Web Site Development – What is your goal?

Posted by on October 20, 2008 in Web Design [ 0 Comments ]

Everyone agrees that in order to properly market your business you need to have a web site. For many businesses the person in charge of this project has little or no experience with developing a web site. They know they need it, but have no idea what is involved and so often make their decisions based on price or style, rather than substance.

Over the last eight months, I have spent much of my time redeveloping web sites. Some of the sites had fulfilled their original purpose and needed to be updated because; a) the company had outgrown the site, b) new technology enabled new functionality, or c) they needed a fresh, more contemporary look. Unfortunately though, many of the sites I have worked on are brand new, some just weeks old. A few were inexpensive sites, maybe a Do-It-Yourself project or developed by a friend of a friend, but others were done by agencies and cost $30,000 – $40,000. The budget and creativity were there, but they were poorly planned and did not fulfill the company’s goals.

Currently I am working with a client that just launched their new site. I was brought in to oversee the development of a gift card section for this site. They were thrilled with the new look, but not the functionality. The designer did not design the site with the visitors and site goals in mind. The two main goals of the site were to provide information about their franchise opportunities and provide a revenue stream by selling gift cards online. The first thing I noticed when reviewing their site was the links to Franchise Info and Gift Card Purchase were out of the viewable space or “below the fold.” So in order for someone visiting the site to find this information, they would have to scroll down the page, greatly decreasing the numbers of visits to those areas of the site. This was just one of many areas of concern, but the most profound.

Designers are usually focused on how the site looks, programmers are focused on how the site works, but the most important part of development and the one that is most often overlooked, is the visitor’s experience sometimes referred to as usability. It is so important to ask throughout the design and development stages – Does the site fulfill the company’s goals and can a visitor find the information they want easily.

The best way to avoid this mistake it to take the time to set clear site goals before design and programming begin. Then make sure these goals are still being achieved throughout every stage of the process. There are several stages of development to be aware of.

1. Discovery Stage – Set goals, discuss functionality, begin to collect assets

2. Wire frame and navigation – Make sure that the most important areas of the site are easy to access.

3. Creative Comps – The designer should present one or more comps of the home page and an interior page, for your review and approval before moving into additional design or the programming stage.

4. Programming – This is the full production stage of the site and when all content is added. You should be given a link to a beta version of the site to review before the developer goes LIVE with the site.

5. Quality Assurance – The testing phase. Be sure the developer tests on multiple browsers. What looks good on Internet Explorer 6, does not necessarily work on IE7 or FireFox.

Never be afraid to ask questions. When you receive the beta link to your site, test it yourself, have a friend, or co-worker go through the site and try to access key information. Ask them, does the navigation make sense? Could you find key information? And so on.

Finally, make sure to consider current as well as future goals for your site. If you want to be able to make your own changes, capture data, open an online store or increase the site size, let your web team know at the beginning. This can save time and money down the road.

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