A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS
Step one is ALWAYS the landscape analysis. To build a solid foundation we need to understand the competitive landscape, so we carefully research your target market, see who your competitors are and learn what they do well and what they do poorly. We need to know what your competitors do well because you need to be at least as good as they are and knowing what they do poorly lets us spot opportunity and low hanging fruit.
Often our clients tell us they know who their competitors are. This is a red flag, unless they are seasoned marketers. It’s not about who YOU think your competitors are, it’s about who your CUSTOMERS think your competitors are.
This is why we also interview your clients/customers. Not only do we learn who your REAL competitors are, but also learn about their tastes and preferences which allows us to build a better performing website.
Strategy and Messaging
What is it that you do differently and BETTER than your competition?
“Outstanding Customer Service” doesn’t count. EVERYONE says that.
Strategy and messaging is 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.
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!
Information Architecture and User Experience
Once the look and feel has been decided upon, for larger websites we recommend architecting how users will interact with it. This includes:
The organizational structure and sitemap. The connection between different pieces of information and the framework that helps the user understand all those connections.
The hierarchy of that information. You use broad categories at the top, and more specific and smaller subcategories the user can 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.
Once the content is ready and the mock-up is “approved to code” we code the homepage on our development server to match the approved mock-up exactly.
Then there are two ways we can proceed. If we have the budget, the very best way is to do mockups of all the key pages, then match them on the development server.
If the budget is tight, we can let the content guide us and, using the homepage as our model, lay them out directly on the development server. Since the homepage design dictates the look and feel of the website, once visitors are engaged they are most interested in learning more about your product or service so often simple is better. This approach can be VERY effective and beautiful.
Search Engine Optimization
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.