Have you ever sat in a plane on the runway and heard “flight attendants, prepare for cross check?” Ever wonder what that means? It means “we are about to leave this place, check all your stuff and make sure we’re good on your end. I got things up here in the cockpit.”

The captain of the plane needs the flight attendant to check the exit doors and make sure they are closed, locked, and armed so that the plane doesn’t lose pressure in flight forcing everyone to wear the masks that don’t inflate.

Just like an airplane, minus the masks, your website requires successful cross checking before take off. Your web developer knows a lot. But, they only know as much about your business as you tell them. The good ones do their research but they still need the inside story.

It is your job in this process to report back to the web developer and tell him or her what’s happening on your end (your business present and future) that they need to know before take off (launching the site).

So, what can you report back? There are pieces of information that the web developer should know before building your new website. The developer needs a checkpoint before launching it into the wild blue yonder…

  • Your target audience
  • Your mobile strategy
  • Future plans

Your Website’s Target Audience

We’ve discussed this in the past. Knowing your target audience is crucial to online marketing success. But, you are not the only one who needs to know your target audience. You need to give this information to your web developer as well.

Don’t assume that your web developer knows what you know about your target audience. The smallest details could make the biggest difference. Knowing these details will help your web design team:

  • Design – use the extra design elements that will really speak to this group. It’s always the subtle extras in design that grab the attention of the targeted user, letting them know that this website is really for them.
  • Web technology – build the site for the user, pay special attention to the platforms, browsers, speed and accessibility. You don’t want to build a heavy image-laden site with lots of moving parts for users that only have limited access to broadbandn (they do exist, techie opinion notwithstanding).
  • Interactivity and conversion – build the site with conversion goals in mind. If you know what you want the user to do and who the user is, share this with your developer so that they can build the best design and system to make this happen. It’s really amazing what having a goal will do to keep on track to get there.

Of course I could go on and on about the importance of you AND your web developer knowing as much as possible about the target audience.

The site is for your audience, not for you and certainly not for the designer or developer. The more your ENTIRE team knows about this audience, the better prepared they are to build the perfect website for them.

Your Mobile Strategy – Responsive Design

Much like SEO was back in the good old days (2000s), mobile is the new afterthought. You know… “oh yeah, what does the site look like on mobile???”

Before takeoff, make sure you have this conversation with your web developer. It’s much easier to close a door on a plane parked at the gate than in flight. It’s also much easier to plan for and deliver a mobile strategy for a website from the beginning of development.

Responsive design is as its name suggests – design that responds to the user’s device. This is how a website’s interface will appear differently for a mobile phone, tablet or desktop but contain the same content.

Sure, a site can be made to be responsive after launch but consider this – responsive design will modify the interface of the site based on the device being used to view it but the content is the same throughout. Wouldn’t it be better to know this up front before you write a lot of code and spend a lot of money?

If you know that your target audience is going to be using your site on mobile and tablet devices, you can plan your content strategy around this. Think about the types of content the mobile user will want and need and how it relates to the site content as a whole.

For example, you can deliver a lot of information effectively to a user with a 22 inch monitor. For someone with a 3 inch phone screen, you need to be a little more selective.

Knowing what the mobile and tablet users need helps your web developer plan for the arrangement of this content on the desktop site and how it translates to the responsive versions of the site.

Otherwise it’s like handing out the emergency placards while the plane is in a free fall. OK, not quite that drastic, but you get the idea.

Future Plans – The Next Phases for Your Website

A website, like a plane, is not built for a single one-way trip. The website will continue to expand and grow as your business does. In planning out your online marketing strategies, you’ve probably given some thought to the future.

You might eventually include a “member’s only” section or add eCommerce or incorporate a blog. Whatever the case may be, your web developer needs to know this. It will save you money in the long run.

Websites are built with code. Generally speaking, the code used to build a website is contained within some sort of platform, like a CMS – Content Management System. This could be WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or maybe something custom. Will this CMS grow with your needs?

Back to the plane analogy for a second. A smaller plane is great for short trips. It is more fuel efficient and has more options for landing at smaller airports. But, what if all the sudden you need to take a longer trip? Do you retrofit that plane with a larger gas tank? Of course not, you get a bigger plane.

Websites are confined by the limitations of the platform on which the site was built. Sure, at some point you might have to ditch the current CMS for something bigger and better. If you’ve made it to this point, it’s a great problem to have.

But, let’s say that you built a website with a CMS just big enough for phase one. When phase two hits guess what? You need an entirely new CMS. This is not a cheap problem to have.

If you can clearly spell out plans for future expansion to your web developer, they can then best recommend a CMS that will grow with you. This may require a larger investment in the short term. But, it will dramatically reduce costs for future expansion.

The Captain Has Turned off the Seat-belt Sign

Online marketing has been revolutionary just like air travel (ask your grandparents what life was like before cheap and easy commercial flight). But like air travel, it takes planning and a qualified team to pull it off. You bring something to the table here. The information you possess can mean the difference between success and failure.

Remember to communicate with your web developer. Do your “cross checking” and be certain to report back everything. You can save a lot of money.

What else can you think of that your web developer needs to know? Are you an exit row or bulkhead sort of traveler? Let me know in the comments below.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

2 Responses to “Cross Checking Your Website
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    I have a question (maybe more than one): How important is responsive design for most websites right now? I assume if you’re a consumer business that sells online, it’s pretty important. But what about someone like me. Sure, the blog probably needs to be, but my corporate website? And how expensive is it to have done?

    • It depends. 🙂 You really need to look at your target audience as well as your content and decide what needs to be mobile friendly. Blogs are relatively simple to make responsive with some additional CSS work. If you wanted to have your entire site made responsive, that could get involved and eCommerce takes it even further. But, you have to ask yourself what is it that your audience needs while on the go. Responsive design is not just a matter of making your entire site responsive and calling it a day. Responsive design requires responsive content as well as a responsive marketing plan. What do they want on their desktop? What do they want on their tablet? What do they want on mobile? AND what do you want them to do in these moments? Great question Gini? Did I answer it? 🙂

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