There are plenty of reasons for a community organization to think seriously about a website rebuild. Whether you want an infrastructure upgrade or a fresh-looking design, you must make sure you’re asking all the right questions before you begin the process (hint: it’s not just about how much everything will cost you).
Discover the 10 website rebuild questions your organization needs to answer:
I’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating here: If you’re going to be putting any time and/or money into your organization’s online presence, you need to make sure those resources are well spent.
It’s not solely about cost and an implementation timeline – it’s also important to look at branding, messaging and how those are conveyed to your audience. Look at it as an investment in your community’s future instead of a rushed, band-aid solution.
With a proactive approach to your web presence, your organization will be well positioned for long-term success, even as technology continues to change and evolve over time. Even for those working with smaller budgets, playing catch-up with your website’s functionality and design is never a good idea.
Let’s jump into the 10 most important questions you should be asking throughout the website rebuild process:
Before you start getting into the finer details of your new website, you need to determine what the goal of the rebuild is and, more importantly, what the goal of your overall online presence is. These need to be broad but not generic.
Here are a couple of examples to get you started:
- Do you want to sell services on your site? If so, which ones?
- If you’re not using your site for e-commerce purposes, what’s the main reason for its existence (to distribute important information, generate leads via content downloads or email subscriptions, etc.)?
Once those overall wants have been established, it’s time to identify some specific needs that are solutions to obstacles standing in your way. Some examples of questions used to pinpoint web weaknesses are:
- Will this website redesign be a complete structural overhaul or simply implement a new aesthetic look?
- Are there any technical issues plaguing your site’s ability to increase traffic and engagement?
- Is there any crucial functionality missing from your website?
- If your site is being used for e-commerce, do you have a smooth online purchasing process in place?
After you mull over those answers thoroughly and get some answers to those questions, it’s time to combine needs and wants into one or several SMART goals (the acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound). You want to be as detailed as possible here, so don’t be afraid to overwrite a little bit and condense the phrasing afterward.
For example, if your organization is looking to boost online purchases of classes or activities, a SMART goal could look like this: “By October 1st, the day our Fall classes begin, we’ll see a 20% increase in sign-ups by using online software that allows participants/families to register and pay for everything through our website.”
It’s one sentence, but it’s dense with information and clear about what your organization is setting out to achieve. From this point forward, said goal (and others, if you create them) should be the engine that drives every other part of the website rebuild process forward.
This part of the planning process reinforces your SMART goals with some public-facing storytelling. Every small business or community organization has a point of view – what’s yours? How does that translate to the main message your participants and/or residents should know?
In the business world, this is often distilled into a value proposition, giving clients a clear, concise statement that showcases an organization’s strengths and overall mission. To get to that point, here are some questions to consider:
- What is your website’s purpose as a member of your community? Inform and/or educate? Form relationships with like-minded individuals? Offer a recreational service? All of the above?
- What need/void does your organization fill in your city’s marketplace?
- What benefits or lifestyle upgrades will residents or visitors get in return for their participation and/or purchase?
Remember to keep it simple. For inspiration, look at other players in your industry and try to determine what they’re doing well or not; this can act as valuable guidance instead of crafting your messaging based on assumptions.
Once you’ve defined your SMART goals and organizational messaging, it’s time to pinpoint your audience. To do this, it’s helpful to develop Buyer Personas. Essentially, these are short fictional bios that depict your ideal client. Everything from age, ethnicity and job profile can be included – the more detailed, the better off you’ll be throughout the website rebuild process.
Follow these steps to create a successful Buyer Persona:
- What are generalized specifics about your customer base (age, gender, nationality, income, family life, hobbies, interests)?
- What are the common goals shared by those who make up your audience? How does your service offer a significant benefit or lifestyle upgrade?
- How can you position your branding and marketing to better cater to those personas/clients?
Branding guidelines are what give your organization’s messaging direction, position and a distinctive voice in your community. If messaging is the chewy center of the candy, your branding and style structure is the wrapper – in other words, how you’re packaging it to your audience.
When was the last time you took a close look at those guidelines and made sure they’re still relevant and interesting to your target audience? If the answer isn’t recently, then it’s time to dust off those strategies and tinker with them. Audiences change, buyers’ needs evolve; your branding and style should do the same.
There’s no room for maybes with this step. If you think you’re going to change part of your branding or content approach down the road, just bite the bullet and do it now. If you haven’t yet set up an explicit branding outline for your organization, now is the perfect time to start.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Do I have a punchy, to-the-point value statement visible on my site? If not, you need one.
- Are your branding elements consistent across all webpages? Is the essence of your online messaging on-point at all times?
- Is there a button hierarchy/call-to-action system already in place? If not, what is the game plan for lead generation?
- Are social media and email marketing platforms consistent with those branding and messaging strategies?
Four sections into this blog post and we’re finally ready to talk about costs associated with the website redesign. Why all those other sections first? Well, it’s simple: Money being spent on a website rebuild isn’t the most important issue at hand – in fact until you figure out where you stand on goals, messaging and branding, there’s no way you can get an accurate feel for expenses and timeline.
When it comes to costs, remember the long-term investment mindset. Know that shelling out any amount of cash for cheap, outdated software is a big mistake. It may get you to the finish line faster but you’re cheating yourself out of an end result that can be effective and help your organization grow for years to come.
Then there’s the issue of which tool and/or agency to use for the job. Personally, I’ve never seen a custom software build that finished on time, on budget and without a lot of stress felt on both sides of the aisle, which is why Amilia doesn’t recommend going down that road. There are plenty of paid and free tools out there that can help you create sleek, sharp webpages without breaking your business’ budget.
Want more information on the best website development platforms out there? Click over to our blog post for all the details.
Blog posts, videos, podcasting, even animated GIFs. There are so many content options out there that, for businesses who are having trouble getting their messaging and branding out to the public effectively, the task can feel overwhelming.
However, just as Michael Jackson was to pop music, content is king. Done well, getting creative and sharing those articles or video clips with the world could be the difference between converting prospects into paying customers or letting interest twist in the wind and ultimately fade away.
As a content creator myself, I often get asked where one should start. As you can probably tell already, I’m big on planning things ahead of time, so ideally, you’ll need some sort of structure to go off of. Keep your Buyer Personas in mind for this as well – if your audience is regularly clicking through to your video content and not bothering with any blog posts, then this section’s question becomes a rhetorical one.
Keep these factors in mind when determining your content strategy:
- What are my best performing content assets? Can I create more like them?
- Are there any areas (blog, video, etc.) that I’m not producing enough content for?
- Are my content pieces valuable to my audience?
- Is my content publishing frequent and consistent?
To communicate well with your desired audience, your content and design elements must work well together. If your blog posts or video are buried in unwieldy menus or unclear layouts, the user experience will only go downhill.
There are a ton of options when it comes to adding that visual spice to your website as well. Whether you’re thinking about going all out with design pyrotechnics or taking a more minimalist route, there are some foundational pieces that need to be in place before the real fun can begin.
Here are some major design points to keep in mind throughout the rebuild execution:
- What is your organization’s color scheme? Is it consistent throughout your website?
- Are the fonts and logos also consistent on all your webpages?
- Are your website templates responsive on mobile devices? If not, you need to fix that right away.
- Do you have high-res pictures for all the different sections of your site? If not, stock photo options could be a consideration.
Once you have your content and design elements in place, it’s time to make sure that online consumers around the world can find and digest them easily. That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.
It’s important to keep in mind that a robust SEO strategy is about more than just keywords. Slow-to-load pages are one of the main reasons for inflated bounce rates in both B2B and B2C environments; in fact, studies show that speed is a factor in Google search result rankings as well, especially on mobile.
If your site has problems loading pages efficiently or suffers from significant lag time, don’t panic – there are some great tools that can set you on the right track. Google’s page speed analyzer is a good place to start, as is HubSpot’s website grading tool. Make sure you also check out our blog for more secrets on how you can win at local SEO.
Beyond that, here are some important questions to ask concerning SEO:
- Do you have webpages that I don’t use anymore/don’t serve a purpose any longer?
- Do you have any broken URLs? If so, have you set up appropriate 301 redirects?
- Do you have internal linking on different webpages and blog posts? If so, are they sending readers to the right places?
- Are you using the best possible keywords to succeed in your industry?
If you’ve executed your website rebuild process, that doesn’t mean the job is done. Monitoring your online storefront and continually honing it to maximize your marketing and branding reach is critical to the success of your business.
Measuring your site’s performance and meeting those SMART goals you set earlier in the process starts with solidifying your approach to data and selecting specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that, if expectations are met or exceeded, will allow your organization to flourish.
Here are some key areas you should be focusing on:
- What data are you currently collecting via your website? How is it being organized and interpreted?
- Which KPIs will allow your business to achieve your SMART goals?
- Based on that information, what specific areas of your website need improvement?
As the classic meme pictured above will tell you, a website is not static – it is always evolving. With that in mind, it’s never “done.” With new online upgrades happening at lightning speed, it’s becoming increasingly hard for inflexible web presences to succeed in today’s world of e-commerce.
Even if your organization’s engagement or revenue numbers are where they need to be now, don’t get complacent. Never assume that your website, in its current form, will outlive the current competition and new players that enter the fray without needing to adapt to the constantly changing climate of the internet.
A website rebuild is not only an investment in your organization’s future but it’s also a process that will help you and your staff form strong habits that will keep your business at the forefront of the online marketplace for years to come. Pinpointing your audience, solidifying your messaging, and creating content and design elements that support those principles are just a few of the necessary steps to grow your enterprise and thrive in the digital age.
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