The following is the list of 10 things we think you should consider when building a site.
What Your Customer Wants
Your site is there to add competitive advantage to your business. Understanding what your customer wants and if there is something that you can deliver to them that few others can, then your site will be valuable. A strategic review seems obvious, but how many site building checklists start with this?
Getting Value from the Website
Have a clear plan on how you are going to get value from your website. Your site might have a membership system that lets you charge an annual fee, you might develop a channel that enables communication with customers on a regular basis or you might be promoting a product.
Connecting Your Site Everything Else
You don't want your site to be an island. If you mainly do business by phone, use the site to augment the telephone channel. If you publish a weekly magazine how do you tie the two medium's together? Your site is there to promote your business or provide a service. However, it will be far more successful if it is part of your broader communications.
Consider how often you are going to update your site. You should update the site, post a twitter message, or perform some activity every week. Doing this will give people reason to come back to your site and increase visibility of your site to search engines. Don't add thousands of pages if you can't keep them up to date and relevant. If you don't have a lot of time work out how to get the most from the little time you have and be regular.
Similarly, only head down a custom site build if you have the capacity to support a software development process. Very few companies do, and believing a 'we can build something custom and cheap' from a supplier most likely results in a half working and disappointing solution. Let other people work out the processes where possible and concentrate your resources on things that are core to your competitive advantage rather than inventing a new x, y or z.
Your Branding and Marketing Message
Now is a time to review your branding and what your brand is saying. Having a clear description of what people should be front of mind when people are thinking of your company is important when designing a site.
Testing Early and Testing Often
Try to get your site launched as early as possible. We don't want to disappoint people with a site that is less than our full vision, but we want feedback on what works before investing everything we have got. Consider trying a few different home pages with slightly different messages. Be most clear about what you want to achieve and leave some flexibility as to how. Your build team might be able to achieve the same thing in a simpler way.
Have an Evolution Plan
The best websites grow and evolve over time. An evolution plan shouldn't be too rigid, however have a vision as to what you would like your site to look in 5 years time rather than focusing on a build. It is most important to have a list of what is working and not by each customer type or customer channel. For example, you may be trying to build a community of experts in gardening. In the future you would also like to target students of gardening or casual gardeners without diluting the message. Perhaps you are communicating well during your weekly garden round-up but you would also develop a knowledge base. Both of these are examples of developing customer segments or channels over time.
The relationship with suppliers can be very important. Suppliers have different skills and different ranges of services that can be provided. You may need a supplier that can design a site and provide a publishing platform and keep it up to date, with the occasional new element to the site. You may also need support writing copy, working with advertisers, integrating with existing systems, provding email/membership platforms, mobile site development and testing or performance work.
Regardless, develop a partnership with a supplier, and ensure that you trust what they are saying.
This is the first technical thing. You want your site to be usable by as many people as possible and be able to interact with as many other systems as possible. Using standards will also help search engines and simplifying updating later.
Seach Engine Optimisation
SEO is a terms that is commonly heard from people marketing websites. SEO is the thing that you don't need to consider if the rest of the items on this list have been followed. People will tell you that they can get you onto the front page of google and that if you do x it will trick google. They can't and it won't. The way that google caclulates search rankings is a secret. Buying ads from google can put you on the first page, so google themselves can do it, but nobody else.
If you have considered your customer and provided value people will visit your site and stay. If you have written content, kept it up to date and followed web standards search engines will pick your site up. Saying ignore is a little tongue in cheek, as ensuring that your site has a search engine accessible site map is important as is promoting your site widely is also important.
In conclusion fit your site into your general strategy, communications and marketing. Don't let the SEO tail wag the dog. The web is a valuable communications channel, use it two way where possible.