How to ensure a positive return on your web design investment
If you’re thinking about a website development project for a new start-up business or updating the design of your existing website there are a number of fundamental questions that you should consider right at the start before ploughing ahead. Here are a few of them:
- Can I use a website to provide a new or better service to my customers?
- Will it help my business to improve communication with potential new and existing customers?
- Will it help to cut costs in my organisation and can I use it to replace or improve any existing business & marketing processes?
Time and time again we hear of companies that are dissatisfied with their website as they have been unsuccessful in taking advantage of the many benefits digital marketing can offer. These companies have been mis-sold an inappropriate website solution and as such have struggled to generate any positive return on their investment
They have approached their web design project without a clear digital strategy and have not taken into consideration other essential aspects such as website promotion and website measurement. Lightley.com believes that this is not the best way to go about designing a web presence if you want to maximise your return on your investment.
To avoid the above scenario we have developed a five-stage approach to effective web design, which involves:
- Setting your objectives
- Planning your website
- Building your website
- Promoting your website
- Measuring your website
So let’s look at the above 5 stages in more detail…
Identifying your business, marketing & communication objectives
Behind the development of an effective website lie a number of strategic considerations of critical importance.
- How will it support your business goals and marketing strategy?
- How will it best promote your organisation and initiate dialogue with existing and potential new customers?
- How will the site function to help you communicate more effectively and work more efficiently?
To progress with developing an effective web presence a business requirements analysis should be carried out at the beginning of the web project. This will ensure that when the project moves into the design and build phase, all of the critical questions will have already been answered. We believe it’s critical to match the design and implementation of your website to your target audience’s needs, expectations and capabilities. We then design and build your site from the end-user’s point of view, so that they’re comfortable in the site’s surroundings and the site helps them to achieve their online goals.
Through the business needs analysis, we can approach the project from a strong base of certainty – the site we build will work well for your audiences (both internal & external). This will keep costs down in the long run, as there will be no question of “trial and error” designs and redesigns of the website. Once the business needs analysis has been completed we then provide you with a development plan that recommends the ideal approach to fulfilling those needs.
In carrying out the business needs analysis, we will investigate the following issues in depth:
What are your business needs?
- What does your company want to accomplish through the web? Simple name recognition, increase brand awareness, lead generation, business to business communication, information dissemination etc.
- How would your company’s corporate identity and brand best be translated onto the web?
- How can general business strategies and goals be aided or fulfilled through the web?
Who is your target audience?
- Who is the target audience for your website?
- What will that target audience expect and need from your website?
- What can the site provide them with; what can you give them that will encourage action, loyalty and repeat visits?
- What will bring them to the site in the first place?
- How do you intend them to find your site? Traditional forms of advertising, word of mouth, news articles, social media, search engines etc?
- How can the site encourage the audience to do act in the way you want them to (in order to fulfill your business objectives – i.e. if one of the goals is opening a dialogue with potential new clients, how can the site best encourage the audience to contact you?
Marketing and communications integration
- How will your website fit into the company’s overall marketing strategy?
- How will your company be using the web to facilitate communication?
- How will the site content be organised so that is easy to use and provides value to the user?
- Will the site be an information & content driven site or image driven one?
- What are the administrative implications of the website – will the company need to implement any new marketing systems, like a CRM to track enquiries and communication / sales stages?
- How will the site support or drive existing and new marketing campaigns?
By having a clear outline of your marketing goals and objectives and answering above questions you’ll more easily be able to assess the effectiveness of your website.
Planning the design & development of your web site
Identifying the most suitable design approach, content and fuctionality
Due to the volume of websites now available on the Web, Internet users are becoming more selective in deciding which websites are worthy of their browsing time. If your website is slow to download on a mobile device, lacks interactivity and if the information and tools contained within your site are difficult to find, then your visitor will hit the ‘back’ button faster than you can say…
Lightley.com takes the approach of designing your site from a ‘usability’ perspective and not merely from a pure aesthetic perspective. It is important to make the site easy to navigate and not to frustrate them with a multitude of snazzy graphics that take forever to download. Just so you know, Google takes page speed load time into consideration as part of its search engine algorithm.
The most important factor to consider when selecting the most suitable features to use is the needs of your target audience. “Fun” sites that incorporate “bells and whistles” are all very well for sites aimed at consumers, especially children or younger people who expect that playful interaction, but many businesses sell to other businesses or to more impatient consumer buyers. “Flashy” features can put off or distract some customers – these features can either have a negative reaction, or they simply dilute a site’s message, which makes it more difficult to find information or the products being searched for.
However, certain interactive features can help make the site more useful and distinguish it from other sites. The approach we take is to first of all develop the site so that it is functional and looks professional, then add a few “hooks” and tools that fit in with the feel of the site and relate to the line of business concerned to help set the site apart. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Building & maintaining your website
There are a staggering number of web technologies for creating websites, and new technologies are appearing faster than ever. Developing a website requires skills in areas unique to the web. If you want to add animation, databases, content management systems, catalogues or shopping facilities to your site you’ll need expertise in a number of specialist areas.
Seamlessly incorporating functionality into your site that will allow you to manage and update pages of your website is critical. We use the world’s most popular content management platform called WordPress and it enables you to manage and update content on your site without the need to understand web code. Furthermore, the WordPress content management system will also be search engine friendly. This means that you will greatly increase the chances of your web pages appearing in the search engine results.
Why should I use a professional WordPress developer?
Developing a basic WordPress site is not that difficult to pick up, but customising templates, adding new functionality, migrating sites onto a new server etc can get fiddly before the site looks perfect. Furthermore, ensuring the structure and code is search engine friendly is also important.
You may experience problems with programming scripts and plug-ins, with trading-off slow downloading pages against poor quality graphics and with not allowing for compatibility with different screen browsers and resolutions etc. Today it’s more important than ever to make sure you build a mobile friendly, responsive website as nearly 50% of web users are surfing the web on their smartphones.
It is in our interest to concentrate on keeping up to date with web technologies and online security and new possibilities arising for websites – by taking a part-time interest in the site you are less able or inclined to do so and if you are using WordPress and not keeping plugins or themes updated then you could be more vulnerable to a potential hack.
Driving targeted visitors to your site using online marketing tactics
Developing your website is only the tip of the iceberg
Website promotion is often the most overlooked aspect of a web strategy, where a company invests time, effort and money into developing and implementing their site, but ultimately fails to ensure that it is visible to their target audience.
As a result of the large number of websites already on the Internet your site can get lost in the ‘noise’ unless it is properly promoted as an extension of your current marketing efforts. You need to engage in active marketing to draw an audience to your site – this involves developing a comprehensive on-line and off-line marketing strategy to make sure your site is easy to find by your target audience.
Lightley.com has a deep understanding of digital marketing and can assist you with building and sustaining traffic to your website using search engine optimisation, Google AdWords and social media.
Monitoring website activity and measuring performance
Tracking the number of visitors your site receives and analysing their behaviour is a key part of optimising your website and identifying opportunities to improve its performance.
Web analytics tools like Google Analytics provide you with a wealth of information that you can use to assess how well your site is performing and where your traffic is coming from. However, getting the most out the data requires a trained eye. The volume of information presented can be so overwhelming that many people are unable to see the wood for the trees.
At the start of any web project it’s important that you list your most important key performance indicators (KPIs) that you want to measure. KPIs can be split into broad groups, so for instance you could have the following three groups:
- Sales & Marketing: number of visitors generated; leads/new customers generated from visits; e-commerce sales revenue etc
- Website KPIs: bounce rate; average time on site; average number of pages viewed, top pages viewed etc
- Digital marketing performance: sources of traffic, i.e. search engines (organic and paid search), email marketing, social media and also the conversion rates for each source etc
Once you’ve figured out what KPIs you want to track, you can then set-up customised dashboard reports in Google which will give you a snapshot of how well your website is performing in a more easy to digest format.
So, as you can see there’s a lot that goes into making sure you give yourself the best chance of generating a good return on your website investment. Digital marketing is an ongoing process that involves fine-tuning your digital assets and campaigns on a regular basis to make sure they’re working as hard as possible and are also being future-proofed.