the web page) for all, or at very least the important pages of your website. This might sound like a lot of work, but believe me it is well worth it. Not only will you start to get a sense of how your site is going to look and how the content will "fit", but you will likely save hours and alot of heartache when it actually comes time to design and build becuase its much easier to change your approach, trim back your content, or reorganise your layout now then it is once the design and development of the site has begun.

5. Brand & Visual Representation
Even before your site visitors read a single line of copy, they have probably already made a decison about your organisation or brand. The visual appeal of a website is the first thing most people notice and judge a website by. Whilst the design of the site is not the most important part of the site, its the part that gives the first impression and its important to get it right. The first thing to work on is to ensure that your website designmatches with the tone of your business, brand or products. Does the photography you are using mesh, can your visitors/customers identify with it? does it appeal? Secondly you shoudl enesure that the design does dominate or distarct the user from the content, often getting too "creative" for creatives sake can lead to confusion for your visitors (as nice as that animated flashy thing might appeal to you). Findling the balance here is the key. Ypur content should be layed out in a way that makes it easy for the visitor to digest and undertand and invites them to browse and reas on. Long pararagraphs of unbroken text are typically avoided considering the amount of time visitors usually spend on your site, so vreaking it down into bite size peices and breaking it up with some headlines or imagery is usuaally the way to go. Lastly, make sure the colour pallette and typpgraphy selections not only fit with your brand, but work in the online space and consider limiting these so that the pages of your site share some consistancy.

6. Platform and Functionality
Often the platform in which a website is built is not even considered by the business owner, yet we believe the platform is the 'brain' of a successful online business and should be carefully considered to ensure you shiny new site can be easily updated, provides the option for custom development and has the capacity and flexibilty to grow as your online business does. A wesbite should not be a static medium, it should be evolving all the time, this ensures your online presense is always current, entices visitors to come back and see whats going on and encourages search engines to regularly visit so they can index your new content. Beyond the content side of things a platform should provide a means to market your business, through email marketing, mailing list management, web2lead form builders, blogging tools to name just a few. The online space is also a powerful one and the technological advances it offers businesses to streamline and improve their processses is staggering. Every thing from the basics like accepting online payments or taking event bookings, right through to Sales CRMs and customer databases and intranets. Take a look at the way you currently run your business and ask yourself whether you could be doing it better, faster, easier. I'm guessing there is a huge scope of things that a powerful platform could be doing to save you time and money.

We go through the above steps with almost every website we build, we've developed a process and some great tools and tricks to make sure that there is a very clear path for the copywriters, designers and development teams to follow. If you would like us to help out with your project, feel free to connect with us and let us know what you have in mind.

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