From that first meeting, you should be assessing. Taking inventory. Making mental notes. Your goal is to get them to talk about their business. I’ll often say, “Think of your service as a corner store, from the moment your customer walks in, until the moment they leave, what do you want their experience to be like?” Then sit back and listen. What you are listening for is that one thing. That little gem…”I want them to…” and there it is. See, a site should be centered around that one thing. That’s called the Business Goal. Yes, a website is a hub and it will contain many links to many different products and services but If your Business Goal is to get them to “Buy Products,” then we will make it easy for the visitor to do that. Now that we know our Business Goal, in every phase from here on out, we will ask ourselves, does this get us closer to our Business Goal?
Here are the top-level phases that I have used to build every website for the last several years. Alongside each one I have provided the Business Angle you should be considering for that phase.
- Kickoff The Kickoff meeting is essential. With the whole team present this is the perfect time to review the Scope Of Work (SOW). Many Web Development companies don’t do this. This is a mistake, because the Kickoff meeting may occur weeks after the SOW was written and many of the stakeholders may have forgotten or ideas may have changed. Remind everyone the reasons why you are building/re-building the site, i.e. Get more customers, make it easier to use, etc. More of this will come out in the Planning Meeting, but you want to mention it here in case anything new pops up.
- Planning This is an extra step that I invented…kinda. Some people may call this a Discovery meeting, but that implies charging a significant amount for that, as well as spending a lot more time. A well structured Planning Meeting is a collection of several known methods that follows a strict agenda, but is free flowing. In that process one should ask, “what is the business goal?” This can be as simple as “how will this site make money?” to “What do you want to make sure the visitor does before they leave?” Those kinds of questions will pull out the Business Goal more specifically, which is what this phase is for.
- Wireframes This is still one of my favorite phases and one that I hear that gets dismissed sometimes. The reason why this phase is important, is that it is really easy to illustrate where the Business Goal will be implemented throughout the site. Will there be Calls To Action (CTA) on the Home page, in the side bar or in the footer? Each one of these implementations can be discussed at length as to if it achieves the Business Goal. This phase is exactly when this decision should be made and finalized before moving on to Design.
- Design Our Business Goal comes to life in this phase. It should be easily seen and understood. The visitor should be fully aware of what they are doing and incentivized to take action. This is also a tricky phase where design decisions can interfere or dumb down the Business Goal, so much that it becomes ineffective. I think we’ve all seen after several revisions, not only does the design not look anything like the original, but the elements of the Business Goal has been pushed around so much, it’s hard to understand the websites intent.
- Production At this point everything gets set in stone. We have additional items to consider in this phase, such as Responsive Design, Scrolling, User Feedback, etc. This is an especially sensitive time, because typically at this phase there is pressure to finish the project quickly. It’s very easy to be so concerned with finishing the project that obvious errors are missed. Make sure your user testing or QA includes scenarios targeted toward the visitor fulfilling the Business Goal.
I’ve purposely treaded lightly over the surface of these ideas and used plain words. The higher you go up in the Enterprise you will see a lot more nuance and specific roles that handle those tasks. If you are a Freelancer or Small Web Dev Team, this should give you the basis for building more focused websites. The smaller businesses that we would typically work with for these types of projects, need conversion quickly and the CTA’s obvious. Enterprise needs that too, but because resources are limited in these small organizations, the approach to the site and it’s maintenance, should be severely simplified, to ensure a quicker path to reach the Business Goal and a strong likelihood of overall success.