I love a good website brief and there's nothing like a client who puts the time and effort into creating a great website brief for us. We love it!
But creating a website brief and creating a corporate website strategy are two completely different concerns.
Strategizing your website is about getting into the nitty-gritty of not just how a website looks and functions, but also thinking about details such as who it is targeting, and how they will find their way to the website and through all of the great content you have (You do have great content, don't you?).
Whether you're briefing a digital agency, or you're going to give it a crack on your own, you must think about and plan out what you are going to do before you start.
Corporate website strategy: start at the start
Often my clients complain that strategizing their website is a daunting task and they don't know where to start. I always say, ‘Start at the start'.
Start by creating an overview of your company, who you are, who your customers are, and what competition do you have? Following are my start questions.
When my clients fill in one of our web briefs, these questions are always right at the top:
- Create an overview
Briefly describe your website project and your key objectives.
- Solidify your KPIs
KP-what? Key performance indicators. List out quantifiable targets you can set for your website that you will be able to report on. See our great data science article for more information.
- Define your audience
Be supercritical. Who is your primary audience? Who is your secondary audience? Are there key stakeholders like the CEO or the managers of divisions you need to consult? Getting these people on board from the get-go will save you time and heartache down the track.
- Know your competition
List your competitors, look at their sites. Do you like what they do? Are they successful online and if so, why?
- Understand your brand
What is your current brand positioning? What is the personality of your brand? You need to really understand who you are in order to sell yourself to your customers.
- Set a timeframe and budget
Be realistic. Understand that your website is your online storefront. It deserves at least as much attention as your physical premises (perhaps more because your potential online audience is huge). Set a timeframe and budget that will allow you to develop a website to propel your business to the online world.
Content, content, content!
Did I say content?
Content is like the poor old second cousin that doesn't get invited to the family events. Content is left out in the cold, till the last minute, and then everyone panics and its action stations.
At the eleventh hour, a bit of lackluster content is shoved into a website and the button is pushed for go-live. I sound jaded, don't I?
Well, it's for good reason. Too many times I've seen this happen. Content is king.
Great content IS the difference between winning a new client or not. Great content is the difference between getting that phone call, drop-in, online sale…or not.
This is why your next phase should be your sitemap; a sitemap generated by quality targeted content. But don't attempt a sitemap on your own.
Gather the troops – your team who really know your business (in some cases, better than you). Gather all of your offline content, brochures, fact sheets, and media releases.
Pile it up on a big desk and crack out the post-it notes. Get every team member to think of as many pieces of content your target audience/s might want from your website, and write each idea on a post-it.
Once you've done this as a team, you can then group the content ideas under headings. And voila, a fun and interactive way of creating a sitemap for your new website done in half the time you would achieve a digital equivalent.
Now, take a photo of your post-it sitemap so you don't lose it. If you're getting the website up yourself, create a working prototype of your website by transferring it into your content management system, and start clicking around to see how it feels.
Do your research when it comes to working out what template styles you would like for the content of your website.
Don't just look at your competitors, look at sites you love. Look at the sites your target audience is loving and using every day.
What's driving them back there? Look at them with an analytical eye.
Screengrab these and collect them together in Evernote or Google docs, mark them up with some notes so that you can share them with your team and your digital agency.
Oh, and if you want to look at some design inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards.
Once you've tackled the major tasks above, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Don't try to do these on your own: web strategy really is a team sport.
Work with your web team or, at the very least, do your research.
There is so much stuff out there available including a great stack of resources right here on this website.
- Design and creative
What is the look/feel/mood/direction you are going for?
Gather your company logo/s (preferably in vector format for the highest possible resolution) or, even better, provide your branding guidelines to your digital agency. Ensure you include: typography style, color palette, and any existing printed collateral you have.
- Graphics and images
I'm going to sound preachy now but please don't give your web team crap photos that someone took of the outside of your building. They are never going to sell your business. If you don't have a great set of photos, work with your web team to arrange a custom photoshoot, or use stock imagery.
This again is about knowing your audience. Think about the devices they're using. What is the dominant device for that target market? Then pivot your website to that device. If mobile is dominant, ensure you let your web team know and then test and test and test on mobile devices.
- Content management
List what you expect out of your content management system. For example:
– revision history
– WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing
– media library
– ability to edit and add your own forms
– tiered authoring – author, editor, publisher.
- Integration/other systems
Does your website need to integrate with other systems, like a POS (point of sale) or an EMS (email management system)?
What level of compliance is required?
Do you have an existing copy? Who will be doing the copywriting? What about video or other interactive content? And don't forget the lovely legals, such as your privacy statement.
- Quality assurance
Make sure you have a plan of attack for quality assurance of your website prior to go-live. Remember, you know your business better than your digital agency so it's important that you test it. Write down the browsers you will be testing on and what you think is important for you to test; for example, the contact form.
- Handover and training
What type of training will you need? Just a handover document, or a handover and a training session? Who needs to be trained and what is their skill set?
- Search engine optimization
What level of optimization do you need? Just ready for SEO, or do you want to do some SEO and set up a monthly maintenance plan for it? If so, what is your budget?
- Maintenance and support
Websites are a bit like cars, left untouched with no servicing they get a little rough around the edges and can conk out at any moment. Setting up a maintenance and support plan with your digital agency should be done once go-live has been achieved.
- Hosting and email
Are you using your existing domain or creating a new one? If you have a current host, are you happy with them; are they business-grade; do they provide offsite backups; or are they secure?
- Marketing and reporting
What type of analytics do you need? Would Google analytics suffice? Do you have an account? Think about setting up custom dashboards to follow your KPIs (see our article How to Set Up a Custom Dashboard for a step-by-step guide). How will your site be marketed; for example, will you use banner ads, and in-store promotions?
- Email management
Do you have an email management system? Are you going to collect emails to establish a marketing list?
- Getting social
Do you have a social media presence? How would you like the content on your site shared? Have you considered a social aggregator?
- Site admin
Who will be responsible for the site within your business? What email address will you use to receive correspondence from the site? It should always be a generic address because when that person leaves or changes position (it will happen!) you won't have the headache of changing your email address.
Last but not least
My last – and most important – point is don't overcook your idea.
You have a budget you need to stick to so be ruthless in the functionality you make available on the site.
Don't put things in there for the sake of it or because they are new and wizzbang and ‘everyone's doing it.
Need some help on strategizing your corporate website, or just want to shoot the breeze? Give us a yell!