website-design-conversation

When redesigning your website, there are some people you might want to talk to. Sure, you have the internal and external stakeholders to deal with…

  1. Boss, C-Level
  2. Marketing or Communications Committee
  3. Board of Directors
  4. Clients
  5. Members

This list could go on. And, it is important to they get a chance to chance to be heard.

But, a successful website is not the culmination of a bunch of opinions. A successful website relies on a series of strategic and focused conversations with your teammates to decide what’s important and in what order.

When I say teammates, I mean the folks who have a skillset or knowledge base which will contribute to the success of the website in the context of the website redesign project.

Who are those teammates? I’m going to keep the list short. But, as you read this you might think of other partners who need to be heard.

  1. Marketing Director/Marketing Firm
  2. Sales Director/Channel Partners
  3. SEO/SEM Director or Vendor
  4. Copywriter/Content Marketers
  5. Creative Department/Designer
  6. Development Team/Programmer

Seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many are left out of website planning. Let’s look at the importance of each…

Marketing Director/Marketing Firm

This is a given. They are usually the lead in most web design and development projects. That said, there are still companies who relegate anything web related to their IT department. Big mistake!

I have nothing against IT. They serve a very critical role. So critical that they really shouldn’t be wasting their time managing a website project. I know IT pros many who would agree.

Your website is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. Who better than your marketing director or firm to manage this project? If you are hesitant to let them take the lead, let me offer two possible reasons why…

  1. You don’t have faith that this person or firm can do a good job. In that case, find someone who will.
  2. You’re trying to control too much – get out of the way and let marketing do its job.

Marketing is where communications begins. Marketing is everything that happens with a prospect  before she talks to Sales. It’s where products/events/ideas are promoted.

Your website will be the hub of your communications and promotions efforts. Shouldn’t marketing take the lead of its development?

Sales Director/Channel Partners

Unlike marketing, this group will not likely be involved in the project day to day. But, don’t discount their importance. This is the group who meets with potential clients.

They are most aware of the pain points of your target audience. So, while marketing has great data, sales has face to face encounters.

Use their anecdotal evidence to help humanize your marketing data. This will help you to prioritize the hierarchy of information available within your site.

This has a big impact on the design and navigation of your website so get this information up front.

One caveat: sales people tend to focus mainly on the bottom line. They’re not going to be as concerned with brand building or website authority. Nevertheless, these things are important and will affect the bottom line. To that end, the input from sales is only part of the story.

SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization/Search Engine Marketing)

Whether this is handled in-house or outsourced, bring these folks in early. They’ll have some strong opinions about things like content marketing plans and content management options.

It’s important to hear their concerns about what content will make a difference and how design might help that along. In the past, we’ve heard concerns from SEO/SEM vendors such as…

  1. Will there be a CMS like WordPress for ongoing content marketing?
  2. Will there be a blog and blog feeds to the home page or service pages?
  3. Will there be certain callouts for conversion? And what is the conversion path?
  4. Will there be landing page templates for PPC and Remarketing Campaigns?

All of these questions need to be answered before jumping into design; not during or after. Too many websites are built before the SEO plan is devised. It needs to be the other way around.

Copywriters/Content Marketers

99.9% of the time, we get website content after we’ve built the site. This isn’t for a lack of trying to get content up front. We understand that content is hard. Writing is hard!

But, much like SEO, content and content marketing plans need to be made up front. If you have a strong writer in-house, great! But, be certain that they have both the time and the understanding of your goals before dumping this task in their laps.

At the very least, we recommend using an editor. No one can speak about your organization better than you. But an editor will be able to improve readability, correct grammar mistakes, and take out unnecessary fluff.

Whether building a new website or redesigning one, you’re gonna need content. Nothing delays a web design project like a lack of content. Please plan accordingly.

Creative Department/Designer

Seems obvious, right? Here’s the problem – if you have a graphics department or someone who normally handles your branding materials, you’ll want to consult with them prior to designing your website.

Print designers are not always the best choice when designing an online presence. But they still have a lot to offer. Your website is now your most important branding tool. Your brand needs to be consistent across all mediums.

We always ask for the following when starting a new web design project:

  • A high resolution logo – preferably an EPS
  • A branding guide if one exists – or at least corporate fonts and colors
  • Any imagery used consistently in marketing materials
  • Sample marketing materials used in the past

Websites aren’t designed in a vacuum. You need to gather all your branding materials before getting started. If you’re starting from scratch, we still recommend designing your logo and brand book before the website.

Development Team/Programmer

Whether development is being handled by your web design firm or in-house, you’ll want to talk to these folks up front.

They can be the difference between success and failure. For example, if you design something that they cannot make functional, that’s a problem. Pretty is great but working is crucial.

Here are some questions to ask your development team:

  1. Platform – will the site need to be built in ASP.net or PHP (those are the main two options normally)?
  2. CMS – will you be using something like WordPress, Drupal, DotNetNuke, or something proprietary? Do your developers have any experience with this???
  3. Hosting – what sort of server will this be hosted on and can it support your platform and CMS? If not, is moving to a new server an option?
  4. Hosting Access – what sort of access is available? FTP? ControlPanel? PHPMyAdmin? This is going to matter a lot when it comes time to stage the website on the production server (i.e. where it will go live).
  5. Email – will you have an exchange server or something like Google Apps? (the answer should be YES!)
  6. DNS – your domain (i.e. www.yoursite.com) – where is it hosted? Who has access to this?

As you can see, planning a web design and development project means talking to a few folks. This might seem like a lot to take on but just imagine the alternative. It’s better to gather everything up front than to scramble when the deadline is looming.

Of course, I’m sure I’m missing a group or two. Let me know in the comments below if I did.

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.