Develop a Strategy
Most of our clients come to us because they like the way our websites look. But they stay with us because they perform. Our very first client is still with us and we are very proud of that.
Strategy and messaging are the most important part of the web design process and the part that even seasoned professionals often don’t seem to understand. And it’s hard. Defining your messaging strategy is a lot like the game of GO. It is a question that takes a second to ask and a lifetime to answer. But don’t be intimidated, just 2% better is enough, you don’t have to be a million times better, just better.
If you can articulate what it is that you do differently and BETTER than your competition, marketing your brand is just about getting this message in front of as many people as possible, and never in the history of the world have we had more people on the planet or the sophisticated tools to get your messaging in front of them.
Design Your Website
Since the homepage is the most critical page of your website – this is where in milliseconds visitors decide if they will stay or if they will go – we like to focus on that first.
We create 5 mockups ranging from conservative to a little bit out there. Then you choose the one you kind-of, sort-of like the best and we make revisions to that until you LOVE the homepage. This is a VERY effective technique to focus in on what you are looking for and create a design that knocks people’s socks off!
Then, if we have the budget, the best way is to identify all key pages and have a designer do mockups of each, then match them on the development server pixel for pixel. These will serve as templates for the rest of the website.
If we use a platform like like Shopify or WordPress, the basic foundation is responsive, meaning the design adapts to mobile devices and tablets. But if our client needs something to look a specific way on mobile devices, we also create mobile mock-ups. For fully custom websites mobile mock-ups are even more important so the programmers know exactly what to code, eliminating unnecessary revisions and excessive QC.
When the budget is tight, we let the content guide us. Using the homepage as our model (colors, fonts and design elements), a programmer with design skills lays them out directly on the development server.
Optimize the Information, Architecture and User Experience for Conversion
Once the look and feel has been decided upon, we recommend sketching out how users will actually interact with it in real life.
The organizational structure, the connection between different pieces of information and the framework that helps the user understand those connections. The hierarchy of information, categories at the top, followed by more specific subcategories for the user to navigate through. The navigation and user experience, how the user moves through pieces of content and/or information. Information architecture is all about finding ways to help the user navigate the website in order to reach their goal.
Once you have your strategic roadmap, you need to apply it to every bit of communication your organization produces. Web Pages, Blog Posts, Articles, the list goes on and on. Every single word on your website should propel your customers towards your “shameless” goal. Be it selling products, selling services, getting donations or acquiring volunteers.
Next comes the Imagery. Perhaps the single most important part of any website is the imagery, because if the imagery is not absolutely perfect no one will ever listen to what you have to say. A terrible image will destroy your brand and lower your prices but a great image will explode sales, leads and engagement.
And video completes the trifecta. The perfect blend of storytelling and promotion will maximize your marketing dollars. We’re not talking infomercials either, we’re talking about compelling, interesting, and emotionally engaging storytelling that can make your organization come to life online.
Code Your Website
We code the homepage on desktop first because it is the most complex and creates the foundation of the whole website. This is called the “Alpha Work Period”. The header, the footer, the colors, fonts and visual style are coded. This also speeds up the process so that we don’t have to wait until the rest of the website pages are designed in order to start.
Plugins specified in the SOW that are critical to the functioning of the pages are installed here, Woo Commerce, Events Plugins, Membership Plugins, etc…
Once the coded homepage that gone through a preliminary QC (Quality Control) round and is ready to view we send the development url for approval. So that everyone is on the same page it needs to be viewed using the Chrome, Firefox or Safari browser at these dimensions: 1400px for desktop, 768px for tablet and 360px for mobile.
After that, subpages and mobile mockups are approved and like with the homepage, we them on the development server too. This is called the “Beta Work Period”. The Beta Work Period is the longest.
Then, before we make it live, we do a more intensive QC on many different browsers and devices and a polish pass to make sure nothing was missed.
Optimize for Search, Install Google Analytics and Heat Map Software
In addition to coding these pages and optimizing for mobile devices we also do an SEO Sweep and install Heatmap and Analytics code which allows you to track the performance of your website.
We recommend doing a full SEO sweep to optimize the existing content on your website. Then, once your site has been optimized, we will develop a strategic roadmap to assess, guide, and plan an ongoing content marketing strategy for your business to make sure it continues to climb and rank well in search engines. This makes sure that the search engines can crawl and index your website as well as making sure the basic SEO elements are in place to help generate rankings for the new content you produce.
SEO is an ongoing conversation. Competitors will also be working to improve their ranking and Google modifies and adjusts their algorithm regularly. As such your website’s SEO needs to be modified and adjusted continuously if you want to keep ranking and improving your position.
If you are doing marketing, it’s our “best guess” as to what will work. Since everyone on our team is a specialist with Fortune 500 and Big Brand experience, it should be very, very good. But marketing is all about the data so you need Google Analytics to tell you what pages people are visiting, how long they are spending on those pages and what buttons they are clicking.
If you want to take your data to the next level, install “heatmap code” on your website. This can be nothing short of miraculous. Just as analytics tell you which pages are underperforming, heatmaps tell you what specific part of the page is underperforming.