5 things to consider when commissioning a new website
Think back to the last time you commissioned a new website or a website redesign. How happy were you with the outcome? A survey of 152 marketers recently revealed that one-third of them were unhappy with the outcome of their web redesign. That is a lot of wasted budget and missed
So, how do you ensure you get your web design project right? Ask most people and they will tell you that picking the right agency is the key. Choose a partner that lacks the technical skills, is hard to work with or has little understanding of for your brand, and you are unlikely to end up happy with the outcome.
However, picking the right partner is not the end of the story. Here are five things everyone who is commissioning a new website or a web redesign should know.
1. Understanding and delivering your brand is paramount
The technology involved in creating a website is now more accessible than ever and, in most instances, run by a framework in the background (WordPress, Drupal etc) that provides a foundation to your site. Ten years ago you may have looked for a development experts, expected them to speak in technical language, and had little choice but to leave them to it and hope the outcome was good.
The world of web design is not just about the technical development side. That’s one part of it. Most importantly, website design should be about how your website is going to represent your brand and its purpose and values. Just as you would never ask your print firm to design your marketing materials, so you should never entrust your website design to an agency that specialises more on technical expertise and development than brand and communication. Your website is after all one of the primary expressions of your brand and so every single page needs to express that.
When commissioning a website, it’s easy to be persuaded by talk of responsiveness, SEO, conversion and analytics. And these are, of course, vital parts of the mix and should feature in all scopes of work. But don’t forget about your brand story. Not all agencies have the necessary brand communications expertise required to effectively design a website that truly represents your brand and its identity.
2. Try not to rush it
There are four phases in every successful website design project. The planning phase typically involves a workshop to scope out objectives and success criteria as well as key functionality and look and feel, then desk research on competitor sites, development of user personas, and a copy and image audit. Armed with this information, we then create wireframes for the client to approve.
In the design phase we begin with three concepts, adapting and developing them all so you can select one to progress. We apply it to the wireframe and once that is approved we move it all onto a click-through prototype, and only when that is approved do we move onto the actual site build. Development and testing is the third phase, and then finally we progress to launch, training and any further development.
Every stage is essential. None can be rushed if you want to achieve the right outcome. It is far better to know this at the outset and to plan a realistic timescale, so you can avoid the rush at the end that is so often a feature of a web design project. Rushing at the end invariably means something has to be left out or compromised, therefore not allowing the project the best chance of success.
3. You will probably get what you wish for
In many ways the most important stage of a web design project is the very first one: scoping out objectives and defining success criteria. Yet all too often it is rushed or even ignored altogether. All involved make assumptions about the purpose of the site and then work within that framework. It is only at the end of the project that they discover that their assumptions differed, or that the client’s assumptions were at odds with what the business and their customers actually needed.
If you work in the right way with the right agency you will get the website you need, so make sure you know what you, and your organisation needs. Is it a site that will drive online sales? Or one that will build awareness of your brand? Or one that will help you enter new markets? Or one that will build a community? Or one that will take pressure off the contact centre? Or one that will drive offline traffic? Once you have defined this clear objective, then identify how this success can be measured.
The possible objectives for your new site are almost limitless. So, invest time in thinking through precisely what it is that you want to achieve and then agree on how these objectives can be tracked and measured once the new site has launched.
4. Be as closely involved as possible
The process of selecting an agency can often be time-consuming and lengthy. It is perhaps understandable then that once they have made their decision, clients are ready to take a back seat and let the agency get on with it. Many probably prefer not to impose themselves on a process they are likely not an expert in.
They know more about it than they think. As detailed earlier, in our opinion the web design process is now more about telling the brand story and delivering the business objectives than it is about technical proficiency, and the client is the best person to understand and communicate these.
So, ensure you are closely involved in the planning and design phases. Once the project moves onto the development phase, you should be needed less, but make sure the project is heading in the right direction by setting the correct course in the early stages.
5. Demand more before starting development
Finally, make sure you are really clear and happy with what you are approving. In the past clients had only flat visuals and wireframes to look at before they gave the green light to development. These low-fi, black and white plans of each page give an indication of functionality, but they are static and therefore limited, and often as the site emerged from development clients would discover the experience differed from what they were expecting.
Changes made once the project is in the development phase tend to be expensive. So, in an attempt to minimize these, we insert a second round of approvals before development. Once the wireframe and design concept have been approved we put the site into an app called InVision. This app creates click-through prototypes, allowing our clients to navigate, interact, collaborate, experiment and test the proposed site as well as experiencing animations, gestures and transitions. This all means that there are fewer surprises further down the line and the site can be created with fewer amends. Saving time and money.