How to: 12 best ways to prepare for a web design and development project

Are you about to embark on a web project? We put together a list that can get you more prepared for the process, get the answers you need, and produce a better outcome

1) Create a budget

Not having a budget is like deciding you want to buy a car but don’t know how much to spend. Do you want a Yugo or a Ferrari? Lots of companies end up wanting a BMW but have budget for a loaded Camry. That’s ok. Knowing what you can spend will help you engage with the right agency at the right price level.

2) List your audiences. Prioritize them.

This is often very difficult. You serve so many audiences, right? For a digital experience to be effective, it needs to speak directly to the user. That means prioritizing. For Universities, you can’t talk to prospective students, current students, alumni, faculty, government and boosters all at once. It’s likely that you need a few different experiences geared for the different audiences. But the home page? That’s real estate for your top 2 audiences at most. 

When you build the site, having an agreed-upon priority helps settle border wars internally and helps all the teams stay focused on what is important.

3) List the top 2 reasons why customers care about your company

Get in your customer’s shoes for a minute. Really. Get on the web and start shopping for the service or product or experience your company delivers. Think about the options your customers have and why they seem to continue to pick you. 

Keep it simple and pick the 2 best ones. That’s what you want to emphasize.

4) Decide if you want to write the content or have your partner write the content

It’s a huge savings to do your own content. But do you know how to do it? Do you have time to do it. No, the receptionist probably doesn’t have the skills to “do marketing” on the side. If he or she did, they’d be working at an agency as a copywriter. 

The value of good content written for your audiences is that it engages them genuinely and pulls them through the digital experience.

If you are going to do the content and you don’t have it ready at the beginning of the project, expect your web partner to flounder with site architecture and expect to launch late because you’re waiting on yourself to write copy. 

Do it before the project or don’t do it at all.

5) Write a sentence about what your brand’s personality is. Not sure how to do that? Take our brand personality quiz and see what companies you are most like.

6) Write 1 sentence about what your company does and why people choose it over others.

7) Write 1 sentence about what you hope the website will do for your company.

8) Write a list of all the actions users will want to complete on the site (book an appointment, buy a ticket, look up a doctor). Hint: these are likely features on the site, but can sometimes be more effectively accomplished with content. You will collaborate with your agency partner on how to solve the problem.

9) Write a list of the types of content your have produced or could produce that customers would find valuable enough to download or engage with (10 way to prepare for surgery, 2016 car buying guide, video tutorials of the product).

10) Write a paragraph about the 3 best success stories the company has had in the last year. 

11) Look up how much traffic and how many visitors you served in the last year.

12) Write a paragraph on how you’ll support and improve the site after it’s live. Assume that the most interesting things about the website will come after you’ve studied how customers use it. If you don’t adapt or take advantage of what your data is telling you, you are missing out on the best part of having a site.

Bonus tips: Things to not worry about

  • Don’t worry what kind of “shop” you are. You want the best solution for your customer engagement needs. If that happens to be a different technology that your company current uses, which is better - stick with what you already know, or go with the better solution?
  • Don’t worry about where it’s hosted. Many companies want to host their own website. Who’s better at security, scalability and keeping up with technology? Your IT group or Google or Amazon? There are sometimes really good reasons for hosting it yourself, but it’s the exception not the rule.
  • Don’t worry about pleasing everyone at the company or 100% of your customers. Apply Pareto's 80/20 rule. If you serve the best 20% of your customers, you’re going to benefit more from trying to please all 100% of the customers while coming up short in the eyes of your best 20%.