When trying to design a great website it is very easy to focus on making something aesthetically pleasing while forgetting to make sure that the website also achieves your business’ online goals.
This is why a well thought-out marketing strategy is crucial to the success of any website design project. Regardless of brand or industry, you need to have a strategy in place so that you are able to identify your business’ objectives and determine what tactics you will need in order to accomplish them. The process of building out an efficient marketing strategy can be complex and should be examined in three phases prior to a website’s launch:
The Discovery Phase
Developing any strategy starts with extensive research in order to really get a complete understanding of the industry and business itself. A deep analysis of the competitive landscape is imperative to the success of your project, both from a strategy and design perspective. It is crucial to have a mix of both qualitative and quantitative research, such as examining current website metrics, engaging in competitive research, and having conversations with stakeholders will provide you with findings that are going to be relevant throughout the entire strategy process.
When it comes to qualitative research, speaking with the client’s key stakeholders about the web design project will help clarify their role in the process. Whether it’s the CEO, CMO, or various members of the marketing and sales teams, having a clear understanding as to what they need from the website is imperative. Ask questions such as, “How can this site be optimized to help you?” or “What are some difficulties you have with the current site?” Having the employees of the business give their opinions on the current website will provide insight on areas that are in need of improvement, and allow you to assess any user experience issues and problems they face when navigating the website. This portion of your research should uncover how your website can become a tool for everyone at the company and help the specific needs of their job. For example, some businesses may have employees that constantly travel and need to access a database that is hosted through the company’s website – in this case it would be good to implement an extranet to increase productivity and accessibility for all employees.
Workshops offer a similar perspective. They allow you to host exercises with different groups of people that make up your target audience to better understand the positioning of your brand and products, while potentially determining some alternative methods that may be more effective. Prior to any workshop, develop an agenda and select a moderator that will ensure all topics get covered and the right amount of time is properly allocated for each question. The purpose of these workshops is to encourage discussions that cover project objectives and expectations, measurement of success, problems with the current site, opinions on design, and structure. Ask attendees to rank the importance of each element to determine the impact it has on the business and its customers. Use this process as a basis for deciding the order in which these elements should be addressed in the web development strategy.
On the other end of the discovery phase is quantitative research. At this point, your goal is to gather high-level findings that are backed up by statistics. Generally, businesses are often interested in research related to their target audience, so it is ideal to conduct surveys that will garner concrete data that provides insights on how to best reach them. To gather numbers related to the needs of your target audience, develop surveys through a platform such as Survey Monkey, and disseminate it across email or social platforms to get as much data as possible. By connecting your questions with the users you’re targeting, you’ll get valuable data that you may not have been aware of before, such as what benefits they value, which media channels they use the most, among other useful data.
While it is easy to assume you know your audience from past experience, that assumption isn’t always going to be reliable or relevant. Conducting your own research with each new initiative gives you supporting quantitative data that will leave you with accurate, unbiased results to eventually use as a basis for decision-making. This information can help plan your web development strategy’s design elements, calls-to-action, navigation, and other items that will increase overall site usability and conversion rate.
The Audit Phase
The culmination of the discovery phase brings you to the audit—the first real deliverable, that you should be presenting to the decision-makers of your website design project. It’s at this point that you want to take all of your insights from the research you conducted regarding audience, competition, and the current website and use them to present an actionable plan for your website design and pinpoint any goals based on the analysis. For example, if the client is a start-up, comparing them to competitors can lead to completing a branding audit that can verify their positioning and presence in the industry, which will further narrow down the goal of your strategy.
Several online tools can be a huge help when it comes to finding relevant information and determining areas of improvement. With Google Analytics, you can hone in on existing site performance and see first-hand what’s working and what’s not. Perhaps you found that the bounce rate is high, or that you have low conversions when visitors accessed your site through a certain channel. From there, you can generate more ideas on how to best increase results and foster growth for your project. Taking these metrics, and then taking a look at a digital marketing data aggregation service, like eMarketer, can help you find industry benchmarks to see if what you’ve found through your analysis is relevant to other companies as well.
Take an auto-industry website as an example. Perhaps you’re seemingly doing well when it comes to mobile users accessing your phone number online and requesting a quote via phone call. Then by studying some charts from the eMarketer database, you may realize this is not true, and that across the industry, you have significantly lower mobile conversions than other companies. To remedy this, you may decide to display a more prominent phone number and call-to-action within your design.
Presenting insights like these during your audit phase can highlight potential areas for improvement. In addition to comparing industry averages across various web design elements and tactics, this database can also help to identify significant trends that you may be able to leverage.
The Web Strategy Phase
Once your audit is presented, it’s time to move on to the web strategy phase. At this point, you want to focus on taking the insights found through your audit and turning them into legitimate recommendations that integrate various creative and design elements.
During the strategy phase, you need to create or envision a funnel that will reflect the buyer journey, and how the consumer is likely to go through the decision-making process. You may have certain conversion points at the top, middle, and bottom of the conversion funnel, but if they aren’t in the correct places on the site they may be useless. For example, placing a “buy now” button in a location where the customer has only spent a few seconds on your site is going to adversely impact your sales because they have not had enough time to actually decide to make a purchase. Consumers should be eased into the buying process, so you need to identify how to guide them through awareness, interest, consideration, and then conversion. The top of the funnel embodies the informational stage of the buying process, and as you move closer to the bottom, tactics become more specific, and the buyer becomes more serious.
During this phase, cross-departmental collaboration with experts at your organization will enhance your actionable recommendations. Typically, strategists will collaborate with members of the information architecture team to create things like navigation pathways that will support both usability and web conversions. Bringing in a graphic designer to offer creative recommendations and collaborate with the branding concepts will help bring the visualization of the web design project to life. From a visual standpoint, creating several “mockups” that exhibit different variations of the logo, text, and overall inspiration of your project can be successful at conveying your design idea. Determine the top three themes that will identify your new brand, and use images and words to create a collage that is representative of those terms, and your brand.
Effective Processes Drive Achievements
While you are developing your web design strategy, every action should be supported and backed up by the specific business objective it will achieve. You want features and content that will constantly keep people coming back. By conducting thorough research, analyzing the insights you find, and applying them to recommended actionable tactics, you can align your business for success and convey a creative branded design for your clients.