You wouldn't build a new house without a decent set of plans, there's just no telling what you'd get if you just described what you wanted to your builder and let them go. Strangely this is the way many websites are built, a meeting one morning to discuss the project and then set the developer on their way hoping they build what you need and want.
A successful website only comes from solid strategy and a strategy stage needs to include the following steps.
Determine the performance goals for the website
Set clear and achievable performance goals for your new website. Your performance goals should be website goals like visits and leads, and these have to tie into business goals with targets for customers and revenue. Goals need to be time bound so progress can be tracked once the website is commissioned.
Develop detailed persona profiles of your key website visitors
To ensure your new website is as effective as possible it has to appeal to your intended visitors. Segment your visitors into groups representing each type of customer your business sells to or works with. Each of these segments is a persona.
Everything you do on your website should be driven by personas, after all these are the people you're developing your website for. Ultimately you're looking to attract website visitors who are more likely to become your customers. Better personas will help you create a website which will attract and convert more of the right visitors.
This persona template kit will help you develop your website personas.
Quantitative Research—Website & Analytics Audit
Dive deep into your analytics data and not just your website analytics, any data you have. Could be from your email marketing system, your CRM or a live chat system. Bring together whatever you have and perform an exhaustive quantitative audit.
Gain a deep understanding of what is working and what is not. Determine where your website visitors and leads engaging and where they're dropping out. What type of emails get a good response and what type don't. Look for commonality and use your CRM data to help close the loop between marketing and sales performance. This will help you understand which of your website visitors and leads most often turn into customers and which ones just waste your sales team's time.
As you're doing this audit, you'll see plenty of opportunities for improvement which will help steer your website development project. You'll already be able to define some priorities for you website development.
Qualitative Research—User Research
You've looked at the numbers, now it's time to let your users tell the story, analyse the way your website visitors actually use your site and talk directly to as many of them as you can. Start by adding user tracking software to your website (like HotJar) so you can record heat maps and take visitor recordings.
Heat maps aggregate what people do on your website showing the most popular things in brighter colours. They inform you about what people do most commonly on your website.
Visitor recordings record the activity of each visitor to your website, tracking how they scroll, their mouse movement and their clicks.
Heat maps and visitor recordings allow you to study your visitors without having to speak with them. The can't tell you how people feel about your website.
You also need to speak with visitors to your website to get their feedback. The best place to start here is to interview some of your recently acquired customers. As you interview website visitors, keep in mind how this information validates your persona profiles and use this information to refine your personas.
Put all the above together with some fundamental assumptions
The work you've done in the steps above ensures you have enough information to make assumptions about your visitors needs and how you can ensure you new website provides for them.
Assumptions will include at least value propositions for each of your products, services and website offers and assumptions about what information your website visitors are looking for.
These fundamental assumptions will help you explain the behaviour and motivations of your users, and will be influential in your global and page strategy and will also be useful input to your future growth driven design cycles.
Global & Page Strategy
Develop a global strategy for the website. This will include a strategy for the technology which will be used to develop the website and whether or not this will replace the existing website or be developed alongside it. The global strategy also lays out an initial menu and page arrangement.
The associated page strategy documents how each page should engage with the website visitor, what information they require from that page and what the next step is for a user who visits that page.
The global & page strategy should incorporate all the previous steps, and layout a detailed strategy of exactly how to best engage and influence the user to ensure you attain your goals.
From good strategy comes a great website
When you start your new website design with a solid strategy stage you end up with the website you need, one which has the best chance of achieving your performance goals.
Next up you've got to decide how you're going to build your website. If you want to get it faster, at less up front cost you have to take a look at Growth Driven Website Design.